The App Store has come a long way since 2008, but have you noticed just how good things have gotten recently? Here's our pick of 2016's most mind-blowing apps.

app-lead-phones

It’s been a fantastic year for apps, and that’s mainly thanks to you. See, when apps were a brand new thing we were all a lot more forgiving of bugs, dodgy designs and slow software. But, as we get more and more used to how slick things should be on mobile, we’ve become a much more discerning audience – which means developers continually have to step up their game if they want their apps to warrant a hallowed spot on your home screen.

To prove it, we thought we’d take a look at some of the apps and games that have really blown us away so far this year – the apps that have moved the mobile goalposts in 2016.

Prisma | Free

prisma app

Prisma pics are probably all over your social feeds, and with good reason. But the thing that makes Prisma pics so special is that each image the app creates is far more than just a filter laid over the top of a photo. Its creative effects are actually driven by a smart AI that totally ‘repaints’ your photos with artistic verve. That’s why the pics it outputs look so awesome, and that’s why it’s had some artists up in arms about the app potentially replacing them!

MSQRD | Free

msqrd app

We’re being a bit cheeky here with MSQRD (AKA Masquerade), since it actually hit the app store on 22 December 2015. But with Christmas initially in its way, the app only really found its mainstream audience – millions of people who quickly fell in love with augmenting masks, animal and celebrity faces onto their own – in the early months of 2016. MSQRD became so popular that Jimmy Kimmel even added his own likeness to it to promote his show, and so big that Facebook ended up buying the app outright.

Apple Music Memos | Free

apple music memos

Apple’s Garageband app is a brilliant piece of software for budding songsmiths, but there’s never been anything quite like Music Memos for quickly getting song ideas down. What makes it truly game-changing is that once you’ve recorded a few bars, the app will scan your song for tempo, chords and keys to generate a scarily natural sounding accompanying drumbeat and/or bass riff. Onto something big? You can send it straight to Garageband with one tap.

Pokémon GO | Free

It wouldn’t be a list of 2016’s most ground-breaking apps without mentioning Pokémon GO. And really, calling it a mere ‘app’ is a bit shy of the mark; it’s a phenomenon. Hitting the top of the Apple App Store the day it was made available in the UK, making headlines across every kind of news feed, and even changing the lives of people with Autism, Pokémon GO shows the kind of impact the right app with the right IP can make.

Mobius Final Fantasy | Free

As Pokémon GO proves, the key to a great mobile game doesn’t lie in graphical prowess, but, all the same, the visuals on offer in Square Enix’s new Final Fantasy title are jaw-dropping. The scope of the game is what’s most impressive, though, since it shows just how far our phones have come as genuine gaming platforms – this is console-quality stuff with the scope, scale and story to match. And, unlike other Final Fantasy ports, Mobius has been built from the ground up especially for smartphones.

Stack | Free

Got time for one more game? Stack is a bona fide 2016 App Store smash hit, and it couldn’t be further from the spectacle on offer in Mobius Final Fantasy. Your only job here is to stack coloured blocks on top of one another to make a tower. That’s it. But it deserves a spot in this list because we see it as the absolute apex of no-nonsense ‘one more go’ game design – the kind of beautiful, minimal and addictive fare that only really works on mobiles. Stack is the beauty of mobile gaming in microcosm.

Scrivener | £14.99

Writers the world over have been singing the praises of the Mac version of Scrivener – a complete novel, comic and scriptwriting toolkit – for years now. Which is why it’s great news that, finally, after a lengthy wait, it now has an iOS app to aid with writing on the go. And it’s a revelation. Scrivener for iOS has been met with rapturous reviews thanks to the amazing job it’s done of condensing a staggeringly complex and powerful software suite down into a slick and clean mobile-friendly format – and without losing any of its abilities. An app-making masterclass well worth waiting for.

Moog Model 15 | £22.99

moog model 15 app

Prefer writing music to prose? Moog’s Model 15 app is a faithful digital recreation of its world-famous synthesizer, featuring 160 presets, a 150 ribbon controller and 8-step sequencing arpeggiator. Put simply, this is true studio-quality kit built for the iPhone in your pocket. There’s never been a better time to get those tracks out of your head and into the real world.

Chatbots in Facebook Messenger | Free

chatbots messenger

We’re only just entering the age of the chatbot, so you could say that their integration into Facebook Messenger is the tip of an enormous iceberg. But the AI tech involved is really impressive. Head into Messenger and kick off a convo with a channel’s resident bot, and it’ll endeavour to help you find what you’re looking for – a specific news article from CNN, an Uber, or some medical advice from HealthTap – in a conversational manner. It’s exciting stuff, and an early glimpse at the massive role AI will play in our phones in the near future.

More amazing apps… Want to get out there but feel bemused by all the love for Pokémon GO? Check out our top location-based gaming alternatives.