Here are the most well-designed apps of 2017, as picked by Apple

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Here are the most well-designed apps of 2017, as picked by Apple

Each year since 1997, Apple has picked a handful of apps that it felt were amongst the best made on its platforms. The apps that best captured or represented the capabilities of a particular device (this year meaning an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch or all of the above) — or the ones that were just too pretty to ignore.

These Apple Design Awards are usually handed out in a big ceremony at WWDC, but this year’s gatherings were a bit more intimate; winning designers got to meet and chat with top-level Apple execs, who handed them one of the light-up, machine-milled statues you see above.

Here are this year’s winners. (Tap that right arrow to view the list if you’re on desktop; if you’re on mobile, just scroll!)



A puzzle game that relies on just about everything the iPhone can do, while intentionally avoiding its most obvious feature: touch.

Calling on everything from the gyroscope, to device settings, to the time of day, Blackbox is the kind of game that drives you up the damned wall until you realize the answer has been right in front of you the whole time.

Blackbox [Free with In App purchase] on the App Store


Things 3

It’s easy to write off Things as “yet another to-do list app” — but it’s one of the best around. Its design is super thoughtful, with a ton of little tricks for power users; see that little plus icon, for example? You can tap it to add a new todo… but you can also drag-and-drop it to create a todo in a specific spot in the list.

This is the second ADA that this line of apps has won — Things 1 got an ADA back in 2009.

Things 3 [$10] on the App Store


Mushroom 11

Have you ever taken one of those gooey blue icepacks and mushed it around to watch the gel inside wiggle around? Mushroom 11 is sort of like that, turned into a puzzle game.

Mushroom 11 [$5] on the App Store



The adult coloring book concept, appified. A simple idea, at first, but it’s done well here. Want to just use your finger like a paint bucket? You can do that. Want to take manual control with an Apple Pencil for intense shading? You can do that too. Lake works with independent artists to build out its offerings, with new stuff added daily.

Lake [Free w/ In App Purchases] on the App Store


Splitter Critters

Remember Lemmings? Splitter Critters borrows that “get these little guys from point A to point B safely” concept and gives it a clever twist — you hack and slash your finger across the screen to slice the world, shifting it around to create new pathways and obstacles.

Splitter Critters [$3] on the App Store



Bear is a simple-but-slick note taking app for iPhone, iPad and Mac. With things like Markup support and tagging, it can step in when the built-in note-taking stuff isn’t quite cutting it.

Bear [Free] on the App Store


Elk Currency Converter

Currency converters have been done plenty of times before, but Elk is about as slick as it gets. The Apple Watch app, in particular, is particularly solid for those who hop from country to country and currency to currency; it’s lightweight, clutter-free and uses your current location to pre-determine the currencies you’ll need to see. We previously wrote about Elk here.

Elk [$4 after 14 day trial] on the App Store


AirMail 3

If you’ve got a bunch of different email addresses on a bunch of different services, Apple’s standard Mail app probably doesn’t cut it. AirMail wraps all your email addresses — be it Yahoo, Exchange, Gmail, iCloud, etc. — into one unified inbox, and brings in some slick concepts like email snoozing for good measure.

AirMail 3 [$5] on the App Store



Israel’s Lightricks wants to be the Photoshop of mobile. They take a bunch of complicated, ultra CPU-heavy image manipulation stuff and hide it behind a deceptively simple UI. This is the same team that built Facetune selfie-fixing app; we wrote about them here.

Enlight [$4] on the App Store


Old Man's Journey

Old Man’s Journey is a gorgeous and thoughtful puzzle/adventure game. Screenshots don’t really do it justice.

Old Man’s Journey [$5] on the App Store



You wake up in another world; your arm is gone, your family is missing. A demon hands you a sword and sends you on your way. Pretty much a standard Monday, right?

Apple has a bit of a thing for Severed, with the game also having won iPad Game of the Year in 2016 and multiple Editor’s Choice awards.

Severed [$3] on the App Store


Kitchen Stories

Need a quick recipe? Kitchen Stories has ’em — and, often, it has it in many languages. Need to learn how to cut a kiwi? Kitchen Stories has that, too. Kitchen Stories crams a whole lot of information into an otherwise minimalist design, and their many videos are as pretty as they are informative. We wrote about the company back in 2015 here.

Kitchen Stories [Free] on the App Store


Bonus slide!

Here’s what happens when you touch one of those aforementioned trophies (It was like… right there. You know I had to do it).

It’s got a hefty build quality to it (read: it’s pretty heavy), and seemingly machine-milled from the same material as a MacBook Pro.