The best apps of 2020 prove just what a long, strange year it's been

·3 min read

In 2019, Apple's pick for best iPhone app was a camera tool that can be used to take long exposure photos of outdoor adventures. This year? It's Wakeout, an app featuring "active breaks" — think workouts you can do from your couch and routines to wind down after work — perfect for when all you do is walk between your bed and your desk.

Among Google's best apps of 2020 are Disney+ and Loóna, which provides images and sounds designed to help you relax and fall asleep.

It's almost like we've all been sitting at home, stressed out all year. Oh, right. We have.

Apple and Google released their lists of the best apps of 2020 this week, and they are stark reminders of the crucial role tech has played in helping us adapt to living, working, celebrating, exercising and doing pretty much everything else from home this year.

Also on Google's list: Calmaria, which helps you calm down with coordinated breathing techniques, was its top "everyday essential" app. Best "app for fun" was Bazaart, a photo editing app that lets you replace the background of your photos with custom backgrounds and stickers — so you can pretend you're in space or floating in the ocean, not just sitting at home in your pajamas.

A little nostalgia may also have helped some tech users navigate the chaos of the year — "SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-off," a new game featuring a classic character, earned the title of users' choice for the best game of 2020 on the Google Play store.

As for Apple, Zoom was, unsurprisingly, dubbed best iPad app of the year. And Disney+ was named best Apple TV app.

Some of these services didn't just help us weather these last difficult months, they also became massive businesses. Zoom's traffic, well, zoomed 3,000% in May as it went from a niche enterprise video conferencing service to an essential tool now used worldwide for everything from church services to government cabinet meetings. The company's stock has gained nearly 500% this year.

And in a year when Disney was forced to close its parks, lay off tens of thousands of employees and postpone release of some long awaited films, Disney+ suddenly became the company's lifeblood.

Apple's "best of" picks are based on "quality, creative design, usability, and innovative technology," as well as "positive cultural impact, helpfulness and importance." Apple's App Store top free chart, which shows the most downloaded apps, includes Zoom (No. 1), TikTok (No. 2), Disney+ (No. 3), Amazon Shopping (No. 11) and DoorDash (No. 14).

Both Apple and Google noted the ways that apps were used for doing good in a year when health concerns, economic strife and racial injustices were all front-and-center. Both cited the United Nations' ShareTheMeal app, which allows users to easily donate money to help feed others, as a popular example.

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