In this week's tentatively materialistic app roundup: Deals, scrutinized! Barcodes, scanned! Movies, thriftily rented! Magazines, digitized! Pac-Man, terrifyingly adapted to the road! The iPhone's camera, made less terrible! Turn-by-turn, discounted! Home screens, organized! And more...
Waze: This free, crowd-sourced turn-by-turn app is still a bit rough around the edges, and it's not going to replace Telenav or Navigos for cross-country journeys. But Waze is working on it: The new version places treasures in areas where their map data is weakest, which you collect like a 3000lb Pac-Man, helping them fill in the blanks. Two things: Since treasures are placed where Waze's map data is sparse, they might occasionally direct you into an earthquake fault; and sadly, there are no ghosts, for obvious reasons. (Like spookiness! And road death.)
Stair Dismount: Sez known barbarian Jason Chen of this overdue iPhone remake:
If you're sadistic and enjoy seeing ragdolls get hurt, this is the game for you. The injury process is made all the more fun by the added Facebook Connect feature Secret Exit put in. You can only choose your friend's default profile photo, which eliminates a lot of your friends that don't just use their faces, but still gets you fun results, as seen in the screenshots above. Basically, you already know if you're the kind of person who would enjoy the game. Either you laugh at people getting hurt, or you don't.
Three bucks is a bit steep for a game where all you do is push ragdolls down some stairs, and there are solid alternatives in the App Store, namely the $US1 Max Injury, and its free Lite companion. For purists, though, there's really no choice.
CoPilot: CoPilot is one of the more capable budget turn-by-turn apps, and it's a good buy for its regular $35 price. So yeah, great, but why are listing this again? Because this weekend it's $20, which for a full conversion turn-by-turn app, is nuts. Well, unless you're Google.
iLingual: iLingual is really three medium-sized phrasebook apps: one German, one French and one Arabic. Each one has a library of 400 or so common phrases, which you can use to help get around or break the ice in a foreign country. What sets it apart is that it animates a photo of your mouth to speak the phrases, which looks absurd enough to locals to offset their irritation at you asking them, "WHERE IS THE LOUVRE? I WANT A BIG MAC." Free.
Snapture: The best jailbreak camera app came to the App Store a few months ago, but it was missing a few things—specifically, tap-to-focus on the iPhone 3GS, the lack of which made it feel like a compromise, not a categorical improvement. Well, that's fixed now, and along with new camera filters, social network support, and the app's standard burst shooting, visible camera roll, full-resolution capture and full-screen tap-to-shoot makes Snapture's $2 seem much more reasonable.
GQ: I'm not entirely sold on the iPhone-app-as-a-magazine concept, nor am I totally convinced that if it becomes common, it'll look anything like this. That said, GQ's December Issue app takes valiant stab at digitizing the magazine. It includes iPhone-optimized web-style content as well as full scans on the magazine, and the end result is plenty readable. One issue: The magazine content should really be stored locally. The fact that this needs to be connected to the internet makes it less useful than the simple combo of Instapaper+GQ's website, which doesn't go very far to justify the $3 tag.
App Butler: Here's one for you anal retentives out there: App Butler is a tool to help you keep your apps visually organized, by letter, category, or, well, any parameter you can think of. But when I say it's a tool, that's exactly what I mean—it's really just a widget for creating custom dummy app icons—think "Games," "Shopping" or "Work," to use as headers, which you can place anywhere you want, for your apps. Once you've created your categories, it's up to you to do the organising, which can take a while. $1 for now.
ShopSavvy: This is one of the best barcode apps for Android, and now it's available on the iPhone. If you have a 3GS, you can sort of ignore the harsh reviews in the App Store, because a lot of them are written by people with iPhone 2Gs and 3Gs, neither of which have the autofocus capability necessary to scan properly. If you don't, well, good luck! At any rate, it's free, and the data—even if it can be sparse on some local searches—is invaluable, especially for Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
Redbox: Those little red DVD huts in grocery stores all around the country—you know, the ones that opened a cruelly effective second front in the war against traditional video stores with their $1 rentals—now have their own app. Now you can find the nearest kiosk, see its catalog and reserve a movie from your iPhone. Free.
TrueHDR: TrueHDR may suffer from a lot of the afflictions that plague other iPhone camera apps—decreases resolution, a limited feature set and a slightly-too-high price, but all that aside—and yes, you can set that aside—TrueHDR is the most effective HDR app in the App Store. The app takes two shots of a scene at different exposure levels, which you set by tapping on highlighted and shadowed areas in the viewfinder. The pictures are then automatically aligned and merged—like actual HDR photos—to create surprisingly convincing dynamic range, considering the source. That said, if you think HDR photos look stupid to start with, this will do nothing to change that; if anything, the effect here can be a little oppressive. Still though, HAITCH DEE ARRRR, etc. 2bux.
This Weeks' iPhone News on Giz
This list is in no way definitive. If you've spotted a great app that hit the store this week, give us a heads up or, better yet, your firsthand impressions in the comments. Have a great weekend, everybody!