Is it really possible to pick the top dozen apps from more than 700,000 candidates? Let's just say it's a challenge, particularly when you're not focusing on a particular genre -- like, say, 3-D holographic coupon apps. Then again, there's nothing like a "best of" list to spur a spirited debate, complete with name calling, wild accusations and possibly even a virtual fistfight.
To choose this year's best iOS apps, we focused mostly business/enterprise tools, particularly those with relatively widespread appeal. Most of the apps we chose are work-oriented, but they're also useful when you're off-duty as well -- good news for the consumerization of IT beneficiaries who bring their iPhones and iPads to work. Another key criterion: The winning chosen apps didn't necessarily need to debut in 2012; rather, they had to fulfill a need common to a sizable percentage of the mobile computing crowd.
For example, one of the Top 12 apps provides a compelling alternative for motorists who've bailed on Apple's iOS 6 Maps app, which was a tad buggy when it debuted in September. Another winner provides a solid cloud storage solution for small and large businesses. And a third member of the Top 12 is particularly handy when you're traveling in a foreign country but can't speak the local language.
Our picks include a mix of free and paid apps. Users, of course, prefer free apps by a wide margin. A recent Gartner study shows that free apps will account for nearly 90% of total mobile app store downloads in 2012. Interestingly, user preference for free apps is expected to grow in the coming years. In fact, Gartner predicts that 93% of mobile app downloads will be free by 2016.
Now that Android has more or less caught up with iOS in the app numbers race -- each platform has more than 700,000 apps and counting -- the marketing emphasis will no doubt refocus on app quality rather than quantity. Apple arguably still has the edge in this area, particularly when it comes to tablet-specific apps and aesthetic appeal. For an iPad user, one of the joys of browsing the App Store is the ability to find a tablet-optimized version of the app you want. That's not always the case, of course, but it's far more common than on the Android side of things.
Click through the slideshow below to see the top 12 iOS apps of 2012. And feel free to name your own top picks below.