In every issue of Alive, you'll find your pal Phil the Gadget Guy introducing you to the latest gadget. As 2009 winds down, it's time to announce the Gadget Spot Gadget of the Year.

In every issue of Alive, you'll find your pal Phil the Gadget Guy introducing you to the latest gadget. As 2009 winds down, it's time to announce the Gadget Spot Gadget of the Year.

There's no monetary prize for the inventor. No regal ceremony in some snow-laden country. The Gadget Guy simply takes a look back at this year's columns and picks the gadget that was the best of the lot.

And this year's pick wasn't a difficult one. Frankly, few things in the gadget world can match the enormous success, not to mention impact, of the iTunes App Store.

This online shop actually opened midway through 2008. During the first few weeks, 1,000 apps were available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. A couple months later, the App Store boasted 10,000 programs (not including the hundreds more made specifically for jailbroken iPhones, available on Cydia).

By 2009, if you had a task to accomplish, you could pretty much assume "there's an App for that." A year into the phenomenon of the App Store, more than 100,000 programs are playing a role in making our lives a little easier, a bit more fun, better informed and, possibly, more enlightened.

Some apps are free. Paid apps can be purchased for as little as 99 cents, or the more princely sum of $100 for some navigation apps - or an eye-popping $190 for Proloquo2Go, a speech-generating app for people who can't speak.

On my two iPhones, I have a total of 305 apps. But none are as amazing as the ones that feature augmented reality.

Using the iPhone 3GS' built-in camera, GPS and compass, augmented reality apps layer information onto real-time video images to create revolutionary new ways to find information or play games. (Android phones can also support augmented reality apps.)

One of the best augmented reality apps is the Layar Reality Browser (free), which layers real-time information from Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr and search engines on your iPhone's camera image.

Another, zGhost (99 cents), makes ghosts visible. Car Finder (99 cents) overlays the location of your car onto the camera image of a surface parking lot. Arcade Reality ($3) is a video game in which space invaders attack the real world.

The App Store and its augmented reality apps beat out tough competition, all of which you can re-read in the archives on ColumbusAlive.com>. Search for the Flip Mino HD, MagicJack, LED TV and Nikon's Coolpix S1000pj (a digital pocket-size camera with built-in projector).

Got a gadget question or a high-tech toy to recommend? E-mail gspot@columbusalive.coms