Best of the App Store: Holiday Edition

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Once again, the holiday season is upon us and we’ll be giving and receiving fantastic gifts like toy trains, dolls, and the ever-popular iTunes gift cards. And what better way to spend those iTunes bucks than on all the newest iPhone apps available on the App Store. Here are some of my personal recommendations:

Tweetie 2 ($2.99) – Tweetie was a popular Twitter application for iPhone, but it did little to seperate itself from the pack of iPhone Twitter apps, such as Tweetdeck, Twitterfon and Twitterific. Tweetie 2 was released and has now set itself apart as the Twitter app. Some of the killer features include landscape mode throughout the entire app, as well as an intuitive swipe interface where you swipe a tweet to see all the available option like responding, retweeting or quoting. The app is the fastest and most reliable of the half-dozen or so Twitter apps I’ve used — and also does little things I didn’t even know I wanted done, such as saving my place in my feed, allowing me to come back to it hours later and pick up where I left off. Let me say that I like Tweetie 2 so much that i actually tweet with much more consistency now then I ever did before, just because it’s so much better with Tweetie 2.

ESPN Radio ($2.99) — I just recently started using this app and I absolutely love it. This app gives you the ability to listen to the live ESPN Radio national feed right on your iPhone, as well as listen to 15-plus local ESPN Radio affiliates, such as ESPN Radio New York or Seattle. The sound quality is excellent, much better than actual radio. You also get the ability to listen to any of the ESPN podcasts on demand, like The B.S. Report, Pardon The Interruption, or The Fantasy Focus. This is also one of the most polished iPhone apps out there — when you are streaming the live radio feed, you are treated to the same ESPN BottomLine feature you see on the network’s HD broadcasts, keeping you updated with scores and all the latest news.

Newsie ($3.99) — My Google Reader is one of the staples of my daily routine. I subscribe to a dozen feeds or so and I check it periodically throughout the day. I previously used the Google Reader Web app to check my from my iPhone using the Safari Web browser. Newsie has easily replaced that as my way of checking my Google Reader when I am away from a PC. Newsie is faster than the native Google Reader app and has a built-in browser, which allows you to read the sites right in the app instead of opening a new Safari window. The app also has integration with Instapaper, allowing you to save a site to your Instapaper app so you can read it later when you are without an Internet connection. Newsie also allows you to instantly tweet the link to a news item through Tweetie, a feature that definitely comes in handy if you buy Tweetie 2 as well.

Back Breaker Football ($0.99) — I haven’t had to much time to play iPhone games of late, but of the ones I have tried Back Breaker is definitely the cream of the crop. The game is not a football game in the classic sense, you start off by creating a customized player, similar to the create a player mode found for years in games like Madden. The gameplay consists of you controlling the player through a series of increasingly difficult drills. The main objective of the drills is to simply avoid being tackled by the computer’s defenders. You control your player using the accelerometer and are armed with a series of impressive juke and spin moves.

At first the drills are very simple, but as the game progresses more tacklers and parts of the field that become illegal to touch increase the difficulty. The most impressive part of the game is undoubtedly the amazing graphics, which are amongst the best I’ve seen on the iPhone. Watching the slow-mo replays of your player getting drilled is just a blast. Altogether, for 99 cents this game will provide you hours of fun, smash-mouth football action.

2Do ($2.99) — The iPhone comes with a great lineup of basic apps, but one of the glaring weaknesses of the iPhone is the lack of native to-do list capabilities. You can get your calendar to sync with iCal or Google Calendar, and yet there is no way to sync the tasks you have created on these applications to you iPhone. I have searched far and wide and tried a variety of to-do list applications available in the App Store, such as Things, ToDo, or Toodledo. While all of these are fine, none of them just quite cut it for me and I eventually found myself returning to the old-fashioned, pen-and-paper to-do lists. This past week, I saw 2DO featured on the App Store (and on sale), so I decided task management on my phone was worth one more shot.

As soon as I opened up 2DO, I knew I had found the app I’d been looking for. It features the best user interface of all the task management apps I’ve seen, using a basic tabbed interface. You are able to quickly switch between different task calendars, like school, work, home or whatever else you want to add. The app features the ability to (finally) sync iCal tasks over wi-fi, something the iPhone should have been able to do years ago. If you need something to organize your tasks, 2Do is the perfect app.

Ben Wagner is a correspondent for Rhombus and is gladly accepting iTunes gift cards as Christmas gifts. To send him one, contact him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

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