Weekly App Store Roundup: Jan. 3, 2009

Grab a party hat, don your celebratory garb and prepare to get your freak on because, praise be, it’s the first ever Weekly App Store Roundup of 2009.

Indeed, with Macworld drawing near, attendees should immediately check out our very own Conference Schedule — it’ll make sure you’re consistently in the right place at the right time.

In the meantime, those who can’t make it can attend vicariously through TheAppleBlog: we’ll be bringing you the latest Macworld coverage throughout. And, if you can handle even more Apple-happenings being foisted into your giddy brain-box, then read on for my picks from the App Store this week.

This week I’ve been looking at Shoutcast Radio, SledMania, Fnorder and Crayon Physics.

SHOUTcast Radio (free)
Back in my Windows days, a permanent fixture for all my media-playing needs was Winamp — it was light-weight, refined and functional where Microsoft’s Windows Media Player was sluggish and over-bearing. However, the killer feature for Winamp was it’s support for SHOUTcast Radio — providing access to bajillions of ‘net radio stations streaming the nichiest of niche tunes. Of course, these days, iTunes handles ‘net radio quite comfortably, over on the iPhone though, SHOUTcast Radio may become my new go-to app.

SledMania ($0.99)
Browsing through the most recent releases to the App Store brought even more Windows nostalgia flooding back. Back on my first Windows computer, I spent many Winter-evenings indoors whiling away the hours on a mini-game called SkiFree (which those of just the right age and geekiness may also remember). The game has retained quite a following: it’s mildly unsettling to note that a troupe of particularly passionate fans have even created SkiFree fanfiction. With a similar pixellated style, SledMania captures some of the spirit of SkiFree, albeit without a genuinely terrifying abominable snowman careening down the hill behind you.

Fnorder (free)
Amidst a torrent of awful practical joke and novelty apps, comes Fnorder. It’s another utterly useless app except there are two things to note that elevate this above the steaming carcasses of fart sound generators and iPhone magic tricks. Firstly, the app was co-designed by Steve Jackson, the excellent game-designer behind several titles including Munchkin. Secondly, Fnorder is actually an amusing and occasionally spooky purveyor of weird advise, described by its creators as, “… the I Ching for paranoids.”

Crayon Physics ($4.99)
There’s a ton of exciting creative stuff happening over in Finland: Mikko Walamies, the guy behind Rolando‘s artwork and Secret Exit, the two-man team currently creating long-awaited Zen Bound, both hail from Finland. Indeed, it’s a veritable hot-bed of digital creative talent and, as it happens, Petri Purho, creator of the award winning Crayon Physics game, is also a native Finn. The game is exceedingly clever. In order to solve puzzles, you draw your own objects which then react realistically with the game environment. It’s far less complicated and way more fun than my description sounds, so go grab it and have a play.

Just One More Thing

I’m feeling a tad fruity as it’s that time each week when I draw your attention to something exciting, interesting or irksome happening over in the App Store. This week it’s the latter, as I draw your hawk-like attention over to Pay Me Modile App [sic].

Enabling you to track loans to friends, including related notes and the initial lending date, this is a simple idea for a useful app. Furthermore, it even integrates with your iPhone Address Book meaning you can send friendly reminders to your more unreliable acquaintances quite easily. It’s great and the developer should be commended and cuddled for creating such a handy tool.

The problem is, there’s a spelling error in the title which lets the entire app down. All but the most sheltered of us are prone to making blaring, public mistakes, so it can be unpleasant to then be subjected to such pedantry.

And yet, the App Store is big business — times are hard, competitors are multitudinous. Hard-working developers just can’t afford to slip up in this economically tempramental climate.

Where Mint.comRolando and Tweetie are upping the game and providing serious bang for one’s hard-earned buck, errors like this — while not impacting on the quality of the app per se — belay an expeditious approach by the developer, lacking in focus and ultimately leading some consumers to question the quality of the final product. Let’s hope 2009 brings a renewed focus for App Store developers, allowing us to celebrate yet more innovation on the iPhone.

Apparently the fresh air of Finnish Lapland over the holiday season didn’t off a burgeoning bug in my system, so I’m toddling back off to bed with a cup of cocoa in order to recover. I’ll be seeing you next Saturday with more apps, in the meantime, drop me a message and let me know what caught your eye in the App Store.