Australian app developers win big on Apple’s “best of 2012” wrap-up

App developers must focus on creating fresh, original content rather than parroting existing ideas in order to stand out, says an Australian developer whose app has just been named one of Apple’s best of the year.

The list comes just as Google released its long-awaited Maps app, after being banished by Apple in favour its infamous home-grown option. The app has rocketed straight to number one on the most-downloaded list.

The annual Apple list of best iOS apps includes a number of Australian apps, including Virgin Australia Flight Specials, Sydney Food Trucks and OzTV, developed by young programmers Alex Johnston and Jeff Tan-Ang of Apps Perhaps.

Getting mentioned on these lists has become increasingly important, as developers struggle to stand out in the burgeoning app market.

Johnston told SmartCompany this morning the apps which tend to get noticed allow users to create, or at least consume, original content that hasn’t been copied.

“When I look at the apps this year, one thing that stands out to me is that apps which have content seem to do extremely well,” he says.

He points to the Apple app of the year – a program that allows users to add special effects to their video clips. “It really ticks all of those boxes,” he says.

“You have the ability to create content, but it comes with content itself. Certainly, I know when we’ve made and shared videos with the app, people enjoy seeing what we’ve done.”

“If you’ve got content that isn’t currently available, or you put a spin on it that people will find interesting, then it’s going to stand out.”

Johnston has identified a number of trends in this year’s winners, including minimalist design – like the bare-bones structure seen in a reading app like Pocket – or more social elements like in the Pinterest app.

Another big trend this year has been free-to-play, Johnston says. Many games and apps will offer the initial program for free, and then encourage users to buy small upgrades that only cost a minimal amount that builds up over time.

“I think Apple this year has been more selective in what they’ve chosen to award,” he says. “Previously you’ve seen the apps be awarded in each category, but you can see themes that have appeared this year.”

Usually, Apple awards the best apps based on a category, but this year Apple has chosen its own, such as “free to play”, “discover with friends” and “photo and video magic”.

As for OzTV, Johnston’s television guide app, the developer says his team’s effort to include a social layer may have earned them a mention in this year’s awards.

“We’ve tried to do that in a way that gels with the experience of the app, and we didn’t try to make a social app, but something you could use and then share with your friends.”

“I think it helps we don’t have any affiliations to any of the major networks and we’re not trying to promote any sort of agenda.”

The full list of apps:

  • App of the year: Action Movie FX
  • Runner-up: Figure

Disruptive services:

  • Sydney Food Trucks
  • Airbnb
  • Virgin Australia
  • Cards
  • iTranslate Voice
  • OzTV

Photo and video

  • iPhoto
  • Vyclone
  • Vintique
  • GroupShot
  • Cinemagram
  • Fuzel Pro

Intuitive Touch

  • Clear
  • Prismatic
  • Languages
  • Any.DO
  • Flipboard
  • Weathercube

Discover with friends

  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Snapguide
  • Pose
  • Showyou
  • Study Break!

Hidden gems

  • WhoSampled
  • Dandelion
  • DM1 for iPhone
  • Pocket
  • Ocarina 2
  • Fleksy

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