Weekly App Store Roundup: Dec. 27, 2008

This week I pick my 12 favorite apps of the year as we lead 2008 around the back and shoot it’s face off, while gently beckoning a fresh-faced 2009 through the front door.

Just because it’s the holiday season, doesn’t mean Apple news stops happening. Quite the contrary in fact because this week we got all existential with Psystar’s ever-more-fantastical litigation, waxed lyrical with the creators of 12seconds.tv, and even chucked in a special Mac-themed gift — from us to you — for good measure.

Seeing as it’s not just the end of a week but the end of an entire year, I thought a special year-end Roundup was in order. Below I’m bringing together some of the best apps I’ve featured over the year and a few that I didn’t have space to mention. (Note, those looking for my Twitter app recommendation should check out my 12 Twitter Apps article.)

This year, I’ve been looking at Evernote, Harvest, Urbanspoon, Locly, Klick, iPolaroid, Backgammon Online, Cookie Bonus Solitaire, BeatMaker, FourTrack, Stanza and Palringo.

Organization & Productivity

Evernote (free)
It’s the app that tends to be a constant in everyone’s list of essential iPhone apps, enabling you to create quick lists, voice memos and even geo-tagged photos when on the move. Plus, paired with the fantastic (and also free) desktop app, it’s a tool that’ll keep your life in order and your mind clear. Combine this with Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders, providing organizational tips and tricks for creative folk, and your life should be a little less stress free and lots more productive.

Harvest (free)
The folks over at Harvest have created the ultimate tool for freelancers and small businesses wanting to stay on top of time-keeping, invoices, estimates and project management. Alongside the app itself, there’s also a desktop web app and even an OS X dashboard widget. Note that this is an old-school web app — installed by visiting the site and bookmarking it to the home screen. 

Out & About

Urbanspoon (free)
Having just made the move to London, I frequently partake in the many gastronomical delights on offer in the city. When I’m at a loss as to a suitable dining location on one of my frequent food-themed expeditions, Urbanspoon makes the decision for me using a natty little shake-activated slot-machine-style interface (complete with clunky sound effects).

Locly (free)
And for those times when I need other local services, or just a point in the right direction to the nearest ATM, bar, restaurant or hotel, Locly is my multi-faceted GPS-enabled weapon of choice. It can even search for nearby points of interest using Flickr and grab Wikipedia information on the local area.

Photos & Images

Klick (free)
It’s the Swiss Army Knife of Flickr apps, albeit without the toothpick, tweezers or tiny protective shiv. Klick allows you to upload direct to Flickr (with tags), browse photos from your contacts or based on your GPS location, plus even mark favorites and comments. A wonderful app, bewildering both in its feature-set and for the fact it’s still, inexplicably, free.

iPolaroid (free)
Frequently perturbed by grainy photos from my iPhone, I set out to find an aesthetically effective solution to this problem. Rather than employ an iPhone photo editing app — many of which on the store tend to promise much more than they deliver — I settled on iPolaroid. This app applies various retrotastic digital processes to your photo before setting it in a Polaroid frame. It’s silly, brilliant and draws attention away from the dire iPhone camera.

Games & Play

Backgammon Online ($4.99)
Steeped in history and consistently exciting, Backgammon is a wonderful game: skill, luck and competitive yet inane banter makes it an essential multiplayer experience. The thing is, the few Backgammon apps that are on the store are designed more as singleplayer time wasters. This game steps up to the mark by incorporating the FIBS.com game server, meaning there’s an almost constant stream of potential contenders to take on.

Cookie Bonus Solitaire (free)
It’s sometimes the simple games that really endure. Downloading Cookie Bonus Solitaire back when it was originally released, I expected a basic (and perhaps boring) solitaire experience. My expectations were duly slapped to the floor and stamped on, like a young Gary Coleman fighting an angry polar bear, when I discovered that this game incorporates online play, a weird yet compelling scoring system and even several sly cheats.

Sound & Music

BeatMaker ($19.99)
It may seem somewhat pricey, but it’s astoundingly good value considering how feature-packed this iPhone-based sequencer is. Anyone familiar with desktop music-making (from Garage Band to Logic) will know how a sequencer works and be familiar with sampling, effects units and maybe even recording sound too. BeatMaker does all that, and then a little more, on your iPhone or iPod touch. For both amateurs and pros, this is a fantastic creative tool to carry in your pocket.

FourTrack ($9.99)
And where some may feel that BeatMaker is geared towards electronic music producers, FourTrack will appeal to  acoustic musicians (especially guitarists and singers). This is a four track recorder, iPhone and touch compatible, with panning, punch in and out, levels, multiple song storage and even easy sync to desktop. As a composer and producer, this is my ultimate essential tool whenever I stray from my Macbook Pro.

Words & Sentences

Stanza (free)
Having dipped in and out of e-books for several years now, I’d never really enjoyed reading in digital form until Stanza. The app is connected to several online libraries containing tons of free reading material. Most importantly, this means I have access to several (free) Doctor Who books and this is an unexpected yet entirely welcome benefit to having an iPhone with Stanza installed.

Palringo (free)
There are several iPhone IM apps out there that cost a few bucks — including IM+, MobileLinked IM, BeeJive IM and MobileChat — but, while I have standards, I’m also cheap. Not wanting to shell out for an IM app means I chose Palringo: it’s got all the features I need for those moments when I (very rarely) simply must chat with someone on my iPhone.

Back in ’09

That’s it for the 2008. I’ll be back next year with the first weekly roundup of 2009. Here’s hoping we see more polished, useful and entertaining apps and fewer shoddy, flatulence-based cash-ins.

Before you run off to celebrate the future’s impending arrival at the present, drop by the comments and let me know what apps are your must-haves from 2008.