This Week's Best Apps

In this week's wacky wild app round up: UFOs, videotaped; photographs, shared; Google, goggled; first-person shooting; assassinating real-life opponents; recipes, collected; tranquil text-editing, achieved for free; and more!

iPhone

UFO On Tape: A simple but compellingly packaged new game in which your iPhone acts as a camera (thanks, gyroscope) with which you have to film a UFO fly-by. That's the whole game - keeping the little UFO in the frame - but the presentation and the production of the app make it different to pretty much anything in the App Store. $1.19.

Google Goggles: Talk to us, Barrett:

The wait for Google Goggles - the crazy good visual search app - to hit the iPhone was shorter than we thought. Today, it's finally been added as part of the Google Mobile App.

Once you're in the Google app, just click the camera to activate Goggles. From there, you can identify and search for info on landmarks, logos, books, DVDs, etc. And as Google continues to tweak the function - it's still in Google Labs - you'll eventually be able to identify animals, foods and whatever else Mountain View's mad scientists cook up.

Free.

Instagram: Everyone loves snapping photos with their iPhone, but sharing them over email and MMS can be a hassle. Instagram is a social photography app designed to solve that problem. First, you take the photo and dress it up with one of the supplied filters. From there, you can share it over the usual suspects - Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc - or, and here's the interesting part, over Instagram's built-in social networking service. When you first fire up the app, you create a username, and from there can follow other Instagram users, look through a feed of their photos, see what photos are popular on the service, etc. It's new and ambitious, so there's a few weird rough spots, but it's free, so that's OK by us.

Meebo: Meebo, the king of iPhone messaging apps, just got a new update bringing fast app-switching and support for the iPhone 4's Retina Display. And it's still free! So go chat with someone already.

Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus: The latest from the Willy Wonka app megafactory Gameloft, Modern Combat 2 is basically Modern Warfare 2 on your iPhone. So while they lose points for creativity, they gain points for generally awesome terrorist-hunting gameplay, gorgeous graphics, customisable controls and some of the most fun, comprehensive multiplayer modes you'll find. $9.

Nike+ GPS: The 2.0 update for the Nike+ GPS app brings a unique new feature called "Cheer Me On" that lets you make a Facebook post when you're about to go for a run and doles out encouragement every time someone comments on your status. Useful if you, like me, don't have enough personal conviction to workout but have been known to respond to the shame and scrutiny of others. Also, it's still a pretty fantastic fitness app all around, well worth the $2.49.

Pic Bubbler: Let's hear it from Bubbling expert Jesus:

Perverts rejoice, for someone has released an iPhone bubbling app. Its name is Pic Bubbler, and it allows you to see anyone naked by using an optical trick and your twisted brain. I tried it. It works.

Pic Bubbler is very easy to use. First, you load an image of someone in their swimsuit - woman or man -from your photo album. The program then applies a transparent layer, which can be punctured using your finger. Just click anywhere you want to open a hole, making sure the hole never shows the clothing. To change the position of the hole, just use your finger. To scale it, pinch in or out.

The controls are good. I'd recommend you use your two fingers to scale and move the hole around at all times. That way, you will have more control and compensate for the iPhone's small screen. When you are done, you just have to save your image (either to your photo album or to the application's own storage area, which saves the active bubbles so you can get back to your masterpiece later.

Sadly, the application is not perfect. The iPhone's screen size feels too small. This should have been a universal application, running on the iPad's big screen at full res. It also doesn't handle horizontal pictures well, transforming them into vertical pictures with blank bands on top and bottom, like this capture shows.

But most importantly - and developers better listen up - I and everyone in the planet want this to be an automatic filter. Manual hole-punching? Come on! Humanity hasn't spent billions of dollars and hours in artificial intelligence and image recognition research so you go on and release a manual bubbling application!

Make this to be completely automatic. Or at least semi-automatic. No excuses. Get to work. Now.

$1.19.

Cut the Rope: A charming and addictive new physics puzzler in which you must slice ropes to feed candy to a little green monster. Some are hailing it as a successor to Angry Birds - need I say more? $1.19.

iPad

PlainText: A Dropbox-enhanced text editor from the makers of the inimitable WriteRoom, PlainText takes the same minimalist approach as apps like Writer and Elements, but does it for a minimalist price: free.

Paprika Recipe Manager: The iPad is a chef's best friend, and all it was missing was a simple, dedicated way to pull in recipes from disparate sources, organise them and present them in a clean, nice-looking way. Well, that thing I just described is Paprika Recipe Manager, a beautiful, simple app for pulling in recipes (from your collection or the internet), sorting them into useful categories, and pulling them up when it's time to cook. Noted food-related iPad app critic My Mum says it's great, and that's gotta be good for something. $13.

Esquire: Esquire, a magazine with a rich visual history, makes a pretty splashy debut into tabletland (and one that shows that Hearst isn't going to just settle for the tablet vision laid out by Popular Mechanics). There's nothing too radical here - some inline footnotes, some video content, some photos you can move around - but it seems like playing it safe isn't the worst thing an established mag can do when they're testing the waters here. $6.

Across Age HD: Zelda fans will find plenty of familiar elements in Across Age HD, a cute new adventure/puzzle RPG, and there are a lot worse sources you could draw inspiration from than Zelda. A nice mix of puzzles, combat and narrative that made me long for my Genesis for the first time in a while. A little bit crashy for now, though, but not enough to be a dealbreaker. $10.

Android

Skype: Skype is now available on all Android phones, well, all Android phones running Android 2.1+. That's loads better than being Verizon-only, though! With Skype on Android, you can make Skype to Skype calls, Skype calls to landlines, receive calls from your Skype number, and IM. But in the US, Skype calls only work over Wi-Fi. But! If you hack it up with a simple download, you can make Skype calls over 3G.

Universal Androot: It's a one-click root option available in the Android Market. Insane, I know, but that's the beauty of Android. And though it does work with a lot of Android phones, it doesn't work with most Droid-branded phones (which are popular, I hear). You can check if your phone can be rooted through the program.

Image from Android Police.

Firefox 4 beta: Firefox for Android is finally in beta (after toiling in alpha for forever), and you can easily grab it on Mozilla's website. Kat, a fiery fox, says:

It includes Firefox Sync (for desktop-to-phone favourites, like Firefox Home will be), add-ons and even the Awesome Bar. Forgetting shiny new functions for now, it will also run faster and be more responsive, and include pinch-to-zoom for multitouch phones.

I don't use Firefox on my desktop, but for some reason, I'm insanely curious on using it on my phone.

Image from Nexus404.

Adobe Air: The Adobe Air app doesn't really do anything other than allow future Air apps to be downloaded to your Android phone. But that's huge! When devs start a building, they'll be a flowing. In fact, Air apps are already on their way, as it's sorta easy to bring apps cross platform via Air.

Image from Android Central.

Wolfram Alpha: Wolfram Alpha, the place you go to find out the true meaning of mathematical life or ask really mind-numbing questions, now has an app for Android. It's only two bucks, and you can solve life's equations and have it expertly compute lovely answers. Wolfram Alpha for Android also supports voice input.

Instant Heart Rate: I'm not sure how accurate it can be, but I love that I can "theoretically" find my heart rate with smartphone now. With Instant Heart Rate, I just place my finger on the phone's camera for 10 seconds and it measures my heart rate. How does it work? It supposedly measures oxygen saturation changes in your blood. Every heart beat makes your blood richer with oxygen, which causes a slight change in the colour of your skin, the camera tracks those changes and calculates your heart rate. Good enough for me!

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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