It’s amazing how fast the iPad has gone from just entering the marketplace to having a huge place in the market. Just a year and a half since its introduction, and we’re already well past iPad 2. Even Rocky didn’t make sequels that fast.
With it has naturally come a flood of fancy apps designed to heighten your experience of tapping a monitor. We’ll go over here a list of some of the best free ones that we found. In compiling this list, we did leave out most social networking and games apps. For the former, they are pretty much expected anymore. For the latter, we want to help you at least try to maintain the illusion that you didn’t really buy just a very pretty gaming system and call it a necessary business expense.
There are a lot of news apps available for the iPad, so one of the main determinants for choosing between them is going to be usability. From the ones that we looked at Pulse News scores highly. Articles from multiple web sites are attractively displayed in an easy-to-use mosaic. When you select an article you have the choice of reading a summary or going directly to the web site. The app also lets you save and share stories. User reviews for Pulse News have been strong.
Mash up the iPad’s features with FaceBook, Twitter, foursquare and Tumblr, and assuming you didn’t take us literally and destroy your tablet, you’ll have Gowalla. You can record your experiences at the places you visit and share your reviews and photos with your friends.
I bet you never thought you could use a computer as an inclinometer. Now I bet that even those of you who don’t really have any use for one will download this just for the heck of it. Clinometer HD measures the angle of slope in two axis down to a tenth of a degree. Did I mention that a cute little bubble appears on your display when you use it?
Beat the Traffic HD
It’s about time that this kind of app started catching on: a driving app that takes into account up-to-the-minute road conditions when calculating your optimal route. Real-time driving speeds and accidents are displayed, as well as traffic camera images from 34 cities. The app also lets you pay it forward by giving you the ability to report incidents.
Trapster speed trap alerts
This is one thing that Beat the Traffic won’t do, though. Trapster keeps you up to date on “speed traps, red light and speed cameras, and other wallet hazards”. 12 million users currently are tapped into trapster.com. Expected disclaimer: drive safely.
This is a different and useful app for the right person. Using Scanfob or some other type of Bluetooth barcode scanner to record an item by its UPC code, Grid-In-Hand helps you keep track of your inventory. The data collected can be transmitted by a number of different methods, including posting to your MySQL database, sending it to your FTP server, or just emailing the results.
Voice recorders are another set of popular iPad/iPhone apps. QuickVoice provides the best set of features of any of them that we looked at. The one that people will likely be interested in the most is its ability to create custom ringtones. It also comes with multiple recording quality options, easy single-touch controls, and the ability to sync your files with an external computer.
I’m going to admit to still being just a touch creeped out by this technology. For those of you that aren’t, SoundHound is the most full-featured music recognition app out there. It claims to be able to identify a song within four seconds of hearing it. By “hearing it”, we don’t just mean listening to it on the radio: you can hum a tune, and it will try to match it. It also allows the requisite social network sharing, will display lyrics as the song plays, and will find your song on YouTube.
This app has gotten strong reviews for its ease of use. Hipmunk is different than most flight search apps in that it doesn’t sort first simply by price. Instead it takes into account things like time of travel, number of stops, and so forth, and sorts by “agony”. Don’t you wish that the rest of the world did this more often?
You won’t appreciate how important an app like this one is until you need it. WebMD lets you input information about what part of you is ailing and gives you suggestions on what the problem could be. That’s not bad. Better is that it contains an encyclopedia of information about drugs and treatments. This is more important to have than you realize: often even doctors lose track of this, as there is so much information in existence that something like a simple drug-condition combination can be easy to miss. Included as well is first aid information and a local doctor locator.
We’ve shied away from expected apps specific to long-established web sites, but on this one we have to make an exception. eBay Motors doesn’t merely provide a simple listing like you would get from viewing their web site. Instead it categorizes automobile information so that you can search and organize by various criteria. You can also add information about your own cars to your “garage” simply by scanning in your vehicle’s VIN.
It’s hard to see any good reason not to download this app. Onavo compresses your transmitted data so that you can reduce your data over usage costs. It claims to be able to save 50-90% of your data costs depending on the site being used, and the positive reviews back this up. It cannot yet handle streaming media, though they say that’s coming.
We close our list with an app that’s simple but worth it. There are pictures of just about everything in existence somewhere on the web. Fotopedia focuses on high quality pictures, and couples it with detailed location information. It’s a great app for someone looking to slow down and enjoy the world a bit. Given the typical lifestyle that might require an iPad, this could be well worth it.