I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for a long time. Actually, I’ve been meaning to do one for the iPhone apps I use for as long as apps have been available. My problem is that I’m so compulsively addicted to looking for, trying, and adding new apps to my stable that the landscape is ever changing, and I can never pin down what apps, precisely, I’m going to write about. To give you an idea, iTunes tells me that right now I have 643 apps (though only about 120 of them are installed on my iPhone, and 108 on my iPad). So, you can see that I’m not normal.
This post, then, is a snapshot of the apps I’m using as of today, April 30, 2010, on my iPad. It’s been out for just under one month, and the depth and breadth of iPad apps available has really grown in that month. I think I heard that there were about 1,500 iPad specific apps at launch (I assume this includes “Universal Binary” apps, which contain both iPad and iPhone versions in one installer), not to mention the almost 200,000 iPhone apps which can run on an iPad (I’m using way fewer of these than I thought I would – more on that later.). Looking at the App Store last night, I can see that there are now 5,290 iPad apps. That’s a lot.
These are the ones I’m using, and the informal “categories” I’ve arranged them in. Unless otherwise noted, I arrange the apps in alphabetical order within their category, because I’m OCD like that (and honestly, I have to have *some* kind of order to keep track of all these apps). Also, with the exception of the iPhone apps page, all of these apps are iPad specific or Universal – the all take advantage of the whole iPad screen layout.
This post got long in the writing, so feel free to add it to Instapaper or whatever you use to read stuff later.
The iPad now allows up to six apps to live in the dock, at the bottom of every screen of apps. This top six list contains the apps I use the most, the ones that I never want to be more than a touch away. Right now, my iPad dock contains:
- Mail – Set up to get my Gmail via Exchange push. Love the landscape view.
- Safari – Best feature of the iPad. A real, no-compromises browser. Who cares about Flash support? Not me.
- Instapaper Pro ($4.99) – One of my favorite apps. My reading workflow goes like this: skim feeds and Techmeme for stuff that looks interesting, then add it to Instapaper to read later. The iPad version is exquisite. Thanks for this one, Marco!
- Amazon Kindle (Free) – I’ve read ebooks on mobile devices almost exclusively for years now. While I haven’t touched my actual Kindle in over 6 months, I read a couple hours every day on my iPhone, and now, my iPad. Top notch app, so glad politics didn’t keep this one from us.
- App Store – Gotta see when updates are available, or check out the new stuff that’s appearing. Yes, I’m an addict.
- Settings – Now that the dock looks more like it does on Mac OS X, it just made sense to put this here.
Home Page Apps
These are the apps that have “earned” a place on the first page – the home page – of my iPad. I consider these to be the most useful, most essential, and most often accessed apps (other than the ones I keep in the dock). The cream of the crop, if you will. I also tend to keep the built-in Apple apps on the home page – regardless of how much I actually use them – because honestly, I can’t think of a better place to put them. I’m looking forward to the ability to group apps into folders/stacks in OS 4.0. Right now, this is what’s on my home page:
- Calendar – Synced to several of my Google Calendars via push.
- Contacts – Synced to Google Contacts via push.
- Maps – Even though I don’t have the 3G model with GPS, it always knows almost exactly where I am. Spooky.
- Photos – Love showing off photos to people – so intuitive and easy for people to start using.
- Videos – Loaded with TED Talks, some videos I’ve produced for work, and a few movies (the ones that were a multi-disc pack that came with a “digital copy”: Star Trek, Coraline, Bolt, and Up, for the moment).
- Notes – Never use it. Can’t stand Marker Felt.
- iPod – Hardly ever use it, but I have some MC Frontalot and Optimus Rhyme loaded up, plus some podcasts.
- iTunes – Useful for finding specific podcast episodes I want to grab (but useless for subscribing to whole podcasts)
- iBooks (Free) – Gorgeous app, love the page turning animations. Love that I can add ePub books to it via iTunes (got it loaded with a bunch of Cory Doctorow (irony!) and Lawrence Lessig books at the moment). I’m reading Winnie the Pooh to my kids at bedtime, and they love it.
- YouTube – Gorgeous and fast. My favorite way to watch YouTube videos.
