Apps for the new Apple owner

John Gushue
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If expectations follow through, Santa will be leaving a slew of iPads and iPhones and iWhatevers under many Christmas trees this weekend, not to mention any number of Androids or other competing smartphones.

I also imagine many people will be receiving gift cards for downloads from iTunes, which of course sells far more than just tunes these days. Some of the most interesting stuff is in the App Store, which will no doubt be doing a brisk business as the owners of all that new gear load up on fun, productive and entertainingly useless things.

I thought it would be handy to provide a few tips and notes on what to look for, or at least on what a good starting basket should include. It’s Mac-focused, so I beg apologies in advance from the PC folks.

Angry Birds. Hardly the most essential app out there, but it’s probably the most addictive (in a fun, safe way), at least as much as trajectory-oriented games involving greedy pigs and irate birds go. Besides, all of your friends are going to ask, “Got Angry Birds yet?” so you might as well get going.

Pages. It might be mistaken for a “lite” version of the more powerful word processing package that Apple sells for its Macbooks and desktops, but don’t be fooled. It’s the best-selling item in the App Store, and for a good reason.

Things. My high school friend John highly recommended this app for my wife’s iPad, and it was easy to see why. For list-makers, Things is a godsend; it not only keeps track of them, but lets you sort and organize them by themes, priorities — practically any which way you want, and it can sync with your other devices. At $20 (it’s $10 for the iPhone version), it’s not cheap, but it’s money very well spent.

Bento. Named for the tidy style of laying out a Japanese meal, Bento is used for laying out or bringing some organization to your data — phone numbers you pick up, tidbits from work, calendar items and so on. It’s as attractive as it sounds.

Monopoly. I have a wireless-dependent iPod Touch, which makes this game handy during spare moments on the run when I can’t log in to check email and that kind of thing. You can play up to three automated opponents (or play people, if you want to pass the phone around) and customize your house rules.

Restaurant Story. This a free game, at least upfront; like Farmville, the producers want you to pay for fast-track upgrades. In a similar vein, you earn points by cooking and serving meals, collect gifts (i.e., meals) and points from “neighbours,” and pay for new equipment, tables, chairs and expansions. Addictive.

CBC Radio. I’m obviously biased, but I do quite like the CBC app that allows streaming of its radio feeds across the country, with better quality than what comes out of a radio receiver. Carrying around a device with great sound almost feels like a return to the transistor radio, but with sound that would have knocked us over in the Seventies.

Doodle Jump. My son loves this game, which involves a sketch-like drawing (hence the name) that you’ll want to propel from one platform to the next, dodging obstacles as they fall. I lasted about, oh, 20 seconds, but it’s provided plenty of amusement for the youngest member of the household.

NewsRack. If you’re a news junkie and just got an iPad, NewsRack could soon become your best friend. It hauls together items from your favourite news sources, making for simple, elegant browsing.

It’s five bucks, but is recommended.

John Gushue is an online editor with CBC News in St. John’s. Find him at or @johngushue.

Organizations: Apple, App Store, CBC News

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