Apple selected Explain Everything Whiteboard as a top app of the year and an example of the increased interest in collaboration tools during 2020.
Image: Apple

Apps became more than a tool for productivity and entertainment in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced everything from work to exercise classes to go virtual overnight. People were looking for online replacements for everything in their daily schedules.

App developers rose to the challenge and Apple recognized the best of these efforts in the App Store Best of 2020 list released Dec. 2. Apple picked 15 apps and games that people use to stay healthy, connect with distant family members, and deal with the stress of the pandemic.

Wakeout won the iPhone app of the year with its alternative to the gym. Andres Canella built this app that sends free exercise routines via email. Instead of requiring workout gear and equipment, the Wakeout routines use everyday items from around the house like pillows and skillets. Users can choose their setting as well and receive activities best suited for the office, the park, or even a plane.

Some of the winners were obvious picks for the year of distance everything: Zoom for the iPad app of the year and Disney+ for the Apple TV. Endel is another perfect choice for 2020. The Apple Watch app analyzes your heart rate and generates soundscapes to help you relax and fall asleep. The app is available for the iPhone and iPad as well. Fantastical by Flexibits won best Mac app of the year for its calendar app.

Apple Fellow Phil Schiller said in a press release that he saw remarkable efforts from so many developers, and these Best of 2020 winners are outstanding examples of that innovation.

Caribu uses video calls and a digital book reading app to let family members read together when they are not in the same room.
Image: Apple

Apple’s top 15 list named four apps as the best examples of strong trends in 2020. In the self-care category, Shine is a free meditation app. Pokemon Go made the list for “reinventing the way we play,” for adding play-at-home options to the augmented reality game. ShareTheMeal is an example of how apps can help users make a difference, according to Apple. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) built the app to make it easier for users to donate money to feed people around the world. WFP states on its website that 80 cents can feed a child for a day. In the next five years, the organization wants to serve 800 million meals around the world.

The fourth trendsetter app is Caribu. This app allows family members to connect via video to read a book or draw together. According to an article in the Miami Herald, Caribu CTO Alvaro Sabido wanted to make it easier for families to read together even if they are not in the same room. A subscription to the app includes access to books, activites, and games. Caribu adds new content weekly. Grandparents are the target market but Caribu also has a Blue Star Family partnership to provide free access to military families.

Explain Everything Whiteboard app also provides a new platform for connecting. The collaboration tool lets students work on projects together when everyone is at home.

Everyone needed a distraction from the stress of the pandemic and mobile games fit that bill perfectly, Apple picked a game from each of its platforms to round out the top 15 list:

  • Genshin Impact by miHoYo as the best iPhone game
  • Legends of Runeterra by Riot Games for the iPad
  • Disco Elysium by ZA/UM for the Mac
  • Dandara Trails of Fear by Raw Fury for Apple TV
  • Sneaky Sasquatch by RAC7 from the Apple Arcade

Apple also released the top games and apps of 2020. The top five free games were:

  1. Among Us!
  2. Call of Duty Mobile
  3. Roblox
  4. Subway Surfers
  5. Ink Inc. – Tattoo Drawing

The top five games on the paid list were:

  1. Minecraft
  2. Plague Inc.
  3. Heads Up! Best Charades game
  4. Monopoly
  5. Bloons TD 6

The most popular free apps were:

  1. Zoom Cloud Meetings
  2. TikTok
  3. Disney+
  4. YouTube
  5. Instagram

The top five paid apps were:

  1. TouchRetouch
  2. Procreate Pocket
  3. Facetune
  4. HotSchedules
  5. AutoSleep Track Sleep on Watch