Got your first iPad and wondering which apps you should try out first? Here are the top 10 apps to get you started reading, drawing, writing, browsing, watching, sharing and having fun on your iPad today.
Updated 16/12/2013: Replaced the Comics app with Spotify, for streaming music on your iPad.
The iPad is perfect for web browsing, and Flipboard (iTunes link) is perfect for finding interesting things. With Flipboard you can flip through a graphical collection of news feeds from various sources, and even add your own Facebook and Twitter feeds to the list. It’s a great way to go through the news and see what’s happening at a glance.
Pulse (iTunes link) makes a great daily newspaper with its ability to pull multiple news sources and put them into one single page. Where else can you get headlines from newspapers like the BBC, Reuters, GQ and CNN side by side?
The only video player you’ll ever need on the iPad. VLC for iOS (iTunes link) will play any video file you can throw at it, including .mkv and .avi files, as well as stream from your network. Not only that, it comes with passcode lock, Dropbox integration, subtitles support and the ability to play on external screens or AirPlay.
Ever came across an interesting article on the internet but didn’t have the time to read it then? Pocket (iTunes link) lets you save articles and read them later in an easy-to-read layout. You can save articles directly from within the browser on your iPad or PC, and from apps like Twitter, Flipboard and Pulse. Download them onto Pocket on your iPad, and they’ll always be there, even when you’re offline. Articles also sync between your iPad and iPhone (if you have one) so you can start reading on one and continue on the other.
Paper (iTunes link) turns your iPad into a great digital notebook. The magical Expression Ink Engine makes any scribble look great; Paper gives you drawing tools for free, but if you like it you can buy additional drawing and writing tools within the app. You can even turn drawings and notes you love into a printed Moleskin book.
Despite what Steve Jobs said, apps like Paper actually work better with a stylus, if you’re not sure which to get here’s an exhaustive styli shootout which gets regularly updated (it doesn’t yet feature the latest pressure-sensitive Intuos Creative Stylus for the professionals though).
Alternatives: Penultimate (iTunes link) is another great note-scribbling app, its handwriting recognition helps you search for handwritten text within the app (unless you have terrible handwriting). Since the app's been bought by Evernote, it now syncs with their service and has also been made free.
Paper is a great sketching and note-scribbling app, but if you want to type to write on your iPad then there are a ton of apps out there. In fact, there are so many good note-taking apps, free and paid, that we think it ultimately boils down to three factors when it comes to choose one: How easy you find it to write your notes, how easy it is to get them out of the iPad and how much you’re willing to pay.
We recommend Byword (iTunes link) because it’s easy to use (it supports Markdown, if you know what that is - if not, it’s like a shorthand way to type out HTML) and can sync to Dropbox automatically. That said, there are many other free and paid alternatives.
Alternatives: Simplenote (iTunes link) is a great, and free, cross-platform note-taking app, but it syncs to Simperium, which was custom built by Simplenote’s founders. We’ve had some issues syncing using Simplenote, which is why we don’t recommend it wholeheartedly.
Evernote (iTunes link) is another free note-taking app, which also acts as your own personal database with the ability to save photos, audio and web pages. Apple's iWorks suite, which includes the Word-like Pages (iTunes link), is free with new iOS devices.
If you don’t already have a Dropbox (iTunes link) account, we recommend you open one now. One of the problems with using an iPad is having to use iTunes to sync almost everything, and having the Dropbox app on your iPad helps relieve some of the pain. If you want to some photos on your iPad for example, you can simply download down off your Dropbox folder, you can also upload photos into Dropbox to get them off the iPad.
PDFs, can’t live with them, can’t live without them. When it comes to PDFs on the iPad, you have two kinds of apps: Those which read PDFs (usually free), and those which can read and edit PDFs (usually paid). Apple’s iBooks lets you read PDFs, but the interface drives us nuts.
We’d rather go with Documents (iTunes link); because it syncs with multiple cloud services like Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive, you can get your PDFs easily through the web instead of having to sync them via iTunes.
If you actually want to edit PDFs on your iPad, you’ll need to pay for an app like PDF Expert (iTunes link), which lets you fill out PDF forms, sign PDFs, annotate documents and syncs through Dropbox.
Alternatives: GoodReader (iTunes link) is another popular and robust PDF reader for the iPad, while PDFpen (iTunes link) helps you edit your PDFs and sign contracts like PDF Expert. Both are paid apps.
Spotify (iTunes link) is a great (and legal) way to get an entire library of music (over 20 million songs on last count) on your iPad. Unlike Apple's Music app, which lets you buy and download songs from the iTunes music store, Spotify lets you stream songs using an internet connection. There are two ways to use Spotify, either free or with a paid subscription. We previously didn't include the Spotify app because only paid users could use the mobile app, but Spotify announced in December 2013 that even free accounts can now use the iPad app to stream music (with ads). This handy chart explains it all:
Spotify is primarily a music streaming service, which means that you'll need an internet connection to listen to music. However, the paid subscription lets you download tracks to your iPad so you can listen even when offline. Because Spotify is a subscription service however, if you ever decide to cancel your subscription you'll lose access to all the songs you previously downloaded.
Check out our Complete Guide to Using Spotify in Singapore to learn how to get the most out of your listening experience.
If you’re a user on any of these websites, it’s a given that you’re going to download their apps, which is why we’ve bunched them all together and left them last. Even though you can use the mobile versions of these sites in Safari, the apps make a world of difference and are much easier to use.
Alternatives: The only alternatives we’d recommend are for Twitter, both Twitterrific (iTunes link) and Tweetbot (iTunes link) are great Twitter clients, each with its own strong aesthetic. They’re both paid apps, so we wouldn’t recommend them unless you use Twitter regularly. Twitterrific is a universal app, which means you'll only need to buy it once to use it on both an iPad and an iPhone, while Tweetbot is a standalone app which is due for an iOS 7 upgrade, so you might want to hold off buying it until that happens.
Still good, just not as essential as the top 10.
The iPad’s large screen makes it a perfect comics reader. The Comics app (iTunes link) from Comixology is an online store and reader all in one, with more than 30,000 comics from big and indie publishers.
Alternatives: If you have comics in other formats, Comic Zeal Comic Reader (iTunes link) is the best comic app to organize and read them in. It’s a paid app, but you get what you pay for when it comes to convenience and ease of use.