It took a little while for the apps to come into their own, but we’re at a place now where the iPad has nearly as good of a selection of apps as the iPhone. Now, it’s harder than ever to find apps that are worthwhile. Let us save you some time with this collection of the best iPad apps.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, must-have applications for each of our favourite platforms. This list focuses specifically on apps that really shine on the iPad, so no half-done, blown up iPhone apps here.
When it comes to email, you have a billion options on the iPhone, but things are slightly more limited on the iPad. Which option is best for you really depends on what you need. For a brand new approach to dealing with email, we like Mailbox, and the iPad version is really well done. If a more traditional approach to email is more your bag, we like Evomail because it keeps things simple. Evomail is not perfect, but it’s free and worth a look.
We adore Drafts as a note-taking app because it manages to blend simplicity with a lot of power user options. Drafts operates as a central hub for all your text notes, and it works with pretty much every other service around. For example, if you’re a fan of Simplenote, you can use Drafts to write up a quick note and send it to Simplenote right in the app. Prefer Evernote? Drafts can instantly export there as well. Drafts is about the quick capture of notes and ideas, and it’s incredibly good at doing both. Drafts also syncs up across devices, so everything you do on your iPad will sync up with your iPhone
Like email apps, you have a billion options for to-do apps on the iPhone, but the iPad is a bit more limited. To that point, even though it’s pretty basic, we like Clear. It’s easy to use, fun to swipe around with, and does a great job of being a to-do app without a lot of extra junk.
Paper or Penultimate
The iPad is a fantastic (albeit expensive) notepad, and depending on what you’re looking for you have a couple options. As a sketchbook, Paper is a fantastic option that makes even the worst artist look like an artistic genius with it’s brush options, easy to use book, and downloadable colour palettes. If actual note-taking is more your thing, Penultimate is one of the best out there. With Penultimate you can create all kinds of notebooks for various things, and it all hooks into Evernote for easy sharing and backup. While you’re at it you might consider grabbing a solid stylus as well.
Sunrise Calendar is our favourite calendar app on the iPhone because it’s free, feature-packed and easy to use. It does everything that a calendar needs to do, including offering a lot of different views to see your upcoming events, syncing, and more. What really makes Sunrise great is the way it taps into other services, including the weather, Google Maps, Evernote and TripIt. In the end, you get a powerful calendar with heaps of features.
Writing on an iPad is great and you have a lot of quality apps to choose from to do it. That said, we like Editorial because it’s incredibly customisable. The crux of Editorial is its automation functions, where you can set it up with text expansion, application triggers and more. Basically, it’s as powerful as you want it to be, but still works great for just writing.
Third-party browsers on the iPad get a bad rap because Apple restricts them from being as fast as Safari, but that doesn’t mean Chrome doesn’t have its share of advantages. In fact, if you’re a Chrome user on your desktop computer, Chrome’s syncing features alone make it a stellar replacement for Safari. Chrome’s packed with some great features, including a desktop view, a solid incognito mode, easy to browse tabs, and the speed dial to quickly access your favourite sites. If Chrome isn’t your thing, you have a few other solid options as well.
The official Facebook app does a good job of providing you with a solid mobile experience, but it’s especially good looking on the iPad. With big pictures, a nice wide view of everything and a full set of features, if you’re using Facebook, the iPad app is well worth keeping around.
Skype has long been the kind of video calling, but Google recently introduced Google Hangouts is giving it a run for its money. The reason is simple: pretty much everyone already has a Google account, and that’s all your need to use Google Hangouts. The iPad version looks great on the bigger screen, and the added screen real estate makes video chat a lot better than the iPhone counterpart. With it, you can make video calls instantly, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. That said, Skype is still the kind of VOIP, and it’s widely used enough that most people have it. Both work great for video chats, so pick whichever suits you best.
When it comes to finding a good IM client, you don’t really need much. It needs to tap into a lot of different services, support different types of media, and it’s beneficial if it syncs to other devices. IM+ does all that and makes it easy to chat with your friends regardless of what service they’re using.
Dropbox is already a fantastic cloud storage service, but what really sets it above the competition is its mobile app. While it used to be nothing more than a file browser, nowadays you can instantly upload all your pictures, edit files and easily share anything in your Dropbox through a wide variety of services. The PDF viewer alone is fantastic on the iPad, but overall it’s an incredibly useful app to keep around.
If you want to mirror your desktop computer’s screen to your iPad, you have a bunch of options that vary in quality, but we’ve had the most consistent luck with Air Display. With it, you can set up your iPad as a second screen and get more screen real estate on a device you probably already have sitting on your desk.
Launch Center Pro makes doing serious work on your iPad a lot easier by allowing you to create application specific shortcuts. Basically, you’ll fire up Launch Center Pro, hit an action button, and you’ll get whisked away to a specific part of an app so you can quickly send emails and create reminders.
Actions turns your iPad into a shortcut machine. With it, you can create buttons on your iPad that trigger events on your computer. Think of it like an extension to your computer’s keyboard and you’re on the right track. It’s incredibly versatile and you can customise all kinds of actions, from text expansion to keyboard shortcuts.
If This Then That is already one of our favourite web apps, and the iPad app is just as powerful. Not only can you create any recipe you want on the go, you can also tap directly into the iPad’s contacts, photos and reminders to automate whatever happens on your tablet.
Ebooks, Music, Photos and Video
It’s hard to really differentiate between any of the ereader apps on the iPad because they’re all pretty similar. They all let you read books on your phone, and most of them are tied to an account on the the store they’re part of. So, if you’re using iBooks on another device, then that’s the logical choice. The same goes for the Kindle app. Pick the ebook app that works best for you.
Google Reader might be dead, but Reeder for iPhone is still our favourite RSS reader. With a recent update, Reeder added support for a few third-party RSS readers, including Feedly. Reeder is incredibly clean, and you can quickly save articles for later viewing, sync articles, or just browse your feeds in its simple interface.
Bookmarking services are great on the desktop, but they really excel on the iPad. Save articles wherever you find them, and you get access on your phone so you can read when you’re bored. Each service has its own set of benefits and downsides, but they’re all terrific and look fantastic on the iPad. So, pick one and run with it.
The iPad is a fantastic reading device, and if you want to get a good collection of all the content on the web, Flipboard is one of your best options. Not only can you simply browse and read articles by category, you can also subscribe to (or create your own) magazines based on specific interests. The end result is a very customisable reading experience that works fantastically well on the iPad.
Plex turns your iPad into place where you can easily stream your media right from your computer. Working in conjunction with the desktop app, Plex lets you stream your videos from pretty much anywhere. The best part is the ability to watch something at home and then pick it up right where you left off on your mobile.
Listening to podcasts on your iPad is a fantastic way to pass the time, but Apple’s option is less than perfect. We’re big fans of Downcast, because once you set it up it automates pretty much everything for you. It downloads all your podcasts directly in the app, it works over the air or Wi-Fi, or you can set it up so it only streams content. It’s a powerful podcast app that’s a heck of a lot more useful than the other options out there.