The TiPb staff picks their favorite devices, features, stories, and new or majorly updated apps and accessories of 2011!
The TiPb editors, writers, contributors, forum admins and moderators, and podcasters have come together to nominate and select the winners of the 2011 TiPb Editors Choice Awards. They were all tough choices, and a lot of things we love simply didnât qualify for consideration â" werenât new or werenât majorly updated for 2011. But a lot of really, truly great stuff was. These, then, are our picks of the year.
iOS device of the year: iPad 2
Last year we had a really tough time picking the iOS device of the year â" Apple introduced a new product category with the original iPad, redesigned their signature handset with iPhone 4, refreshed the iPod touch, and unveiled an all new Apple TV 2.
This year they didnât introduce a new iPod touch or Apple TV, kept the same design for the iPhone, and even the iPad 2 wasnât the most radical of refreshes.
Of the updated devices, however, iPad 2 got a new casing design, both thinner and lighter, two new cameras (lame as they may be), and was first to get the new, dual-core, Apple A5 system-on-a-chip.
iPhone 4S admittedly got the A5 as well, a new, better antenna and a much better rear camera, but it just wasnât as much or enough to take the title.
While visions of Retina display tablets, 4-inch phones, and 1080p TVs dance in our heads for next year, this year we give the nod to the best that we got.
iOS feature of the year: Siri
Sure, it debuted as iPhone 4S-only, but so did multitasking, so did video recording, so do many of Appleâs new iOS features. Itâs the flagship device for a reason. Not just a simple voice control system â" weâre told Nokia invented those in 1812 or somesuch â" itâs an honest-to-Asimov digital personal assistant with a personality right out of Pixar. Itâs to previous voice control systems what multitouch was to previous resistive touch screens. Itâs Appleâs next great mainstream computing interface. It not only remembers context but can understand relationships. It can remind you to call your mom or wear your jacket, it can find you a restaurant or find your friend. And it puts up with all your lame query jokes.
iMessage bypasses the exorbitant carrier text charges and brings iOS users, all over the world, one step closer to BBM-like instant messaging. Notification Center finally makes alerts almost as good as Android, if not as elegant as webOS. PC-free cuts the cord to iTunes and takes us to the iCloud, where all our data gets stored and backed up. All of those, and more, are great additions to an already great OS.
Story of the year: Steve Jobs
Heart breaking. Inspiring. Tragic. Triumphant. The biggest story of the year wasnât the untimely passing of Appleâs co-founder, it was the full realization of his life, his vision, and his legacy.
In March he took the stage, in a way only he could ever take it, to introduce the iPad 2. He reportedly considered the tablet the most important innovation of his career â" a career that included the mainstreaming of the command-line interface with the Apple II, the graphical user interface with the Mac, the multitouch interface with the iPhone, and the revolutionizing of digital music with iTunes and the iPod, retail with the Apple Stores, the consumer electronics business with Apple itself, and even animated feature films with Pixar.
Relentlessly democratizing technology his entire life, his final Keynote appearance in June was to introduce iCloud, the server side of the mobile equation. His vision of the future was deeply personal, deeply connected, and deeply integrated. And his will made it manifest, not only for Apple and of Apple, but as influence for the culture well beyond.
He resigned as CEO and then passed away right after the introduction of the iPhone 4S, and just before the publication of the biography he himself set in motion. While Apple will go on, perhaps even reaching greater heights than ever before, we will never see his like again.
Epic fail of the year: Patent lawsuits
It seems as though there was an embarrassment of embarrassments to choose from this year. Yet even amid such a massive mountain of fail, one managed to rise above all the rest.
Intellectual property rights exist for a reason â" they encourage investment in innovation by ostensibly preventing others from simply copying the ideas of the innovators. Yet theyâve become a weapon used not to create competition but to stifle it by those whoâve often simply bought and paid for pieces of paper.
Apple didnât release new iPod touch  and Apple TV  hardware this year. Granted neither has much competition but Appleâs mantra has always been to compete with themselves. Likewise the iPhone 4S  didnât get a design update even as competing devices have seriously upped the handset game.
Privacy also took a swift, hard roshambo in the rights this year as everything from Appleâs poorly coded location recording system  to Google, Facebook, and Twitter being forced into decade, or double decade privacy oversight, to lack of disclosure surrounding Carrier IQ  making headlines. On the flip side, the media earned more than their usual share of fail points for once again never missing a chance to linkbait and headline grab at Appleâs expense.
Productivity app of the year: Noteshelf 4.0
When the iPad first launched it seemed to take a while for everyone, including Apple, to figure out exactly what it was and where best it fit. Now, a year later, itâs fitting in every where from the couch to the board room, the school to the planning session.
