We spent hundreds of dollars and countless man-hours reviewing the first batch of iPad apps just to save you the trouble.
Here is our complete compendium of reviews, sorted by category, ranked by preference.
In other words, follow each of these links for a simple list of applications broken down by iTunes umbrella topics.
The applications reviewed near the top of each list are our favourites; the applications reviewed near the bottom of each list are often so horrid they aren’t worth mentioning…beyond saving you the trouble.
So without further ado…
- 20 productivity apps >
- 8 lifestyle apps >
- 6 social networking apps >
- 7 news apps >
- 7 music apps >
- 6 book apps >
- 9 entertainment apps >
- 36 game apps >
If you want to stream video from your PC or Mac to your iPad, Air Video is the app you want.
Slightly better than StreamToMe in basically every way (scroll down one review for context), the interface is intuitive, you get more control over bitrates on the fly and you can preconvert any clips you want (rather than realtime convert) with the touch of a button. There's only one thing that StreamToMe does that AirVideo can't and that's stream music. However, Air Video will be getting MP3 support in the near future. If you can wait, go with Air Video. It's $3 and very, very polished.
Dragon is probably the biggest name in voice recognition, and it's for good reason.
Their NautrallySpeaking engine actually lets you, you know, speak naturally, and records your voice with surprising fidelity. I rattled off 'Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore,' which it parsed perfectly (maybe because that's a common test sentence?) but it kept up pretty well, though not perfectly, when I started rattling off paragraphs of my own design. Best of all, it's free, like the iPhone version, so you can try it out and see if you like talking to type without investing a dime. Worth checking out if you're someone who thinks important thoughts that deserve preserving.
A second monitor for your Mac, when you're on your Grownup Computer: That's a perfect use for the 1024x768 iPad, and exactly what $5 app iDisplay lets you do.
But it needs some work. Mostly, it's slow. Sometimes it's bearably slow; with a solid connection, it's choppy but mousable. Other times-and on our test network, most of the time-it's VERY slow, which relegates the second screen to passive tasks, like displaying Twitter feeds, or IM windows, or something along those lines. (Longer review here.)
Voice memos. On your iPad. Pretty much a no brainer and I'm sure you've probably downloaded this already.
If you've used any voice recorder ever you know the drill: Record, Stop, Playback, Delete -- oh, look, a new VU meter! That's the jist. The trouble is this first version has a HUGE flaw. You can only toggle the playhead in landscape mode and when you try to--let's say fast forward to the 35 minute mark in a 40 minute lecture, the playhead glitches out and completely fails. Meaning you'd have to physically sit there and listen until the part you wanted cued up. This is sure to be fixed, but renders this app essentially useless in the mean time for practical purposes. Sound wise it does the job. Audio is crisp and captures voices relatively well. Plug in your iPhone headphones and use the built in mic for more candid functionality. Background noise can be an issue in a crowded setting, so keep that mind if you have to interview the elderly at a dirt bike rally.
Besides signing a few documents here and there, I don't think I've ever really needed to annotate a PDF.
But I'm sure that PDFs do get annotated, be it by business people who use their mouse to highlight sections or type comments in margins or by college students who print out lecture notes and just mark them up with pen or pencil. If you're one of those people, iAnnotate PDF seems like it'd be a serviceable solution, offering a host mark-up tools--highlighters, bookmarks, underlines, and strikethroughs, just to name a few--that let you get down and dirty with your documents. But it's far from perfect. Getting PDFs into the app requires the use of a separate program which you have to download on your PC or Mac and set to recognise shared folders. The marked-up PDFs are only accessible back in these folders; the app doesn't offer a way of simply firing them off via e-mail. All of this is pretty frustrating, especially having just used Good Reader's simple as pie web interface to dump files from computer to the iPad. It doesn't help matters that iAnnotatePDF's special introductory price is $7, which seems like a lot considering the app's limitations.
