A phone is only as good as the apps available for it, and Apple's iPhone has a ton, but it takes quite an effort to pluck the worthy ones out of the plethora of duds and crapshoots proliferating the App Store.
For those who received a brand-new iPhone this holiday, look no further. As 2016 comes to a close, let's take a look at 10 of the best apps and games for iOS this year.
Super Mario Run
Though not as extremely profitable as Pokémon GO once was, Super Mario Run, the sophomore mobile gaming entry from typically mobile-averse Nintendo, has been insanely popular — managing to rack up over 50 million downloads, with around 10 million downloads daily as we speak.
While the game's mechanics and the pricing scheme — pay $9.99 and unlock everything — might be questionable for some, the game remains ingeniously streamlined for mobile experiences. Nintendo has stripped Mario of his ability to frolic around the platform back and forth and has instead made the game apt for one-handed controls, resulting in a brand-new Super Mario experience that oddly doesn't feel that different at all.
Super Mario Run is a free download from the App Store.
Everyone knows what Snapchat is already, so describing it would be redundant — not that it really asks to be described anyway. The app is dead-simple enough for everyone to understand, and while the photo messaging service seems initially unnecessary, the fact that it clocks in over 60 million daily active users in the United States and Canada alone begs to differ.
Snapchat is a free download from the App Store.
Geometry Dash World
A side-scrolling platformer, Geometry Dash World, the latest entry in the popular fast-paced rhythm-based arcade series, features unique levels flavored with an accompanying soundtrack from musicians Dex Arson, Waterflame, and F-777. The game initially sounds pretty simple and easy — guide a block through obstacles — but the challenges and the exponential increase of levels as one trudges along is incredible.
It borrows familiar elements that make side-scrollers a breeze to play, with auto-retry being a fine example, and infuses it with originality and unique gameplay.
Geometry Dash World is a free download from the App Store.
YouTube is an indefatigable staple of the internet, and nobody could have predicted its colossal popularity back when it was launched in 2005. The video hosting service has already made a lot of YouTube content creators rich, and it still plows full steam ahead. A web browsing session is never complete with at least one YouTube video, or five, or 12, or 30, or when "five more minutes" turns to "good grief, it's been three hours."
The YouTube app for iPhone and iPad takes everything great from the site and fits it into a phone, with an easy and refined user interface. Best of all, users can upload video right from the app.
YouTube is a free download from the App Store.
Instagram has recently undergone a rigorous paint job that has now made it more like its competitor, Snapchat. While both photo sharing services possess a few key differences, they are now more similar than dissimilar. Either way, both offer a trove of functionalities, though it seems Snapchat is more geared for social experiences and Instagram prides its curator-esque role in showcasing photos, both trivial and striking, to its users.
Instagram is a free download from the App Store.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, knew that Messenger couldn't surpass WhatsApp, which back then was racking up millions of downloads globally. So he bought it instead. He didn't merge the two apps together luckily, so its proprietary messaging client for Facebook has remained discrete.
Facebook's Messenger is not flawless, but it's still the best messaging client users should download if they have a Facebook account and want to access messages right from their phones — though it's not like they have a choice. Additionally, since Facebook also owns Instagram, the messaging service has borrowed a few elements from the nifty service.
Messenger is a free download from the App Store.
Love it or hate it, the popularity of emojis can't be denied. They're somewhat balanced between text-based emoticons and animated stickers, and they express a lot of emotions otherwise not conveyed by plain words. Bitmoji is only slightly similar to emojis, but it does let users create their own, which can then be used on a number of apps such as Snapchat, iMessage, and elsewhere.
Bitmoji is a free download from the App Store.
NORAD Tracks Santa Claus
The developers behind NORAD Tracks Santa Claus has made it very clear that the app is not a countdown to Christmas, Dec. 25, but a countdown to when Santa begins his flight, with his elves in tow to deliver presents to kids who have been nice all year long. It has "Thin Ice," a game that lets users help Santa deliver presents, and learn what NORAD is exactly, and their mission.
NORAD Tracks Santa Claus is a free download from the App Store.
Santa Call & Tracker
Track, call, and send a message to Santa with this app from North Pole Command, featuring a fully 3D globe and some handy diagnostics connected to Santa's present-giving trajectory. Users can even control the speed of his sleigh and sing along to five Christmas carols preloaded.
Santa Call & Tracker is a free download from the App Store.
By now, only those living under a rock still don't know what Facebook is. It's essentially the largest social networking platform today, and the mobile version packs a lot of features culled from the site, streamlined into a decent user interface. This is a must-download for those who want to access their Facebook account from their iPhone, as the site's mobile version is clunky and a bit of a puzzling mess.
Facebook is a free download from the App Store.