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The best mobile apps of 2012

by Brad Spirrison

Whether you want to make better sense of Twitter and all of your social contacts, appreciate music that fits your specific mood or enjoy getting paid simply for watching TV, there are smartphone and tablet designed to satisfy you. While there are dozens if not hundreds of titles worthy of this list, here are five must-download apps of 2012.

Slices for Twitter (iPhone, iPod touch, Android) Free

From reading commentary during live news and sporting events, to sharing information about public transportation during Hurricane Sandy, to finding out what your friends are up to this weekend, Twitter in 2012 emerged as a (if the the) primary resource for real-time news and information. With millions of feeds to follow, however, it’s challenging to keep this vast flow of information organized. While there are many third-party that help users categorize who and what they follow on Twitter, Slices is the best one for smartphones. Create individuals slices for interests like politics, technology or your favorite team, and tap into all the news and commentary available around those subjects. It is also an easy and useful way to track what people might be saying about you and other feeds you follow.

Songza (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android) Free

Music streaming services like Pandora, Slacker and Spotify are changing the ways in which we consume music. Rather than listening to albums or pre-programmed playlists, we now have access to entire “stations” on our computers and mobile devices built around our favorite artists and songs. This year, the Songza app added a decidedly human touch to this kind of algorithmic-driven music curation with a major update that showcases playlists created for particular moods or times of day. Songza’s “Music Concierge” selections range from weekday “Office Crowd Pleasers”, to “Reading the Paper” on Sunday morning, to “Putting on Your Party Dress” on Friday night. You can also locate playlists built around most major bands and musical genres. Best of all, even after hundreds of hours of happy listening, I still haven’t heard an ad on the free service!

Viggle (iPhone, iPod touch, Android) Free

You no longer need to feel guilty about wasting the day away curled up on the couch watching television. With the Viggle iPhone app, you can get compensated from the likes of Amazon.com, Starbucks and the Gap merely for watching and checking in to many of your favorite programs. Viggle uses audio recognition technology similar to what is found in apps like IntoNow and Shazam to do much of the work for you. Just sit back and appreciate that you are getting rewarded for doing absolutely nothing.

Brewster (iPhone, iPod touch) Free

Keeping track of all your contacts across email, telephone numbers and social networks is challenging. Brewster is an uber contact management tool that syncs to your iPhone’s contact list, but also Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail and Foursquare. The app has a simple and visually striking interface that showcases the images and names of your contacts as you scroll across the screen. Brewster will automatically determine your “Favorites” based on activity, and lets you easily search for contacts or create your own distinct lists.

NextDraft - The Day’s Most Fascinating News (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) Free

While there is nothing technologically groundbreaking about this app, which publishes daily email newsletter content from satirist and news junkie Dave Pell, you will feel smarter and happier after you download it. There are hundreds of apps that let you filter and curate news around your particular interest, there is only one that compiles ten of the “Day’s Most Fascinating News” stories with Pell’s unique wit and insight.

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