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Weekly iPhone and iPod Touch App Recommendations

January 25, 2010

This week’s installment has more to do with apps designed to be perfect time wasters. Got time to kill waiting for a flight, your date, or just waiting to start your work day? Some of the apps below will be perfect for a few minutes; some will make you wonder where all of your time went.

Meteors: This is a brilliant little app, designed to match various elements against other elements. The purpose is to watch how each element might react against the other. Want to see how lava might react against ice? A laser beam against iron? Sand against water, with a dash of C4, a fuse and gunpowder? Maybe throw some rubber into the mix. This app gives you the ability to change the individual thickness of each element, causing a different reaction. Additionally, a tilt of the iPhone or iTouch will cause whatever moving elements you’ve laid out to shift, further changing the reaction. You can place all of your items and elements and set everything in motion, or place everything on the fly with the brush of your finger. There’s no goal or endgame–unless you strategically place a drain where it can suck in every moving element.

Flashback by Newsweek: If you ever wondered what was in the news, or in pop culture, the week you were born? Newsweek has compiled as many of its covers as possible, always updated to its most recent and backtracking to its earliest, February 17, 1933. You can peruse their covers randomly, or via decades. You’re allowed to scroll through the decades as a whole, or by clicking each individual one. Once you spot a cover you’re given the ability to enlarge it and save it as a favorite. This app is a fantastic time capsule, one part pop culture and one part history lesson. The cover when I was born? That issue came out one day earlier, with Uncle Sam on the cover and a tagline, “Vietnamization: Will Nixon’s Plan Work?”

Google Earth: If you’re familiar with the computer version, that’s essentially what’s here, not unexpectedly in a stripped down version. The functionality is essentially the same. You can type in a place or an address and watch google fly over to that location. You can zoom in for a closer look by touching two fingers to the screen and splitting them apart, or continuous tapping. You can move the image to travel yourself with brushes of your fingertips. Like the computer version you’re given the option to click on the smaller pins for restaurant reviews, phone numbers, etc. The app itself is fairly quick, taking me from Concord Mills Mall in Concord, North Carolina to higher resolution images of the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt in fifteen seconds. The only con is that, sometimes, the app will find itself stuck and not be able to get back to a location it previously found. Like so much having to do with a computer, a simple reboot of the app tends to take care of that problem.

Stanza: One of the best book apps available, Stanza gives you access to an incredible library of books. Some of the books you’ll have to pay for, but if you’re like me, you’ll go right to the array of freebies. From public domain books to classics to science fiction Harlequins to books that have been turned into movies (even RSS feeds are included), this app allows you very easy access to choose your book, download it, and save onto your iPhone or iTouch.  The books themselves are very easy to read, and you’re given the option to bookmark your spot. It’s next to impossible to think that a reader couldn’t find something of interest with this app.

Meritum Paint: I’ve probably spent only a few minutes each time I’ve brought this app up. I can also tell you that I’ve brought this app up a lot. Meritum Paint is a fancy alternative to the doodle apps that are available. What sets this app apart is that nothing is in one color, nor a straight line. The end result of whatever you do will look like a deliberate mix of fancy dashes and swirls. While you are held at the mercy of the app as to what color you want, you can manipulate the type of swirls a bit. Two finger taps clears the screen, a good shake saves your work of art. Ultimately, the app is designed to make someone look as though they’ve created a masterpiece, even though it took no more than a few swipes of a finger. If only someone would come up with a Bob Ross app that would allow you to tap out a landscape with a happy little tree . . . that would be really cool.

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