By Jason Snell
December 31, 2019 3:32 PM PT
This year’s last year’s Apps of the Year
As this is the end of the year, it’s time for the customary (some would say obligatory) making of best-of lists. For the last few years I have been facing this moment with increasing trepidation. The fact is, my enthusiasm for new iOS apps just keeps waning.
I feel even worse about it when I read the MacStories annual awards honoring the best apps of the year. There are so many new apps, and the MacStories staff dives in on a regular basis.
I admire their enthusiasm—and the fact that they’re so committed to the subject reminds me that it’s just not an area I need to focus on. They’ve got it covered. And more to the point, iOS has matured.
As recently as three years ago, I was cycling through multiple apps to attempt to find the best ones to fit my workflows. The good news is, I’ve found a good set of tools and dug in. The bad news is, that means I don’t have as many new apps to praise at the end of the year.
iOS has also become much more flexible and scriptable, which is great news—I can finally build more complicated workflows that make my job easier. But it’s bad news for moving between apps, because if I were to leave my chosen text editor (for example), I’d need to rewrite my automation as well. I would do it, if I had reason to—but in many cases I just haven’t.
Another reason my app choices haven’t changed much lately is that Apple has improved the built-in apps on iOS, and the better those apps are, the less likely I am to move to a new third-party alternative. I use Notes and Reminders all the time. The more I use Notes, the less inclined I am to use Drafts. It’s not that an app like Drafts isn’t amazingly powerful—it’s that, unless I have a specific reason to use that power, it’s just easier to go with the app that’s included for free on all my devices and syncs among them without me doing a thing.
Maybe the more mature a platform and its apps get, the harder it is to find the next big thing. I keep trying different writing apps on iOS, but so far none of them has been able to dislodge 1Writer from its place in my Dock. Maybe next year will be different—there’s certainly more chance that I’ll abandon 1Writer on my iPad than BBEdit on my Mac. I want to be blown away by new apps that can revolutionize how I do my job. But it seems like these days, incremental progress is a more likely outcome. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s just bad for making end-of-the-year lists.