Miles and miles beyond the “starter kit” of apps that come with your iPad, you can get practically limitless additional use from your tablet by downloading more apps from Apple’s App Store. Here are recommendations for ten downloadable apps that you might quickly find to be essential.
The dozen or so apps “built-in” — or pre-loaded — on the Apple iPad currently include Mail; the Safari web browser; Facetime, for Wi-Fi videoconferencing; Photos, for basic picture taking and management; iTunes, for media management; Videos; Maps; YouTube; GameCenter; Notes; Calendar; Contacts; and AppStore for — you guessed it — getting more apps. (Note: several of the apps that Apple lists on the iPad’s “built-in apps” web page aren’t actually pre-loaded.)
But there’s so much more you can do with your iPad. At the time of this writing, Apple offers something like 130,000 downloadable apps from its online iTunes App Store. Many of these apps are “universal,” meaning they also work on the iPhone and on the iPod Touch. Some of them, such as iMovie, come from Apple, while the rest are produced by other developers.
Roughly 20 percent of the apps for the iPad are free. The remainder cost money (paid via your iTunes account, which you can link to a credit card or “charge up” with iTunes gift certificates purchasable in most any convenience store).
Non-free apps cost anywhere from $0.99 to several hundred dollars. A few, like BarMax (an actual test prep for the Bar exam), will run you $999.99, which is slightly more than the most expensive iPad with a leather SmartCover and AppleCare.
But there’s no shortage of great, useful, fun apps in the free to $4.99 range. Here are TabletPCReview‘s recommendations for ten apps that you can download any time to start enhancing your iPad’s usefulness for a mix of business and personal activities.
You don’t need to stop with ten, of course. Your iPad has room for hundreds, even thousands of apps (depending on their size or whether you have the 16GB, 32GB or 64GB version). But you have to start somewhere.
Another note: Your iTunes account lets you automatically share (through syncing) any free and paid apps you’ve already downloaded for an iPhone, iPod Touch, or previous iPad — up to a certain limit of devices. So, for example, if you’ve already bought a handful of apps for your iPhone, it won’t cost you any more to also use them on your iPad (although, many apps that are great for an iPhone may not make as much sense on an iPad, and vice versa)!
Find My iPad (Free)
Since the iPad is larger than a phone, you’re less likely to misplace it somewhere in the house or at Starbucks. But it’s also very unlikely you’ll keep it in your pocket, so your new iPad could all too easily “go astray.”
Apple’s free ‘Find My iPad’ won’t keep your iPad from falling out of your pack or getting stolen. But it can help you locate your iPad, and ameliorate the problems of it falling into inappropriate hands.
Pandora Radio (Free, with sporadic ads; ad-free Pandora One is $36/year)
The iPad, like the iPhone, is a multi-talented entertainment powerhouse, waiting and eager to amuse you. So here’s an entertainment app for content that you don’t own: Pandora Radio, which selects from its vast library of music and comedy based on artist(s), song(s) or other criteria you feed it.
Many Pandora fans tout the music selection as the reason they prefer it to Spotify, an on-demand music streaming service. Pandora does an astonishingly good job of picking familiar tunes along with new ones that are more often than not right on the money; whereas it is difficult to find new music on Spotify.
eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook may be smaller and less expensive, but if you’ve got an iPad, you might as well try using it as an eBook reading device. The iPad has a big, crisp display that can be read in the dark (eInk-based eReaders require an external light source, just like a real book).
Apple’s free iBooks app lets you get books from the iBookstore. You can read free samples, buy books, and even download some books for free. iBooks lets you search and bookmark what you’re reading, among other features.
For those that prefer magazines to books, iOS 5 also brings Newsstand, a one-stop spot for all iPad digital magazine subscriptions.
eBooks are great, but many aren’t free. What do you when your wallet gets empty while filling up your digital bookcase?
For books, there is an easy and legal solution: the public library (including inter-library network they’re a member of). This also addresses a related issue: many only want to consume a book once. And while purchased eBooks don’t take up space (unlike paperback books, CDs, record albums, DVDs and other physical-media-based content), there is no easy way to transfer ownership by reselling them.
OverDrive is a growing solution, allowing readers to “borrow” eBooks and audiobooks from participating public, college and school libraries. The selection is still limited, but the price is right.
Unlike the iPhone, the iPad isn’t a telephone. However, you can use the iPad as a phone, when you outfit it with one of many available Voice-over-Internet (VoIP) services, e.g., Skype, Google Voice, OneSuite, and Line2.
Skype lets you talk free to other Skype users, which may drive your decision among these VoIP services. And, of course, you can always get multiple VoIP apps… just think carefully about how many (more) contact numbers you’re making people keep track of.
