Android users waited, and then waited some more for apps such as Instagram to land in the Google Play Store. And based on that, who would have guessed that 2012 would close with Instagram beginning to get shunned by some. That seems to have been the case though, Instagram was beginning to get shunned in favor of an older (but thankfully recently updated) app. That app was Flickr, which not only garnered some much needed attention, but also dropped a rather nice Android app.
Images aside, another notable app came from the folks at Facebook, who finally launched an update that was not only worth, but had users excited about downloading. The Facebook update came early in the month of December and was touted as being twice as fast. We cannot imagine that anyone is still running the older version, but if you are -- grab your tablet or smartphone, fire up the Play Store and get to updating. Social networks and sharing seems to have been a key item over 2012. Nothing surprising in that respect, but it did bring some decent improvements to many apps. Not to mention, a few new apps.
The other social networking item is Twitter. Love it or hate it, Twitter does have an official app however there are also lots and lots (and lots) of third party apps available. There are some such as Plume that have been around and have been updated during the course of 2012. But more to the point for a 2012 summary post, 2012 brought some new Twitter apps. We saw some good and some that initially seemed good only to work out not so good in the end. The not so good was Tweet Lanes, the app was and remains nice, but is not being actively developed at this point. The other app is Falcon Pro which is currently selling for $0.99 and a current favorite of mine.
Social networking aside, another notable (and once iOS only) app, Instapaper, also made its way into the Google Play Store. And while Instapaper is a solid app and may be helpful when users are thinking about switching from iOS to Android, it entered the Play Store with lots of competition. A notable contender for read later apps is Pocket, which is free. Instapaper is priced at $2.99. Android users also got the gift of Flipboard in 2012. This app was first released back in May as an exclusive for the Galaxy S III, however the APK was quickly leaked. Flipboard later launched in Google Play in late-June. Of course, while much of the focus here has been good, Flipboard did make tablet users wait until December.
While we have mentioned a few apps apps and categories here, it is important to remember that these are just a few of many examples. And while we may not be able to say that 2012 was the year of the app, we are fairly confident in saying that the quality of Android apps really seem to have stepped up this year. A bit more specifically, it feels like we are seeing apps released for iOS only less and less often now.
Another popular category is games. And while there were some more in-depth games such as Dead Trigger and Modern Combat 4, we cannot help but look at the Angry Birds franchise. As many will remember, Angry Birds continued to grow. They turned three years old this year and also made Star Wars fans really happy. We also saw Zepto Labs return with the long awaited follow-up to Cut The Rope. The new Zepto Labs game is Pudding Monsters, another puzzle game.
We also cannot end the topic of Android games without a mention of NVIDIA and the TegraZone, which crossed the 6 million download milestone back in November. And thanks to the TegraZone and we saw some quality THD (Tegra High Definition) games such as Demons' Score and Galaxy on Fire 2.
Anyway, I think we are going to this point -- thanks to the available apps -- you can now do just about anything you can dream up with your phone. Take the Google provided Best Apps of 2012 list as an example. This list included options to buy shoes with Zappos, remember everything with Evernote, travel with Expedia, do your family tree with Ancestry, edit images with Pixlr Express and even manage your finances with Mint.
Looking at Android apps and the Google Play Store as a whole and we would be remiss if we didn't at least mention the totals. In December 2011/January 2012 there were roughly 400,000 apps and 10 billion downloads. This year the app situation is closing out with more than 700,000 apps and more than 25 billion downloads. Of course, numbers of apps and downloads aside, 2012 also saw another important change -- the name change. Google changed the name from Android Market to the Play Store back in early March.
Finally, touching briefly on 2013, it is probably safe to say that the quality of apps will only continue to improve. Not to mention, the usefulness of apps such as those that connect with other parts of your life. For example, the Lockitron is expected to be released in March and will have an Android app that between the hardware and the app, will allow you to open your front door with your phone. Exciting times.