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This Week's Best Apps

In this week’s super duper app round up: trains, made exciting; basketball, played in space; the New York Times, expanded on the iPad; Sonic the Hedgehog, spin dashing all over your iPhone, and more!

iPhone

Trainyard: Rosa’s a full on addict. All aboard:

Trainyard may be a simple iPhone game, but it’s one of my latest addictions. Folks who are nuts about logic and puzzle games-as well as those who adore Flight Control or ColorBind-are very likely to love it, too.

The game’s currently on sale for a buck, but normally priced at $1.99. If you’re not absolutely certain that you’ll like it, you can always try Trainyard Express which is free, but contains far fewer puzzles.

On sale right now for $1.19 (normally $2.49). And you know you always wanted to be a conductor.

Take Five: It’s a common occurrence. You’re listening to music, you put it on pause, and you end up listening to yourself breathe for an hour. Take Five offers relief, pausing your music for a while and then automatically resuming playback later.

It’s super simple. If you’re listening to music and need to focus on something else, instead of hitting the iPod app’s dumb pause button, you just fire up Take Five. It’ll pause your music for five minutes – you can set it to countdown from 30 minutes or just a few seconds – and when the time is up, no matter what you’re doing on your iPhone, your music starts again. Ahhh. $1.19.

Amazon Mobile: Barrett, compulsive shopper, says:

True story: when I’m out shopping, before I make an impulse by I compulsively check what Product X goes for on Amazon. Which is why being able to scan bar codes from the Amazon app is a major time-saving win.

I know, I know, there are barcode-scanning apps that I could use to price compare. But Amazon’s consistently as or less expensive than just about anywhere, and more importantly I trust them, as a vendor. No more typing in product names! Lots more pointing my phone at random objects in stores.

Free.

Having a real hedgehog in your pocket would be uncomfortable. Thankfully, the first episode of the long-awaited Sonic 4 is now available, letting you spin, dash and spin-dash your way across some heart-warmingly familiar levels.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode 1, the first of four instalments, has four zones, each with three acts and a boss. After mashing on that d-pad all those years back, the virtual controls take a little bit of getting used to, and sometimes I found that I had to be pretty deliberate about, say, sliding my thumb over to move Sonic mid-jump. Generally, though, things are just as you remember them – familiar levels, familiar music, familiar hectic Sonic action – aside from a new jump attack that locks onto targets when you’re in mid-air and a new, kinda nauseating flourish of rotating the camera when you’re going through a loop.

The app is universal, so iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads all get the love (update: deceived by iTunes – doesn’t run natively on iPad yet), and TouchArcade says it holds up pretty well on older devices. It’d be nice to see Retina Display support, of course, but what I yearn for even more is an online leaderboard to see how my Time Attack times stand up against others. Probably not very well.

Sonic 4 is downloadable with some extra levels for Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360, and the iOS version is live in the App Store now for $13, so spin-dash to it.

GyroSynth: The iPad’s expansive touchscreen has made for some very neat music-making apps, but the iPhone 4′s gyroscope adds an interesting new element to the mix. GyroSynth follows your iPhone’s roll, pitch and yaw, and translates them into squeaky synth giggles and gurgles. It’s not an exact science – I’m not sure you’d be able to play Stravinksy – but with a little practice you can get some semblance of a melody going. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun. $1.19.

StarDunk: Jason, jam on ‘em:

Playing basketball in space is not a new idea, with Jordan’s Space Jam and Futurama’s space globetrotters already exploring the concept of weightless dunking quite well. But have you tried it?

The video shows what the gameplay is like. The concept is similar to Fruit Ninja, another game we love. There’s basically one thing you do in the game, and the trick is that you want to do it well for more points. You can also compete against other people online in a global (universal) contest. There’s no Jordan mode, like in 2K11, but, in a sense, the whole game is a Jordan mode.

iPad

NYTimes: Sez newspaper fiend Matt:

The oh-so-limited NYT Editors’ Choice iPad app has been replaced by the full-content NYTimes for iPad. Modeled on the Times Reader app, not only is it now the best way to read the Times, it’s free until 2011.

All the news that’s fit to put into pixels.

TED: TED Talks are just about the best thing on the internet, and the iPad is a perfect (and perfectly futuristic) device on which to watch them. TED made all their videos iPad-friendly some time ago, but this well-designed package makes it all the easier. Settle in and expand yer worldview. Free.

Remote Palette: Kat, paint us the picture:

Sure, there are plenty of painting apps for iOS already, but Remote Palette has a neat twist – it connects an iPad and iPhone so the iPad can be used as a canvas, and the iPhone as the colour palette.

The video above will be pretty awkward for anyone who’s not seen this video from 1982 of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger, but the digital agency Dare does successfully show how the iPad and iPhone (or iPod Touch) can sync up for some fun painting, for just $1.19.

New York Post: The New York Post is available on the iPad. That means Page Six is available on the iPad. The future of gossip is here! You get 30 days free with your $2.49 purchase. After that you can graab monthly, six-monthly or annual subscriptions. Never miss another hi-larious headline! $2.49.

Android

Angry Birds: If you’re the only person on the planet who has yet to play Angry Birds, you no longer have an excuse. Why? Because it’s completely free on the Android Market right now. That’s right. The full, complete version is fuh-fuh-free. The joy of crashing wood and concrete to destroy green pigs for free? Unmeasurable. My god, why are you still reading this. Go download it.

Tweetdeck: It’s finally out of beta and that should be great news for all you Tweetdeck fans out there. In addition to updating and viewing your Twitter account (obviously), Tweetdeck offers support for Facebook, Foursquare and Buzz too, so it’s a ton of location-y apps rolled into one. It’s a free and there’s a widget too.

MessagEase: Admittedly, the keyboard looks weird as hell. But! MessagEase swears that by placing the most used keys in a big button arrangement, that you can type faster. It’s optimised for one-handed use, and if you can spend some time to learn it, MessagEase sorta does speed things up.

Walky Talky: Google recently put out some great navigation aid apps to the Market and it’s supposed to assist blind people in navigating around. But! It’s actually helpful for everyone, says Kat:

WalkyTalky, which reads out not only the directions as you walk, but also the intersecting streets that you pass by. Not only will it help with your bearings, but it’ll give you a greater understanding of the city – the next time someone mentions meeting on King Street, for example, you may well remember passing it previously.

Does sound pretty helpful.

Babylon2Go Translation: I took four years of Spanish in high school and am still no bueno at it. Thankfully, I can use Babylon2Go to flip a bunch of languages (over 75) to English. It doesn’t do voice translation (only text) but in my experience Bablyon2Go is pretty good at spitting back accurate translations.

Lego MINDroid: If you have one of those Lego Mindstorms NXT robots, you can use your Android phone as a remote to control its movements. We’ve seen hacked methods before, but this app is an official solution from Lego. Kat, a robot lover, says:

You’ll need to own one of the robots of course (they cost around $US250), and have an Android phone running Eclair or Froyo, but once the MINDdroid app is download you’ll be able to use the phone as a remote, wirelessly controlling the ‘bot just by tilting the phone and taking advantage of the inbuilt accelerometers.

A droid to control a droid. Awesome. Android 2.1+

We are so crazy about apps right now you wouldn’t believe it. If you have recommendations, tips, or just want to let us know about your own app, drop a note in the comments.


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