This Week's Best Apps

In this week's well-protected app round-up: Tron tanks, embattled; French fiefdoms, established on the iPhone; social media links, elegantly arranged on the iPad and much, much more!

iPhone

Tron: With the movie still six months out, Disney has released the official Tron app, which they'll be continually updating with premium content until the movie hits in December. For now, it's just a tanks-style game, but it's a damn good one, with some puzzle elements and plenty of neon thrown in for good measure. Free.

Carcassonne: Adam Frucci, frequent visitor of the Carcassonne region, says:

The game is basically perfectly suited to make the transition from tabletop to touchscreen. It consists of a bunch of square tiles, each with features of a map on it. Elements include parts of roads, parts of cities and cloisters. You take turns placing the tiles down to create a finished map.

The actual competition comes in while you’re making the map, as you’re trying to complete various elements without letting your competitors complete theirs. So you’re trying to build a big city or long road, while your opponents are trying to keep you from completing it or to hop on board to steal its points for themselves.

The iPhone version is a perfect translation of the game, one that improves upon the original with a solitary mode, very good computer opponents and the ability to see just what tiles are left and what moves are and aren’t possible.

You can play either locally or online against friends or strangers, and a game can be banged out in about 10 minutes if you’re playing against the computer or speedy opponents. It is incredibly fun.

I heeded his advice and bought the game, and it is indeed very fun. $6.

Plunderland: A beautiful, Pirate-themed side scroller with smart game play - tilt controls, conventional aiming, good physics - and a cool visual style. Overall a very fresh experience and one that's tough not to like. And c'mon, it's pirates! $4.

acrossair: acrossair, who's really having a go at making this whole augmented reality thing useful, just updated their app to support the iPhone 4's gyroscope. Turns out it makes AR browsing smoother than a tub of butter. Free.

Skype: When Apple announced iOS 4's various flavours of multitasking back in April, two of the most compelling were background music (Pandora) and background VoiP (Skype). With Skype's new multitask-enabling update, we're two for two! Still no video chat, though. Free.

Star Wars: Trench Run 2.0: Updating to Star Wars: Trench Run 2.0 gets you new levels - defend Princess Leia, protect the Y-Squadron during the Battle of Yavin - and new ships - Darth Vader's TIE, the Millennium F-in Falcoln - but best of all it lets you use your iPhone or iPod Touch as a controller for playing the game on your computer. Turning your iPhone into a starship that can make the Kessel Run in under 12 Parsecs? There's a paid update for that. $6 app, $1.19 upgrade.

iBooks: iBooks has been updated with "substantial performance improvements when reading PDFs" as well as the ability to include in-book audio and video content. Because how will we make the next Great American Novel without the ability to embed YouTubes in it? Free.

Zen Bound 2: Casey! Unwind:

Zen Bound 2, previously exclusive to the iPad, is now available for the iPhone. It takes advantage of the iPhone 4's retina display and gyroscope to bring butter-like smoothness to the beautiful game.

Zen Bound 2 carries the same premise as the original Zen Bound: wrap up floating, rotating figurines with a rope. With the gyroscope involved everything feels slightly silkier and roping those damn totems now feels even more natural (not like I know what that really feels like). And the improved graphics are noticeable thanks to the Retina Display.

Only $4.

iPad

Flipboard: If one app had the internet on fire this week it was Flipboard, which culls users' Twitter and Facebook feeds for links and arranges them into a pretty little magazine. Everyone realised how awesome the idea was, rushed to try it out, and subsequently no one was able to actually plug in their Facebook or Twitter info to use the thing. That was the first bummer. Then Joel wondered if they were scraping a little more information than they were allowed to scrape. Could be! But in terms of what we've seen so far, FlipBoard looks like a very promising way to beautify all those retweets. Free.

ABC News: Did you know that news is just the plural for new? And there are new things all the time, so you can never have too many ways to keep up with it all. ABC News' new iPad app has a kinda-swanky, kinda-gimmicky globe feature to navigate through stories, but definitely worth checking out for news junkies and globe lovers. Free.

Sky Writing HD: It's kind of one of those party trick apps, but it pulls it off well enough to be worth a mention - Sky Writing provides a number of international skyscapes (the sky above the Statue of Liberty; the sky above the Eiffel Tower; the sky above Big Ben) and lets you draw an aeroplane trail message that slowly wafts away just like a real cloud. $4 is pretty steep for the novelty, but it is uniquely soothing.

Green Eggs and Ham: It's the good Dr Seuss' timeless classic, updated superbly for the iPad. The drawings look great, the text is read aloud and you can choose background audio for each scene. If you can even conceive of a time in which your iPad will be close proximity to a small child, it's probably worth plunking down $5 to make their 21st century day.

Zenbe Lists: Says Jason, who is prodigiously organised:

Zenbe has become my de-facto to-do list - beating Google's and any sort of Apple solution - for two reasons: aase of use and cross-platform compatibility. I can make grocery list on the computer and check them off on the iPhone at the supermarket.

And if you already have the iPhone version you get this for free. It's $4 for both otherwise.

Android

Micdroid: It's like the T-pain app on the iPhone but with less pizazz and bling, and for Android. It's still in the early phases of development so things might get wonky but hey, if you're auto-tuning your life, things are supposed to get wonky. Yaaayehyeaa.

Edwin: A pretty flippin' sweet speech-to-speech app: If you ask a question, the app will answer you right back. You could ask for the weather, where the closest cinema is, what the definition of a word is, tell it to launch an app or pretty much anything. The voice is a little robotic, but it's a neat idea, especially for those eyes-free situations.

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 or shoot me an email.