10 Most Iconic IPhone Apps

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Mobile Apps Are Big

Console and PC gamers once laughed off mobile games because of their poor performance capabilities. Sure, Snake on your Nokia was good for when you were trying to kill time at an airport or on the toilet. It was hard to imagine ever battling aliens or other players on a mobile app though.

For the most part that still remains true today. The same multiplayer gun fight games that are so popular on consoles transition poorly to mobile play. However, mobile apps have grown much bigger than anyone could've predicted. They've expanded on the qualities that made Snake so great - addictive, simple gameplay. You don't need hyper-realistic graphics to enjoy Tetris, Minecraft, or "Don't Tap the White Tile".

Just as there were iconic video games on other consoles, some mobile apps will be remembered and played by generations ahead of us. Here's my crack at a top 10 list (it's very subjective, I'd be shocked if we could agree on one).

Honorable Mentions

Honestly the hardest part of this list was cutting it off at 10 apps. Tiny Wings, Cut the Rope, Minecraft, Plants vs. Zombies, Trivia Crack, Plague Inc., and many others offered unique game play and easily could've found a slot in the list.

10. Paper Toss

Paper Toss is amusingly simple. You try to throw a paper wad in the trash can as many times in a row as you can. For added complexity, a fan in the room blows at a random speed which forces you to adjust your toss.

Despite its simplicity, Paper Toss was one of the first viral apps when it was released in June 2009. You could have all the fun of throwing paper wads without actually having to go and pick them up if you miss. It was the perfect casual time-killer - one that also inspired mild competition between friends. Pretty soon lifelong non-gamers such as my dad had even downloaded it.

"Kate Upton at 2011 Jets VIP draft party (crop)" by Peter Ko. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
"Kate Upton at 2011 Jets VIP draft party (crop)" by Peter Ko. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

9. Game of War: Fire Age

Game of War doesn't make this list because of its quality gameplay. It's mostly on this list because of how many times we've all seen Kate Upton riding on the back of a horse in slow motion. In 2014 alone $40 million was spent on marketing. The Wikipedia page at the time of this writing doesn't have a picture of the app; it has a picture of Kate Upton.

I can't stress enough how bad a game this is. It relies on an age-old model of gameplay that exploits human psychology, and it doesn't even do it well. You are constantly nagged to buy in-game perks with real money. Yet for all its flaws, it stays on top of the "top grossing" charts. To be honest this game makes me question my faith in humanity.

8. Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird has an incredibly interesting story that would make no sense to someone born 200 years ago. It relies on very simple code and was developed over the course of a couple of days by an amateur developer. Not surprisingly, thousands and thousands of copy-cat apps were made as soon as it went viral.

With just small, occasional ads the app made over $50,000 a day. Soon the indie developer was swamped with calls from corporations trying to buy rights to the game. He decided this was too big of a disruption for his previously simple lifestyle, and he discontinued the game.

The discontinuation sparked another anomaly- phones with the app still installed began to sell for high prices on the internet. As more and more of those phones disappear, it seems that phones with flappy bird might command a high price one day for collectors.

7. Draw Something

Draw Something was one of the first social apps to have wild success. A player can play a random person, or they can challenge their friends through Facebook. Playing your own friends is a more enjoyable experience, and that incentivized challenging your friends via Facebook. Challenging friends is quick and easy, and so the game spread rapidly.

Within 5 weeks it had 20 million downloads. After a couple of months though popularity began to drop off. As with most social games, it quickly passed as a fad. However, while it was popular, entire groups of friends were playing each other simultaneously.

6. Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans is kind of like Game of War except it is a decent game. It still tops the charts of highest grossing because it too is a freemium game that preys on human psychology, but at least Supercell adds new content every once and a while instead of just putting all their profits into marketing.

Clash of Clans is very accessible for a casual player, but it still requires skill for higher level players. It also takes one or two years for a player to upgrade everything if they don't spend real-life money on gems. There are subreddits and youtube channels that frequently discuss strategy among advanced players. Some "clans" in the game are super serious, and some are completely casual.

