Apple Highlights Language Learning, Visual Design With Its 2013 Top App Store Picks

Apple just released its annual “Best Of” list for iTunes and the App Store, and apps that focused on language learning or featured unusual visual design were among its top picks.

The iPhone and iPad Games of the Year both won Apple Design awards in June. iPhone game Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption by Vlambeer, stood out from other fishing games with its flat design, while Frogland’s Badland, the top iPad game, featured lush high-definition graphics to create a menacing atmosphere. Disney Animated, the iPad App of the Year, uses interactive features and clips to show how all 53 movies by Walt Disney Animation Studio were created.

Apple’s iPhone App of the Year is Duolingo, one of the first and best in a strong roster of apps that are revolutionizing language learning by making it more accessible.

Each year, Apple chooses its top apps of the year separately from those that performed best based on downloads and sales.

Unsurprisingly, many of the top-performing apps by downloads were games. King’s Candy Crush Saga scored the most downloads across three categories: it was the top free iPhone and iPad app, as well as the top paid iPad app. Minecraft, published by Mojang, was the top paid iPhone app.

In terms of non-gaming apps, both Vine and Snapchat did well, placing fourth and sixth respectively on the Top Free iPhone Apps chart. Runners-up across the categories included Pandora Radio, photo editor Afterlight and the Sleep Cycle alarm clock.

Over in iTunes, pop music and rap ruled, with Justin Timberlake taking Artist of the Year with The 20/20 Experience and The Heist scoring Album of the Year for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde’s “Royals” was dubbed Song of the Year, while¬†Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City by Kendrick Lamar took the Breakthrough Album nod.

Gravity was deemed best movie by Apple, while Despicable Me 2 was the best animation. 12 Years a Slave was noted for “Best Male Performance” by Chiwetel Ejiofor, while Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett got “Best Female Performance.”

The TV Show of the Year was, unsurprisingly, the final season of Breaking Bad, while season three of Scandal was hailed as the Best Breakthrough. Cult favorite Orphan Black was named Best Discovery, while season 3 of Duck Dynasty got the Best Reality TV distinction.

For books available through Apple’s e-reader iBooks, Tenth of December by George Saunders was named the best novel of the year, while One Summer by Bill Bryson was the best non-fiction book. The best book for young adults was The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, while the best book designed specifically for iBooks was the Breaking Bad tie-in.

Apple’s picks for Best Podcasts are MSNBC Rachel Maddow, The Adam and Dr. Drew Show, AsapScience and Stuff You Should Know.

To see more of this year’s top performers, check out iTunes and the App Store.