As impressive as the hardware behind the iPad (and the iPhone) is, the real power is in the myriad of apps that can be run on these devices. For virtually every intended use, there are several different options of apps to be purchased. I have been using an iPhone for several years now, and last year acquired an iPad. Many people have asked me to make app recommendations, and I thought the most efficient way to do this was to write something and distribute it. Many of these apps work both on the iPhone and the iPad. Keep in mind that the prices that are listed for each of these apps are the current full price (February 2012). Almost all of these apps go on sale at one time or another; if you are patient and frequent some of the websites that review and discuss iOS apps, you can buy them for much less than full price, sometimes even download them for free.
Office Suite/Document/Productivity type Apps
One of the best things about the iPad is that it can make for an incredibly portable, and surprisingly powerful, laptop substitute. There are a number of apps available for purchase that will turn the iPad into a word processing, spreadsheet making, PowerPoint presenting machine. If you combine these apps with a Bluetooth keyboard, the result is a device that is more powerful and versatile than a netbook, and a device that is much more portable with a longer battery life than the standard laptop.
Documents to Go Premium ($17) – one of several good Office Suites for iOS. I find that the iPhone is too small a screen to do any serious document work on, but the iPad is excellent as a laptop substitute. The Premium version allows you to create and edit documents (Word), spreadsheets (Excel) and presentations (PowerPoint). I found that this app (and also QuickOffice below) do a better job of editing Microsoft created documents without messing up the formatting than the Apple Office apps. It also has the advantage that you do not have to buy three separate apps, like you do with Apple’s. If you only need to create/edit Word and Excel files, the non-premium version is $10 (it allows you to view other file types. You can access files from your PC, Dropbox, Google Docs, and iCloud.
QuickOffice HD ($20) – very much like Documents to Go. It accesses Dropbox, Google Docs, etc. It has a very nice interface. You really need to try out both it and Docs to Go and just see which you like better. They are both great.
Dragon Dictation (free) – this app was a complete essential before iOS 5 introduced dictation built into most apps (it is in the keyboard options now). The new Siri also steals much of Dragon’s thunder. But it is still useful to have, as it has better speech recognition for long dictation, and because it is linked to the clipboard, it can be used with virtually any app.
Dropbox (free) – the best online storage/sync service (i.e. the "cloud") around has a very nice app. You can “favorite” certain files, which downloads them to your device for offline viewing. If you have not heard of Dropbox, you need to check it out. You can get a free Dropbox account with 2GB of space for files, pictures, and video.
GoodReader ($5, iPad and iPhone versions separate) – one of the best apps for iPad/iPhone. It is like the swiss army knife of document apps. You can read virtually any type of file; you can store files and even whole folders on your iPad or iPhone. With links to Dropbox or Google Docs, you can sync the folders so that they always stay up to date. GoodReader has also added PDF annotation capabilities that are very robust. If you have to buy one document-type app, this is it.
iAnnotate ($10) – if GoodReader is the swiss army knife of PDF apps, iAnnotate is the finely crafted tool. iAnnotate does not do as many things as GoodReader, but it can do almost anything with a PDF file. Its annotation tools are unrivaled. It has a file manager system, a tabbed interface, and connectivity to cloud services, and great search capability. Best of all, it also allows the conversion of Doc and PPT files to PDF.
neu.Annotate PDF ($1) – a basic PDF annotation app. Not as good as iAnnotate or Goodreader, but it will do the basics for very little cost.
iFiles ($4) – the main drawback to the iPad is its lack of filing and folder system. Apple believes that you should never use that, but always just “use the cloud.” The problem with that is that sometimes you are not connected to the internet. For those times, you can use iFiles to download and organize files on your iPad (from your PC, Dropbox or Google Docs) and then sync them later.
iThoughts ($8) – a mind map app that works with file formats of other Mind Map programs. iTHoughts can also be used to create mind maps without a desktop application. I use MindManager, and this will open up hose files, and save them in the same format. Combine that with Dropbox access, and it essentially takes Mindmapping to the mobile interface. I bought this before MindManager came out with a free app called Mindjet.
Mindjet for iPad – MindManager’s mind map native iOS app.
mySilde Powerpoint Presenter ($3) – after trying many PowerPoint presentation apps, I settled on this one. With a companion downloaded desktop application (an exe file that could be run from a thumb drive), this app allows you to completely control a PowerPoint presentation on that desktop through a network connection.
Agenda Calendar ($1)– App for both iPhone and iPad that allows you to have several different views of your calendar, and easily switch between them. The interface is nicer than the native calendar app, and includes a year-long view, and a “goals” view.
TaskTask ($5, iPad and iPhone versions separate) – the best app I have found that syncs with your Outlook task list. It fills the gap that iOS has – iOS natively syncs and has calendaring, email and notes, but not tasks.
