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Best New Apps: must-have downloads for your phone, tablet, and more

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Every company likes to brag about the number of apps available for their devices. 700,000 Android apps! 120,000 Windows Phone apps! 70,000 BlackBerry 10 apps! Having lots of apps is good, but here's the thing: most apps suck. And not only does that make bad apps hard to avoid, it makes the good ones hard to find. So we'll be highlighting our favorite apps on every platform, whether it's for your phone, your tablet, your laptop, or any other device.

But these aren't just cool new apps — these are the best new apps. The ones you absolutely must download, right now. The ones that will instantly make you saner, happier, drier (if and when we ever find a great weather app), and more productive. So trust us: you want these apps.

30 updates and 2011 comments below.

Jul 24 3:09p

Best New Apps: Ultratext

Ultratext is a dead-simple iOS app for creating GIFs and sending them via MMS and iMessage. It creates flashing neon messages, with the words you type blown up in all caps, accessorized with emoji and selfies and other photos from your camera roll. Every time you hit the space bar, Ultratext gives you a new box to type into, chaining your words into a looping animation. At any point you can add a picture using either the front or rear camera. The result is a message that looks more like a...

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Jul 21 12:30p

Best New Apps: Overcast for iPhone

If you have an iPhone, you should download Overcast, the new podcast app from Instapaper creator and Tumblr co-founder Marco Arment. Podcast clients are a crowded category, of course, and it's harder than ever to stand out now that Apple offers its own free solution. But Overcast sets itself apart with thoughtful design, original features, and smart ideas — and it costs nothing to check out.

Apr 03 10:45a

Best New Apps: 'FTL' for iPad

FTL: Faster Than Light is one of the most addictive spaceship simulations you can play — and it turns out it's even better with a touchscreen. First released in 2012 for Windows, Mac, and Linux, FTL tasks you with delivering some very important data to the Galactic Federation headquarters. Standing between you and your goal, though, is a whole lot of space, filled with hostile aliens and treacherous asteroid fields. Your hyperspace drive lets you quickly jump from one star to the next, and...

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Feb 20 2:00p

Best New Apps: Poki

Pocket lets me save articles so I can read them across all my devices, but a lack of official Windows Phone support means I’ve been searching for a good alternative for months. I’ve tried a variety of third-party versions like Owl Reader and Pouch, but none strike the perfect balance of features and design like the official Pocket apps for iOS and Android. The latest contender, Poki, blends the flat "Metro" design of Windows Phone with the basic features of Pocket and mixes in some rather...

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Feb 11 11:30a

Best New Apps: Hello SMS

Ever since Google clunkily integrated SMS into Hangouts and killed off the standard SMS app, I’ve been on the hunt for a better text-messaging app. I’ve tried Textra, Sliding Messaging, and even newcomers such as Evolve SMS, but they’ve all let me down in one way or another. Fortunately, I’ve found Hello SMS, a straightforward, simple SMS app that’s good-looking and easy to use. It fully replaces the built-in messaging app on your Android phone and feels like something Google itself could...

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Feb 07 11:11a

Best New Apps: Dark Sky

Dark Sky has been around on the iPhone for almost a couple of years now, but the recent redesign for iOS 7 makes it worth a second look — even at the relatively steep price of $3.99. Its raison d'être is telling you what the precipitation is going to be down to your exact location and, more importantly, by the hour. That means it has the unenviable job of conveying a lot of information in a way you can quickly understand — and given the current state of weather apps, it has to look good....

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Feb 04 1:30p

Best New Apps: Storehouse

Here's the thing: most apps suck. And not only does that make bad apps hard to avoid, it makes the good ones hard to find when there are hundreds of thousands of apps out there. So in this series, we highlight our favorite apps on every platform, whether it's for your phone, your tablet, your laptop, or any other device.

Continue reading »

Dec 05 11:36a

Best New Apps: Level

I’ve spent years "managing" my money using Mint.com — creating budgets, renaming transactions, tracking spending month over month, and using precision labels like "Alcohol / Bars" to see how much I’m boozing. But I couldn’t put a finger on why I was doing all of this: I felt a little safer being able to see a dashboard of all my money on the screen in front of me, but I hardly ever took action based on the results I saw. Only once I tried Level, a new app for iPhone, did I realize that the...

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Nov 14 2:00p

Best New Apps: 'Tilt to Live 2'

There are plenty of great touchscreen mobile games, but few that use tilt in a way that feels right. Tilt to Live was a rare exception, a frantic arcade game that had you tilting your phone to avoid deadly dots while using all kinds of weapons to destroy them. Now the game has a sequel that features the same core game mechanic, but with one important difference — it's absolutely insane. Just like before, tilting your device moves a tiny arrow around, and after a few short seconds the screen...

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Oct 15 1:00p

Best New Apps: Frax HD

Frax HD is intimidating at first. It's all about fractals; visualizations of complex mathematical equations that twist and turn to create beautifully strange images. The technical explanation is enough to make your head hurt, but thankfully you don't really need to understand any of that. All you need to know is that Frax HD is an incredible tool for crafting bizarre and fun landscapes. There are 42 different landscapes you can interact with — and close to 200 if you splurge for the "pro"...

