Apps are, at the end of the day, very personal pieces of software. And your favorite mobile app isn’t mine. So we decided to poll the staff here at GigaOM to see what apps changed our lives in 2011. It could be apps that just launched this year, or it could be programs that really came of age or matured greatly through updates. Or it could just be an app we missed before.
Some are very familiar but others may be new to you, but all have played a big part in our lives this year. Take a look and then tell us your favorite app in the comments.
Colleen Taylor: Hipmunk for Android
Android (s goog) typically takes a backseat to iOS (s aapl) when it comes to getting slick apps. That’s why it’s so refreshing that Hipmunk, the travel search engine, put real time and effort into making its Android app just as awesome as its web and iOS offerings. Shopping for plane tickets in general can be a real headache, and doing it on a mobile device is usually impossible. But I’ve priced out and purchased plane tickets with this app, and it’s a pleasure to use.
Darrell Etherington: Path for iPhone
Path is great because it’s a beautiful-looking tool for people who might not share a lot of content, but like to keep on top of what their friends are doing without feeling overwhelmed. It feels like Facebook did before apps, games and the need to monetize made it a noisy, privacy nightmare. Path’s relatively pristine environment probably can’t last, but for now, that’s what makes it great.
Erica Ogg: Hotel Tonight for iPhone
This is the best if you’re regularly passing through cities on short notice. It does what it says: finds you a hotel for tonight only. But they don’t bombard you with options. Hotel Tonight helpfully curates the lodging choices for you: there’s usually just a couple to pick from among the categories basic, hip and luxury. They have relationships with the hotels so using it is a snap. I used this to locate the best local hotel deals night-to-night when we were between apartments in our new city. And it’s especially helpful if you want to make a last-minute trip to pricey cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Kevin C. Tofel: WiFi File Transfer for Android
This free app is a must have for transferring files from an Android device to any other device on the same Wi-Fi network. Works as a small web server on your Android and shows up as a nicely formatted file directory on other devices: great for shooting files, photos, or videos off of Android device instead of e-mailing them. For $1.40, the Pro version allows you to add files to the phone or tablet.
Kevin C. Tofel: TED Air for Android
I didn’t find this app until late in the year, but I try to hit it daily now for a new TED talks. It’s great for mobile use because you can download the videos while on a home Wi-Fi connection and view it later on the phone and not use up any mobile broadband.
Mathew Ingram: Instagram for iPhone
I started using Instagram mostly because it gave me an easy way to upload photos from my iPhone to a bunch of different services at once, including Flickr (s yhoo) — where I archive photos — and Twitter and Facebook, where I share them with others. Other apps from Flickr, Facebook and Twitter make it easy to share with that specific network, but don’t make it easy to distribute them to multiple places at once. I liked Instagram’s filters, but that isn’t what kept me using the service — what kept me coming back was the social aspects, the ability to see and comment on friends’ photos and have them see and comment on mine. This is something Flickr should have owned, but it failed to capitalize on it and Instagram swooped in and seized the market.
Kevin Fitchard: Paprika for iPad, iPhone and Mac
Though this iPad recipe management app has been around more than a year, Paprika made the service infinitely more useful with the launch of its Mac version this year. The iPad’s big screen but compact size is great for propping on the kitchen counter, but if you’re like me, you would rather research and annotate your recipes on a computer. The iPhone app completes the triumvirate, allowing you to ship shopping lists directly to your phone. You have to pay for all of these apps separately of course, and there’s no Android support. Paprika also does have some limitations on the recipes it can import, but no more than any of the other recipe saving apps on the market, and of those its definitely the most streamlined.
This is an app that’s been around for a while, but this year, it got a lot more useful for me. The specials have been greatly improved including new deals with American Express(s axp). And features like Explore have been a big help in finding recommendations for new places to try out. I’m also becoming heavily dependent on Foursquare Tips in the past year to know what to order in new restaurants. The updated list feature is turning Foursquare data into a lasting resource you can share with others. I never got into the race for Mayorships and even the point standings among my friends really don’t mean much to me. But all the new features and updates really make the app powerful for me in ways that wasn’t the case before.
Om Malik: Camera+ for iPhone
Camera+ is the only app I use to take photos just as iPhone is the only camera I use to take photos. It is an app that can turn rank amateurs into photo-artists. Add filters and effects and you have photo magic in the form of an app.
Katie Fehrenbacher: PowerMax for Android
This has made my old school HTC Incredible not suck so much battery power. It used to be that I couldn’t keep the phone running for a whole day before I installed. But I’m ditching the HTC for an iPhone in the New Year, so I won’t need PowerMax in 2012 anymore.
Janko Roettgers: Google+ for Android
The Google+ app for Android rocks, if only for one reason: Automatic media uploading. I’ve shared many more photos since I’ve installed this on my phone, simply because sharing something you’ve already uploaded is incredibly easy.