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 favorite, must-have applications for each of our favorite platforms. This list focuses specifically on apps that really shine on the iPad, so no half-done, blown up iPhone apps here.
You wouldn’t think it based solely on the name, but our pick for the best email client on iOS is Microsoft Outlook. It includes everything you need in an email client, including a unified inbox, customisable swipe options, powerful search, and a solid filtering system. It blows Apple’s default Mail app out of the water, so if you’re looking for something with more power, Outlook’s the way to go. If you don’t want to deal with Microsoft, Spark is the next logical choice, and a fantastic email app in its own right. It does everything Outlook does, but adds in a smart inbox that’s much better than Outlook’s, and a ton of customisation options to make the app your own.
Picking a notes apps used to be easy, but things are a lot more complicated these days and you have tons of solid options. If you like a ton of features, blow for blow, OneNote and Evernote are the most comparable, offering you means to save images, integrate IFTTT, have tons of folders, special recipe filters, and tons of more options. The catch, really, is that OneNote’s free, while Evernote’s best features are locked behind a paywall. These everything buckets aren’t for everyone though. If plain text is more your thing, Simplenote is the app for you. There’s no long list of features here, Simplenote just does text, and it does it very well. If you’re looking for something in-between, Google Keep is well worth a look. It’s powerful, but still pretty simple. Of course, you’ll get a lot more out of Google Keep if you’re already invested in the Google ecosystem. Heck, it’s also worth pointing out that Apple’s default Notes app has made a lot of strides over the years, so if you haven’t checked it out recently, give it a look. It fits somewhere in-between the everything buckets of Evernote and OneNote and Google Keep.
For whatever reason, the iPad is pretty devoid of to-do apps, but thankfully, our favorite on iPhone, Any.Do arrived on iPad in the last year. Any.Do has a simple interface that makes it easy to add tasks and organise them, but you can also add tasks with your voice, share lists with other, sync across multiple devices, and even easily postpone tasks.
Editing images on your iPad isn’t ideal, but sometimes it’s your only option. Pixelmator is a worthy app for doing it because it features just about every tool that the desktop version has. You can quickly jump in and start editing photos, painting, and doing basic graphic design. If you’re editing photos on your iPad, Pixelmator is a must have.
Using your iPad as a second display is a great way to extend your desktop without taking too much space. The best app for doing so is Duet Display. With it, you can connect your iPad to your computer with a cable, then immediately start using your iPad as a second display with almost no lag. It comes with lots of options too, including high resolution displays, 60 frames per second, and touch support.
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 color palettes. While you’re at it you might consider grabbing a solid stylus as well.
You have tons of options for calendar apps on the iPad, but our favorite on iPhone is Fantastical 2, and that remains the case for the iPad as well because it’s a perfect mesh of features and usability. Fantastical allows for natural language input, so you can type out “lunch tomorrow with Alan” and Fantastical will automatically create the event. Beyond that, the app features a variety of view modes, a light and dark theme, Reminders integration, and a map view to get a visual look of your day.
Writing on an iPad is great and you have a ton 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. If longform writing is more your thing, Ulysses is our favorite. Ulysses sits somewhere between plain text and Scrivener, making it perfect for organising and writing that novel you’ve been meaning to write without being overwhelming.
Internet and Communications
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 extra great features, including a desktop view, a solid incognito mode, easy to browse tabs, and the speed dial to quickly access your favorite sites. If Chrome isn’t your thing, you have a few other solid options as well. Safari’s pretty solid these days, but if you’re not also using it on a Mac, it’s usefulness diminishes pretty quickly.
The official Facebook app does a fine 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 scree 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 dime. 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.
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. Plus, you can always score more space with a little work.
Workflow is an app that allows you to create macros and small apps for iOS. Essentially, it’s Automator for your iPad. You can make it so with a tap of a button you can load up upcoming calendar events, print a page to PDF, find lyrics for the currently playing song, and more.
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, create reminders, and whatever else.
If This Then That is already one of our favorite 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, reminders, and more to automate whatever happens on your iPad.
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. That said, if you’re a student, the Kindle app has all kinds of killer features.
Google Reader might be dead, but Reeder is still our favorite 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 everything up, or just browse your feeds in its simple interface.
Instapaper or Pocket
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.
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 Overcast, 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. Overcast can also intelligently boost the sound on podcasts and has a “smart speed” option that speeds up your favorite podcasts without making them sound weird. It’s also free, which makes it automatically appealing.