This Week’s Best Apps

This Week’s Best Apps

In this week’s multitouch empire-expanding app round-up: images, kaleidoscope’d on the iPad; news, given the Pulse treatment on Android; iPhone cameras, Photo Booth’d; alarm clocks, beautified; Scrabble, made hexagonal; and helicopters, steered into battle on the iPhone and much more!


Radio Alarm: The not-very-creatively-named but exceptionally well designed Radio Alarm is the only thing keeping Sam from sleeping for the rest of his life. He says:

Radio Alarm offers features and customisation that far surpass Apple’s native alarm, allowing you to set volume, snooze duration and toggle fade-in for a less jarring wakeup. You can also choose from a variety of alarm sounds, from the classic “rooster” to the if-you-use-this-you’re-probably-insane “scream”. And if you want to make yourself earn a few more precious moments of sleep, you can set the app to snooze only after being shaken. If you need help falling asleep after waking up to horrible screaming sound effects, the app even has a sleeping aid mode, with the usual generic distant gulls and babbling brooks to comfort you at bedtime.

But the real meat of Radio Alarm is, of course, the radio. The app has full support for Shoutcast’s nearly 41,000 stations and comes with some considerately chosen presets. The interface is designed to mimic an old timey radio, with neat attention to detail in the various buttons and clicks – there’s even an authentic sounding static effect when the app connects to a radio stream, as if you were scanning a real FM dial. If internet radio isn’t your thing, you app can rouse you with your own songs, too.

And all that for $2.49.

Chopper 2: Fans of the realistic side-scrolling helicopter adventure Chopper – and even if you hadn’t heard of it, you’re probably a fan of the idea – will find a whole lot to like with the sequel: It has better graphics, a better interface, better environments, better combat and you can even use your iPhone as a remote to control the game on your iPad. A first rate iPhone production all around. Currently on sale for $4.
Also works on the iPad.

Cloud Music: Take it away, Kat:

Heaps of music-streaming apps already exist for the iPhone, but Cloud Music has one novel selling point: you upload the music files to Google Docs, and then stream the songs from there. Docs is not just for word-processing anymore, remember?

MP3, MP4 and WAV files are supported by the app, which was only released yesterday to the App Store. If you’re wondering how Google Docs enables the upload and streaming of music files (here you were thinking it was just a free Word and Excel replacement!), it’s down to Google opening up the types of files that are allowed to be uploaded – virtually any form of media is now supported, such as movies, photos, music and ZIP files. Only 1GB of non-Google Docs files can be stored for free (with each file being below 250MB in size), but for each additional GB uploaded you’ll be charged 25 cents each year.

Cloud Music also displays album art (if you upload it to Google Docs, that is) and can play music shared between friends. The app itself costs $2.49, and that music-sharing feature alone is well worth the money in my eyes. Let’s just wait and see how long that feature survives for though.

Also available for Android.

37signals Campfire: If you work on the internet, you probably use Campfire, an excellent collaborative chat service. 37signals, the company behind Campfire, just bought the formerly independent $13 Campfire app Ember and turned it into the free, official 37signals Campfire app. Awesome! It’ll work with both the iPhone and iPad and it’s free, so it’s kind of a no-brainer download if you do any work with 37signals’ product.
Also works on the iPad.

Camera Sutra: Photo Booth, the application for snapping distorted and stylised shots using your Mac’s web cam, was improbably but undeniably a lot of fun. Camera Sutra brings that same real-time zaniness to your iPhone 4’s front-facing camera.

The app takes advantage of one of iOS 4’s multitudinous new APIs for live image previewing, giving you a chance to see how you and your friends’ faces look stretched, twirled, dented, infrareded out and more – there are 13 effects in total – and then snap a picture of it to your camera roll.

The interface is well designed and the app works beautifully with the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera, though it supports the 3G’s rear camera too. If you even occasionally are inclined to silliness, it’s well worth $2.49 (currently on sale for $1.19).

Family Tracker: Brian, inveterate stalker, familial and otherwise, says:

Family Tracker‘s not a new app, but this iOS4 update rescues it from near-uselessness. Thanks to the addition of multitasking, you can now track the GPS locations of family members all day, every day. Privacy invasion? Nah. That’s just love.

It’s a good bargain though, compared to AT&T’s similar service that can cost $US15/month. Family Tracker has a one-time payment of $5. Locations can be viewed from a browser, so you don’t even need an iPhone to play the most dangerous game – though your quarry does. Available here now.