- Keynote ($9.99) – I hate making presentations, but this app is such high quality, I had to have it, should the need ever arise. Works with the VGA dongle, and the touch-and-hold laser pointer is neat.
- Numbers ($9.99) – Again, had to get this one. Even if I don’t make that many spreadsheets.
- Pages ($9.99) – Even though it has abysmal, horrible document sync capabilities (along with Keynote and Numbers – please fix this, Apple!), I find myself wanting to use Pages to write. It’s pretty, and feels high quality. If I ever find myself just wanting to write for the pleasure of it, I do it in Pages.
- Netflix (Free) – We don’t have cable, and only get two OTA digital TV channels at home, so Netflix Instant Streaming makes up a huge part of what we watch. Being able to manage my queue and watch on the iPad, for free? No brainer.
- Simplenote (Freemium) – I became a Simplenote convert thanks to John Gruber, and of all the note/writing apps I’ve used, nothing beats Simplenote for sheer speed and ease of capturing and finding thoughts. I love that it syncs to the cloud, my iPhone, my Mac (using JustNotes), and now, my iPad. I pay for a Premium yearly subscription even though I never use the Premium features, because this app is just that good. I was very happy when the iPad version arrived in an update a couple years ago.
- Twitterrific (Freemium) – Best Twitter app on the iPad right now, even though it lacks some basic stuff like image uploading. List and saved search support is wonderful. Craig Hockenberry and Icon Factory make great software. I was happy to pay to upgrade to the Premium version to support them. I have to admit, though, the instant Tweetie (er, Twitter) for iPad comes out, I’m switching.
- We Rule (Free) – Embarrassing guilty pleasure. Like Farmville. Plant and harvest crops. Build stuff. Trade with friends. I blame Raven Zachary and my other friends at Small Society for getting and keeping me hooked on this one. I’m jabancroft if you want to come patronize my businesses.
- GodFinger (Free) – Another guilty pleasure, and I also blame this one on Raven and the Small Society crew. But the little guys are just so darn cute! And the noises they make! Harvest that gold for me, followers, and I promise I’ll build you lots of nice tents. And I won’t zap you with lightning, or fire, or floods! I’m jabancroft here too, if you want to come enchant any of my followers.
- Weather HD ($0.99) – I’m a weather nerd, and tried all of the weather apps on the iPad. But this is the one, like Outside for iPhone, that I keep on the home screen. The nice looking animations/videos that play for the current (and forecast) weather conditions are great. Wish there were more than two per condition, but maybe they’ll come in an update.
- Words with Friends HD ($1.99) – Like Scrabble? Every play Scrabulous on Facebook? This is online, turn-based, “words” (I guess they can’t legally call it Scrabble), and it’s super fun. The games move at a pretty slow pace – I have some that have been going for weeks. It’s cross compatible with the iPhone version (only main difference is you can see the whole board at once, legibly, on the iPad). I’m jabancroft if you want to play.
(From here on out, I’m not going to link to the apps – it just takes too long to grab the URLs from iTunes for a hundred apps. I’ve tried to list the app names exactly as they appear in the App Store, so a search should take you where you want to go. Let me know if you have trouble finding any of the apps.)
Utilities, Books, and Useful Stuff
I decided to separate the “fun” games and toy apps from the “more serious” apps, like utilities and other useful stuff. This is the Useful Stuff category. It’s the most populated, both on my iPad and my iPhone – I’m a sucker for apps that let me do or look up useful stuff, or otherwise make me look smarter than I am.
- 1Password Pro ($7.99) – Happy to pay for this one, 1Password is the most useful app I own. Keeps all my passwords on my Macs (synced via Dropbox), iPhone, and now iPad. And there’s even a beta version for Windows now. Time saver and live saver, and more importantly, it got me to use longer, more complicated, unique passwords, which improves my security and peace of mind.
- Adobe Ideas (Free) – OK sketching, surprisingly nice color palette functions.
- AirVideo ($2.99) – Install the little server app on your home computer (Mac or PC, though I have a friend who wrote a Linux version for himself), then stream your whole video collection without having to store it on your device. Brilliant.
- Alice in Wonderland ($8.99) – Beautiful but a little fiddly, I use it (along with The Elements) to show off what book experience possibilities the iPad opens up.
