2012

So far, as a part of our ‘Best of 2012‘ series, we’ve already shown you our picks for the Best App Icons, Best UI Animations, the Best apps to replace the default/stock apps on iOS. So today, to conclude the series and the year, we thought we’d pick the absolute best apps of 2012. Mikhail and Preshit have put together a list of their favorite apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android and Mikhail has curated a list of his favorite Games. Note that we’ve decided to leave out Twitter apps from the list below. Most of our readers have already settled onto their favorite twitter app, so including one in the list doesn’t really make sense. So here’s our list, in no particular order.

iPhone

Fantastical

If you’ve been following our site for the last few week, Fantastical being on this list shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. The iPhone app, which was released just last month has already gone onto become one of the best iPhone apps to come out this year. Everything about the app — the icon, the gorgeous UI, the brilliantly implemented transitions and it’s natural language parsing and other core features are nothing short of excellent. Fantastical on the Mac and now on the iPhone is single-handedly responsible for making me use calendar scheduling productively this year. It’s easily one of my favorite apps on my Homescreen and I often find my eyes staring at the stunningly designed icon. At just $3.99 on the App Store, Fantastical is beyond doubt a fantastic app for your iPhone.

Day One

Day One is another app that led me to take up something that I didn’t think I’d ever do — maintaining a journal. Even though Day One for iPhone came out in 2011, 2012 is when it was updated with some of its best features. iCloud sync, the beautiful new app icon, fonts and new sounds were added to the app this year. Version 1.8 of the app brought along one of its most amazing features, the ability to add Photos to the library & automatic weather based on the location. The latest major update introduced Search, Tagging and Multimarkdown footnotes, arguably making it the best journaling app the App Store. In spite of all these features being added to the app, Day One has consistently maintained a gorgeous UI and simple interactions in the app. It’s a Universal app and costs just $4.99 on the App Store.

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As a part of our ‘Best of 2012‘ series to end of this year, we’ve already shown you our picks for Best App Icons and the Best UI Animations so far. We thought today would be a good day to feature some excellent alternative apps or replacements to the stock/default apps that Apple offers for iOS. We’re sure many of our readers would’ve either gifted or received an iOS device this holiday season, so this list will hopefully help you find a better app that fits your needs the best.

We should note that unlike Android or OS X, iOS doesn’t allow setting a 3rd party app as a system default so it is impossible to completely stay independent of the stock apps. So while the apps on the list below are great alternatives, they work along with the default apps. Here’s our list, starting from the top-left of the Homescreen.

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We continue our ‘Best of 2012‘ series with our favourite UI animtions from apps that came out this year. Apps can have stunning UIs & great functionality, but having unique animations and transitions in them make you coming back to them and make the apps worthy of showing off the platform. A good animation or transition when you least expect it gives you that feeling of delight and often makes you fall in love with it. 2012 has seen many popular apps get refined and also big companies finally realizing the importance of a good UI in an app. Android apps have been getting better with some great ones featured here over the past year and iOS apps are just pushing the design envelope more and more. This is a list of UI animations in apps that we (that’s Preshit & Mikhail) think stood out from the rest. We’ve also included videos of the animations to give you a preview, but they look best on your iOS device itself. Fair warning though, this is a video-heavy post. Here’s our list, in no particular order.

Google+ Animation

When Google+ went public with invitations, everyone wanted one. However the lack of a good app on Android and mobile apps on any other platform made most people avoid the network. Google has upped their game on iOS and their recent app releases are just stunning. The Google+ iOS apps get pretty close to making you want to use the network. They are filled with great and unique animations. The one in question here is the pull to refresh animation. When you pull the view down, there are 4 colored bands that get stretched and they become darker and lighter in a rhythmic pattern from left to right. Also interesting is the way new content cells slowly fall into place as you scroll towards the bottom. Little things like this show us that Google pays a lot of attention to the minute aspects of app design. It is worth having the Google+ app on your iOS device only for this animation.

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A huge thanks to Salon.io for sponsoring our RSS feed this week. They have an excellent online tool for creating drag/drop/arrange kind of web pages and it works great. Go ahead and check them out.

A Berlin based team introduces a new process for designing web pages where every change is immediately visible – there is no need to save, preview or update – what you see is what it is. Anyone can use Salon.io to quickly and easily create interactive photo albums, entire websites or portfolios directly in their browser, without any programming knowledge.

The interface is extremely easy for anyone to pickup. As it’s laid out like a typical desktop programme anyone who currently works digitally should have no problem getting to grips with the drag & drop system. Also pages can be created with just one click using the ‘generate layout’ tool. This provides a beautiful randomly generated start (or end!) point when building a page. Images, text and other assets can then be repositioned by hand – either overlaying one another, like a collage, or fluidly adjusting around one another depending on a user’s settings.

