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These are Apple's favorite iPhone and iPad apps of the year — and they're pretty amazing

Todd Haselton
Apple announced its favorite iPhone and iPad apps of the year on Thursday.

Apple named its favorite iPhone and iPad apps and games of the year on Thursday.

There are just four. CNBC downloaded each one, and here's a look at what they're all about.


iPhone app of the year: Calm

Calm, as its name implies, tries to help you relax. You open to a serene lake with birds chirping and can then choose any number of free exercises to help with anxiety, mindfulness, sleep and more. I like the breathing exercise that walks you through deep breathing, in and out, and the calming chimes it played as I followed along. I'm not sure I'm in for the $59.99 yearly fee for every feature, but I'm ok starting with the free "21 days of calm" program — it promises to help me focus on mindfulness to help fight anxiety.

Calm is a free app with in-app purchases ranging from $9.99 to $59.99 for access to various subscriptions and premium exercises.


iPhone game of the year: Splitter Critters

Splitter Critters is a game where you swipe across the screen at a particular angle to split it so the critters on the screen have a path to a spaceship. I'd never heard of it until today but it's actually pretty fun. Levels take just a few seconds each in the beginning but quickly heat up in complexity as more critters are added. Eventually, you must split multiple times to get them to the ship.

It's a fun time-sink for the bus or train commute and costs $2.99 for 18 levels.


iPad app of the year: Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is a full-fledged photo editing tool — you can think of it like Photoshop for the iPad if you haven't used it before — that works really well. Apple used demos of it when it was showing the media the capabilities of its new 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

I bought it and liked that I could import photos from the Files app on my iPad or from Photos. It's more than I need from a photo app, with support for all sorts of layers, tools, RAW images and more, but I was able to quickly crop and improve the exposure, contrast, saturation on an image I snapped at a wedding last weekend. Photo editors will find it much more valuable.

Affinity Photo is $9.99.


iPad game of the year: The Witness

The Witness made the list, so I downloaded it for my iPad. It comes with no instructions; you just start in a dark metal tunnel and are told: "tap to move, swipe to look." So I walked forward towards a door at the end of the hallway. I opened two doors, each with a simple puzzle, before I walked into a beautiful landscape where the puzzles continue. It's now up to you (and me) to figure out what the heck we're doing and how we ended up here. I have a feeling I'll be sinking more than just a few hours into this one, since there are more than 500 puzzles included.

The Witness costs $9.99.