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Sep 20 10:15a

Best New Apps: OmniFocus 2

The most powerful to-do list manager for iOS has been redesigned for iOS 7, and the result is a beautiful and fluid productivity manager that will help you get things done. OmniFocus 2 for iPhone makes it faster than ever to see your day at a glance, check your progress on ongoing projects, and add new tasks. And it does it all with a stylish simplicity that is new to the famously complicated app.

On one hand, OmniFocus offers more power than most people need, or even want. In a world of...

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Sep 12 1:00p

Best New Apps: Simplenote for Android

The iOS App Store is littered with beautiful hyper-minimalist text-editing apps – if you want to take quick, searchable, syncable notes on your iPhone, you're not short of options. The Android landscape is comparatively barren, with only a few options that work and even fewer that look good doing it. But thanks to Simplenote, which has launched its first native app for Android, there's now an option that rivals anything you'd find on iOS.

The app is just one long, running list of notes...

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Aug 01 10:01a

Best New Apps: 'Rymdkapsel'

Rymdkapsel looks simple and plays slow, but it’s one of the best strategy games I’ve played in a long time. The game is all about expansion. Your team of tiny white squares starts out on a small platform floating in space, and the goal is to expand that platform as far as possible. You’ll need to produce resources like food and minerals, add new members to your crew, examine mysterious artifacts to gain new abilities, and build defenses to protect against regularly scheduled alien attacks....

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Jul 26 10:59a

Best New Apps: Frontback

Nearly the entire concept of Frontback resides in its name. Snap a picture with your iPhone’s front camera, then another with your back camera, and boom: a frontback is born. As app creator Fred della Faille puts it: "Your face is the caption." There’s a dumb fun in using this app that recalls the experience of sending your first few Snapchats. In an era where the selfie reigns supreme, Frontback elevates it to the level of art.

You can share your frontback on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter,...

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Jul 19 10:01a

Best New Apps: 'Gentlemen!'

Few mobile games offer single-screen action with friends as intense and fun as Lucky Frame’s Gentlemen! Sure, there are multiplayer experiences like swapping turns in Letterpress or fighting for the highest score in Ridiculous Fishing, but nothing quite like this. It’s sort of like a two-player take on Super Crate Box mixed with Spy vs. Spy, only instead of having to kill off waves of enemies, you’ll need to dispose of a human foe sitting right across from you. You’ll compete across a handful...

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Jul 15 11:30a

Best New Apps: IFTTT

Since it launched in 2010, IFTTT (if this, then that) has been building a Lego set made out of web companies. The free service, which until now has existed only on the web, automates tasks using public APIs from companies including Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, and Foursquare. I use IFTTT to save all my Instagram photos to Dropbox, and to note every time I check in at the gym, among other things. Now a new iOS app is making it easy to browse and enable the most popular “recipes” on the service...

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Jun 11 12:30p

Best New Apps: 'Kingdom Rush Frontiers'

You could beat Kingdom Rush, one of the best tower-defense games for iOS, and still never really finish it. The gameplay was so exquisitely balanced, with maps that remained challenging after dozens of plays, that there were always good reasons to come back to it. Now we have a new reason to return: Kingdom Rush Frontiers, the tremendous sequel from Ironhide Studios. Tasked once again with defending the perpetually endangered land of Linirea, you’ll find a range of new tools at your...

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May 28 4:04p

Best New Apps: Instacast for Mac

Instacast for Mac is without question the best way to listen to podcasts on OS X. And for anyone who’s been stuck using iTunes for the job, it’s something of a revelation. You can finally set Apple’s bloated media player aside — at least when it comes to podcasts — in favor of Vemedio’s sleek and efficient replacement. Most importantly, everything’s fast. Very, very fast. Adding your favorite shows is as simple as searching for them and hitting the subscribe button. Organization is equally...

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May 23 1:30p

Best New Apps: Google Hangouts

I've tried WhatsApp, GroupMe, Kik, Google Voice, LINE, Trillian, and basically every other messaging app you can think of — I've even tried using Skype as an IM service, because at least my parents know what Skype is. I'd given up on finding an app that had all three things I need: cross-platform, useful online and off, and accessible enough that I could convince everyone I know to use it. But Google's new Hangouts app is all that and more.

There are Hangouts apps for iOS and Android, plus...

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May 01 3:35p

Best New Apps: Drafts 3.0 for iOS

Drafts is the starting place for anything you might tap out on your iPhone or iPad, integrated with a large and growing number of other apps. This is a notebook that works like an Alfred-style launcher, and as with launchers, the more time you spend with Drafts, the more uses you'll find for it. Launch Drafts and type something — then tweet it, post it to Facebook, send it as an email, or add it to your calendar or Reminders app all from the same place. It can be saved to Dropbox or...

