From Viral Sensation to Controversial App: The Story of BeReal and App Store Annual Awards

With 2022 coming to an end, let’s review the best-ranked mobile apps among Apple users, as well as check what’s in store for the next year. Moreover, we’ll dive deep into the hype around BeReal, in order to learn about users’ habits and preferences.

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app store awards

Illustration: Milica Mijajlovic

App Store Awards 2022 

The official annual recap of the best apps available in the App Store has been Apple’s tradition for over a decade, giving us a chance to catch up if we missed the chance to try out some of the best-ranked applications. 

Looking back, the year 2022, in the terms of app usage, will be remembered by users turning to their privacy more and cherishing intimate, real-life experiences with a close group of friends or even alone. 

With that in mind, it’s no wonder their App of the Year award went to BeReal, a viral app that grabbed users’ attention in no time. 

Later on, we’ll expand on what’s so unique about it but first, let’s review this year’s awarded apps. The list includes mobile apps from both huge international teams as well as individual self-taught developers. 

Category Name Description 
iPhone App of the Year BeReal A social media sensation that gave users an authentic look into the lives of their friends and family. 
iPhone Game of the Year Apex Legends Mobile This thoughtfully re-engineered groundbreaking battle royale is its best version to date. 
iPad App of the Year GoodNotes 5 With best-in-class Apple Pencil support and powerful collaboration tools, the gold standard of digital note-taking got even better. 
iPad Game of the Year Moncage A stunningly fresh spin on mobile puzzling that expanded users’ minds and got them thinking in thrilling new ways. 
Mac App of the Year MacFamilyTree Documenting and visualizing family history with a comprehensive genealogy app. 
Mac Game of the Year Inscryption The surprises never stop in this deep deck-building adventure. 
Apple Watch App of the Year Gentler Streak A fitness tracker that encouraged users to tune in to their bodies — and take a rest when they need to. 
Apple TV App of the Year ViX A Spanish-language streamer that brought together the drama users love and the sports that get their hearts pumping. 
Apple TV Game of the Year El Hijo Users loved how this spirited stealth adventure values brains over brawn—and looks stunning on the big screen. 
Arcade Game of the Year Wylde Flowers With remarkably authentic diversity, this life sim’s idyllic world makes free expression (and casting spells) incredibly fun. 

The aforementioned ten apps were chosen with technical innovation, user experience, and design in mind. However, this is not the only list that Apple’s team conducted for this purpose. 

In 2022, they introduced a bonus section called “Cultural Impact”, referring to an alternative list of awarded apps, based on the impact they’ve had on users. In that sense, these were the apps that influenced culture the most in 2022: 

Name Description 
Dot’s Home Shining a spotlight on historical injustices through a compelling time-travel tale. 
How We Feel Helping users engage more deeply with their emotions — and providing strategies for addressing them at the moment. 
Inua Honoring the heritage of the Inuit, whose folklore gives this breathtaking tale its beating heart. 
Locket Widget Bringing friends and family closer by helping users see the small moments they otherwise might miss. 
Waterllama Encouraging everyone to stay hydrated through a winning combination of gentle guidance and adorable characters. 

What’s so special about BeReal?   

At the end of December 2022, BeReal holds the #7 spot in the Social Networking category on App Store. It’s free of charge and user reviews mostly refer to it as “Instagram but without the toxicity”. 

It was supposed to be an atypical photo-sharing app, with the aim to share real-life, unfiltered moments that you shouldn’t plan in advance or direct as many people do for Instagram, for example. 

How does it work? 

Each day, you receive a notification at a different time and you have two minutes to take a photo with your front and your back camera. 

Your photos aren’t supposed to look flawless, they’re supposed to look realistic. 

And all you’re added friends are doing the same. That way, you’re taking the pressure off trying to make your life seem perfect, as opposed to other social media platforms. 

At first, users felt relieved for finally getting a photo-sharing app with this intent. However, they were a bit uncomfortable sharing content that was so different in visual appeal compared to what we usually see online. No pretty outfits, no fancy locations, just normal people with their messy buns, dark circles, getting stuck in traffic, and more. 

What’s best, it wasn’t meant to be public. Only your closest friends or chosen community can have access to your personal moments, which is, again, the dimension most users usually don’t follow on social media. 

On the other side, some users reported feeling pressured after receiving a BeReal notification because they didn’t feel like posting at that time. Especially because the countdown would immediately start when you enter the app, adding to the nervousness. 

This wasn’t the initial intent of the developers; they wanted to limit the time for taking photos because most people spend so much time trying to take a perfect selfie, without even realizing how much time has passed. 

The key point is, so many people are exhausted from trying to reach impossible perfection on social media. They’ve realized the negative impact of filters, and they don’t want to be a part of it anymore. 

After all, our daily lives are not visually appealing all of the time, and that’s okay. But so many people nowadays are trying to make it seem that way, which leaves many users feeling as if they’re missing out or that everyone else is having a better time than them. 

On BeReal, users can see how others are spending their time for real, without prior preparation. Not only that, but on this app, the number of followers and likes isn’t an important metric and won’t make you any better than any other user, which is also the complete opposite of other social apps. 

In conclusion, no matter if this app sticks in the long run, it was successful in sending a powerful message globally, and that’s what we’ll remember it for. 

What’s in the App Store in 2023?   

The year 2022 was an unusual challenge for Apple, taking a 5% punch in the net revenue and being forced to make compromises in a form of allowing third-party systems for in-app purchases. 

The whole reputation of the App Store relies on its strict regulations, guaranteeing quality apps to users, without the need to worry about malware as much as Android users do. That’s why, iOS device owners are not thrilled at all that Apple is now making decisions like this. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here; in 2023, they can expect more loosening of the rules. 

Namely, the EU as well as the US are now intervening in app distribution monopolies, leading to Apple having to give away control over allowing app distribution and payments. 

To prove this point, in March 2022 Apple allowed reader apps to include external links. Not long after, they loosened restrictions around some requirements that need to be met to publish to the App Store. More precisely, it wasn’t required anymore for apps to “include sufficient content in the binary for the app to function at launch.” 

This rule mostly referred to lottery apps, apps used for charitable donations, apps that use location and others, meaning that, among other things, users can now buy lottery or raffle tickets or initiate fund transfers in-app, using a code that’s not embedded in the binary. 

So, what to expect in 2023? 

More of this kind of loosening, for sure. Apparently, Apple is required to comply with the upcoming EU rules with the iOS 17 update. In other words, it may allow users to download apps from alternative app stores. 

Not only that, but it will allow sideloading as well, as a result of the EU’s Digital Markets Act. This will allow users to install software downloaded from the web. The funny thing is, Apple has formerly referred to sideloading as “cyber criminal’s best friend”. 

The aforementioned revenue dip, as well as fluctuating currency prices, have already led to Apple increasing prices in the App Store. Unless there’s an overnight miracle and the global economy drastically improves, additional increases in the following year are to be expected. 

Not to forget, there’s still an ongoing online battle between Apple and Elon Musk, that could result in withdrawing Twitter from the App Store. 

Lastly, keep in mind that by the end of 2024, Apple will have to comply with the EU rules forcing the addition of the USB-C port on iPhones. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.