Weekly App Store Picks: July 25, 2009

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A turbulent week of Apple news comes to a close, but with a selection of new app’s available for iPhone, it’s not quite over yet — it’s time to take a look at this week’s recommendations.

Hold up one moment though as, before we run through this week’s picks from the App Store, we should take one last cursory glance back at the week that was on TheAppleBlog.

The week opened with the admittedly amusing allegation that Apple are in bed with the Mafia. Apple has allegedly, and I use the word allegedly with the full weight of its meaning, colluded with the Mafia in an effort to send death threats to a gentleman named Gregory McKenna. The best bit though is that Mr. McKenna claims that the threats were sent to him via his iPod Shuffle, “This is the voice of Steve Jobs, I’m watching you. Boom!”

After such a bizarre opening to the week, news took a decidedly pedestrian turn with further rumors concerning Apple’s maybe-but-maybe-not forthcoming tablet. This time round, the claim is that the device will be subsidized by Verizon, a deal that would certainly make sense if the tablet ships with 3G straight out-the-box.

Taking a step away from tablet rumors and downright weird allegations, our own Andrew Bednarz produced a gargantuan rundown of 27 Bluetooth-enabled multiplayer iPhone games. There’s a diverse range of genres represented in the article, certainly something for everyone. My pick from the list would be Flight Control. It seems to be a cute implementation of a deliciously moreish single player game.

Rather than go with Palm’s approach, hacking a workaround into the Pre so that it syncs with iTunes, RIM is going it alone and producing an official BlackBerry desktop application. The application, due out in September, will handle contact and calendar management, alongside App Store-style software installs.

TheAppleBlog’s Clayton Lai posted a wonderful write up on how to build yourself a poor man’s iPhone 3GS. Essentially it’s an iPhone 3G, upgraded to OS 3.0, jailbroken and then loaded with a few device-enhancing apps. With Clayton’s quick and easy guide, you can have video recording and voice control on your iPhone 3G in no time.

And finally, we’ve got yet another Apple hardware rumor: there’s apparently a new iPod touch, with camera and mic, already in production. The move to integrate the extra features would take the iPod touch even closer to replacing ultra-portable netbooks, a subject which Mark Crump also wrote about earlier this week.

Moving on to the picks, this week I’ve been looking at Photo Forge, Layers, Puzzling and Salad Fingers.

appicon_photoforgePhoto Forge ($1.99)
There’s a very easy way to sum-up Photo Forge: this app is Photoshop on the iPhone. Although it’s essentially rolling in the various features that I’ve seen in simple apps in to one ├╝ber-app, Photo Forge feels like a real leap forward for image editing and processing on the iPhone. Regular tools like the paint brush are there, but there’s also cropping (including various aspect ratio auto-crops), smudging and even a usable clone tool. The app also packs an impressive array of adjustments and filters, including Simulated HDR, Blur, Auto Exposure and — a great one for quickly processing iPhone camera images — Lomo. Incredibly good value for the money, Photo Forge is an essential pick for designers and photographers.

appicon_layersLayers ($4.99)
If you’re a budding iPhone artist then Layers could be the app for you. It’s a finger painting app, somewhat similar to Brushes, the iPhone app used to paint the cover of a recent edition of The New Yorker. As the name would suggest though, the special feature for this app are the separate layers, within each image, that you can paint on to. Five separate layers means that you can add greater depth to your paintings before — and here’s the best bit — exporting them as a JPG, or even layered PSD. It’s a tough choice between Layers and Brushes, but if you need something with Illustrator-esque layers functionality, this is the app for you.

appicon_puzlingsPuzzlings ($2.99)
Last summer I played a fair amount of DS games, usurped by the iPhone more recently, my Nintendo device has been gathered dust at the back of the old gadgets cupboard. Back then, one of the games that was the cause of shape-laden puzzle-solving dreams was Puzzle League, a simple game of matching three-shapes on a touch-screen grid. Puzzlings clones the gameplay style of Puzzle League but then takes it up a notch, setting the game in a land of cute creatures with you as a clay doll. By solving certain puzzles within each level, you’re able to unlock items and apparel for your clay doll, playing a sort of glam goth dress up game as you advance. Well worth three bucks, the only thing that’s missing is a head-to-head Bluetooth multiplayer mode.

appicon_salad_fingersSalad Fingers (99 cents)
Opening the week’s news with the utterly bizarre case of Apple’s alleged Mafia association and subsequent harassment of an ex-male model via his iPod Shuffle, put me in just the right mood for some Salad Fingers, perhaps some of the most darkly surreal cartoons on the internet. Lucky for me, Salad Fingers hit the iPhone earlier this week as a fully fledged video app. Containing all eight episodes, alongside written commentary for each one, the app is well worth a buck. For fans of electronic and ambient, the soundtrack to the series is also notable, containing classics from Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works and Boards of Canada too. Weird, wonderful and frequently very wrong.

That’s all the picks for this week. I’ll be back in seven days with more news from the week and picks from the App Store.

In the meantime, what apps have you been using this week?

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