This Week's Best iPhone Apps

In this week's never-gonna-switch-so-stop-asking app roundup: Free games, reinvented! Aeroplane anxiety, averted! Photos, wirelessly printed! Cool apps, discovered by other cool apps! Navigation cheapened! Black Friday rush, preempted! Google Wave, appified! Screens, pointlessly tapped! And more!

The Best

ZenApps: An even better sign that the App Store could offer more in the way of search tools, filters and sorting options than a company making an app-finding app? Two companies making app-finding apps. ZenApps takes a more traditional approach, aggregating review buzz from a list of app sites into a tag cloud or a simple list. Free.

Million Tap Challenge: Speaking of maybe worthless crap apps, Million Tap Challenge is a simple app with a simple goal: to be tapped. A million times. This makes the cut because unlike 99.99 per cent of the spammy crap in the App Store, Million Tap Challenge has a sense of the absurd. It knows how ridiculous it is, and for just the right kind of person, it's a brilliant timekiller.

Flying Without Fear: My pops was a pilot, and the thought of being suspended 10,000m in the air in a tiny aluminium tube still freaks me the hell out. Flying without fear takes a two-pronged approach to soothing panicked passengers, with relaxation exercises on one side, and more importantly, detailed explanations of each step in typical airline flight, and the terrifying sounds that accompany them. Minor complaint #1: $6 seems a little steep for a branded app — this one is slathered in Virgin Atlantic's colours and logo. Minor complaint #2: Sir Richard Branson, who provides a video intro, is scarier than the worst transatlantic turbulence I've ever sat through. IT'S THE BEARD, BEARDO.

LexPrint: Hey, remember Lexmark? They made printers! And evidently, they still make printers! Also, they've put together one of the better iPhone photo printing apps I've seen. Instead of shipping with grossly limited compatibility like other printing apps (seriously, everyone's got one now, but they're all pretty picky about which printers they talk with) Lexmark bridged the wireless gap with a PC client called Listener, which accepts print requests in lieu of a wireless radio on the actual printer. Kind of brilliant, if you have a Lexmark.

Waveboard: Google Wave is still invite-only, so it's a little strange to see a dedicated app this early on. That said, a sizable group of people are already power-using the shit out of this service that I don't think I'll ever fully understand, so Waveboard, which is marginally better than the stock Wave web interface, might be worth the $1.19 entry fee.

Eliminate: This one makes the list for two reasons. One is obvious: This is a fun, smooth-running FPS with intuitive controls — rare! — and solid gameplay. The other is a little counter-intuitive: To get the full Eliminate experience, you probably need to shell out for Energy Cells via in-app purchases. This is good precisely because it's terrible, and provides a perfect example to other devs of how not to use the new in-app purchase system. It's fun while the freeness lasts, though! A cautionary tale.

TowerMadness Zero: TowerMadness used to be a better-than-average tower defence game, rendered in 3D. Then, there was a lightning strike. A developer was zapped in the skull, collapsed, and three hours later awoke, dazed. As he stood up and surveyed his charred surroundings, he froze as if he was having a stroke; his eyes, though, twinkled. He had an idea. When he finally spoke, everyone around him was stunned: "TOWERMADNESS SHALL BE FREE," he bellowed, "AND IT SHALL BE SUPPORTED BY ADS THAT ARE NOT VERY ANNOYING." Then he died, from the burns. Pointlessly dramatic fake scenario aside, this kind of thing should happen more often.

Honorable Mentions

Cry Translator: This one purports to tell you what your baby's various gurgles, yelps and screams mean. This sounds implausible! Also implausible: That it's somehow worth $US30 (currently reduced to $13). Just jingle your keys, try to feed it and smell for poop. Parenting, done.

Family Guy: Hey look, it's a game based on a popular-but-well-past-its-prime television series! It's a bit Nintendo-like, which is charming, and the free version is worth a few minutes of your time, provided you don't hate Family Guy.

This list is in no way definitive. If you've spotted a great app that hit the store this week, give us your first-hand impressions in the comments. And for even more apps: see our previous weekly roundups here, and check out our Favourite iPhone Apps Directory. Have a great weekend, everybody!

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