The iPad has been with us for over a month. How many great apps can developers create in a month’s time? How many of those apps are beautiful, taking full advantage of the iPad’s high-def touchscreen and lightning-fast responsiveness? And how many of those are available to download for free?
Turns out, quite a lot. Everyone already knows how great iBooks is, how nice the eBay app is, and how amazing the Marvel Comics app looks. But there are hidden gems among the free iPad apps, and here are ten of them.
This deceptively simple app lets you pluck or strum virtual guitar strings. You can even alter the pitch of the chords by holding down the strings on the fretboard. My 2-year-old son loves this one, because it’s uncomplicated yet it creates very realistic results.
There are quite a few free weather apps available, but none of them take advantage of what the iPad can do like the AccuWeather app. The coolest part is the “hourly” forecast view, which appears as a circular, 24 hour clock-like graphic. As you trace your fingers around the circle, an on-screen icon changes to show what the weather will be at that specific hour. The rest of the app uses big, beautiful graphics and simple text that makes checking the weather a snap. The one drawback: there are ads that occasionally appear at the bottom of the screen. But deal with it — AccuWeather’s worth it.
Cooking and recipe apps are a dime a dozen, but Epicurious offers the most robust one by far. Thousands of recipes are at your fingertips and new ones are frequently added. When you select some recipes you want to try, the app automatically creates a shopping list for you with all of the ingredients you’ll need. Fully searchable with user reviews and step-by-step cooking instructions, the Epicurious app is destined to be your kitchen’s best friend.
When I tell you that Eyewitness is a photo-of-the-day app, I’m doing it a gross injustice. Designed by leading UK newspaper The Guardian, the app displays photos from current events in jaw-dropping, high-def beauty. Words can’t describe how stunning the visuals are on this app, and it’s educational too — containing both news from around the world, and tips for budding photographers. As a very visual person, Eyewitness has quickly become one of my favorite daily stops.
Another daily favorite of mine, because it’s constantly updated with content I don’t usually find anywhere else. A slick interface offers daily insights into interesting and fascinating new stuff on the web. Photos, websites, videos, and original content created by Cool Hunting itself are just some of the morsels awaiting you.
There are plenty of free Wikipedia apps available in the App Store. And let’s face it: you’re going to want one of them. There’s just no other repository of knowledge in the world as vast, current, and useful as Wikipedia. So, say you want to look something up on your iPad. (Maybe you even want to see what WP has to say about yours truly.) Several of these Wiki-apps are lovely and easy to use, but I like Simplepedia because it’s very easy on the eyes, with a super-clean interface that feels more like a magazine than a website.
EW’s Must List
Every week, Entertainment Weekly publishes a feature called the “Must List.” It’s a compilation of 10 buzzed-about things that the staff of EW is enjoying that week, and its entries come from every branch of arts & entertainment — music, film, TV, games, comics, and more. The Must List app translates that same weekly list into a visual compilation that you can touch to get deeper insights and info about each entry. (And yes, I realize this one’s a little less of a “hidden” gem than other apps on my list, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s a must-have.)
World Book: This Day in History
Who says learning can’t be fun? As its name suggests, World Book gives you about four cool factiods to go with each new day. Clicking on the embedded links brings up a tab with more details and sometimes even multimedia like photos or audio. Yet another reminder of why the iPad rocks.
NBA Game Time Courtside
My wife is the sports enthusiast in the family; I’m not really into sports. There, I said it. (What do you expect? I’m a geek.) But even I’m impressed by the 3D graphics used to incredible effect in this stunning app. Stuffed with the most detailed stats a basketball nerd could ever want, Courtside is one no b-ball fan should be without. (One caveat: this app has crashed on me at least twice now. It’s as if its graphics-intensive interface is almost too much even for the high-powered iPad.)
Last but not least is this oddly relaxing and enthralling app. iTunes says that it was originally created as a work of interactive art used in galleries and museums, but I’m not sure how to qualify it. It’s not a game, and it’s certainly not a productivity app. There’s no useful information in it — or information of any kind, for that matter — but Gravilux is definitely fun. It’s basically an interactive starfield, but what the app does with the stars when you touch them is utterly mesmerizing. Best of all, multiple users can touch the screen simultaneously, causing all sorts of amazing things to happen. It requires no instructions, and it has no objectives (though it does offer a few options for altering the physics and parameters of the stars), so it’s perfect for kids and adults alike.
There you have it. My list is far from comprehensive, though.
What are your early favorite iPad freebies?