Whether you want to relax, get some work done, or watch some videos, if you download the right app, your iPad can function as a jack of all trades.
These free apps cover the basics and can help you take advantage of your favorite functions and services to make the most of your iPad.
Pocket is all about saving things to read or watch later, and what better ‘later’ is there than seeing it on a bigger screen? If you have Pocket on your iPhone or Android, or the browser add-on, you can use the same account on your iPad so that when you see something you’d rather read or watch on a big screen, you can easily sync it with Pocket for iPad.
The app saves things offline, meaning you don’t have to be connected in order to access articles. It also scales content to whatever screen size you’re using, making it perfect for the iPad.
This aggregated digital magazine feels perfectly at home on an iPad. Similar to an RSS feed, the app pulls content from sources that you choose, ranging from news sites, to blogs, to people, to hashtags.
The real beauty of the app is the swiping gestures that let you turn the page as if you’re flipping through a real magazine, making both the interface and its navigation really intuitive. Like Pocket, Flipboard lets you save articles to read later, even if you’re offline.
Google’s Chrome browser is a good alternative to Safari for your iPad; it’s quicker, has a simpler interface, and gives all the convenience of Chrome for desktop on your mobile device. If you use other Google services like Gmail or YouTube, having your accounts synced on your iPad is a must. Along with tabbed browsing and a smart search in the address bar, you have access to incognito mode, bookmarks, and voice search.
Overall, Chrome’s browser does a pretty good job of giving a seamless mobile browsing experience without making you feel like you’re compromising functionality or speed.
If you’re not a big fan of Chrome, you can try Dolphin, a browser that offers more versatility than even some desktop browsers. Its tabbed browsing feels comfortable on the bigger iPad screen, and it intelligently scales web pages to fit any screen size. You’ve got the option to use either the mobile or desktop view of a website, and load times of both are really fast. You’ll get access to all your bookmarks, including those in Chrome and Firefox, and can even clip things to Evernote.
If gesture controls are more your thing, you can create your very own custom gestures, although you’ll have to access them in a separate menu.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
The newest iteration of this free-to-play arcade racer is probably one of the best free racing games available on mobile. Like previous Asphalt installations, you have a ton of different game modes, including a Career Mode that lasts 8 racing seasons, a Quick Race mode with 6 different types of races, and a Multiplayer Mode that lets you play against friends over the internet. This time though, unlike previous versions, you’ll be able to race without waiting.
The controls are easy and intuitive, making accelerating and drifting a lot of fun, but what’s best about Asphalt 8 is the number of new car models available, with over 47 to choose from.
Plants vs Zombies 2
The second installment of the super popular Plants vs Zombies game has proven just as successful as the first. Like the first game, Plants vs Zombies 2 involves zapping zombies using strategic gardening methods. With a collection of plants including a pea shooter, a sunflower, and a cabbage thrower, you’ll have to prevent zombies from getting to your house.
Full of new worlds including the Wild West, Ancient Egypt, and the Dark Ages, you’ll never get bored with each world’s distinctly unique challenges and appropriately characterized zombies (think mummified zombies in Ancient Egypt). Depsite being free-to-play, the game does a very good job of balancing gameplay without getting overly frustrating, and if you’re good, you can easily get through worlds without having to shell out any money.
The file organization and note-taking productivity app is perfect for getting things done with your iPad. Primarily, the app is perfect for taking notes, especially if you have an external keyboard for your iPad. You can also manage and share files, collect articles, and store images. One of Evernote’s best features is it’s ability to create shared notebooks to collaborate, as well as it’s tagging system that lets you easily organize all your notes and quickly find them later.
If you feel like upgrading to the Premium version, you’ll be able to do even more, like annotate PDF files, use AirPlay to present your work, and use notebooks offline. Regardless, the free version still provides a ton of useful features to help you stay productive.
Adobe Photoshop Mix
Designed specifically for iPad, Adobe Photoshop Mix is Adobe’s free photo editing app for the Apple tablet. It excels in touch-friendly photo editing, giving you the quality tools you’d expect from Adobe to let you edit photos on a mobile device (although it doesn’t have the same quantity of tools as Adobe Lightroom).
Photoshop Mix stands our for its ease of use, much easier than the classic Photoshop or Lightroom, but still with enough advanced features to make editing an image worthwhile. You can precisely edit parts of an image, or even cut and paste multiple images together, all without losing the original (everything is reversible). On top of that, it also syncs with Adobe’s Creative Cloud, letting you edit photos stored in the cloud, or upload your edited photos to the service.