You’ll need a Wi-Fi or 3G data connection, of course (so also think carefully before using Skype, etc. over 3G when you are roaming internationally or butting up against your data cap). Additionally, don’t forget to pack a wired or wireless headset (make sure it has a microphone!), or you’ll feel you’re using a large expensive waffle as a phone. iPad 2 owners can video chat owing to the tablet’s front-facing camera, while original iPad owners are limited to voice calls.
Why choose Skype over Apple’s FaceTime? Skype is cross platform, meaning users can chat with friends on Windows laptops, Android phones and other devices so long as it is running the app. To date, FaceTime is limited to only supported Apple products.
Good.iWare’s GoodReader ($4.95)
PDF, Adobe’s Portable Document Format, is the lingua franca of eBooks, brochures, contracts, user guides, forms and many other documents where the owners want what you see to look exactly like what they created.
iPad users have many free PDF reader choices, including Adobe’s free Content View for iPad, or Apple’s iBooks app. According to Good.iware’s iTunes page, GoodReader is “the #1 selling non-Apple app for iPad in USA in 2010.” The app lets you read and edit PDF, Office and Apple IWork docs, along with HTML and Safari webarchives, hi-res images, and even video and audio.
Other GoodReader features include file management and transfer to/from PCs (including your own) via USB or WiFi; 50x zoom; text search; typewriter text boxes; sticky notes; and freehand drawing. You can also synch folders and individual files with Dropbox, iDisk, SugarSync, and any WebDAV, FTP, or SFTP server. It’s worth spending the five bucks. (GoodReader for iPhone is a different application.)
Even if you don’t want to spend the money for new eBooks, there’s another good reading use of your new iPad: the news. Many news outlets offer their own iOS apps (The New York Times and NPR, to name a few). Also, news outlets have websites.
If you like “print” news from a bunch of newspapers, magazines, blogs and other sources, you may want to use an “aggregator” such as Pulse, which basically organizes and grabs stories from the sources you designate. (Tech note: these apps are “RSS readers,” meaning they are getting data from sites that have enabled the RSS — “Really Simple Syndication” — protocol.)
FlipBoard is another popular aggregator. It also lets you view your social media accounts, including “the news, photos, videos, and updates your friends are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, and Instagram.” And if you’re willing to spend five dollars, you might also consider the $4.99 NewsRack app, which many like.
DataViz Documents to Go Premium ($14.99)
Reading, editing and possibly creating with Microsoft Office documents — DOC, DOCX and RTF word processing, Excel spreadsheet, and PowerPoint files — is something that you may have to do a little or a lot. Connectivity permitting, you might be able to do this via an online cloud service like Google Docs or HyperOffice, or via remote access to your own computer where you’ve got Office. But if you can’t get service — for example, there’s no Wi-Fi, and you don’t have a 3G iPad — there’s no substitute for having a native app so you can work where you are.
There’s no shortage of “office suite” apps for the iPad. (Caveat: Don’t expect them to support ALL the functions in the Microsoft Office suite — for example, document revisions tracking.) You need to be prepared to spend some money, so allow between 10 and 30 dollars. It’s a modest price to pay to be able to leave your notebook PC behind and just rely on your iPad.
For example, Apple offers three iWork for iPad apps: Pages, Numbers, Keynote ($9.99 each). On the iPhone, these apps are hard to use, but that’s the fault of the smaller screen and even smaller virtual keyboard. Another promising-looking option for the iPad is DataViz’ Documents To Go Office Suite ($9.99). DataViz also sells the even fuller-featured Documents To Go Premium ($14.99).
DataViz is a well-known desktop/mobile software developer. In addition to supporting Microsoft Word/Excel/PowerPoint formats, Documents To Go Premium will handle PDF, Apple iWork, and other formats. It includes Windows and Mac applications for two-way file synching. There’s also a version that supports Google Docs, Dropbox, SugarSync and other cloud services.
Hulu Plus ($7.99/month)
You can buy individual shows and movies through iTunes, but if you’ve got a real video jones, you may want access to a larger library and volume pricing. The two obvious candidate apps are Netflix and Hulu Plus. Each requires a monthly subscription, but if you’ve already got a subscription, your iPad can also be one of your consumption methods.
When you consider these two services, it’s sort of a toss-up between whether you’re more interested in watching TV or movies on your iPad. Each service offers both, but Hulu Plus reputedly excels on the TV side, and TV viewing might make more sense on a smaller screen.
(Your Fave App Here)
After browsing around and downloading some of the apps TPCR recommends, you’ve probably noticed some others in the App Store that look intriguing. So we are leaving Slot Number Ten empty for you to fill in. Maybe you just gotta have Angry Birds. Or you’re old-school and want NetHack. Perhaps your next addition is Google Search.
The reality is, you’re not going to stop at ten apps, anyway. It’s amazingly easy to get dozens of free (or at least cheap) apps, so really your next and more difficult challenge will be to try them all out, discard the non-keepers, and organize the keepers.