AllTrails was named Apple’s iPhone App of the Year for 2023, while Imprint: Learn Visually was named Google Play’s best app. Apple and Google chose Honkai: Star Rail for Game of the Year.
These year-end “best of” lists aren’t just a way to promote new apps and games, but also a way to assess app marketplaces, what platforms wanted to celebrate, and what took consumers’ attention.
However, this year Apple did not highlight apps that were new to the store or used new technology in a novel way. Instead, its iPhone app of the year finalists included Duolingo, Flighty, and AllTrails, which have long been well-built and designed mobile companions.
However, this is a different selection than in previous years, when App Store winners included the social media hit BeReal in 2022 and the popular children’s app Toca Life World the year before.
Despite ChatGPT’s mobile app and others’ success, neither Apple nor Google named an AI app app of the year. That’s odd because ChatGPT became the fastest-growing consumer app ever this year after reaching 100 million users shortly after its launch. Instagram Threads broke that record by reaching 100 million users in five days and maintaining just under 100 million as of October.
Either pick would be a mobile app success story, but both app store platforms looked to others as the top winners this year. Apple’s decision to avoid AI seems deliberate, as many other AI apps make millions of dollars.
Another App Store winner is Prêt-à-Makeup, Mac App of the Year Photomator, Apple TV App of the Year MUBI, Apple Watch App of the Year SmartGym, iPhone Game of the Year Honkai: Star Rail, iPad Game of the Year Lost in Play, Mac Game of the Year Lies of P, and Apple Arcade Game of the Year Hello Kitty Island Adventure.
“It’s inspiring to see the ways developers continue to build incredible apps and games that are redefining the world around us,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook of the 2023 winners. “This year’s winners represent the limitless potential of developers to bring their visions to life, creating apps and games with remarkable ingenuity, exceptional quality, and purpose-driven missions,” he said.
Apple did not include an AI app in its Cultural Impact winners, despite AI’s real impact on culture online and offline. In 2023, AI will have entered everyday tech, created art and music, and disrupted and created jobs. Instead, Apple’s cultural winners were Pok Pok, Proloquo, Too Good to Go, Unpacking, and Finding Hannah.
Still, the company couldn’t avoid AI, so it named generative AI the “Trend of the Year” and gathered a few apps that showed it. However, its press release only mentioned their App Store grouping.
Google highlighted “multi-device” apps in its “best of” list this year, mirroring its Play Store efforts to make non-smartphone apps easier to find. It named Spotify its best multi-device app, an interesting choice given that Spotify’s sweetheart deal with Google allows it to bypass Play Store fees, according to the Epic Games antitrust case. The turn-based strategy game OUTERPLANE: Strategy Anime was the best multi-device game.
As expected, ChatGPT won Google’s User’s Choice App of the Year award. Monopoly Go was the year’s user favorite!
The company also named other apps, including Best Fun App, to highlight them. For Friends: Bumble-IRL meetings are best for personal growth. Voidpet Garden: Mental Health, Best Everyday Essential Artifact: Feed Your Curiosity, Best Hidden Gem Aware: Mindfulness & Wellbeing, Best with AI Character AI-Powered Chat, Best for Families Paw Patrol Academy, Best Good App AWorld for ActNow, Best Watches WhatsApp is Best for Tablets Sketch, Note, Draw, Chromebook-friendly FlipaClip: 2D Animation, Best for Google TV Max: HBO, TV, and Movies: Best for Cars Amazon Prime Video
Google didn’t mind including Meta’s WhatsApp in its winners’ list, unlike Apple, which has been feuding with Meta since its App Tracking Transparency changes hurt Meta’s ad business. The clever AI-powered Artifact app by Instagram’s co-founders was also mentioned. ChatGPT won the User’s Choice race and created an AI category, which ended up going to Character AI, a former Google researcher-built app.
Reelsy Reel Maker Video Editor, Imprint: Learn Visually (which won overall but was an Honorable Mention in Personal Growth), ReciMe: Easy & Tasty Recipes, and Stippl: Explore, Plan & Share, ChatGPT (User’s Choice but Honorable Mention in Best with AI), LEGO DUPLO DISNEY, AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run (Apple’s iPhone app of the year), Audio Entertainment, Audible Canva: Design, Photo, and Video Everand: Ebooks/audiobooks Wideo, Amazon Prime Video, Crunchyroll, Disney+, Evernote, Tubi: Movies & Live TV, Beach Buggy Racing, and Spotify (Best multi-device app, honorable mention for Best for Cars)
The top games included Best Pick-Up & Play: MONOPOLY GO!, Best Multiplayer Game: Farlight 84: Best Story, Indie Vampire Survivors Honkai: Star Rail, Best Ongoing Stumble Guys, Pokémon Sleep, and Best on Play Pass Tablet-optimal Magic Rampage Honkai: Star Rail, Minecraft for Chromebooks, Arknights for Google Play on PC Games received honorable mentions on Google’s blog alongside books of the year.