Our Picks for the Top Apps of 2013
This past year brought a lot of really great apps, but it’s tough to argue against 2013 being the year of photo and video sharing. The category is not itself new, but this year really saw it grow tremendously — in fact, the word of the year was “selfie,” if that tells you anything.
Instagram was already established — it was purchased for a billion dollars in 2012, after all — so we chose to leave it off in favor of two apps that really exploded in popularity this past year: Snapchat and Vine. Rounding out the list is mobile music app Spotify, which, after offering freemium mobile streaming to the masses, has seen its usage spike significantly.
I’m not afraid to admit that my younger sisters get the jump on me with some apps. They’re young, after all, so it’s only natural that they know what’s hip with the teens these days (I’m likely already disqualified for using the word hip). One app they beat a lot of people to was Snapchat, an app that lets users share photos and videos with a twist: the content disappears after a predetermined amount of time, which is usually a couple of seconds. Snapchat’s user base has since broadened and the app has added a couple of new features. Oh yeah, and the company turned down $3 billion from Facebook, proving that we’re not the only ones high on Snapchat — the company’s founders are, too.
A lot of video-based social networks have come and gone. YouTube was the first to do social video well, and it’s still around to this day. But others have tried to enter the arena with their own ideas and unique spins on video sharing and have met the sword. Vine is the first video app to come along and really make a dent, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, Vine isn’t necessarily a competitor to YouTube; it’s more a complimentary service. It’s six-second cap and the effortless stop/start recording also have a lot to do with Vine’s success (how many stop-motion videos have you seen? Not a lot of apps make that possible). Lastly, Vine is owned by Twitter. Thanks to that, it had a large network integrated from the get-go. That helped Vine’s growth quite a bit.
I’m not big on digital “leasing” as opposed to outright ownership as far as media is concerned, but Spotify is one app that I happily make an exception for. For $10 a month, Spotify provides access to an enormous catalog of digital music that can be streamed to many different platforms. You don’t own any of the tracks, but if you listen to enough music that purchasing it all would leave you broke, Spotify is a heck of a deal. And now that the company has opened up a freemium streaming tier for its mobile users (those on smartphones and tablets), you can “Shuffle Play” from Spotify’s library and listen to artist and song radio stations without paying a cent. Since launching free mobile streaming, Spotify has seen four times more song downloads than usual — a good sign.
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