Thursday, September 29, 2011
Useful guide on choosing iPad Apps
The article is written by Stuart Dredge and taken from The Observer, 25th September 2011.
The top 50 iPad apps
It's the apps that bring the iPad to life. If you want to read a book, watch a movie, make a video call, paint a picture or just browse on the sofa, there's an app for you. We pick the best.
It's easy to forget that when Apple's first iPad was unveiled in January 2010, there were plenty of cynics questioning the need for a slate-shaped device sitting somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop computer. Microsoft had pitched tablets a decade before, to little interest. So what were iPads for? Scroll on 21 months and a second-generation model later, and we have a better idea: iPads are for lounging on the sofa, browsing, emailing, tweeting and Facebooking, for sure. But they're also for playing games, reading books, discovering music, watching films and TV shows, following recipes, video-chatting with friends and much more. And if iPad has found its multiple roles, the burgeoning number of apps available for the device is a key reason.
There are currently more than 100,000 native iPad apps available, although, as with the iPhone, a big chunk of those are filler. But the good apps are really good: creative, innovative, imaginative, useful and fun (or at least several of the above).
Developers are bringing multimedia bells and whistles to poetry; splicing books and games to find new ways to educate and entertain children; tapping into social networks and filtering technology to aggregate news and recommend music; and they offer tactile touchscreen ways to explore the earth, the human body and the solar system. And, yes, you can also play Angry Birds on the iPad.
Two devices loomed large when choosing the 50 apps for this feature: the iPhone and the laptop. A number of these apps are already available on iPhone or as websites, so why would you choose to use them on an iPad instead? Skype, eBay, Amazon, Twitter, Rightmove… all have been redesigned to work well on a touchscreen tablet, and in some cases it feels like the most suitable device to use them on. Context is key. Many iPad users see the device as a more relaxed device than a computer: something to be kept close at hand on the sofa or even in bed, with its instant-on nature.
The iPad isn't the only tablet in town, but for now it's the only one selling in significant numbers. HP recently mothballed its TouchPad tablet just two months after launching it, while Research In Motion is struggling to sell many of its BlackBerry PlayBooks – it shipped just 200,000 in the last financial quarter, versus 9.3m iPads. Tablets running Google's Android software, meanwhile, have not made a big impact. This is likely to change, with Samsung and HTC releasing attractive new tablets, and Amazon rumoured to be working on its own Android device for a pre-Christmas launch. For now, though, the iPad remains the defining device in the tablet market. These 50 apps show why, and hint at the possibilities for devices made by Apple and its rivals in the future.
OUR PICK OF THE 50 BEST IPAD APPS
MARK ON CALL HD £2.99. Subtitled "Home Space Planning Design Tool" this app wants to turn iPad owners into interior designers, with plans of rooms, furniture to move around them, and the ability to attach your own photos.
VEGGIE LOVE COOKBOOK 69p. Better Homes and Gardens magazine has designs on making you better in the kitchen too, with its polished vegetarian recipes app. More than 50 are included, with simple step-by-step guides and a useful shopping list feature.
RIGHTMOVE FOR IPAD free. The house-hunting process can be a grind, even on the best websites. Rightmove's iPad app simplifies (but improves) the interface, and like eBay and Amazon it makes a feature of larger photos as you browse.
AUTO TRADER free. Auto Trader's official iPad app aims to make the grind of scanning used car listings a whole lot more visual, with grids of thumbnail photos of cars with their prices, and simple filters to make sense of them.
EBAY FOR IPAD free. Why use eBay on an iPad if you have a laptop or computer nearby? The online auction service has been redesigned with a focus on bigger images and a touchscreen interface, making it the perfect way to browse from the sofa.
WINDOWSHOP free. Windowshop is Amazon's attempt to reinvent its website for tablets, and it does a great job. As with eBay, the focus is emphatically on product images and flicking between items with swipes and other gestures.
TWITTER free. Twitter was so pleased with the design of its iPad app, it influenced the company's relaunch of its main website. For good reason too: Twitter on iPad is quick and slick to use, and maybe even the best device for tweeting.
FLIPBOARD free. Flipboard wants to be your personalised, digital magazine, and does a great job of serving up articles that your Facebook and Twitter contacts have been linking to, as well as stories from your favourite websites.
WORDPRESS free. iPad is good for tweeting and updating your Facebook status, but it supports longer-form social media too, including WordPress blogs. The official app is an elegant way to blog without a physical keyboard in sight.
FROG DISSECTION £2.49. Slicing up a frog - even virtually - may sound gruesome, but Frog Dissection has been praised by animal rights groups. Why? Because it makes an excellent alternative to the real thing.
SOLAR SYSTEM FOR IPAD £9.99. Think you know about the solar system? This rich iPad book-app may teach you a thing or two. It blends text, 3D planets and moons, videos, images and diagrams across more than 150 digital pages, to impressive effect.
WIRED MAGAZINE (UK) free. Technology magazine Wired's US iPad app was one of the first to make heavy use of animation, video and interactivity. Happily for Brits, there is now an app for the UK edition of the magazine too.
THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR MORRIS LESSMORE £2.99. This iPad book-app started life as a short animated film, elements of which have made it into the app. However, this story is about storytelling itself, is aimed at children, and includes mini-games and playful interactivity.
TOCA ROBOT LAB 69p. It sounds simple: an app for kids where they build a robot then fly it through colourful levels, collecting stars. Yet it's a real work of craft, and one that will delight your children for weeks and possibly months.
REAL RACING 2 HD £4.99
There are many wonderful casual games for iPad, but this shows it has hardcore gaming capabilities too. It's a visually impressive driving game with multiplayer and a rich career mode giving it depth.
Angry Birds Rio HD £1.99. The most recent of the three Angry Birds games for iPad, this is a good introduction to the series that has spawned more than 350m downloads. The gameplay may now be familiar but it remains addictive.
SCRABBLE FOR IPAD £4.99. Scrabble and tablets are a good fit, with plenty of screen-room to show the board and consider your strategy. The iPad version comes into its own with multiplayer mode, including the ability to use iPhones as tile racks.
INFINITY BLADE £3.99. This hack'n'slash adventures graphics are stunning, especially in the beefed-up iPad 2 version. The gameplay is rich and rewarding too, as you refine your combat moves and level up your character.
PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES HD £4.99. Available on iPhone, but benefitting from iPad's larger screen, this is supremely addictive. Fend off zombie hordes by careful placement of a growing collection of offensive and defensive plants.
THE WASTE LAND £9.99. Faber pulled out all the stops for this iPad app of TS Eliot's famous poem, with audio and video readings, copious notes and original manuscript scans. The text, though, remains its centrepiece.
BOOK CREATOR FOR IPAD £4.99. There are plenty of book-apps for the iPad, but this one is about making your own e-book. It's simple to combine your own photos and text. Fun with children, but pro features including exporting books in the ePub format.
COMICS free. It is early days for comics on the iPad: most are simply digitised versions of their print versions. Even so, Comics hints at the potential, offering a wide catalogue including Marvel and DC Comics.
IMOVIE £2.99. It's available on iPhone too, but Apple's video-editing app is at its best on the iPad's larger screen, where the process of turning your clips into short films with soundtracks is far less fiddly.
BBC IPLAYER free
Already popular on computers, the iPlayer catch-up TV service really comes into its own on the iPad, with a slick tablet interface for browsing and searching for shows, plus full-screen viewing.
IA WRITER £2.99
Word processing doesn't come much more minimalist than iA Writer, but that's the point. It strips out unnecessary features and gears its entire look and feel towards helping you concentrate on your words.
This is one of the most creative digital artist apps for iPad, with more than 60 virtual brushes to work with. Its key feature is the ability to import your own photos and then paint with their pixels.
SHAKESPEARE IN BITS: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM £10.49
As more students get their hands on iPads, so more interesting educational apps will come out. This offers the text of Shakespeare's play, with academic notes and a full animated version to watch too.
Apple's own music app casts its net wide. Professional musicians can use it as a powerful on-the-go recording tool but casual music lovers can take advantage of its "smart" instruments to make a tuneful din too.
MADPAD HD £1.99
MadPad helps you create your own "video soundboards", shooting 12 short video clips at a time and turning them into a digital drumpad. Children, cars and household objects are all fair game, with social features to share your creations.
Now anyone with an iPad and a half-decent music collection can play DJ on their tablet. djay offers a virtual pair of turntables, and it's easy to create and record your own mixes.
Björk's attempt to re-imagine her new album as an app is creative, ambitious and a lot of fun. Individual songs cost £1.49 when bought inside the app, with some taking the form of games while others are musical toys.
KORG IELECTRIBE GORILLAZ EDITION £13.99
Korg's original "virtual analogue beatbox" was a serious music-making app in its own right, used by Damon Albarn when making a Gorillaz album. This re-release includes samples from that to play with.
It's available on iPhone too, but Instapaper comes into its own on a larger screen. The app lets you save online articles and blog posts to read them later, making them available offline too. A commuter's dream.
123D SCULPT free
This is a digital sculpting app: you pinch and rub the screen to mould virtual clay, buying in-app theme packs for 69p each including "Medieval" and "Transportation". A tactile and creative delight.
THE ECONOMIST ON IPAD free
In keeping with the magazine's brand, the Economist's iPad app is a model of elegant understatement, offering digitised issues for £3.99 each or as part of a subscription. The option to have articles read aloud is welcome too.
Papercut is an innovative attempt to find a new format for books that moves away from the idea of turning pages. You scroll through three short stories, with animation, sound and interactivity triggered as you go.
THE HISTORY OF JAZZ £6.99
Like Papercut, The History of Jazz is a book-app that ditches the pages metaphor in favour of something more interactive. In this case, it's a timeline of jazz history, armed with biographies and song samples.
Amazon's e-reader app narrowly gets the nod over Apple's own iBooks, with fewer visual frills but a large collection of ebooks, including regular discounts and offers. It also syncs your reading position across different devices.
Zinio is a magazine store and reader app with a wide catalogue of publications available, from sport and politics through to music and lifestyle. You can choose to buy single issues or full subscriptions.