A staple on any mobile device, YouTube is a must for iPads too. While the iOS version doesn’t have as many features as the Google-owned Android version, you’ll have all the necessities for finding your favorite videos on the video streaming service.
Signing in with your Google account will give you all the benefits of the desktop version, including a personalized ‘What to Watch’ section, videos you’ve marked to watch later, and playlists. It’s great streaming quality, especially on newer devices, and the ability to change the resolution for iPad screens, makes it perfect for the iPad.
If you’re a big fan of TED Talks, the TED app will give you your daily fix of knowledge and inspiration. You can browse for and search thousands of motivational talks ranging from professionals in the field of business, to music, to education. The app updates almost every day, so there’ll always be new talks available to stream.
The discovery feature will help you find exactly what kind of talks you’re looking for, and you can star talks you find to watch them later. You can watch videos directly within the app, or use AirPlay to watch on an even bigger screen. If you constantly have the urge to learn something new, TED for iPad is a good option.
Netflix subscribers shouldn’t forget about the Netflix app for iPad. If you’ve got an account, you’d be smart to make use of it on any and every mobile device you have.
Much like the web app, Netflix lets you browse titles and gives you recommendations based on what you’ve watched before. Video streaming works with both Wi-Fi and data connection, but remember that streaming over data could get costly if you don’t have a data cap. Video buffering means that as long as you have a solid connection, playback will be smooth. Like TED, you can stream via AirPlay to other connected devices.
Much like Netflix, if you want to make good use of your online streaming subscription, download the Hulu Plus app on your iPad. The service lets you watch all your favorite TV shows and movies at your convenience, including episodes of shows currently airing on TV.
Integration between devices means that you can continue watching from where you left off on any device. You can stream to your TV using Wi-Fi or data, and use the app to control what you’re watching via AirPlay, Chromecast, Xbox One, and Playstation 3 and 4.
If you want to sign up for Hulu Plus, you can also do so through the iOS app, which will charge the monthly subscription fee ($7.99) to your iTunes account.
Skype for iPad
To optimize the Skype experience, Microsoft has developed a version optimized for iPad. The tailored VOIP calling app is noticeably more comfortable than the iPhone version, working in both landscape and portrait mode. Split into two panels, you can access contacts, recent chats, and history in one panel, while you’ll find your actual conversations and Skype calls in the second panel.
While group video chats are limited to four people, and call quality can be pretty hit and miss, Skype for iPad is a definite must-have if you use the service on mobile or desktop.
Google’s chat app is a good choice if you’re looking for a way to chat with friends without a SIM card or phone number tied to your account, like you would need with WhatsApp.
The app has a surprising number of features, one of the best being a group video chat function that lets you talk with up to 10 people at once. Aside from that, it’s got the benefit of syncing your Gmail contacts so that you don’t have to worry about adding people manually to your contact list.
The leader in music streaming got a huge redsign this year for its iOS apps, making the Spotify mobile experience even more streamlined. A slide-out side bar lets you access all the app’s features including playlists, ‘Your Music’, and any additional apps you’ve installed. Streaming is of a high quality, typical for Spotify.
Unlike video streaming services Netflix and Hulu, you’ll be able to use Spotify on mobile for free, but you’ll be plagued with ads, limited to radio listening only, and no offline listening unless you upgrade to the premium version.
As a radio and podcast app, Stitcher is a great option to manage all your audio content on your iPad. If you’re a podcast lover, it’s good to search for, discover, and manage your podcasts. If news is more your thing, you can check out the Front Page, which you can filter by headlines, news content from your playlists, or recommended content.
As an added bonus, you can share files via Facebook, as well as save them to listen later.
If you’re a big fan of the online shopping service, you won’t be able to live without the Amazon app. Whether you’re just browsing or are looking for something specific, you’re almost guaranteed to find it with the search function. Logging in gives you access to all your information, including wishlists, purchase history, and recommendations, which are also housed on the home page of the app.
There are a few limitations in the mobile version when compared to the web, like the inability to play product videos or to access user-submitted photos, but if you want to shop around on your iPad, the Amazon app is one of the best options.
The Target app brings one of the largest US retailers to your iPad, and in a surprisingly complete way– you can buy almost anything online that you’d expect to see in an actual Target store. With the tailor-made iPad app, you can shop even easier, set favorite stores, check pick-up locations, get weekly ads for stores near you, and even shop via Instagram.
The tiled design makes browsing products a lot easier, while your personalized homepage will show you your top categories and even stuff that’s trending on Pinterest.
When bigger is better
Some things are just easier on an iPad, and whether you want to read, watch videos, get something done, or shop around, there are plenty of iPad apps that’ll help optimize any and all of these experiences.
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