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Apr 09 2:30p

Best New Apps: 'Badland' for iOS

The best movies convince you that you know exactly what's about to happen, only to spin off in a direction you never saw coming. Badland is that feeling, unceasing, incarnate in an impressively long and involved iOS game. A sort of demented, Tim Burton-ized version of Jetpack Joyride or Super Meat Boy, Badland has but one control — you tap the screen to make your amorphous, squishy black blob lurch upward, and when you let go it floats back to earth. But the dystopian rainforest through...

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Mar 22 11:00a

Best New Apps: Ridiculous Fishing for iOS

What is so satisfying about upgrading gear and unlocking levels? Why does acquiring the chainsaw lure keep me up at night? Super Crate Box developer Vlambeer has mastered addictive gameplay, and its latest title is a testament to that. In Ridiculous Fishing, you are a fisherman searching for redemption, mindlessly casting your line deeper to catch eels, catfish, and footstaches — and then using a variety of high-caliber weaponry to shoot them out of the air above your boat.

The game is...

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Mar 13 1:00p

Best New Apps: DashClock Widget

DashClock Widget is a new widget for Android 4.2 devices that can be placed on a user’s home screen or lock screen. Developed by a Google employee, DashClock provides quick, glance-able information on your device without requiring you to even unlock it. You can see current weather, numbers of unread emails and text messages, upcoming appointments, and more. And since DashClock supports extensions, third-party app developers can tap into it to show you things like battery status, social...

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Mar 07 4:05p

Best New Apps: Traktor DJ for iPad

Traktor DJ is one of those apps that sells the entire idea of the iPad itself — it takes the fundamentals of complicated, expensive PC-based DJ programs like Traktor Pro and Serato Scratch Live and reduces them to a handful of simple touch gestures that are ridiculously easy to understand. Instead of a virtual turntable or other strained metaphor, you just tap, swipe, and drum on the waveforms of your tracks directly — Traktor is smart enough to slice up the beats, sync things up, and even...

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Feb 27 2:00p

Best New Apps: Pocket Casts for Android

I'd been waiting for a great Android podcast app for a long time, and one has finally arrived. With RSS readers and Twitter clients that match the thoughtful design of their iOS counterparts, the Play Store has started to host quality as well as its undeniable quantity of software — but until now, there's never been a podcast app that wasn't ugly, a pain to use, or both. Pocket Casts is the unlikely savior: it used to be pretty terrible itself, with an awkward interface ported straight...

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Feb 21 3:09p

Best New Apps: Sunrise

If it's not in my calendar, I have exactly zero chance of remembering to do something or be somewhere. The biggest problem with that is "my calendar" lives in so many different places now. I have a work calendar, and a personal calendar; sometimes I only get invited to things on Facebook. Not only does Sunrise bring all that data into one great-looking app, it adds everything else I might need for the day, like the weather and whose birthday it is. The app also lets you do stuff with...

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Feb 15 11:05a

Best New Apps: Haze

Weather apps are a dime a dozen these days — who needs another one, right? Well, if you enjoy slick design and pretty animations to go along with your weather forecasts, Haze might be the weather app for you. Haze offers simple weather reports in a clean and attractive interface that relies on gestures to control — something we don't see too often in weather apps. Its use of animated backgrounds to tell you the forecast may not be the most efficient method of reporting the weather — and it...

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Feb 04 3:05p

Best New Apps: Facebook Messenger for iOS

Facebook Messenger began as a simple way to send messages to Facebook friends, but quickly evolved into a fully fledged texting replacement. Today, you can send pictures, your location, voice messages, and even make calls through the app — all without using any of your monthly minutes or texts. Facebook Messages sync instantly to the social network’s website, which means it’s easy to carry on conversations on your computer, then walk away and take your conversation to go. You might not...

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3:04p

Best New Apps: Snapseed

We expect only the basics from mobile apps, but Snapseed proves that it doesn’t take multi-level menus and toolbars to make a powerful image editor. The app’s secret lies in a series of simple, smart tools that intuit what you want them to do, rather than mimicking the common options of a standard editor. Once you pick a tool, there are only two choices, more or less, and it makes seeing the effect on your photo both charming and obvious, even if it is unclear what a tool named Atmosphere...

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3:03p

Best New Apps: Cobook

Cobook doesn’t fix what ain’t broke. It’s essentially Apple’s Contacts app on steroids, with the ability to pull contact information from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn on demand. Cobook can link contact cards with information like a friend’s job title from LinkedIn, location from Facebook, and Twitter handle from Twitter, all without harming your contact files. It might not be the "always synced contact app of the 21st century," but it’s your best option.

Free on iOS

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3:00p

Best New Apps: Vine

Here's the thing: most apps suck. And not only does that make bad apps hard to avoid, it makes the good ones hard to find when there are hundreds of thousands of apps out there. So in this new series, we'll be highlighting our favorite apps on every platform, whether it's for your phone, your tablet, your laptop, or any other device.

But these aren't just cool new apps — these are the best new apps. The ones you absolutely must download, right now. The ones that will instantly make you...

Continue reading »

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