The App Store turns five this week, and we'll be taking a long look back at this disruptive force in the way we use our mobile devices. Back in 2008, when the App Store launched, we had no idea how far it would come in such a short time, but hindsight is a good thing.
During that time, there have been a ton of apps that changed and improved the state of the art. Here, then, are ten that we think really matter, apps that had an effect on our lives, even now. Apps that changed the landscape of what we expected from a mobile device, and gave us new ways of interacting, sharing, and understanding our world.
The grandaddy of social image sharing, Instagram created, with an ease of use and pretty image filters, a whole new social network based on images. In an era of Facebook (who eventually bought the service) and Twitter, that was no small feat.
While derided as a possible porn-chat app, Snapchat took a single idea and refined it to a razor's edge: take a picture, caption it, and share with your friends. Then, zen-like, that picture disappears. The hidden potential in this app caught on with young and old alike, changing the way we communicated with pictures. Without an archive, Snapchat lets users freely share what they might not otherwise.
Here's an app that allows anyone on any platform to exchange messages with anyone else on any other platform. In a world where you're just as likely to have friends using Android or Blackberry as iOS, this was a revelation. Many other apps tried something similar, but Whatsapp has the userbase and an easy to use, intuitive app that brought it to the forefront. Now we can stay in touch with all our friends and family, regardless of platform, for free.
The photographer's photography app, Camera+ fairly invented iPhoneography, letting iPhone users capture and edit better photos than the built in app with ease. Since its launch, the app has kept pace with upgrades in technology and the camera lenses in each iteration of iPhone, empowering real photographers and talented amateurs alike. Heck, they even pioneered using the volume button as a shutter release, until Apple shut that down, only to use it in the built-in Camera app.
Before Google Drive, before iCloud, there was Dropbox, a service that mirrors your documents across computers with a simple, unified login. The Dropbox app on the iPhone took the same, intuitive simplicity and allowed us all to access and edit the same documents on the go as easily as doing so on our Macs and PCs.
Take notes, save pictures, record audio, bookmark websites. Do this on any device you own: Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android. Evernote has become the de facto standard for network-connected note taking, and much more. You can use this app to write a shopping list on your computer, and then pull it up on your iPhone while at the store. You can collaborate with others on documents, sharing notes and notebooks with ease.
Ever been in the car when a song comes up on the radio and you just can't remember the artist that performed it? Hold your iPhone up, launch Shazam, and let the app magically recognize the music, returning the artist name, album, and easy-purchase buttons for the iTunes store. Newer features include movie preview recognition with links to more information, and television ads that, when recognized, provide links to vendor websites. It's magical technology at its best.
Marco Arment created Instapaper as a basic web app, single handedly creating the "read it later" market that many other apps now compete for. Arment started the service in 2008, built the iPhone app himself, and saw the service grow far beyond his initial vision. He's subsequently sold the app to another company, who promise to maintain and improve it as we continue forward.
Waze was one of the first social mapping and traffic app, allowing users to share road conditions with each other while on the go. It may be one of the most unappreciated apps on this list, but it continues to serve a loyal and vocal user base, providing real-time help from users to help us all plan the best route possible.
The check-in craze started here, with Foursquare. Becoming the mayor of a location, along with various gamification features, provided a stickiness not seen before the apps release. Even with privacy concerns dogging its every step, Foursquare has managed to remain in the public imagination as the way to let our friends know where we are at any given time.
RSS is great, as are Twitter and Facebook feeds. But what we really want is a place to see all of those things at once, published in a slick, easy to use layout. Enter Flipboard, still the best darn social news reader around. It makes the various web sites and social feeds we all rely on much prettier and interesting to look at, letting us keep up to date without having to dip into several different apps to do so.
Founded as a streaming internet radio service on the web, Pandora made the transition to iOS brilliantly, becoming a force to reckon with in the competitive streaming music market, as well as a household name known by one and all. While other services continue to chip away at the venerable service, offering on-demand music access, Pandora continues to be the music access app of choice on iOS devices everywhere.
Can't decide where to eat? Shake your iPhone and Urbanspoon will randomly choose a restaurant nearby that matches your criteria of price, cuisine, and distance. Released in August of 2008, Urbanspoon was the first app on the App Store to combine GPS location data with a database of local dining and drinking establishments, creating a loyal community that reviewed meals, restaurants, and service for other users.