Supercell didn't invent this game model, but they did it best. Clash of Clan's method of deploying troops - just tapping where you want them to be - works well for a game like this. In 2013 Clash of Clans was making over $2.4 million a day and it is still popular today. There might be better freemium options out now, but few can compete with Clash of Clans.

5. Words With Friends

It's basically Scrabble, but you don't lose pieces in the couch. I'm not sure how two independent companies can have basically identical games without copyright violations...but that's how it is. An app is a great medium by which to play Scrabble. One can quickly know if he or she is making up a word or not. Words with Friends can also play over the course of a couple of days. If you're not satisfied with how fast your opponent is playing you back, you can just challenge another friend or a random opponent.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the app is the number of romantic relationships that have come from the in-game chat function. People have met others from across the world and even gotten married because of Words with Friends. Who knew that Scrabble was such a romantic game?

4. Doodle Jump

Doodle Jump was another early hit on IOS. It was one of the first popular iPhone games to utilize the iPhone accelerometer controls. Instead of traditional tapping, a player could play mostly by just rotating the iPhone.

Doodle Jump is casual, innocent fun. Anyone from age 3 to 100 can pick it up and play it at just about any time. Its artwork is charming, but it can be frustrating if you die early two or three times in a row.

It was released in April 2009. Doodle Jump peaked at around 25,000 downloads daily, and hit 10 million total downloads by 2011. Many theme skins have since come out, including one for just about every holiday as well as "Ninja" and "Pirate".

Oh yeah, Kevin Durant wants you to put it down for a second:

3. Fruit Ninja

Fruit Ninja is innovative and unique. It sets up well for a touch-screen, and is highly addictive. The game tosses up fruit in the air, and the player tries to slice (using one's finger) the fruit before it comes back down to the ground. Unfortunately, sometimes the game will throw bombs instead of fruit- and you have to avoid those.

Fruit Ninja allows us all to set aside the stresses of everyday life and become the Ninja that we've always wanted to be. It's plenty difficult for gamers of all types. Fruit Ninja was released in April 2010, and according to Wikipedia, was downloaded on a third of all United States iPhones by May 2012 . Wow, that's hard to believe as I type it.

2. Temple Run

I know I said it about Fruit Ninja and Doodle Jump, but Temple Run also had innovative controls unique to smartphones. A player is constantly running away from monsters, and must quickly decide to jump, turn, slide, and more in order to stay ahead of the demon monkeys. A player also has to rotate the phone when the running path is partially destroyed. Temple Run will actually get your heart going a little bit, especially if you don't like getting eaten. Unfortunately you can never get away, and your treasure hunting character will always die.

Temple Run also does a good job of rewarding more and more gameplay. One can buy new characters or helpful items with the coins they've collected in prior runs. Temple Run soared in popularity quickly after its release, and it inspired many copy-cat apps immediately. Even though it's a very simple game, Temple Run has also inspired a book fiction series as well as possibly a movie.

1. Angry Birds

It was tough making a top ten, but number one was never really in doubt. I don't think any iPhone app has met similar universal success as Angry Birds (and the 15 or so current versions of it).

Angry Birds takes an old game style, flinging objects at castles, and applied fun, cute characters to it. It was one of the first mobile games to do the physics and level difficulty right as well (there had been decent internet browser versions of basically the same game for years and years). As a result, it has enjoyed ridiculous popularity (over two billion downloads as of January 2014 across all platforms).

There is a television series. Computer animated full length feature film. And of course, merchandise and toys everywhere. The Wikipedia page lists even more adaptions - even in sports and religion. If there is one iconic gaming app from our time, it's Angry Birds.

Which do you think is Most Iconic?

  • Paper Toss
  • Game of War: Fire Age
  • Flappy Bird
  • Draw Something
  • Clash of Clans
  • Words with Friends
  • Doodle Jump
  • Fruit Ninja
  • Temple Run
  • Angry Birds
  • How could you forget _______?!?
See results without voting

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2 comments

Alessio Ganci profile image

Alessio Ganci 17 months ago from Italy

I would add also Candy Crush Saga which is also for iPhone!


cydro profile image

cydro 17 months ago from Kentucky Author

Alessio- great call. I don't know how I forgot that one. I'll find a way to add it in there.

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