- Amazon.com Mobile (Free) – Does what it says on the tin. The Amazon.com website is perfectly usable on the iPad, but the app works well, too.
- Articles for iPad ($0.99) – Elegant Wikipedia viewer. Even though the web version of Wikipedia works just fine, I like this app on the iPhone, and the iPad version is only $0.99 until the developer is “happy with it”.
- Bento for iPad ($4.99) – Very pretty customizable database from FileMaker. Not sure what I’ll actually use this for yet, but man, it’s pretty.
- Bloomberg (Free) – Only ever use it to show off to people who care about stock prices, etc.
- CAMERA-A ($0.99) – Nifty little two part app (CAMERA-B is an iPhone app) that lets you remotely view the iPhone’s camera output via Bluetooth to take pictures on the cameraless iPad. I’m thinking of all kinds of remote surveillance possibilities, and plan to have some fun with the RC helicopter I just ordered.
- Craigsphone for iPad (Free) – Nice for looking stuff up on Craiglist. Has Google Map integration for housing listings. Lets you post new items, too, though I haven’t tried that yet.
- Delivery Status Touch ($2.99) – Great app for tracking packages. Syncs with junecloud.com. Map integration with the iPad version is neat – see where your package is right now!
- Desktop Connect ($11.99) – Combination VNC (for Mac and Linux) and Remote Desktop Protocol/RDP (for Windows) client, lets you log into and remotely control your computers.
- Dragon Dictation (Free) – Works startlingly well, just like the iPhone version. I don’t often use it, but it’s such cool technology I keep it around, and it’s fun to show off.
- eBay for iPad (Free) – Been using this to browse eBay for WWII vintage map cases (the perfect shoulder bag for an iPad – haven’t found the one I want yet). The grid of photos makes visual browsing better than the website.
- The Elements: A Visual Exploration ($14.99) – Theodore Gray (Wolfram Mathematica, Popular Science) has a collection of all of the elements in the Periodic Table. He wrote a book about it, and this is the interactive iPad version. Each element has a couple of pages with beautiful videos/rotatable 3D models of examples of each element, along with all the information you could wish for on each element. Wish I had this instead of a dead tree chemistry reference book when I was in school. I use this app to show off the future of books and reference information.
- Epicurious (Free) – Beautiful recipes.
- Evernote for iPad (Free) – iPad version of the ubiquitous Evernote.
- The Guardian Eyewitness (Free) – Nice photography from The Guardian, with photo tips and tricks. Makes me wish even more for an iPad version of the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” site.
- FlightTrack Pro ($9.99) – Syncs with TripIt, shows flight status. Map integration is bigger and nicer on the iPad.
- GoodReader for iPad ($0.99) – Great way to read PDFs and .DOC files. Can download from the web, sync from iTunes, access Google Docs or Dropbox, and even registers itself as a file-type handler for doc types that it supports (for example, if you try to download an ePub book file from feedbooks.com, Safari will ask if you want to open it in GoodReader). Can’t wait for more apps to follow this lead on how to handle different document types.
- Google Mobile App (Free) – Voice search and all the other stuff the Google app does on the iPhone. Like Dragon Dictation, I don’t use it much, but it’s cool technology.
- Gowalla for iPad (Free) – Just launched, adds a very nice map view to see your friends, or to see places around you.
- Harmonious ($0.99) – Yet Another Sketching App (I’m a sucker for those), this one uses procedural techniques to elaborate and embellish what you draw. Hard to explain, but it looks very cool, and it’s fun to use.
- iMDb for iPad (Free) – Besides looking up info on movies and actors to settle arguments, my secret favorite feature is “TV Tonight” to see if any of the show’s I like are new, and what time they’re on.
- KAYAK Flights (Free) – Find cheap flights. Works great.
- Layers Pro ($5.99) – Another drawing app. I don’t know exactly why I’m drawn to these, since I can’t draw worth a dang. But I seem to collect drawing apps. This is a good one. No need to get this and, say, SketchBook Pro or Brushes. Just pick one.
- LDS Music (Free) – I go to church. This is the hymn book, so no one can forget what a geek I am.
- LDS Scriptures ($12.99) – All the scriptures, books, and lesson manuals that an LDS geek needs.
