Best Apps of 2017

Highlighting my favorite mobile apps and features

Following the initial explosion of mobile apps, the marketplace has evolved to support emerging mobile technology, larger screen sizes, and new revenue streams. While there was talk of reaching ‘peak app’ in the past couple of years, the enduring relevance of mobile apps was seen in 2017 as people spent more money than ever in apps, even for non-gaming apps:

Consumers spent $196 million on apps, in-app purchases and subscriptions on Christmas Day 2017 across the App Store and Google Play, according to new data from Sensor Tower. — TechCrunch report

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Most smartphone owners use an average of nine apps a day, and 30 apps a month, according to a 2017 research report from App Annie.

As a mobile app producer, I’m constantly reviewing apps and thinking about how to make them better — but I use only a handful of apps on daily basis, and get excited when I find an app among the millions in the app store that truly adds value to my day.

The best products are ones that solve problems for real people, and also make money for the business. Here are some of my favorite apps and mobile features right now:

Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay

Mobile Order & Pay lets me avoid waiting in line and talking to people until I have my morning coffee — what’s better then that?

Starbucks’ Mobile Order is one of the most valuable features of any app I use. You can order on your phone, customize your drink it how you like it, and pay in the app — and your drink is ready by the time you get to Starbucks.

It’s a great use of mobile pay and location technology, and the app is frequently updated to incorporate new functionality like saving your favorite drinks and order history for even easier re-ordering. As a native Seattleite and former barista, I’ve gotta have my coffee, and am stoked that Starbucks has made it a nearly effortless experience.

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And, they always spell your name right!

Mercari

Mercari is a community-powered marketplace where you can buy and sell everything from clothes and shoes to toys and electronics — directly in the app with other users.The app makes it super easy to create a new listing and chat with potential buyers, generate shipping labels, and Mercari takes only a small commission (10% of listing price).

I love it because it’s a great way to make a little extra cash from the clothes in your closet that you never wear, or find hot deals on used items in good condition.

One frustrating feature of the app is the aggressive notification reminders. I try to limit the notifications I get on my phone, and elected not to get updates from Mercari (when new search results are available, new promoted items, etc.). However, every single time I open the app, and check the messages, I am constantly reminded again to enable notifications. As I have specifically declined this, I wish the app would respect my preference, and not continue to bombard me with reminders and alerts for functionality I do not want.

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sell, shop, browse, discover

Tide

Tide is a simple focus timer, based on the Pomodoro technique of setting 25 minute work sessions, interspersed with 5 minute breaks.

With lovely imagery that refreshes daily, calming white noise and sounds of nature, and customizable timer length, Tide helps me stay focused and productive. It’s really that simple.

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Uber Eats

Uber Eats is lifesaver when there’s no food in the fridge, it’s too rainy to walk to a lunch spot, or when I just don’t feel like cooking. Enlisting Uber drivers to pick up and deliver take-out orders for local restaurants also helps keep those drivers busy and increases orders from the restaurants, so it really feels like a win-win-win (and I’ll also assume the booking fees helps Uber win too).

The service has evolved from delivering a set list of menu items from a few partners, to delivering everything from boba tea and curry to hamburgers and smoothies. Like the Uber app, you can see where your driver is at and the ETA for your food arriving. This is the kind of convenience that I’m looking for, and I’m eager to see more restaurants get on board.

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HQ Trivia

HQ Trivia hosts live trivia games twice a day (12pm and 6pm PST on weekdays), with cash prizes if you get all 12 questions correct. With only 10 seconds to answer each question, it’s harder then it seems (hardly enough time to search Google or phone a friend), and you can see how many players you’re up against.

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The live aspect of the game keeps you alert for notifications when the game is open — there’s only a short window when you can enter, or else you’re stuck just watching other players. The potential cash prize — usually $2,000 and sometimes up to $10,000 — keeps me, and thousands of others, coming back for more. I usually play with the sounds muted and chat hidden, which I find pretty intense / annoying while playing the game, but there is a cult following for the game’s usual host Scott aka ‘Quiz Daddy’ so clearly some people don’t mind.

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If you try the game, use my code so I get an extra life!

With huge jumps in growth, breaking the million player market this week, there have been some technical issues with lag and the game crashing that is a deterrent for many. Let’s hope HQ can deal with these growing pains in the new year.

Love these apps too? What apps do you use daily that add value beyond entertainment?

Written by

Digital professional, creative life. Product manager for design systems at REI.

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