This Week's Awesome Mobile Apps

reviews of iPad apps

In this week’s rootin’ tootin’ roundup: Gmail, pushed!

Don Draper, emulated!

Phantasy Star II, had on your iPhone!

Pets, rescued!

Your Netflix instant queue, chewed through at any and every moment!

And much, much more!



Google Mobile: Get pushy, Barrett:

Gmail and Google Calender notifications, pushed to your iPhone home screen? Yes please. This might be enough to lure me away from the iPhone's native mail app.

The interface, shown above, looks intuitive, and I can see it being especially helpful on the calendar side. Plus, always remember: the more notifications you check on your phone, the more rude popular people think you are.


The Official Hollywood Walk of Fame app: You can finally stop tolerating all those unofficial Walk of Fame apps you've been using (?) because the Official Walk of Fame app is here.

You can map the exact location of any star of your choosing--there are over 2,400, don't you know--and get the news on upcoming ceremonies.


Mad Men Cocktail Culture: Brian Barrett, the Pete Campbell of the Gizmodo office, says:

It's not that I'm jealous that the team at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce get to drink all day on the job. It's the quality of the booze. Mad Men Cocktail Guide app to the rescue?

Well... sort of. If you're a Mad Men completist, hey, it's a free app with some fun features! If you couldn't care less whether Peggy finds love in the arms of a lady photog or wonder whatever happened to Kinsey, well, you might want to pass.

What's good? Recipes for 21 drinks that your parents got tipsy off of in college. Interactive touches-shake the phone to shake the mixer, tilt the phone to pour your potables-that give the app some game-like qualities. And of course, that Mad Men sensibility that's already taken over my DVR.

What could be better? In addition to the cocktail guide, the app includes a game where you can mix drinks on your phone. It's a fun little minigame-I particularly enjoyed pinching the lime to squeeze juice my tumbler-but you only get to make a Gimlet for free. To play the other 10 levels, you need to pony up an additional two bucks. It's just not worth it, especially for an app that's basically an extended advertisement in the first place.

Still, though, it's fun (and free) for the recipes and the feel. And I've got somewhere to turn the next time I need to impress some young turtlenecked secretary with my Moscow Mule skills.

Free, with hangover.

Phantasy Star II: When you're porting one of the best RPGs of all time to the iPhone, there's a lotta pressure to get it right.

Phantasy Star II has finally arrived in the App Store, and from the looks of things, it's just what everyone had hoped for. Early reviews for the classic RPG, which is complete with all the bio-monsters and turn-based battles you remember, are overwhelmingly positive, and the app is currently on sale for $3.

Netflix: Good job, iPhone owners, you dutifully spent the last few years of subway rides and long lines actually, yes, reading!

But all that's over, now that the Netflix app for iPhone has been updated to stream movies and TV shows straight to your phone. It looks super hot over Wi-Fi, less hot but still serviceable over 3G, and will help you get caught up on all that Dexter. Free, though you'll need a Netflix subscription.

Reiner Knizia's Samurai: Like Carcassonne before it, Reiner Knizia's Samurai's an excellent iPhone port of an excellent board game--one of those ones that's easy to pick up but devilish to master. Beautiful graphics, online capability, and tried and true game play make this a no-brainer for board game fans.


iBurn 2010: Burning Man Map & Guide: Kat! Tell us something about yourself we don't know:

While I've never done the dropped-acid-and-burnt-wicker-men-alive thing (at least, not at Burning Man festival), from my understanding the event is meant to be somewhat of an escape from the humdrum of daily life. Meaning, you leave the iPhone at home.

That hasn't stopped a Burning Man iPhone (and iPad!) app from hitting the store in time for next week's festival. The free app acts as a guide to 'all the art, camps, and events in Burning Rock City,' though reports of it listing the best grass in the area are entirely unfounded. It uses the official API for the event, and is open source reportedly.

While I did moan just a few sentences previously about how iPhones really shouldn't be taken out there, the developers have at least designed it to be used mostly offline, caching all the maps and information when the app is first used. Handy for the lack of reception!

Free, with acid flashbacks.

PetRescuers: Rosa, take the old Lost Pet On a Telephone Poll routine into the 21st Century:

The PetRescuers iPhone app sounds pretty basic-It's got a way to enter information about lost pets and a search to identify a pet you may have found-but it has the wonderful potential to reunite many pets and owners.

Basically, if you happen upon a lonely looking pet you could check the app to see if it happens to be missing or alternatively, you could use the app to alert others of your lost pet. Simple, but potentially very effective if you live in a community full of iPhone users.

