Camera Pro Plus: There's a lot of overlap in camera apps, so interface and novel features are generally what determine the best. (I'm partial to Snapture.) But Camera Pro Plus, already a great alternative camera app, now records video, which it competitors generally don't. Trump card, folks! (Until everyone else does it too.) $2.
Angry Birds: Terribly violent little casual game, to birds. A terrible addictive little casual game, to humans. It's a bit like a cross between a scorched earth game and a physics tool—your goal is to launch an avian cartoon into precariously stacked structures. The more stuff you knock down, the higher you score. If you're not ready to throw down a dollar based on the concept alone, there's a pretty solid lite version, too.
Plants vs. Zombies: A terribly addictive tower defense-type game, with zombies and plants instead of soldiers and death towers. The new players give the game a fun kineticism, so don't judge the game by its cartoonish graphics: this is a very, very good game in a fairly crowded category. $3.
Meebo: Hardcore power messagers (who are you people, exactly?) might want to stick with their Beejives and Trillians, but for the rest of us, Meebo will do just fine. It's nearly as good as the best iPhone messaging apps out there, and it costs absolutely nothing. Love.
To use the iPhone app, you just have to say aloud a command like "Book a table for six at 7pm at McDonalds" (I'm sure you're classier than that, but let's stick with it for now), and then using speech-recognition technology and the iPhone's GPS capabilities, your command is translated and processed by the app, responding with confirmation of booking-or lack of availability.
The app is paired with OpenTable, MovieTickets, StubHub, CitySearch and TaxiMagic, and recognizes a respectable number of commands with surprising accuracy. Success seem to vary voice to voice, and some types of requests seem to have a higher success rate than others, but really, just find out for yourself—it's free, and very impressive.
Final Fantasy I & II: An extremely faithful pair of ports. The original FF1 and FF2 are old enough that Square Enix decided to revamp the artwork for the iPhone, making these versions noticeably prettier than the originals. Gameplay doesn't suffer too much on account of the touch controls because of the games' slowish pace, and honestly, even if it did, FF these games are basically a lock for Final Fantasy fans anyway. My only reservation is that the games costs $9 each. $9 for both would've been more like it.
This American Life: This American Life is the best thing on the radio right now. (ATTENTION RADIOLAB FANS: You will have failed if this statement nets me less than 20 hate mail letters.) So when I say that the TAL iPhone app does nothing but play you lots and lots of WBEZ's flagship show, I mean that in the best way possible. Half of what you're paying for here is utility: you can access any and all TAL shows whenever you want, as well as live streams. The other half of what you're paying for here is the show itself: anyone who's listened to their podcast over the last few years knows it costs them a lot of money, and this app is intended to help pick of the bandwidth tab, at least a little. To this end, it helps that it's very, very good. $3.
MotionX GPS Drive: Once upon a time, a homely little app called MotionX GPS was described on this site as "Hands Down the Best Value In GPS Apps". Now, our biggest complaints about the app—its somewhat clunky UI and lack of landscape mode—have been remedied. Says Wilson:
All in all, it's a palpable improvement for a worthwhile product, especially one so durned cheap. That's right, it's still just $1, with $3/month or $25/year turn-by-turn voice service. You may hate GPS navigators, you may even hate GPS apps, but if you are on vacation and you don't have this app-at the very minimum, that is-you are just crazy.
See, in the App Store, three bucks buys you a decent novelty soundboard, or, you know, that cross-country road trip you've been aching to take your whole life.
Logitech Touch Mouse: Air Mouse Pro is one of the coolest apps in the App Store. With it, you can control your computer's mouse, enter text via the iPhone keyboard, run apps, control media—it basically turns your iPhone into a wireless control center for your laptop or desktop, without the awkward experience of using a full VNC client. Logitech Touch Mouse is that, except with just the mouse and the keyboard. So, 75% of the functionality, for 0% of the price.
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.