This Week's Best Apps

In this week's rockin' and rollin' round up: Shazam, improved; Spidey's webs, slung; photographs, bubble-ified; space, explored; to do lists, beautified; iPad music-making, jettisoned into the future and more!

iPhone

Shazam: Shazam, probably the best known app for figuring out the names of tunes you're listening to, just got a shiny update to 3.0.0, bringing all sorts of good stuff with it: iOS 4 optimisation, tag on startup, 30-second iTunes previews of the songs you tag and more. There's regular old Shazam, which is free but has some ads and tagging restrictions, and Shazam Encore, which is $6 but lets you tag anything and everything you come across.

TeuxDeux: Do you know about TeuxDeux.com? The well designed, super simple, type it out and strike it through web-based to-do list? Well, if you've ever felt distracted just looking at all the options you get with Things and Omnifocus, Teux Deux might be a good thing to put on your to-do list, and it's iPhone app, recently updated for the Retina display, is a wonderful complement to the snappy, snazzy website. $4.

Spider-Man: Total Mayhem: Shrinking an entire beloved comic book universe down to an iPhone game is a dangerous prospect, but that's just what Spider-Man: Total Mayhem does, allowing you to swing from buildings, battle baddies and hone your spidey senses on your iPhone.

We haven't gone in deep with Total Mayhem yet, but Matt got a chance to try it out at E3 and says it was "great" and "felt like the console games but translated".

Early reviewers of the massive game - almost 500MB of Spider-Man goodness! - tend to agree, noting that the graphics were silky smooth (befitting of the hero himself). We'll be back with our thoughts once we're done saving New York and crouching pensively on the Chrysler building. $9.

Percolator: I'm a sucker for simple apps that do simple things, and Percolator, which uses a coffee metaphor for making nice bubbly versions of photos on your iPhone, is just such an app. There aren't a ton of settings for adjusting how your shots look, but the effect is pretty neat nonetheless. $1.19.

Blancast: For iPhone users who don't spend the day with their nose in their RSS reader, there are some ways to check out the news that are slightly more visually appealing than, say, CNN. Blancast takes a Pulse-esque model for news delivery - presenting stories with big, poppy pictures. There aren't many options for customisation to speak of, but the idea is a promising one. $2.49.

Android

Angry Birds Beta: The ridiculously popular game that's become a phenomenon on the iPhone is finally available on Android (albeit in beta form). There's just 15 levels right now, but that's enough to build an itch that you'll scratch forever. Check out the game's trailer above to see what the hype is all about.

Justin.tv: It's a basic app that broadcasts whatever you record from your Android phone to Justin.tv. It's only broadcasts - the app currently won't let you view any livestreams - but will let you chat with your viewers and share your video on Twitter and Facebook. The app uses hardware video encoding and adjusts your video's bitrate depending on your connection, which means it'll drain your battery less fast. Works over 3G and Wi-Fi.

iPad

Twitter: Holy hell, the official Twitter app for iPad is finally here. Here's the essence of what Matt had to say:

If you're a serious Twitter user, you'll probably love it. It's designed to be a complete tweet-and-browse-and-tweet-some-more package, so you can consume what people are tweeting and everything they're linking to, inside of a single app. The tradeoff for the added complexity is that more casual Twitter users might prefer simpler-feeling apps like Twitterific.

It is indeed powerful, perhaps unnecessarily so, but it's free and official and worth checking out to see if it suits you. Free.

Boston.com Big PIcture: Boston.com's Big Picture - a regular collection of awesome, large photographs of various subjects - is one of those things that you can't help returning to after you come across it the first time. The recent 2.0 upgrade of the iPhone app brought iPad support, which mostly works great. There's still some room for improvement like, say, loading the next picture automatically for a smoother scroll through, but even as it stands now, the app is a great way to digest Big Picture's great content. $4.

NASA App HD: Gary, blast us off:

NASA's new iPad app lets space fans catch up with all the latest happenings, track satellites, watch NASA TV, leaf through its archive of fantastic imagery and much, much more.

It's been possible to stream NASA TV on Apple devices for quite some time, but now there's more to play in between broadcasts. The app lets iPad users browse NASA's image database, read up on current missions and future launch data or track satellites, with a specific section telling you when to open the window and look out for the International Space Station passing overhead.

NASA's App HD for iPad is out now on iTunes, for free.

The vastness of space! On your futuristic tablet! For free!

Seline HD: Hot damn. I played with Seline HD, a gorgeous, futuristic music-making app, for about half an hour, and I still don't know what I'm doing (I skipped the help documentation), but I can already tell that this, more so than 90 per cent of the other music apps I've used, sees the potential for the iPad as a music-making device. Very interesting UI and a huge variety of options, including an ergonomic split playing surface, a selection of 20 odd instruments and several drone sounds and the ability to overdub recordings on top of yourself - it's pricey, but as one of the most ambitious apps I've seen on the iPad, period, it's allowed to be. $12.

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.

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