The iPad's ability for note taking is rather impressive. The screen size of the iPad makes it possible to draw on, and to write handwritten notes. There are a number of good apps that take advantage of these features. Most of them also allow you to type notes using the iPad's keyboard.
Notability ($1) – There are a great many very nice note taking apps. Almost all of them have Dropbox/Google Docs syncing, typing capability, handwriting capability, and drawing. This one also has audio recording integration.
Notes Plus ($8) – another very good note taking app. It also has audio support, and a close-up zoom function. You can export your notes as PDF files and synchronize with Dropbox or Google docs
Penultimate ($1) – yet another good note taking app. This especially has good drawing capability, and nice organizational structure for your notes. You can customize the background with different colored “papers” or other backgrounds. It has a very good search capability as well.
neu.Notes (free) – a basic notes app. Not as good as others, but it is free.
Evernote (free) – this is the iPhone version of the Evernote service (which is free). It is great for organizing quick notes, and clips of webpages. It synchronizes with the desktop version of ever note, which means you can keep your notes synchronized on your computer, iPad, and even iPhone.
Bible (free) – This is the best free Bible app I have found. It is also called “YouVersion.” The YouVersion website has reading plans, note capabilities, and many, many Bible translations. You can also download most of the versions to your device for offline reading.
Logos (free) – the mobile app for Logos users. Logos is the premier digital Biblical library program for desktops (Bibles, Greek and Hebrew works, commentaries, etc.). With this I have access to (literally) thousands of books with me at all time. You can run searches, highlight, take notes, and even store prayer requests.
ESV Bible (free) – Crossway really knows how to market and service a translation. The interface on this app is excellent. It is the best reading Bible app if the ESV is your translation of choice (if not, YouVersion is a decent substitute).
ESV Study Bible ($15) – same as above, but with the ESV Study Bible notes (which are excellent), at the additional cost.
Fighter Verses ($3) – Bible memorization app put out by John Piper’s Desiring God ministries.
Grace To You (free) – the mobile interface for John Macarthur material.
Ligonier Ministries (free) – a great interface to much of R.C. Sproul’s material, both video and audio.
RTS Mobile (free) – Reformed Theological Seminaries app with access to much of its course content (audio).
Google Books (free) – allows you to read any Google Books you have purchased or downloaded (there are many free books on Google Books, especially older public domain works). The interface is clean and good.
iBooks (free)– Apple’s book applicaton. Very slick interface, but typically the prices on iBooks for books are 30-40% higher than Amazon’s Kindle bookstore and higher than Google Books as well. I use it occasionally for reading (it will also show PDFs), but have never bought a book from it. There is the other problem that books purchased on iBooks cannot be read anywhere else, even on a computer (including Macs).
Kindle (free) – Don’t have a Kindle? Don’t worry. You can download free (or paid) kindle versions of books from Amazon and read them on your iPhone. The type is very clear, and it would be a good idea to use this while deciding whether to buy a Kindle or not. Better still, if you do buy a Kindle, you can sync your reading (including the place in the book you left off) between your Kindle and your device.
iHeart Radio (free) – streams Clearchannel radio stations. It is very useful if you are a Michigan fan and want to listen to Wolverine games. I guess it would also work for other out of town stations/games also.
Pandora Radio (free) – a free radio program that allows you to create your own type of radio stations (by music selections). It integrates with the web version.
Remote (free) – control iTunes on your computer from your iPhone.
Shazam (free) – this app “listens” to music that is playing and then searches a database to find the information on the song. Very fun if you are listening to the radio wondering “Who sings this?”
SoundHound (free/$3) – app that does essentially what Shazam does. I have also found that it has good tie in to Youtube videos of the songs it finds, lyrics, and the iTunes store for purchasing tracks and albums. The paid version is ad free and gets the latest features.
AP Mobile (free) – News app that takes advantage of iOS 3.0’s push notifications to send you notifications of breaking news. You can also use it to browse news stories. (iTunes link)
Bloomberg (free) – the built in Stocks app is great for checking out whether the market is up or down 500 points today, but this app gives much more detail. And it is free.
CNN for iPad (free)– probably the slickest, most video friendly news app out there.
NY Times (free) – read the NY Times in easy format.
USA Today (free) – the iPhone version of the newspaper.
Beat the Traffic (free) – an app that provides a wealth of traffic information. Especially for the iPhone, it can warn you of impending traffic problems.
FlightTrack Pro (free/$5) – an excellent travel app. Everyone at one time or another has been forced to find an alternative flight or had flight delays. FlightTrack Pro makes rescheduling or finding an alternative flight much easier. It also will give updates if your flight changes gates or is delayed. The paid version gets push alerts, terminal maps and weather forecasts for departure and arrival cities.
Packing Pro ($3.99) – This app allows you to pretty painlessly create packing lists. It has templates for families, business travel, type of travel, etc. We used this for a three week trip up north to see family. There is also a lite version for ($0.99)
TripIt (free) – mobile interface for the TripIt service. TripIt can set up trips for you from the email confirmations you get from airlines.