Screens  1.5 showed us our iPhones and iPads could be powerful, elegant windows into our PCs and servers. Agenda  made the calendar ridiculously clean and elegant, and interfaced with Due  to get more done, better and faster than ever. Instapaper got a full on facelift, and Apple brought iWork  to the iPhone.
What caught our attention, though, from the corporate heads behind Mobile Nations to our our own editors and writers, was an app that not only made the iPad useful, but better than anything else. From taking notes in class to jotting down ideas while brain-storming big business, it took a lot of our iPads from nice-to-have to must-have.
Arts & Entertainment app of the year: GarageBand
Just like last year, a previously desktop-only app was re-imagined for iPad and forced us to once again re-evaluate just how good tablet software could be. But Apple wasnât the only one wowing us this year.
Instagram  mixed fun filters with simple social sharing to spectacular effect. Snapseed  and Photogene2  made photo editing first class citizens on iOS. Apple brought iMovie  to the big iPad screen.
It was what Apple did with music, however, that really blew us away this year. Introduced alongside the iPad 2, itâs interface immediately is recognizable to anyone who has ever used iLife for Mac yet immediately accessible to anyone who has ever put finger to multitouch display. With built in smart instruments for novices and the ability to interface with real instruments for pros, and multitrack recording an editing, itâs a studio on your lap or in your pocket. Very few people are making content creation software this robust for mobile, and very few, if any, other platforms can boast anything like this in their libraries.
Social app of the year: Tweetbot
Twitter and the iPhone feel like they came into their own together, a blend of mobile device and social network as good as the richest peanut butter and darkest chocolate.
Path  2.0 made the smaller-scale social network drop-dead gorgeous, but does a world covered with the wreckage of Friendster and Wave and Buzz and Jaiku really need another social network? And if it does, isnât Google already cramming Google+  down as many throats as it possibly can? Facebook finally decided that the iPad was mobile enough to deserve itâs own app  and rolled out Facebook Messenger  in case the normal app just wasnât fast enough to get your IM on. LinkedIn  got a re-design, finally growing up into its own app, while Twitter for iPhone  go a re-design to make itâ¦ umâ¦ better for Twitter to push #hashtags to new users intent on keeping up with celebrities?
But you donât always need to start a new network, or radically change a user experience that works. Sometimes you just need to make a damn good client, with solid features and finely honed panache, that respects long-established usage patterns but does so with character and charm.
Hardcore game of the year: Real Racing 2
Thereâs a difference between a great game and a game that not only stays great but gets even better. There were a lot of great hardcore games on iPhone and iPad in 2011. Modern Combat 3  was the best first-person shooter weâve ever seen on iOS, and Dead Space  took spooky, atmospheric, interstellar survival shooters to a whole new level. And Infinity Blade II  â¦ the new Unreal Engine 3 game looks so good you wonât believe itâs on mobile.
But the folks at Firemint just never stayed still long enough for anyone else to catch up. Every bit as fast as the cars on their virtual tracks, the moment Apple added a new feature to iOS, Firemint added it to their game. Whether it was better graphics for more powerful chips, multiplayer for more robust networking, and full on AirPlay Party Play for an almost hybrid console experience, Firemint was on it in a flash.
Casual game of the year: Tiny Wings
If a game is incredibly simple and more than a little repetitive, it has to be really well executed to turn our well. It has to be phenomenally well executed to become our favorite of the year.
Tiny Tower  was brilliantly realized and Cut the Rope: Experiments  breathed new life into an already great game. DragonVale  brought the creatures of myth to farm-style games of the present, Minecraft  brought the classic constructor to iOS, and SPY Mouse  brought the Firemint magic to puzzlers.
But it was a bird that not only wasnât angry but couldnât even quite fly, that was perpetually chased the setting sun, that was as exquisitely well rendered as it was well suited for the iPhone.
Jailbreak app of the year: IntelliscreenX
While Iâve always been a huge fan of LockInfo by David Ashman  I have to admit that the guys over at Intelliborn really stepped up to the plate with their new version of IntelliScreen for iOS 5.
When Apple âSherlocksâ your app â" basically incorporates it into the OS and built-in feature set â" you can either pack up and go home, or you can figure out that Appleâs only providing the median functionality and double-down on doing it better for the power users.
LockInfo  did just that, making a great app even better. SBSettings  and BiteSMS  kept doing what theyâve always done â" filled gaps Apple hasnât â" while integrating and improving at the same time. Dreamboard  created an alternative to Winterboard, and iUsers  provided for multiple logins on iPad. ATV Flash  brought the same power to the iOS Apple TV that it did to the original, Mac OS version.
