The 20 Coolest Apps Of 2013

Apps Of The Year

App developers are prolific. Between Android and iOS, the world's two most popular mobile operating systems, there are about two million apps. For iOS alone, apps increased by 100,000 between June and October. Together, Apple and Google boast more than 100 billion downloads to date worldwide; that's more than 14 downloads for every human being on Earth.

So how's a person to know which apps are the coolest? That's where we come in. Here's a list of the year's 20 coolest apps, with some you might even use more than once.

Prey Anti Theft

Losing a phone isn't cool, but getting it back sure would be. The person who lifts someone's smartphone better pray it doesn't have Prey Anti Theft, a tracking and security tool for Android and for iPhone and iPad that also protects Mac and Windows PCs. Prey uses GPS and Wi-FI to track device location and once put into action by any of three registered devices, sends an email with a web link with the phone's location pinned on a map. The free version includes 10 such tracking reports, and can turn on Wi-Fi and/or mobile data, remotely trigger a factor reset (erasing all data), get a snapshot of the phone's current user, and even detect and send an email if the SIM card is changed. A Pro edition starts at $5 a month and adds batch installers, priority support and unlimited reports per device.

Zombies, Run!

When the Nintendo Wii first hit the scene, it was billed as a way to get kids (and some parents) off the couch. But when zombies are afoot, people actually run for their lives. That's the idea behind Zombies, Run!, a clever game for joggers that describes activities of fictional flesh-eaters, the only escape from which is to physically run away. Voice prompts indicate the runner's actual mileage along the way and encourage runners to speed up when biters draw near. For Android and iOS, $3.99. A free companion website (shown) joins runner communities, tracks routes and plots "escape" paths.


Formerly known as "Touiteur," Plume for Android is about as close to the excellent TweetDeck app for Mac and Windows as can be. Plume supports large timeline previews, pinch-to-zoom, customizable columns, lockscreen widgets, live streaming, geotagging, and posting from multiple Twitter accounts and to Facebook timelines. It also can share photos with Mobypicture,, Twitpic, Twitter and YFrog, and works with to compress URLs. This is the Twitter app to get, and there's no doubt about how to pronounce its name.


Need to send a text but don't have your phone handy? If you're near a PC or tablet, MightyText for Android can come to the rescue. Once this free app is installed on an Android phone, the phone's texting function can be accessed from any browser. A quick visit to the MightyText Web App brings up the phone's Messaging app right where the app left off. It links with the phone's default Gmail account and displays contacts in a left-hand pane with each contact's conversations at right. Normal rates apply for texting from the phone, but MightyText adds no fee, and messages are always in sync between platforms.


Stop being ripped off on texting charges. WhatsApp is a free app for Android, for iOS and for Windows Phone that uses Wi-Fi or 3G to text "what's up" to all your contacts to or from any country free of charge for the first year. After that, $0.99 a year keeps the free text flowing.


We've covered this day-of-travel app before, but GateGuru has really taken off since then. Now owned by TripAdvisor, this clever app for Android and for iOS lets travellers enter info, pictures and reviews about shops, restaurants and other amenities at hundreds of major airports in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, helping fellow trekkers solve the universal question of whether to eat and/or shop before or after going through security. It also now integrates with Kayak and TripIt to display flight info and itineraries.

Player Pro

Replace Android's mediocre media player with PlayerPro for Android, a free-to-try music and video player that's so easy and loaded with features to justify its $5 sticker price. Sort songs by artist, album title, song name or genre and long-press any to enqueue a song or album. It fetches and stores album art and song lyrics, has a five-band equalizer with bass and volume boost and can remove gaps between songs. It includes a pair of lock screen widgets (one is shown) plus more widgets and skins as free downloads. Just about every aspect of the app is customizable, including volume controls that can be set to also control tracks.


Once you get where you're going, Triposo for Android and for iOS can help keep you fed, entertained and sheltered. Just download a guide for the country, American state or major city (the only time a web connection is needed) and Triposo reports the weather and current events and begins making appropriate suggestions about where to go and things to see and do. It's like having a travel agent along for the ride -- except without the fee; Triposo and its guides to more than 8,000 destinations are free. The app also includes currency converters, phrase books for non-English locations, and information about local culture, foods, events and nature.