- Mobile Mouse ($3.99) – Remote trackpad and keyboard for controlling a computer on your network. Of all the apps of this type, I like this one for it’s fantastic emulation of the Mac OS X Dock, and nice extra onscreen functions depending on what app you’re in (browser, iTunes, etc.).
- NPR for iPad (Free) – Access to NPRs written, audio, and video stories, including most of their podcasts.
- Pandora for iPad (Free) – You already love streaming music from Pandora. This is a nice way to do it on the iPad.
- Penultimate ($2.99) – Simulates writing using a gel pen (I’m partial to the Uniball 207, but I know a lot of people swear by the Pilot G2) in a Moleskine or Field Notes-like paper notebook. Very high quality, great for drawing diagrams, which text-based note apps like Simplenote can’t.
- PriceGrabber for iPad (Free) – Look for cheap stuff, and buy it.
- Shazam for iPad (Free) – Listen to and identify that song that’s playing right now.
- SketchBook Pro for iPad ($7.99) – Another drawing app. I like the
- SoundHound ($4.99) – See Shazam.
- Square (Free) – I can now accept credit card payments from people (though I have to type the number in, until the fancy headphone jack Square readers ship Any Day Now).
- Star Walk for iPad ($4.99) – A great demo. Hold the iPad up to any part of the sky, day or night, and see what stars/planets/constellations you’re looking at. Lots of other cool astronomy features, too.
- Trapster (Free) – See user reported speed traps around you. Cool idea, nice demo, hardly ever use it.
- TweetDeck for iPad (Free) – I personally don’t like TweetDeck, but I know a lot of people do, so I keep this around to show them what it’s like on the iPad (pretty much what it’s like on the desktop).
- UrbanSpoon for iPad (Free) – Surprise yourself with local restaurant recommendations.
- WordPress (Free) – This is a great way to write and edit posts on a WordPress blog, but where it really shines is comment moderation. The landscape split pane view is perfect for marking a bunch of comments as spam (or approving them, depending on how generous you’re feeling).
- WolframAlpha ($1.99) – I actually bought this app when it was on “sale” for $20 (the original price was $50), and now that the developers have come to their senses and dropped the price to $1.99, it’s a no brainer. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this app can do – advanced calculus, statistics, etc. But to be honest, the thing I use it for most is to cheat at Words with Friends with the “scrabble” command. 😉
- National Geographic World Atlas HD ($1.99) – A nice set of old-style maps, tons of country data, and switches over to Bing maps when you zoom far enough. Another example of what a nice geography reference from the future could look like.
- The Weather Channel Max for iPad (Free) – There are lots of weather apps for the iPhone and iPad, and honestly, none of them can beat the level of detail and features I get from Weather Underground in Safari, but the Weather Channel app is nice for looking at local conditions, animated radar, and video forecasts (if you’re into that sort of thing). The animated radar map can be really slow at times, Wundermap is usually much more responsive.
- WunderMap (Free) – From Weather Underground, my favorite weather service, this is a nice map that lets you do layers of current conditions, webcams, radar, satellite, etc.
- WunderRadio ($6.99) – Another from the Weather Underground folks, this is a radio streaming app with thousands of channels, from regular broadcast radio to NOAA weather to police and emergency channels to railroad radio traffic (fun if you live near the tracks).
- Zillow.com (Free) – Nice map view of real estate “estimates” from Zillow, which may more may not be accurate, but it’s good enough to give you an idea of what housing prices are in a given area, and I can see it being a godsend if you’re shopping for a home. It’s also fun to go to a friends house and look up what they paid for their house.
Games and Toys
This is the fun stuff. Games, toys, musical instruments, etc.
- 123 Color HD ($1.99) – My 3yo son loves this one – color by number (or by letter, or by, um, color).
- ABC Dinosaurs ($1.99) – Another one for the kids – this one has cute dinosaurs, and encourages letter, number, and color recognition, as well as tracing letters and words.
- Angry Birds HD ($4.99) – High res version of one of my favorite iPhone games. The levels are exactly the same, and it has yet to get the level update from the latest iPhone version, but I have spent much time flinging angry little birds at green pigs, and enjoyed every second of it.
- Beatwave (Free) – A tenori-on like music creation app. Kids love this one, too.
