Apple keeps things simple, with a single winner in each category, while Google spreads out the love across more awards. Let’s start with Apple.
Best iPhone apps and games of the year
Here's the TL;DR version:
iPhone app of the year: AllTrails
iPad app of the year: Prêt-à-Makeup
Apple Watch app of the year: SmartGym
iPhone game of the year: Honkai: Star Rail
iPad game of the year: Lost in Play
Mac game of the year: Lies of P
Apple Arcade game of the year: Hello Kitty Island Adventure
AllTrails has won the iPhone app of the year award. The platform has been around since 2010 and lets hikers and mountain bikers find pretty or challenging (or both) routes worldwide.
It is worth a look if you fancy a wintery walk in December.
Prêt-à-Makeup is Apple’s iPad of the year winner. Its developer calls this a “digital face chart notepad". It lets you design makeup looks, while the visual style of the app itself is a curious mix of the cartoony and the realistic.
It’s free to download, but there is a subscription for those who want access to all of the virtual cosmetics, of which there are apparently more than 700. Like AllTrails, it has also been around for years.
SmartGym picks up the Apple Watch app of the year gong, after being given a thorough revamp at the beginning of the year. But, yep, it has been around since 2016.
It’s a fitness app that provides on-watch gym workouts you can follow from your wrist. It tracks your metrics, too. SmartGym is free to try, but subs start at £6.99 a month for unlimited access to workouts.
Apple has newer stuff on offer in its game awards.
Honkai: Star Rail is Apple’s iPhone game of the year. It was released in April 2023 and is available for PlayStation 5 and PC as well as iPhone.
You might compare it to mega-hit Genshin Impact, and it plays out as a 3D third-person action adventure. The battles are turn-based in classic Japanese RPG style, although its publisher is actually Chinese and a subsidiary of the company that made Genshin Impact.
This is a technically highly impressive mobile game, but check your iPhone’s in-app purchase settings before letting your kids loose on this one. You can spend big in Honkai: Star Rail.
Matters take a turn for the cute with iPad game of the year Lost in Play. This beautifully drawn puzzle adventure came to iPads and iPhones in July, after an original launch on PC and Nintendo Switch in 2022.
It’s drenched in charm despite the lack of any dialogue and follows the adventures of a pair of siblings. Lost in Play was developed by the Tel Aviv-based Happy Juice Games. Free to download, it costs £5.99 to unlock the full game.
Tough action game Lies of P won Apple’s Mac game of the year. Unlikely as it sounds, this is a Pinocchio adaptation inspired by the Dark Souls series. Hello Kitty Island Adventure picked up the Best Apple Arcade game award.
Apple also listed a series of notable “cultural impact” titles including the food waste app Too Good to Go; the chill-out game Unpacking; Finding Hannah; accessibility communication app Proloquo; and digital kids’ playbook Pok Pok.
Best Android apps and games of the year
Do you care more about Android? Google has also announced the Google Play Best of 2023 winners.
Imprint: Learn Visually is the overall best app winner. It's an education app that, as the name suggests, lets you learn new things with a focus on visuals. Modules on history, philosophy, economics and more are broken down into digestible chunks.
You can download it free of charge, but to get access to its courses you pay a subscription.
Here’s the full list of app winners:
Best app: Imprint: Learn Visually
Best for fun: Bumble for Friends
Best for personal growth: Voidpet Garden
Best with AI: Character AI
Best Everyday Essentials: ReciMe
Best Hidden Gem: Aware
Best App for Good: Giki Zero
Honkai: Star Rail is Google’s best game of 2023, meaning it wins across iPhone and Android. Impressive stuff. You will need a fairly powerful phone to play the game well, mind.
Here are the other gaming winners from the Google Play Best of 2023 awards:
Best Game: Honkai: Star Rail
Best Multiplayer: Farlight 84
Best Pick Up & Play: Monopoly Go!
Best Indie: Vampire Survivors
Best Story: Honkai: Star Rail
Best Ongoing game: Stumble Guys