The eBay app does about what you'd expect, allowing you to search through and bid on auctions. The search results are laid out with large images, making it easy to scroll through auctions visually. Unfortunately, many forms of instant payment aren't supported by the app yet, so a good number of auctions tell you to go to ebay.com if you want to bid, which kind of defeats the purpose of the app. But for casual browsing and those auctions that you can bid on in-app, it's pretty slick.
Everyone's favourite bargain basement trip planner has staked a claim on the iPad.
Kayak lets you select from a myriad of flights, hotels, and car rentals so you can more easily (and cheaply) plan a 'business trip' at the last minute. The interface works very well in that regard--date selection being the highlight here--and offers you a practical list to select from at the end of your query. For legal reasons, however, you're not allowed to complete your purchase within the Kayak app itself. Once you choose your desired results the app springboards you into Safari where you complete the purchase at whatever website offered you the best deal.
We can't fault Kayak for this manoeuvre as they're just a flight aggregator and they don't actually sell tickets, but it's rather awkward considering you're gonna be typing all your credit card info into the iPad's onscreen keyboard. Nonetheless, it's a free app, so go nuts.
For those of you who haven't heard of Instapaper, it's a great way to save webpages for reading on the go when you might not have internet access.
On the 3G-less iPad, Instapaper makes as much sense as ever. You simply bookmark the pages you'd like to read later in your computer's browser, then the $5 app (iPhone version included) downloads these pages for later viewing. Other than large images getting shrunk to more manageable sizes (for resource reasons, we're sure), the entire experience translated wonderfully to the iPad no matter which site we threw at it, allowing us to browse articles easily, swap their fonts and archive the texts for the future. You're also just a button press away from the original, fully-formatted article, should you want to check it out in a browser.
OK, there's a lot going on here.
SoundHound is the new iteration of Midomi for the iPad and the good news -- as I discovered -- is that if you've already purchased Midomi on the iPhone then this is a free upgrade across all platforms. Score! The app acts as a renaissance man of sorts in regards to your iTunes library and music in general. The renowned Midomi music recognition software trumps Shazam's effortlessly since it needs less information to ID a song. Hell, you can even hum it if you're not too terrible and this little bugger will more than likely narrow your search down. It integrates effortlessly with your iPod library and picks up what track you're already playing if you choose to launch it. Lyric support is astounding and was even able to identify and locate some of my more obscure tracks.
The overall look and feel have improved since the iPhone version as there's more room to play with, making it appear less crammed than prior editions. If you're familiar with Midomi we recommend picking this up.
Apple's free eBook reading experience is polished and mostly as intuitive as you'd think Apple would make it.
I didn't find myself missing the Kindle's page turning buttons, given that small swipes worked so well. It's a tactile experience (for a glass screen) that only needs a decent bookmark to finish off the nostalgic paper feel. But the iTunes book store? Somehow Apple has made shopping less fun than reading a book. Full Apple iBooks review here.
Kindle for iPad is a great move by Amazon -- getting in early where it can reach even more ebook customers than it does on its own Kindle reader.
It's an elegant reader, a grown-up version of the thing we've all downloaded for iPhone (but use rarely if ever). The iPad makes reading books a lot easier than on an iPhone, and as such, the Kindle app is far easier to use (you even get a cheesy, optional page turn effect like the iPad's own iBooks). However… there's no keyword search or dictionary, and when you want to buy ebooks, you have to go outside the app, and into a browser. Not super sexy, Amazon, especially when Apple's own iBooks has all of these frills. For now, Amazon has many more books than Apple, and has a serviceable app, so it's definitely the ebook provider of choice for people who pay for content. However, Amazon will need to improve this if it wants to keep winning battles -- and the war itself.
MP4, AVI, MOV, FLV, MPG, MKV, MP3, AAC, WMA, and WMV: do these formats sound familiar?
