Each December, Apple picks the best App Store games and apps that debuted or rose to popularity in the preceding year. It’s usually a hodge-podge of social apps, wellness services, and addictive games with a few under-the-radar surprises for good measure. But in the year 2020, which forced us all to stay at home in front of screens for literally every activity—socializing, school, work, movies, exercise, the list goes on—Apple’s best-of list hits a little differently.
Apple’s iPhone App of the Year is one I’ve actually never heard of before: Wakeout!, an indie app that allows you to do short exercise or wind-down routines (called wakeouts) from basically anywhere as a way to take a break from work or get ready for bed. That’s on brand for this year, a time we’ve all struggled to make sense of by carving out schedules, and though I don’t know anyone who’s tried this app, Apple’s picks are rarely the most popular in a given year (for reference, the iPhone app of 2019 was Spectre Camera, an app that lets you take long-exposure photos).
The company’s picks for iPad, Mac, and Apple TV apps of the year are more familiar titles. Zoom ruled the iPad in 2020 as most of us were forced to video conference for work and school, and then willingly used the service to organize happy hours and family chats during quarantine. The best Mac app of the year is the scheduling and task management app Fantastical, which helps organize your life (or at least gives you some semblance of control in a chaotic world).
Apple named Disney+ as the Apple TV app of 2020. It’s actually pretty surprising that Apple picked a rival TV streaming service for its best-of list—another sign that the company is playing nice with its competitors, perhaps. (Or it’s just a sign that Disney+ was entirely unavoidable this year, and we all might as well lean into it.)
For Apple Watch, Apple picked the soundscape app Endel. This one is pretty interesting: Endel uses an algorithm to play noises that will help you be more productive and focused during the day and wind down for bed at night. In a year when many of us rarely left our houses, this sonic differentiation might make up for the lack of location changes to break up our days.
“This year, more than ever before, some of our most creative and connected moments happened in apps. This was thanks to the amazing work of developers who introduced fresh, helpful app experiences throughout the year,” Apple Fellow (and former marketing chief) Phil Schiller said in a statement announcing the winners. “Around the world, we saw remarkable efforts from so many developers, and these Best of 2020 winners are 15 outstanding examples of that innovation. From helping us stay fit and mindful, to keeping our children’s education on track, to helping fight hunger, their impact was meaningful to so many of us.”
Apple also highlighted a few app trends (or runners-up, if you will) that also reflected this very bizarre year, including the self-care app Shine, Explain Everything Whiteboard for remote classrooms, and the still inescapable AR game Pokémon Go for having fun while also social distancing outside.
See the full list of winners below:
iPhone App of the Year: Wakeout! (Andres Canella, USA)
iPhone Game of the Year: Genshin Impact (miHoYo, China)
iPad App of the Year: Zoom (Zoom, USA)
iPad Game of the Year: Legends of Runeterra (Riot Games, USA)
Mac App of the Year: Fantastical (Flexibits, USA)
Mac Game of the Year: Disco Elysium (ZA/UM (UK/Estonia)
Apple TV App of the Year: Disney+ (Disney, USA)
Apple TV Game of the Year: Dandara Trials of Fear (Raw Fury, Sweden)
Apple Watch App of the Year: Endel (Endel, Germany)
Apple Arcade Game of the Year: Sneaky Sasquatch (RAC7, Canada)
Which app or game made your year easier to bear? Drop ‘em in the comments and help us discover new ways (or rediscover old faves) to get through a global pandemic.