What do the following iOS apps and games have in common? Well, they all surprised the heck out of us when they were released. That's saying something, considering we're all jaded journalists and such.
Apps that come along and knock our socks off are rare, so we've put together a list of ten of the most surprising apps from the last five years of the App Store to commemorate that fact, and to maybe show you some cool stuff you might have missed.
These are the apps that came out of left field, making innovative use of iOS hardware and software to bring us a truly unexpected experience.
Hipstamatic - The grandaddy of hipster photo apps, Hipstamatic created the crop and filter genre, with switchable virtual lenses and film types to apply to your ironic images.
Word Lens - Aim your iPhone camera at a sign in another language and see it magically transformed right on your device. If this isn't transformative tech, I don't know what is.
Cycloramic - This one lets you set your iPhone down on a hard surface, then uses the built-in vibration feature to spin around in a circle, taking a 360-degree video of the entire process. Wow!
Dark Sky - This innovative weather app does one thing really well: warn you when it's going to rain. You can even get a 5 minute warning, which is enough to get your umbrella out and stay dry!
Star Walk - Astronomy apps have been all the rage, especially since the iPad came out. But this one lets you hold your iOS device up to the sky, and it will show you what stars and other heavenly objects are up there, in real time. Heck, you can even track Santa with it during the holidays.
These games either came out of nowhere and burned themselves into the collective unconscious, or were so bizarrely fun and successful that they had to be mentioned here.
Game Dev Story - We've spent entire days in thrall to this cleverly addictive saga of video game development, putting our retro-styled pixel people through their paces to push out the next great hit.
Candy Crush Saga - What's so surprising about a match-three game becoming the top-grossing app in just a few weeks? Well, it's a match-three game.
Tiny Wings - One indie dev, Andreas Illiger, sat down and created this brilliant piece of game design, popularizing the one-touch game genre and garnering a ton of copycat and clone apps in the bargain. Plus, he made a lot of money, which we like to talk about, too.
Angry Birds - Did you ever think that flinging birds in a slingshot at pigs in bizarre structures would turn into a global hit, spawning way too many tie-in items, like fishing lures? Us, neither.
10000000 - Small, brutally difficult indie game that became a smash hit overnight. That's pretty surprising, right?