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Weekly App Store Roundup: Feb. 7, 2009


Wrapping up another seven days and bringing you the freshest picks, it’s time for this week’s App Store Roundup.

Tom Reetsman kicked off the week by calling Technologizer’s Ed Oswald out on an article he wrote about MobileMe, the general gist of it being that Oswald canceled MobileMe, only to lament the disappearance of his data.

By Tuesday, Google added Tasks syncing to the already impressive Gmail web app. Wednesday saw a roundup of iPhone time tracking apps, essential tools for freelancers managing multiple projects. As I’ve mentioned before, Harvest — my favorite time tracking service — has a fantastic web app available for iPhone.

Finally, our own Matthew Bookspan pitted two productivity services against each other — DEVONthink Pro Office and Evernote Premium. Contrary to my preference (I’m an avid Evernote iPhone and OS X app user), it seems that DEVONthink’s tool came out on top.

Moving on, let’s talk about apps, this week I’ve been looking at ExZeus, Aggravate Nails on Chalkboard, Audio Memos Free – The Voice Recorder, Epiphany Recorded and Rolando Lite.

exzeusExZeus ($5.99)
Giant robots, laser cannons, alien invasions, explosions — these are inherently exciting things. Distill these things down to videogame form and there’s a good chance you’re on to a winner. ExZeus finds you playing a robot with a laser cannon causing explosions while fighting off an alien invasion: this is hyperbolic space shooter action at its best. The gameplay captures old Sega classics like Space Harrier while the rainbow gun metal 3D graphics bring Transformers instantly to mind (plagiaricious!).

Audio Memos FreeAudio Memos Free – The Voice Recorder (free)
On to serious stuff then, as we take a look at this voice recording tool. There’s a bevy of options available to those looking for a memo recorder for the iPhone. For those still searching for a audio recording tool, this free, ad-supported app is a good starting point. The app can use either the built in iPhone mic, or the headset mic, records in up to 44100 kHz and even has a scrub tool — letting you skip to the essential parts of each recording.

Epiphany RecorderEpiphany Recorder (free)
While Audio Memos Free is a traditional voice recorder app, Epiphany Recorder has a unique angle on the whole memo recording concept. The idea behind the app is that often you’ll hear something worth recording and, before you get the opportunity to capture it, the moment will be gone. To combat missing those all-important moments, Epiphany Recorder captures the previous two minutes of audio from the moment you hit record. Of course, you have to keep the app open, but it’s still a commendable way of solving an issue for students, journalists and seminar attendees everywhere.

Rolando LiteRolando Lite (free)
Released last year, Rolando is a fantastic tilt ‘n’ touch based puzzler for the iPhone and touch. I wrote up a comprehensive and complimentary review for it a couple of months back, stating that Rolando is an essential for iPhone and touch gamers, “… what we have here is the benchmark for what a complete iPhone (or touch) gaming experience could be and, furthermore, should be.” If you don’t have Rolando and you’ve never tried it, you’re now fresh out of excuses as Rolando Lite is a free demo containing the first few levels of the full game. Get it now!

AggravateAggravate Nails on Chalkboard (free)
Wonderful, yet another way to simultaneously alienate your close friends while illustrating the fact that your state-of-the-art iPhone, with GPS, Bluetooth, 3G and all that digital jazz, is nothing more than a shiny digital whoopee cushion. Except this app is actually quite good, for starters, it knows its place in the pricing pantheon (next to worthless) and is free. And therefore worth the 5 minutes of unadulterated joy you’ll derive from watching your friends’ skin crawl as you screech your fingers down the iPhone’s screen.

Just One More Thing

I’ve noticed a fantastic new trend emerging over at the App Store. It all started two months ago when Olivier Bernal, a French iPhone app developer, decided to pinch stock photography from iStock Photo. Then a too-close-to-the-bone clone of Nintendo’s famous zapper game Duck Hunt appeared on the App Store, only to be pulled last week following a complaint from Nintendo.

It seems that app developers are already running out of original ideas and instead running rampant with other people’s copyrights. I picked three copyright infringing apps, released in the last week, that flaunt it like a middle-aged divorcee speeding round town in a second-hand Porsche with a “Single and Lovin’ It” bumper sticker.

The EggsFirst up is The Eggs, described by the developers as, “A simulation of a popular Soviet game ‘Electronica IM-02’ which was a clone of Nintendo’s Game&Watch series game ‘Egg’.” So, effectively, we’re talking about an iPhone simulation of a simulation of a game which, in itself, was an emulation of a classic Nintendo title.

There are several things I’m not sure about here; firstly, I’m not sure whether I correctly used simulation and emulation. Most importantly though, I’m not up on my Soviet copyright law — was the game originally infringing copyright? Or, in Soviet Russia, does copyright infringe you?

Then there’s Flipt – Heroes Edition, a traditional tile matching game that uses images culled from the Heroes TV series and is almost certainly not an official spinoff. The app description is a giveaway, “Find pairs of matching images all themed around the popular sitcom Heroes™.”

Because, of course, Heroes is indeed a sitcom. I’ve always thought that Sylar is the Chandler of the bunch. And, I particularly enjoy that the app description used the ™ symbol while totally infringing the trademark.

CuBertAnd I’ll skip straight to the point with CuBert — it’s a direct rip of classic Q*Bert, heck the character is exactly the same as the original retro hooter-nosed weirdo. To the guys at LagMac, the game’s developer, this may apparently be “… in homage to Q*Bert creators,” but it’s still a massive copyright infringing bag of profit-generating plagiarism.

How can the people behind these apps be smart enough to program a game for the iPhone and then actually get it on the App Store, but either have no concept of copyright or are simply just risking it? How can you be that smart and yet also that dumb?

I’ll leave you to ponder that final question and see you next Saturday for another App Store Roundup. In the meantime, let me know which apps you’ve been downloading in the comments.

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