Woof! (Free)

Super Mega Worm: Humans are killing planet Earth, as we've heard so many times, but finally you can do something about it. Control a glorious 8-bit super worm (think Tremors? as you chomp your way through all those insolent humans. The gameplay is a bit simple for $3, but it's always plenty fun. The game has a great sense of humour, too, like that other recent 8-bit hit The Incident. Chomp!


Also works on the iPad

Fennec Alpha: It's an official alpha version of 'Firefox Mobile' on your Android phone. Gary says:

You'll need an Android OS tagged 2.x for it to work, and Mozilla suggests it's been tested the most on Google's own Nexus One. And as you can no doubt tell from the tell-tale finger-work pictured above, Fennec comes with full pinch-to-zoom support.

You'll probably run into a few issues but you get the general gist: Firefox Sync. Add-ons. Awesome Bar. Firefox. On Android.

Visual Task Switcher: It's sorta like a poor man's version of webOS 'cards'. It's not as pretty, but it gets the job done and looks cool enough (to me). Visual Task Switcher displays a little thumbnail of all open applications so users can easily switch apps and/or close apps. I like it because it let's me see everything my phone is running. $1.99 for full version, Free for ad-supported.

Shelves: If you're familiar with Delicious Library, Shelves is pretty much the same thing (but for your Android phone).

It's an app that lets you manage your stuff (be it movies, books, music, clothes, video games, tools, etc) on a virtual bookshelf. You can import your stuff for virtual cataloging by either scanning the barcode, manually inputting the info or transferring from other sources like Delicious Library. Shelves also lets users mark off what they've loaned to friends so you can see which jokester of a buddy still has that DVD you let him borrow 2 years ago.

On My Way: It's an app by TeleNav that tells a person you're on the way. You'll have to set everything up so it'll notify the person but once you do it'll deliver up to three additional status messages while you're en route: whether you'll be late, when you're a pre-determined time away from the destination and when you're one minute from arriving. The whole point is so that you don't have to keep calling or texting while driving which is, well, safe and smart.

SetCPU (for root users): If you have a rooted Android phone, you can use SetCPU to overlock (or underclock) your phone's processor. Whitson from Lifehacker says:

This is useful if you have an older phone and would like to make it run a little faster, or if you have a newer AMOLED phone with an unecessarily beastly processor and want to slow it down to save precious battery life.

You can also set profiles, so that SetCPU will adjust clock speed to whatever setting you choose. For example, you can set SetCPU to underclock processor speed when battery is under 50%.


State Farm On The Move: Texting while driving is dangerously dumb, I know that. But damn it if it stops me from doing it. Something like State Farm's On The Move app might, though. Jason explains:

Launch the app, and while it's active, it will text back anyone who tries to reach you with a pre-determined message. It doesn't, unfortunately, automatically detect when you're driving, so you have to manually set it on and off. But you can also use it for auto-responding during times when you don't want to be disturbed, like when you're at the movies, or taking a nap, or taking a nap while driving.

It's not exactly perfect, but it seems like the step in the right direction to prevent texting while driving.

Google Earth: It just got updated and somehow, someway Google is giving users the ability to see what's going on underwater. Gary says:

There's only a tiny selection of the seabed included for your viewing so far, with the Monterery Bay Canyon area somehow captured by Google's... fleet of underwater cars. The app is only compatible with Android 2.1 and above-while users of the 2.2 OS update get Flash 10.1 features, like embedded videos of sea stuff, uploaded and sorted by the tool's new Explore the Ocean layer.

No, Human: Every once in a while you'll come across a game that looks like it was designed by someone who only thinks of 'angry birds' as a description for that one Hitchcock movie.

No, Human is one of those, a blast of fresh air that is a little bit different in its game play and aesthetic. In this case, it's a very good thing--throughout beautiful space environments you'll be charged with nudging (OK, more like blasting) mankind's outer space endeavours off course (OK, more like into smithereens.) Neat physics-based gameplay, neat look, neat game, sorry humans. $2

Also works for the iPhone

Image Comics: Image Comcis and Comixology teamed up to make a slick app for delivering independent comics to your iPad straight from the people who create them. How can that be anything but awesome? Free.

Also works on the iPhone

River of News: A Google Reader-syncing RSS app that celebrates one thing and one thing only: infinite scroll.

And that's not a bad thing! Instead of organising your feeds into folders where you drill down down down and then tap back back back, River of News lets you scroll vertically through items, as you'd expect, but also horizontally through the feeds themselves. It's not quite as polished as, say, Reeder, but for iPad users who love the fluidity of flicking, this reader's worth a look.


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