- Galcon Fusion ($7.99) – I loved the Galcon games on iPhone, so I wanted to support the developer with the iPad version. I admit, though, when I play, I just build up an overwhelming force of hundreds and hundreds of ships and wait until there’s one solitary enemy planet remaining, then just throw everything I have at it.
- Glee ($2.99) – I’ve never watched the show, and I can’t sing very well, but I love Sonic Mule, and this one came highly recommended. It’s actually a pretty good karaoke app – if you’ve ever sung in Rock Band, you know how this works. And of course, the social sharing features, where you can hear other people’s crazy autotuned attempts at the songs, are great for a laugh.
- Harbor Master HD (Free) – I wasn’t in the mood to buy Flight Control HD, so I tried this one for free, and it scratches the “increasingly insane traffic control” itch just fine.
- iFish Pond HD ($1.99) – Like Koi Pond on iPhone, but this one lets you actually fish for and catch/collect various species. Also like Koi Pond, my kids love this one. They do nothing but poke the water to scare the fish, then laugh maniacally.
- Implode! XL ($1.99) – Nice blueprint-themed building demolition game. I enjoyed this one on the iPhone, so I got the iPad version. Nice if you like blowing stuff up, but being strategic about it.
- Smule Magic Piano ($0.99) – Another great social app from Sonic Mule. This one gives you several wacky piano keyboard layouts to play with, and you can slide to adjust where on the scale (high or low) you’re playing, and pinch/spread to adjust how many keys are on screen at a time. Kids and adults love this one.
- MythBusters iPad Edition ($4.99) – I’m kind of disappointed with this one. There’s lots of great Mythbusters video content here, and the three minigames are fun, but the interface is absolutely baffling and frustrating, and the blatant advertising by the company that Discovery hired to make this app that you have to sit through every time you launch the app is painful, especially for $5. But I love me some Mythbusters.
- Orbital HD ($2.99) – Orbital is one of my favorite games on the iPhone, and this is Orbital scaled up and pretty for the iPad. Gameplay is exactly the same. If you have Orbital for the iPhone, don’t bother with this one. Just play the iPhone version pixel doubled.
- Real Racing HD ($9.99) – An amazing demo of what the iPad can do, and a very fun racing game. Launch this, put the iPad in someone’s hands, and watch the grin spread over their face.
- RJ Voyager (Free) – I love the Reality Jockey sound mashup apps, so I snagged this one on sight. I haven’t quite figured out how to use it, but I’m sure it’s awesome.
- Strategery ($1.99) – A fun Risk-like universal app I heard about from John Gruber. It’s nice on the larger screen of the iPad.
- Pinball HD ($2.99) – A quite fun, good looking pinball game. Three tables, and the voices can get annoying, but still fun. Play full table in landscape mode, or zoomed in “follow the ball” in portrait.
- Tap Tap Radiation (Free) – It’s Tap Tap Revenge (or DDR, or Rock Band, or Guitar Hero, or any other rhythm game) but the tap targets float around the screen. Lots of free songs to download (that you’ve probably never heard of), or you can buy more well known songs.
- X-Plane 9 for iPad ($9.99) – X-Plane is a hardcore flight simulator (they have a PC version that’s actually approved by the FAA to log flight hours for real pilots). The iPad version works really well, has a ton of airplanes and helicopters (though many are marked “coming soon”) and airport locations (including the town where I was born – Provo, UT – though it’s called “Provost” in the game). The pace is slow and deliberate – this is a real flight sim, not an arcade shooter. But it’s a ton of fun.
The iPad can run iPhone apps, either isolated in an island of black, or blown up and pixel doubled, which, sadly, makes most text look jagged and crummy. Most games scale OK, though. But I find myself using far fewer iPhone apps on the iPad than I thought I would. iPad native apps really are the way to go. Since I still carry and use my iPhone, the iPhone apps I keep here are 1) apps I can’t live without (Reeder, Dropbox, Tweetie), 2) games that scale well and play as well (or better) on the iPad, and 3) apps that are useful for which there’s not yet an iPad version (FCC Broadband Test, Siri).