Not to be outdone by Appleâs foray into Notification Center, however, Intelliborn rolled out an update that not only fully integrated with iOS 5, but provided so many features it became a veritable one stop functionality center.
iPhone case of the year: Lifeproof
Apple didnât introduce a new iPhone design this year, which meant a lot of case-makers didnât have to worry about coming up with all new cases either. But what about all better cases?
Both DracoDesign  and Element  took their existing aluminum bumpers and added incredible new colors and finishes. Case-Mate  did similar with their Barely There. BodyGuardz  and DODOcase  introduced great new sticker skins, one carbon fiber, the other rich leather. Pad and Quill  brought iPad-style to a Little Black Book and mophie  and Apple both made sure their already excellent battery case and bumper case fit not only the CDMA iPhone 4, but the iPhone 4S as well. And Otterbox  introduced the Reflex case to their already industry-leading line.
There was something new this year as well, something that could protect against the weather â" rain, snow, ice â" but not be as big nor as bulky as past solutions.
iPad case of the year: Smart Cover
iPad 2 was a design change this year â" thinner and lighter and with cameras on both sides. Again, we got a lot of great variants of already great cases, but we got some truly new cases as well.
ZAGGfolio  bound a keyboard into their case, for those who still couldnât truly give up tactile typing for multitouch, and Case-Mate  added a kickstand to their Pop Case. DODOcase  rejuvenated their hand-made case and added new variants and new artist lines, while Pad and Quill  created the Contega, adding new age features to old world craftsmanship.
Apple, however, had an unfair advantage. They built magnets into the iPad 2, and they were ready to take advantage of them on launch day. Itâs not that it kept the thinner, lighter iPad 2 as thin and as light as possible. Itâs not that it could be folded to keep the iPad 2 up and easy to type with or watch on. Itâs not even that it can turn on or off the iPad 2 display. Itâs all of that, together, in several elegant shades (that no longer include orange).
Accessory of the year: Kickstarter
Beyond cases, there were a lot of great accessories this for iPhone and iPad both. There were amazing interfaces to let you plug instruments into GarageBand. There were fantastic bands to make iPod nano not only a working watch, but a gorgeous one. And there were all manner of chargers, docks, and camera peripherals and so much more.
And this year a lot of them came not from the traditional places, the large, established accessory makers, but from the same place â" a platform that let independent innovators find the finances they need to produce their innovations. It worked so well this year that many of the aforementioned docks and watch-bands and cases and camera peripherals came straight from its pages.
- ^ iPad 2 (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Siri (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Steve (www.tipb.com)
- ^ iPod touch (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Apple TV (www.tipb.com)
- ^ iPhone 4S (www.tipb.com)
- ^ poorly coded location recording system (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Carrier IQ (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Lodsys (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Patents (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Screens (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Agenda (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Due (www.tipb.com)
- ^ iWork (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Noteshelf (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Instagram (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Snapseed (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Photogene2 (www.tipb.com)
- ^ iMovie (www.tipb.com)
- ^ GarageBand (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Path (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Google+ (www.tipb.com)
- ^ itâs own app (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Facebook Messenger (www.tipb.com)
- ^ LinkedIn (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Twitter for iPhone (www.tipb.com)
- ^ TweetBot (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Modern Combat 3 (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Dead Space (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Infinity Blade II (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Real Racing II (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Tiny Tower (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Cut the Rope: Experiments (www.tipb.com)
- ^ DragonVale (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Minecraft (www.tipb.com)
- ^ SPY Mouse (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Tiny Wings (www.tipb.com)
- ^ YouTube Link (www.youtube.com)
- ^ LockInfo by David Ashman (www.tipb.com)
- ^ LockInfo (www.tipb.com)
- ^ SBSettings (www.tipb.com)
- ^ BiteSMS (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Dreamboard (www.tipb.com)
- ^ iUsers (www.tipb.com)
- ^ ATV Flash (www.tipb.com)
- ^ IntelliscreenX (www.tipb.com)
- ^ DracoDesign (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Element (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Case-Mate (www.tipb.com)
- ^ BodyGuardz (www.tipb.com)
- ^ DODOcase (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Pad and Quill (www.tipb.com)
- ^ mophie (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Otterbox (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Lifeproof (www.tipb.com)
- ^ ZAGGfolio (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Case-Mate (www.tipb.com)
- ^ DODOcase (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Pad and Quill (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Smart Covers (www.tipb.com)
- ^ Kickstarter (www.tipb.com)