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One of the great things about the iPhone is of course the App Store, which is a growing eco system of interesting applications. I tend to stick to the free ones, and not long ago I went and downloaded a bunch of new freebies. These are my favorites from that bunch:

Louvre

This is one cool app for art lovers. It opens to a picture of the outside of the Louvre with famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) glass pyramid, then displays a cover flow with the different parts of the app. You can explore Louvre artwork, take a tour, or explore rooms inside the museum. It's amazing, comprehensive and the navigation is elegant and simple. You can even bookmark favorite places, so you can find your way back easily.

Nasa

If you want to keep up with news from Nasa, this app is a must-have for Nasa fans. It has information on missions and includes images and educational video. For instance, this month it features a video on the Crab Nebula, which is visible in the November sky using a telescope. Like the Louvre app, it's fun and educational, but it also is a very smart move by Nasa because it lets people know what they're doing with our tax dollars (and a lot of it is pretty neat, let me tell you).

ESPN Score Center

I don't know how I missed this one before because it's an essential application for any (American) sports fan. It takes a while to load the first time you open it (I mean several minutes), but once it's ready to go, you can customize the interface to include only the sports you're interested in. What's more, you can define your favorite teams, so they appear prominently at the top of the list of the scores. It also has a ticker with the latest sports news (like you see on ESPN Sports Center) at the bottom of the screen. You cycle through the different sports by dragging across the screen to reveal the next page (in a similar fashion to the Weather app when you add multiple cities). The navigation is not quite as elegant as some of the others, but it's very useful for keeping up with the latest sports news.

The Weather Channel

The standard iPhone Weather app gives you temperature and a general forecast, but if you want a more detailed weather picture, this app is for you. The first time you load it, it asks if it can find your location and then customizes the weather for your location without having to enter any information. You can see the current weather details, an hourly, 36 hour or 10 day forecast. What's more you can view the weather map, video and severe weather alerts for your area.

Yelp

I've been using the Around Me app to find restaurants, but a friend recently recommended Yelp and it offers a similar functionality, but with the user reviews front and center. Once again, it asks to find your location so you can use it wherever you are, then click one of the selections such as Restaurants to find the ones in your vicinity. You can filter by distance, price and whether it's open. I would also like to filter by restaurant type and which ones reviewers liked best (number of stars), but in spite of these limitations, it provides a good starting point for finding food or other stores in an area. Also includes a "Talk" client where you can post questions to people who happen to be online.

So there you have it: my five recent free favorites. Leave a comment and let me know some of yours.

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