CloseToYou Pro

Where is there to eat around here? If you're in unfamiliar territory and need to get gas, buy office supplies or get a prescription filled, CloseToYou Pro can lead the way. For $1.99, it fetches the local GPS coordinates and displays an extensive list of attractions conveniently grouped by type. It can even display the selected destination in an augmented reality to simplify your journey. The one bad thing is that CloseToYou Pro for Windows Phoneis the only choice. It's almost good enough to justify buying a Windows Phone just for that. Or maybe we'll just wait for it to come out on Android or iOS. The cost is about $2.50 for Windows Phone 7.5 or higher.

Circa News

Why scan for news yourself when someone else can do it for you? Circa News is a free app for Android and for iOS that comes with a team of editors who analyze what they deem as the most important stories and deliver concise summaries for each. Nice idea, but developer Circa 1605 explains little as to how its editors decide what qualifies as the most important news.


If you want to be sure that no one's listening in or intercepting your messages, it's time to pick up the red phone. RedPhone for Android uses the phone's normal dialer and contacts to place calls as usual. If the person on the other end also has RedPhone, the app offers the caller an option to switch to a "secure line," and then jumps to Wi-Fi or the carrier's data plan. RedPhone is free, open source and available for Android only; an iOS version is in the works.

Voxer PTT

When deploying multiple crews on-site or even for around the building, why use cell minutes when you turn smartphones into walkie-talkies? Voxer Walkie-Talkie PTT (push to talk) is a free app for Android, for iOS and for Windows Phone 8 that puts a push-to-talk button on the smartphone that works over Wi-Fi or any data connection. It can call or send voice, text, images or audio files one-to-one or to groups, create messages offline and send notifications when new messages arrive.

Evernote Food

A great restaurant meal might stay in the mind for a week or two, but give it a year and it surely fades away. A free app for Android and for iOS, Evernote Food does for meals what Evernote does for most other memories -- preserves them in digital lucite for all time. Upload pictures of your meal, add notes and captions and plug in geolocation data from Foursquare so the memory lasts forever. All that's left is to capture the aromas.


For people with a lot of contacts, Brewster is a must-have. Not to be confused with its namesake Android app for beer-lovers, Brewster for iOS organizes social network contacts. Most helpful, it automatically categorizes them by frequency of contact, so you're not always sifting past uncle Albert when you need to tweet your friend Alberto.


If you like Brewster, you might also like Cloze for iOS, which brings posts made by your contacts on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and email into a single pane. This allows posts to be evaluated by importance or relevance rather than simply by recency. It also looks at intercontact activity and displays prompts if it thinks you might be losing touch with someone. A preview version of Cloze for Android is available now for adventurous types.


We couldn't think of too many business uses for this one, but it sure is a cool app. AutoRap for Android turns ordinary spoken words -- rhyming or otherwise -- into a contemporary rap song complete with music and percussion. This one has to be tried to be believed. AutoRap would certainly be great fun at parties, and might also amuse clients with whimsical theme songs that repeat their company name, slogan or philosophy. Download for Android for free.


Save time on the way to your next gig and leave the amp and effects boxes at home. AmpKit for iOS is a free app that emulates the sounds of major guitar and bass amplifier makers and special effects pedals, letting guitarists bring just the guitar and iPhone.

Quark DesignPad

What's cool about Quark DesignPad is its ability to create beautiful, accurate designs and layouts using an iPad for free. What's really cool is that those designs can be further developed and output using QuarkXpress, the once-leading desktop publishing application with about 95 percent marketshare. DesignPad is suited to creating ads, brochures, business cards, newsletters, posters and anything else destined for print or digital display. A recent update adds control of shadow color and precision image placement. Work can be shared via email or social networks. A $10 Pro Feature Pack adds the ability to save PNGs and print-quality PDFs, save directly to Dropbox and print using Apple's AirPrint.


Siri seemed revolutionary when it first entered the scene. But what was working behind the scenes was the technology in WolfRAM for Android. The $2.99 app employs a computational knowledge engine that quickly answers statistical questions, solves math, science and physics problems, provides units and measures, and all manner of people, places and things.


Stitch staff videos from across your organization into a single corporate vignette. Join instructional segments into a training course. Take a tour of office buildings to add to employee orientation videos. Build a site survey of prospective clients as an aid to network planning. These are just a few of the infinite scenarios made possible by JumpCam, a free app for Android and for iOS that's as useful to pros as it would be to amateurs. It works with both cameras and makes it easy to add video effects and a soundtrack.