Adobe Photoshop Express (free) – Free app from Adobe that edits pictures on the device. Remarkably powerful for being a much slimmed down version of Adobe’s desktop Photoshop software.
Amazon Mobile (free) – Amazon’s mobile version of its website. Very nice interface, and includes the capability to take a picture of something or scan a barcode to search for it on Amazon.
Aroundme (free) – This is an app that can tell you types of places around your current location, such as grocery stores, gas stations, banks, etc. Can be very useful when away from your usual stomping grounds.
Calcutipr (free) – Calculates the tip on a restaurant bill. There are dozens of free tip apps, but this is the best in my mind. You can set it to divide by the number of persons in the dining party, subtract tax, and change the tip percentage. And it is easy to read.
Chase Mobile (free) – This app lets you find ATMs and branches close to your current location (using the iPhone’s built in GPS). You can also check your bank balances in an iPhone friendly format. Best of all, you can deposit checks by taking a picture of them!
Constitution for iPhone (free) – a free copy of the Constitution, optimized for iPhone viewing
Dial Zero (free) – this app gives you details on how to get through a key prompt maze to get a real person at a great many companies. It is often faster to use than even looking up a number for a company via Google.
DirecTV (free) – if you are a DirecTV subscriber, this is very nice. You can remotely control recordings, change channels on your receiver, and check up on what is being watched anywhere in your house. It has also added some channels you can watch right on your iPad.
Dual Level ($0.99) – ever wondered if something was level? This app is turns your phone into a level. Surprisingly useful, even for a non-tool guy like me. I got it when it was free, now $1.
Facebook (free) – Facebook now has native apps for both the iPhone and the iPad (no need for 3rd party iPad substitutes).
Flashlight (free) – this app turns the screen of your iPhone bright white (or other colors), allowing it work like a flashlight in the dark. It is surprisingly useful.
Google Mobile App (free) – one of the best apps out there. It allows you to submit a voice search to Google. So if you are driving around and need an address for a company, you can simply speak into the phone the name of the company and it will provide Google search results. It also integrates with Google Docs, and Google Apps.
Grocery IQ ($0.99) – This app allows you to keep your grocery list, including brands of specific products, on your iPhone. You can set up the layout of the store to have it help you buy products in the order you are walking through. It was upgraded toallow more than one store layout recently. My wife loves this.
HT Recorder ($7) – a very nice recording and sound editing app.
Instapaper (free) – this is a great app that allows you to save webpages and articles for reading later or archiving. You can also use this in conjunction with the web browser extensions (Chrome and Firefox) or even the website itself.
JotNot ($3)– this app enhances pictures you take to allow them to be used like scans you send to someone. It has presets for Whiteboards, Pictures and documents, and you can save the result in various formats (email sized jpg or PDF). It basically “cleans up” and sharpens pictures of things that you are sending for information, not for pictures.
Pastie (free/$1.99) – this app allows you to send quick messages with preconfigured text (like, “I’ll be home in 15 minutes”). The free version allows 3 saved expressions. The full version is $1.99
PrintBureau ($20) – ever wanted to print from your iPad or iPhone? Me too. PrintBureau is one of a suite of printing apps put out by EuroSmartz. This particular app allows full printing from iPads and iPhones (it is a dual app). You can print emails, documents and pictures from your device. Related apps for just the iPad will adjust the iPhone are less expensive.
Reeder ($5) – a good RSS (really simple feed) reader for iOS. I use this especially with Google Reader.
Roboform Online (free) – Not an app, strictly speaking. It is a webapp that allow you to store all your passwords using the Roboform application, which I highly recommend. Roboform allows you to have odd, hard to guess passwords (it will generate random passwords of nearly unlimited length, and then remember the login). You can jump to the website and autofill the passwords from your browser. Roboform Online solves synchronizes all your passwords so they are available on the device.
Scan (free) – a simple app that reads those bar squares that show up in different places. It will also read regular bar codes.
Showtimes (free) – rated among the best movie finder apps. You can find out what time a movie is showing near you, search by theater or search by movie.
Sportacular (free) – easily see sports scores
The Weather Channel (free) – see weather for your area quickly and easily without having to input into a web page. Standard version is free, Max version is $3.99 (which I don’t think is worth it)
Urbanspoon (free) – gives restaurant suggestions based on your location.
Where (free) – this app uses your location to tell you what is around you (Starbucks, gas prices, etc.). It is free, but has some ads.
WolframAlpha ($3) – a supercomputer at your fingertips. You can input natural language questions for calculations and answers. WolframAlpha does all sorts of calculations: mortgage calculations, convergence, and even higher math. This is the engine behind Apple's siri program.
Wordpress (free) – create and read your Wordpress blog entries