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Best iPhone apps: Tip, AroundMe, BlackJack Run and a ridiculous one*

December 30, 2008 | 12:18 pm

BlackJack Run

Once you tire of the lightsabers, virtual lighters and games, there are some sensible apps that help the iPhone become a better tool.

The most useful app I used this year would be Tip by Carlos Perez. For a whopping 99 cents you get a bare bones but elegant tip calculator that easily lets you figure out how much to leave for the waiter, waitress or bartender.

Tip may not be as fancy as some of the other 30-odd tip calculators available for the iPhone, but it does the job in a simple way and can be used with one thumb while under the influence of a full meal and a couple of drinks.

An app that I can envision Google buying one day is called AroundMe. It lists hotels, restaurants, gas stations and banks near you. Once you let your iPhone figure out where you are, AroundMe will tell you exactly how far any number of destinations will be, and they make it easy to add the information to your contacts. Developed by TweakerSoft, AroundMe is free.

Strangely, the game that caught most of my attention this year was the unassuming BlackJack Run card game from SeaHorse Software. Simple to learn, but surprisingly addictive.

You have 30 seconds to work with five hands in a blackjack game. A card is shown, you place it in a hand and continue until either the time runs out, you bust or you click stop.

Since each round usually takes about 15 seconds, you can get in a game before the crosswalk lights change.

BlackJackRun Lite, which I play, is free, and the deluxe version with some more scoring screens is $4.99.

After the jump, the most ridiculous app that I used the most in 2008 ...

Coin Flip Even though I have never found myself without a coin when a coin flip was suddenly necessary, the virtual coin flip app does have its advantages.

For one, the sound is always bouncy and true. And for another, there's never any misunderstanding about the result like what can happen if the coin rolls behind something or falls into the grass. The iHandy Coin Flip Pro is totally unnecessary and somewhat ridiculous, but that only adds to its charm. Also, it costs only 99 cents.

-- Tony Pierce

Pierce is the L.A. Times' blog editor.

* A previous version of this post said Coin Flip Pro was free. It was first released as a free application but now costs 99 cents.