This Week's Best iPhone Apps

In this week's slightly more transparent app roundup: Instant messages, never ignored! Browser, bettered! Messaging, replaced! Hotel rooms, snagged! Photos, translated! Ghosts, faked! Blu-ray movies, supplemented! And more...

Agile Messenger: I've always been a little leery of Agile Messenger, since it's usually priced at $13, up there with the likes of Beejive, and it's a little ugly — though the multi-account and push features are more than adequate. For a few weeks though, it's just $2.49. And they've just added a new feature called "Walk and Type", which overlays your text over a live camera view, so you never have to take your eyes off your AIM conversations as you walk down the street. In theory. In practice, you will still die. Ranked for feature-bloat audacity, and shitty late-night joke/newspaper cartoon potential.

Full Browser: As with every alternative browser in the App Store, Full Browser isn't really its own browser, since it's still using Mobile Safari's WebKit render. That said, FB's added features are worthwhile: the tabbing system, which is more traditional than Safari's, makes up for its rough looks with efficiency, in-app email makes life ever-so-slightly faster if you spend most of your time browsing, the favourite sites speed-dial is a mite faster than using traditional favourites, and inline text search is just, well, useful. $1.19.

WhatsApp: First, let's try this: WhatsApp is like BlackBerry Messenger for the iPhone. Cool, right? If that doesn't mean anything to you, it's like an instant messaging app, tied to your number — not a screen name or PIN or anything — that integrates with your contacts. If you have the app, your friend has the app, and you're both in each others' phonebooks, you're friends. Push notifications make this even more like BBM, in that you don't have to keep the app open. Free for now, so GO GO GO.

PicTranslator: Translates text from photos, from whatever language you want. I love it because it fits nicely with my vision of what smartphones should be doing for us in the next few years, and it seems to work pretty well most of the time. I don't love it because results are much, much better on the 3GS — you're basically limited to signage with the 3G and 2G, because they can't focus on small text — and because your $2.49 only gets you one language. Still though, extremely neat stuff, as long as you're aware of the limitations. And now you are, so!

PocketBlu/FoxPop: From Universal and Fox, respectively, these are the new Blu-ray companion apps. PocketBlu, available now but not really compatible with much yet, is like an enhanced remote control for compatible titles, making navigating various BD Live features a bit more intuitive. It'll also stream bonus content to your handset over Wi-Fi, which is pretty cool. FoxPop, which isn't quite out yet, does things a little differently: It's like a Popup Video feed that plays back trivia, photos, video and other content to supplement the film. Bonus cool feature: It figures out where you are in the DVD or Blu-ray by listening to the soundtrack, and matching it to a timeline. Both should be coming soon to select releases.

Hotel Negotiator: Priceline's gimmick/selling point has always been their instant-bid feature, and it's well suited to the iPhone. Give it a location, make your hotel-room bid, and you know if you've got it or not pretty much that second. Much more practical for last-minute hotel hunting because, well, you've always got your iPhone.

ARGH: I somehow missed this one in yesterday's augmented-reality app roundup, so here goes. ARGH cheesily superimposes ghosts over your 3GS's camera view, as if there were actually there. Upon seeing ARGH, most of your friends will groan and tell you you've wasted your money. But! Your senile grandmother will be legitimately spooked, your pet dog will be mildly confused and your little cousin will probably chuckle a little. $2.49.

iVIP: This thing is basically I Am Rich, except it offers (some?) services, in the form of memberships to various clubs and societies. It sounds a bit like a scam (My own bodyguard? Really?) and the concept is inherently deplorable, but in separating a special, horrible kind of rich person from their dollars. $1200 or $500 for the "Blue" version, whatever that means.

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

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