StreamToMe can beam them all from your Mac to the iPad without much difficultly at all. You load the StreamToMe software onto your Mac (a background app that's probably familiar to those of you who've used software like Connect360) and download the $3 StreamToMe app in the App Store. Select the folders you'd like shared on your Mac, load the app on the iPad and BAM! All your sweet media is, literally, at your fingertips. Full review here
Need for Speed Shift is a $15 game -- in App Store dollars, that's the equivalent of thousands. But it's worth the price. What you're getting is a beautiful, real racing game that feels like it belongs on a console while scaling its difficulty from casual to hardcore gamers alike. You steer with the iPad, which is extremely effective. And from there, decide whether you'd like help with the braking and shifting, or whether you'd like to go full manual. (Both schemes actually work.) 28 real, beautifully modelled cars. From our count, at least 12 tracks with detailed environments. Race online or locally. For the App Store, it looks like an expensive game -- notice it's over twice the price of RealRacingHD, which we also praised highly. If money is no object, Need for Speed Shift is the better, deeper game that would look like a bargain on the DS or PSP. And it's among the best-looking games on the iPad.
The premise of Zen Bound 2 is the same as that of the popular iPhone version: wrapping up floating, rotating figurines with a long length of rope.
But the iPad's bigger screen lets the game realise its title's promise, allowing for more delicate, nuanced wraps and resulting in a much more meditative experience. Full review here
Command & Conquer: Red Alert is one of the all time greats of the RTS genre. The graphics are sharp, colourful, and far more impressive than the C&C: RA you remember from PC, but many of the models feel a bit large, which can make the screen seem cramped. Luckily, moving around your map is perfectly intuitive, with 1:1 dragging, or faster movement by way of a draggable map reticule. You select a unit by tapping, and command it to move or attack with another. Want to change the camera's elevation? Pinch, zoom. For a first stab at a genre that could define iPad gaming, it's pretty great. (Review here)
The super-popular official baseball app has been upsized for the iPad, and it delivers everything you're used to from the iPhone version.
You get live game stat streaming with a strike zone graphic that's automatically updates. You can also stream live TV broadcasts of games, provided you aren't in a blackout zone. And even if you aren't live streaming, you can watch highlight clips from the games you're following soon after big plays happen. For hardcore baseball fans, this one is gonna be tough to pass up, even for $15.
There is no other game like Warpgate HD on the iPad.
It's a space sim in which you cruise various solar systems to mine, trade, and of course, fight. The graphics ping pong between drab and dazzling, though the overall aesthetic looks fantastic on the screen. Controls are extremely simple--you merely tap or flick where you'd like to go, with a few simple buttons taking care of advanced functions like landing on plants.
Battles engage auto-steering, allowing you to focus on weapons, which actually takes some of the fun out of it all. And speaking of fun, is Warpgate fun? We're not sure that it is, but we're not sure that it isn't. There are clearly several, several hours of gameplay to experience in what, at first glance, is an addictive game if nothing else. Our main caveat isn't the quality of the game but the fear of microtransactions. Warpgate is probably worth its $8 price, but they'll be happy to sell you a fancy new ship for a few extra bucks...
Harbor Master HD is the free equivalent of Flight Control HD for the iPad.
You have boats to route into and out of harbors while keeping their paths clear of each other so you don't inadvertently cause a cargo spill and get a game over (and an EPA lawsuit). It's simple to learn and slow paced enough at first to give even the most uncoordinated individuals a chance to grasp the flow. However, things get hectic surprisingly fast as you'll find yourself crafting haphazard lanes to turn unavoidable crashes into near misses--and all of this is set to an incredibly catchy tune that we feel alone warrants your time. Check it out, it's free.
You may or may not know We Rule as a Facebook game with any point beyond bugging your friends to play We Rule.
Basically, it's a free, slow-build RTS without the strategy or war. You just grow crops and build businesses to expand your kingdom...to grow more crops and build more businesses. However! We Rule iPad is a pretty decent, very good looking port of the social networking game for the tablet platform. Build with the touch of a finger, check out friends' kingdoms on a shared map, and you can set push notifications to alert you when crops are done growing or taxes can be collected...a system that works about 30% of the time, but definitely deals with the iPad's lack of multitasking in a sensible manner. Maybe you shouldn't play We Rule, but if you do, it's a pretty great experience on the iPad.
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