For an app to get attention these days, it has to do something totally new and really useful. It just doesn't work anymore to make a marginal app and then support it with social media and ad purchases. Of the apps I've seen and tested lately, these are my top picks. Some were released last year but are just starting to gain momentum on Android and iOS now.

1. Ever

I like the innovation here. Ever "watches" live video feeds--for my demo, it was a Netflix show--and, when you want to see where something was filmed or what someone is wearing, you press an icon, freeze the frame, and can see more information. For example, you can see the brand of shirt Kevin Spacey is wearing in House of Cards.

2. Morecast

This weather app is fast, which is important if you just landed in Dallas and need to find out if it's going to rain. The app claims street-level accuracy. A satellite radar feature shows real-time and forecast imagery for what you can expect, without any of the typical weather app lag.

3. Robinhood

This stock trading app is super simple, which is not usually the case with most investment apps. You can quickly scan through a few stocks, examine charts, and then make stock purchases for free. The app uses a fully encrypted connection and complex password authentication.

4. Airmail

It's only available for the iPhone for now, but Airmail is one to watch. (It's also a good replacement for the now defunct Mailbox app.) What I like most is how quickly you can access common email functions like snooze, archiving, marking as spam, and attaching documents.

5. Habitica

Gamification is nothing new, but this role-playing app for tasks actually works. You create habits, goals, and other tasks and then gain "HP" (in role-playing game terms, it means hit points) when you complete them. I added tasks related to walking and healthy eating at work. When you rack up enough points, you unlock armor, skills, pets, and even side quests for your avatar.