In this week's romantical app roundup: Google, Buzzed! Phone trees, sheared! The Olympics, demystified! Doom II, taken down a notch! Your person, flailed around! Your visage, cartoonified! Sesame Street, Picasso'd! And more...
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Google Buzz: To be a geek is to enthusiastically try every weird little project that Google decides to undertake, as soon as possible, risking bugs, frustration, and even bodily harm. And since you will Buzz, if even for a few confused seconds, you may as well do it on your iPhone—it's a far sight more attractive and organized than the desktop app, and at least for me, makes the whole concept more approachable.
Technically, this is a web app; feature for feature, it's comparable to a native app, but the slowness of a web interface is immediately apparent. Free.
Fonolo: Fonolo's deep directory of company support lines and shortcuts it invaluable, leading you to—or near to—the specific human being you want to talk to at whatever company you're calling. It's always been accessible via the web, but the new iPhone app, though a bit buggy, will parachute-crash you into most phone trees faster than you can climb. Free.
Navigon: Navigon is easily one of the best of the pricier breed of iPhone nav apps, and it's just gotten, and significantly richer. Just, generally not at the same time:
Not only has Navigon added a bunch of new features to its iPhone app, the price is $20 cheaper-although if you want Traffic Live and 3D maps, it still adds up to $100. Nonetheless, it sounds worth it.
The update has a few nifty angles-there's the connection to your Facebook or Twitter accounts for updating friends on your current position, destination and time you're due to arrive; the aforementioned Panorama View 3D views (which use NASA height and terrain data) and personalized route delivery, called MyRoutes… it'll cost $100 if you want the full service for your iPhone or iPod Touch, with the actual price of the MobileNavigator app being lowered by $20 to $69.99. The Traffic Live has also been discounted slightly, from $24.99 to $19.99 (only available until the 15th of February), and the Panorama View 3D will cost $9.99. Those who bought the app before will get the update for free, according to Navigon.
NBC Olympics: An all-in-one, total listing/brochure/coverage app for the Olympics, that's wonderfully, gloriously free:
NBC's free Olympics app also has a social component, ideal for trash-talking Norwegian lugers.
There are also updated medal counts, video (US-only), and sport-by-sport forecasts. The focus is predominantly on American competitors, so apologies in advance to international readers. Otherwise, though, if you're an Olympics junkie or nationalist smack-talker, it's definitely worth a download.
The level of polish and depth here is what you expect from the kind of paid apps you usually see associated with a specific sports league, and it's tough to overstate the usefulness of have a simple, searchable reference for all the variations of sliding across ice that comprise the Winter Olympics.
Doom II: Mark's down on this app, and I can understand if the concept of a Doom RPG doesn't get your blood boiling. That said, hear me out: The lowered pace of the game, as opposed to a traditional FPS, actually makes the experience less frantic, and less frustrating. Basically, if you enjoyed the Wolfenstein RPG at all, you'll probably like this one too.
Sky Siege: A 3D augmented reality game that fits the mold of most of the first generation of iPhone AR games, as far as gameplay goes: hold your phone up, move to aim, tap to shoot. The blimps, helicopters and planes are all around you, so you will look like an idiot playing this, but what the hell, you'll be a smiling idiot.
With surprisingly good graphics and animations, Sky Siege is more convincing than the other FPS simulators you may have seen, which makes gameplay both more frenetic and immersive. My only gripe is that $3 feels a little pricey for what amounts to a protracted party trick. 3GS only.
Elmo's Monster Maker: Build a Sesame Street puppet monster (nearly) from scratch, and play with him. The real value here is in the graphics and animations, which are extremely smooth, and which make the Frankensteinian moment of life magical enough to cause me, a full-grown human being, to make gleeful gurgling sounds at my iPhone.
If your child doesn't enjoy dancing Elmo, your child is broken. $4.
Meebo: This one's not here yet, but just in case you were planning on running out and dropping five or ten dollars on a messaging app, hold on—Meebo is coming, and it looks wonderful. Vital features like multi-protocol support and push notifications are there, though that's nothing revolutionary. Where Meebo wins, according to Techcrunch, is with speed: it's blazingly fast, simple to navigate and completely, utterly free.
GorillaCam: This app again! Joby's been content to give away GorillaCam for free in exchange for branding, which we cautiously accepted as an excuse for a few shortcomings. For the most part, GorillaCam 1.1 fills the gaps, adding digital zoom, touch to focus (for the 3GS), antishake (which actually works fairly well) and selectable image sizes. Paid apps like Snapture and Camerabag are going to have to step it up, or price it down.
ToonPaint: When you first use ToonPaint, it feels like you're using an adjustable photo filter, and not much more. Then, you start painting. I'll let the video explain this one.
As someone who can't draw an even circle, let alone a convincing portrait, I can vouch for this one. Brutally unartistic people: Remember how you felt when you used to trace cartoons as a kid? This is like that, again, on your iPhone. $2.
This list is in no way definitive. If you've spotted a great app that hit the store this week, give us a heads up or, better yet, your firsthand impressions in the comments. And for even more apps: see our previous weekly roundups here, and check out our Favorite iPhone Apps Directory. Have a great weekend, everybody!