At the same time Salon.io provides code-savvy users full control over CSS, HTML and, with future developments, javascript as well. The built-in code editor with LiveUpdate provides complete control over a page and allows you to see the results of your changes as they happen.

Salon.io’s goal is to make online publishing easier, simpler and more diverse. The application enables anyone to create original and individual websites and affords its users a sense of empowerment & control.

Salon.io is currently in version 0.9. To finance further development a crowdfunding campaign has been launched with the campaign page having been built using their own application. For a limited time accounts are being offered with up to a 50% discount.

2012 was a fantastic year for pixels. We saw plenty of beautiful apps being released on all the popular platforms as well as some stunning examples of meticulous pixel craftsmanship all throughout the year. 2012 was also a great year for Beautiful Pixels. Not only did we cross 100,000 RSS subscribers in September (Currently over 160k), we also completed three whole years of writing about our Unhealthy lust for UI Design this December. It has been been a great ride for us and we couldn’t be happier with the support we’ve been receiving from you, our readers. Thank you!

Having come across such great examples of works by a variety of designers and “pixel pushers”, we decided to do something different as we end this year. Thanks to The Great Annual iTunes Connect Shutdown of 2012, there won’t be much activity on the iOS or Mac App Stores. So all this week, we’ll be publishing a ‘Best of 2012′ series of posts. We’ll be highlighting and featuring our picks of what we think are the best examples of exceptional icon design, UI design etc.

We begin the series with our picks of some of the Best App Icons that came out in 2012. Now, quite literally, there are thousands of apps out there, on all popular platforms, with icons that are truly works of art. However, we’re only looking at icons that came out in 2012. Moreover, this is a list of the icons that we (that’s Preshit & Mikhail) think stood out from the rest. If you think that we missed one, or if some app deserved to be on the list here, let us know on Twitter or App.net. Here’s our list, in no particular order.

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I was extremely late to the Google Reader & the whole RSS party. I never really bothered with it until I used Reeder on my iPhone a few months ago, and then ended up getting Reeder for iPad and Mac that day. I start my day with a cup of coffee and whichever device is nearest to me with a Google Reader app on it. When I got my Nexus 7, I was disappointed with the official Google Reader app and any third party alternatives. Press by TwentyFive Squares changes all that. Android has been becoming more and more beautiful after 4.1 and Press is worthy of being the only Google Reader app you use on Android.

The app conforms to the holo guidelines and looks gorgeous. It is visually inspired by Reeder in a few aspects but has its own identity overall. I would go ahead and say that Android has its own ‘Reeder’ with Press. After launching the app and granting it access to Google Reader, it fetches your feeds and syncs. It has a very nice tablet UI for the Nexus 7. The left section lets you swipe between the unread, read and starred articles. If you organize your feeds into folders, they will appear with the number of articles and feeds indicated by red dots and numbers to the right. The pane on the right has a very Reeder for iPad like grid with your subscriptions and their icons listed with the number of articles fetched. Scrolling is very smooth and there was almost no lag at all in the app. You can sync your feeds by tapping the sync button on the top right or access the settings inside the options menu. When you tap all subscriptions or a particular feed from a folder, you are presented with another dual pane layout very similar to that of Reeder for Mac with article list with a brief summary on the left. You can tap the favicon for an article to mark it as read or unread and tapping and holding will give you the option to mark all articles below as read. Tapping an article slides the right pane over to give you a full article view. I’m glad Press has font options and these are available under the options menu. Tapping the title of the article here will load it in the in app browser. You can double tap an image to have a full screen view of it that is zoomable. You can star, mark the article unread or share the article by tapping the buttons on the top right. The font size option is almost invisible. It is on the top right of the article view and you can tap the As to increase or decrease the article font size. Navigation within the app is mostly gesture controlled and you can swipe back or tap the back button. Swiping worked really well and I had no lag during animations at all. My main complaint is with switching articles. To go from one article to the next you have to press back or swipe back and tap the other article. After using Reeder where you can scroll through articles until you reach the end of the list, this is really annoying.

It isn’t very often that an app on a platform that isn’t iOS is so good that it makes you want to use the platform more. I have been using Press as my main Google Reader app over the weekend and I love it. I think we are getting closer to the stage where apps launch with a phone and tablet UI as opposed to stretched out bullshit on tablets. Press works brilliantly in both orientations. There are a few things that need to be fixed like navigating between articles and the lack of background updating. Press is by far the best Google Reader experience on Android and it is available on Google Play at an introductory price of $1.99.