Last week Apple launched their Best of 2016 list which includes the most innovative apps and games that became available in the app store this year. If you made it, congratulations—you don't need to read any further! However, if you'd like to be in the running for 2017, let's consider some characteristics that might help your app make it into the list.
Simple and Clean UI
Bear appeared in the best for iPad and iPhone in many countries. It's billed as a simple writing app for crafting notes and prose. While it has many of the same capabilities as the native Notes app, a thousand other todo apps, Pages and Evernote, it's the clean UI that will attract many to use it. The fact that it syncs well is just the icing on the cake. While it seems to have all the features you find in Evernote, it doesn't feel so bloated.
Make Your Game Smooth and Addictive
This week we get Super Mario Run, but there's already a trend of auto-runners being released on mobile devices. Chameleon Run has a great physics engine and runs really smoothly. You'll agree from the screenshot below that the game looks very different, and would certainly be noticed by anyone looking over your shoulder on your commute. Passing a level can take up to 30 minutes, but the smooth feel allows you to get engrossed in the gameplay. Read the reviews on the app store and you'll see that users can't wait to have some new levels released.
Use the iPad Pro as Your Primary Platform
I'm not sure if the Apple Pencil took off as well as expected, but there's a certain niche set of users out there searching for great sketching apps for their iPad Pros. Concepts seems like a good paper replacement for architects and designers. The feature that stands out for me is the color wheel—a nice way to give a lot of options to the sketcher without cluttering the screen.
Create a Fitness App
Looking through the list, there are numerous fitness apps that made the best of. Always popular, especially with the Apple Watch, fitness apps found a whole new way to stick with us as we try to exercise. Fitness will never go out of style; there are always new year resolutions or people preparing for holidays where they want to get in shape. Sometimes people just feel better having bought an app to try and help, even if they don't end up using it!
Mixing in workouts and meal planning, 8Fit gives a different slant to the traditional fitness app. If you can focus in and pick a target market (such as fitness enthusiasts that cook at home) then additional features that you know they'll need, even if not completely tied to your app's mission, can give you a little boost against the competition.
Focus on One Country
Apple's Best of 2016 list takes apps from across the globe, taking chart toppers from all locations. Maybe it's worth considering an app that will appeal to one country and focusing all your efforts on that. After all, you're supposed to nail it before you scale it!
Choose the Parenting Market
New parents are not afraid to spend money to make sure they are doing everything just right. Tracking your baby's sleep and eating patterns is a must-have for many. There are a few apps out there that provide this, but probably not enough (especially when compared with how well fitness apps cover their market). BabyTime got listed this year, and it's easy to see why with its good use of widgets (because what parent has the time to wait for an app to load!), some nice analysis and reporting features, and the ability to sync with anyone else looking after the baby. As this appears to be an underserved market, consider creating an app that will help parents by using the latest features and extensions available in iOS10.
In general, it seems that if you keep up with the latest OS features you're in with a good chance. For games, you need to put a lot of time into the user interface and graphics, making something that is both engaging and runs smoothly. Lastly, finding underserved and niche markets, whether that's a demographic or an entire country, could get you into this list next year.