- Bird Strike Gold Edition ($0.99) – A fun tilt controlled combination of Doodle Jump and Angry Birds, with the ever charming Gerald as your little blue birdy protagonist. I love the things he says when he crashes into the ground at the end of a run (though they removed the one swear word he used in the latest update). Looks OK pixel doubled, lots of fun to play.
- BlueFiRe (Free) – There are lots of audio recording apps for the iPhone. This is a free one from microphone manufacturer Blue, “optimized” for their Mikey mic addon for the iPhone (which I don’t have, but do want). Works great with the built in mic, shows the waveform of what you’re recording. More for audio nerds like me than just plain voice memos. By the way, the mic quality is really, really good, and the USB Camera Connection Kit accessory allows the use of external USB audio devices. I can’t wait to hook up my M-Audio FastTrack Pro and some good mics, and do some recording. The iPad has a bright future for audio production.
- Dropbox (Free) – This one is essential. Access to all the stuff stored in your Dropbox. I dream of a future where Dropbox works with other apps that can handle various file types, so I can tap on, say, a .DOC file in Dropbox, open and edit it in Pages, then save it back to my Dropbox. What a glorious dream…
- FCC Broadband Test (Free) – I’m the kind of geek that always has to know how fast my internet connection is at any given location. I used to use the Speedtest.net app for this, but this one is made by the same folks (Ookla), and reports the data to the FCC, so they get an idea what real world broadband speeds are. Use the Speedtest.net version if that makes you paranoid.
- Google Earth (Free) – This one is begging for an iPad version, but since it looks pretty pixelated anyway, you won’t even notice when it’s pixel doubled, and you’re playing with Google Earth on the big iPad screen.
- Reeder ($2.99) – I was as surprised as anyone to find a dedicated app for Google Reader that I liked to use more than the web version, but it’s the truth. I can skim, read, and save stuff to Instapaper even faster and more efficiently than I can in Google Reader on a desktop browser. The iPad version is supposed to be coming soon (the wait is killing me! this is one my most used apps), so until then, I’m actually suffering through the jagged pixel doubled text of the iPhone version. Hurry up, Silvio!
- Siri (Free) – Your own little digital assistant to boss around. Tell it to make you a reservation at a cheap italian restaurant tomorrow night, and it will. Ask it what’s going on tonight, and you’ll find out. Apple bought Siri this week, and it’s going to be interesting to see where they take the technology.
- Solar Walk ($2.99) – From the devs who make Star Walk, this is a 3D model of the solar system – a digital orrery, if you will. Bought this one because the devs promised an iPad universal version in a future update. It’s a little too cramped to use on the iPhone’s smaller screen, but it’s going to rock on the iPad.
- Tweetie ($2.99) – The quintessential Twitter app for iPhone. Recently bought by Twitter themselves, developer Loren Brichter promises that “Twitter for iPad” will be available in the next app update. Tick. Tock. Can’t. Wait.
- Dizzypad (Free) – Grabbed this one while it was free, a fun lily pad jumping game. Not sure I’ll keep this one around very long, but it looks good blown up on the iPad.
- Super Jetpack Dragon IV: Village Burntopia (Free) – Gotta love this one the name alone, and the various nods to Strongbad and Trogdor the Burninator. Plus it’s just stupid fun to run and smash villages. Reminds me of Canabalt, which is a good thing.
- MiniSquadron ($2.99) and MiniSquadron Special Edition (Freemium) – This is one iPhone game that I think is actually much better to play on the iPad. The thumbstick controls work much better on the larger screen, and there’s always so much going on that more screen real estate is a definite advantage. Plus it’s just plain fun to fly around dogfighting.
This is where I put apps that I’ve downloaded because they might be interesting, but I’m not sure I want to keep them. Freebies, stuff that’s on sale, and other potential keepers go here. Apps that land here either get moved to one of my other categories, or deleted. This page has a LOT of churn, so I’m not really going to review anything here, since I haven’t made up my mind yet. Here’s a snapshot of what’s there today.
- iBanner HD (Free)
- Molecules (Free)
- Pool Pro Online 3 (Free)
- Beat the Traffic (Free)
What Am I Missing?
What are *your* favorite iPad apps, and why? If I missed an app you like, love, or can’t live without, I need you to tell me about it. Leave me a comment so I can make my collection complete!