$5 – a fair price to pay for all that power.
Also works on the iPad.

AMNH Explorer: A new app from the American Museum of Natural History that gives you directions from exhibit to exhibit, lets you create custom tours of the museum and plenty more. I wrote about it at length here, but suffice it to say that it shows incredible promise for how apps can enhance an already first-rate museum experience. Free.

DailyBoothApp: An increasingly popular social networking site, DailyBooth lets you keep your friends up to speed with snapshots of what you’re doing – a natural fit for the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera. You still have to set up an account on, but once you do, sharing’s a snap. Free.

HexaLex: The best moves in Scrabble are the ones in which you cram a word in a just a few open squares, linking it up with the surrounding tiles to create several words at once. HexaLex, which is basically hexagonal Scrabble with all of the attendant gameplay tweaks such a setup requires, provides many such moments, and its recent update brought crucial online multiplayer support. Scrabble purists might object, but the rest will find it a welcome lexical alternative. $4.
Also works with the iPad.

Star Trek Captain’s Log: Likely Trekkie Sam Biddle says:

The Captain’s Log app allows fans to eschew the iPhone’s vanilla Notes and Voice Memos in favour of a Starfleet-themed communicator, allowing for sound and text capture, plus the ability to map GPS coordinates as you chart your intrepid voyage to the corner store. Those looking for a fuller Star Trek experience can browse a 3D rendering of the Starship Enterprise before taking on a command rank of your choosing, and then share logs with fellow captains via social networks.


Bump: The social networking app that gives people an excuse to give each other pounds, Bump just upgraded to version 2.0, bringing Twitter and LinkedIn integration as well as the ability to send unlimited photos and contacts. If you’re routinely sending stuff back and forth between iPhones, Bump’s probably an easier way to do it. And free, too.
Also available for Android.


ZumoCast: A new service entering private beta, ZumoCast turns your computer into a personal cloud for streaming video to your iPad on the fly. It’s not quite as polished as StreamToMe or AirVideo yet, but it has an online interface for streaming over 3G and has some features in the works – like offline caching – that will make it a serious contender. Free to try, too. Read about it in more detail here.
Also works with the iPhone.

Annamika: An animated, customisable kaleidoscope that comes with some beautiful stock art. But things get even more fun when you run your own images through the software (resulting in things like the trippiest game of Words With Friends ever.) It’s a bit steep at $6, but for iPad owners who enjoy the interactive art app genre, it’s worth a place in your collection.

Fluid FX: Bringing Hollywood-grade multitouch image manipulation software from Autodesk Maya, the app offers tons of controls for creating cool images or warping existing ones. There might be a little bit too many controls, though – the interface is cramped and tough to use on the iPhone and even on the iPad is a lot to get used to. A steep learner’s curve, sure, but that means there’s plenty to discover. $2.49.
Also works with the iPhone.

Gravity Hook HD: From Semi Secret Software, the folks behind the acclaimed escape runner Canabalt, Gravity Hook HD offers beautiful, pixel-era graphics with simple, deceivingly difficult climbing gameplay, a la Oddy Smog’s Misadventure. $4.


Pulse: A news reader app that’s very pretty but sorta limited for hardcore RSS users. The way it works is that it reformats your feeds into thumbnails, users can then scroll through the list of articles within the thumbnails. The only problem is that Pulse limits the maximum subscription to 20 feeds. If you can make do with only 20 feeds, Pulse is great. $US1.99.

Barrr: A lovely video game for Android that’s sorta like those Diner Dash games that everyone loves. Kat sums it up:

Basically you need to serve up beer to pirates and can even given them tattoos.

If that doesn’t convince you to get the game, nothing will. Fine, maybe this will: It’s free.

Google Maps 4.4: Google Maps always gets updated at a breakneck pace on Android. This time they’ve added ‘Places’. Here’s what Sam I Am Biddle has to say:

The newest update for Android’s Google Maps app offers a dedicated Places icon, for location-based business searches. Places can be opened discretely from the app launcher, offering you the same information on neighbourhood establishments found via the browser-based version.

PSX4Droid: It’s a legitimate PlayStation emulator for Android. It costs $US5.99 but once you get all your ROMs and PS BIOS files uploaded, you can be playing all the old Final Fantasies and Crash Bandicoots you want. Sorta turns your Droid into a PSP phone. Kinda.

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.