If you got a shiny new iPad during the holiday season, you’ve probably been downloading apps like crazy. You’d be in good company since there was an 87% increase in app downloads this holiday season. Like our iPhone apps list, these are free apps that we think aren’t just “essential”, but also showcase some of things your iPad is just meant for.
iBooks/Kindle: Essentially ebook apps. Believe it or not Apple doesn’t pre-install iBooks on iDevices, so you have to do it yourself (I’m guessing to steer clear of anti-trust rules). If you already have books on a Kindle, then install the Kindle app instead…or install both! I have several eBook reading apps on my devices so I can pick up free books and offers on lots of different stores. Myself, I like the Kobo app and will continue to hold that it’s the best ebook app out there. Though I do think iBooks has come a long way since it started.
Find My iPhone: Yes, Find My iPhone is a universal app and finds not just iPhones, but iPod touches, iPads, and even Macs. The key thing here is that while turning Find My Device is essential to being able to locate your device, it’s the app (or iCloud.com) that actually does the finding. You should have the setting turned on and have the app installed on all your devices too.
IMDb: Yes, IMDb is a universal app, so I could have put it on the iPhone list, but frankly I rarely use IMDd on my phone, but I use it on my iPad almost daily. Why? Because when I’m watching a movie or TV show, IMDb is what tells me what other things someone has been in, whether we missed an episode of a show, and all the other little details that make using a second (or third) screen while watching something fun.
Netflix/Hulu: Okay this is a case of free app for a paid service, but both services have free trials available. Regardless, watching movies and shows on your iPad is pretty awesome. Granted, with both of these services you have to be online to enjoy them, but hey when you are online it’s a great thing. When I had a Netflix account I found the app to be much easier to use for searching than tapping things out on my Wii (I didn’t have an Apple TV yet), so if you’re still trying to screen tap with a remote, using the Netflix app will at least let you know if what you want to watch is even available.
Zite: I know everyone is ga-ga over Flipboard, but I think Zite gives you a better balance of new news sources you discover and news from your social networks. I put Zite on the iPhone list because it’s a great app for catching up on news, but on the iPad I find Zite to be a great app for digesting and consuming news. Bigger screen, easier to read longer articles. Faster skimming through headlines and easier marking yeah or nay on posts.
Pandora–Rdio–Songza–Spotify: The choice of Internet radio you listen to has a lot to both with what you like to listen to and where you are. Pandora isn’t available in many locations, but Rdio, Songza, and Spotify are great alternatives. My favorite is Songza, for no other reason that it’s free (ad supported) and offers a wide range of play lists. Pretty much something to fit any listening mood I’m in at the moment. You might think that putting apps for listening to music on your iPad to be counter intuitive, but think of it like this. You’re reading a book, catching up on news with Zite, or writing a post. What are you listening too? Now if you just have your iPad and you want some variety beyond your music on hand, what do you do? Exactly.
Dropbox : Dropbox is the glue that keeps my iPads, iPhone, and Mac all connected—at least in terms of files that is. Photos from my iPhone appear on my iPad via Dropbox (yes and PhotoStream too) for editing and uploading, posts I start on my iPad can be finished on my Mac, passwords saved in 1Password are kept in sync on all my devices through a secure Dropbox share. Pretty much if I want to have a file anywhere and everywhere, Dropbox is how it gets done.
Facebook and Twitter: Part of our first things to do with your iPhone is set up Facebook and Twitter on it, this also holds true for your iPad as well. Both social networks are deeply ingrained into iOS 6, so it pays to have both default apps installed and at the ready. Many iOS apps that use Facebook or Twitter as login options can tap into the Facebook or Twitter apps if they are installed to handle permissions and logins. So it pays to have not only Facebook and Twitter set up on your device, but the apps installed as well.
Evernote: On the iPhone Evernote is a great way to capture whiteboards, documents, and refer to things you wrote on other devices. On the iPad however, Evernote is a powerful research and writing tool. I jotted down drafts of this post and the iPhone post while at my Mac (mostly links to the apps), then used those notes to write the posts. In fact, making best use of all the devices I have at the ready, I would refer to my notes on my iPad mini while writing the post on my iPad (4th generation).
Your Bank’s App: On your iPhone your bank’s app is great for checking something quickly while out, on your iPad you can actually do things. It’s one of those benefits of the larger screen, of course, it’s just easier to manage things on your iPad then on the iPhone.
Snapseed: Snapseed was a great deal at $5 before Google bought it, but now it’s free and it’s an amazing deal. Snapseed, hands down, is the best photo editor you can get for free on your iPhone or iPad. While I do love iPhoto on my iPad and do a lot of editing with it, over the holidays I played around with Snapseed some more to get a better feel for it. While I prefer iPhoto’s brush to tune parts of an image over Snapseed’s approach, I really like the simplicity Snapseed offers for making lots of edits to a photo on one screen.
Letterpress: The only game on this list, but if you’re going to start off with a game, pick something that lots of people are playing! It’s a fun word game that, unlike Scrabble or Words With Friends, has more to do with seeing patterns of letters than being able to make new words from words already on the board. It’s also a game that I found can be fun with players of varying ages and abilities.
YouTube: Come on, you have to be able to watch videos on your iPad! Yes, there are lots of other apps you’ll want to get later, but start with YouTube and branch out from there.
That’s it for my list. A nice baker’s dozen (okay really more than that) of free apps for your iPad. If you don’t have these get them! If you do have these already, what would you add?