Top 50 Essential iPad Apps

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Apple, Games, iPad

Are you a lucky and proud owner of a new iPad2? With hundreds of thousands of apps in the iTunes App store, your next task of finding just the right ones may become a daunting experience! But not to worry, I’ve got you covered! Below is a list of the top 50 iPad Only and Universal apps (works both on the iPhone and iPad) for you to get started. There are plenty more, but I had to keep the list to just the essentials!

Jump to the various categories: Music and Video, Books and Reading, Productivity, Photography, Games, Social Networking, Education, Shopping

*Unless noted, these apps will also work on the iPad 1st generation.

Music and Video

Pandora Radio – Create you own unique radio stations and stream them anywhere. Learn more about the artist and what inspires them. There’s even an option to bookmark your favorite songs and artists so you can refer back to them, as well as share to your social networks. There is also a link to iTunes so you can purchase the song. Create an account to further personalize your music-listening experience. Universal App (Free)

Hulu – Watch your favorite shows and movies right on your iPad! Glee, Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Bones, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, House, 30 Rock, Food Network shows, movies, and much more. See the current listing. You can try Hulu+ for a week for free. To continue using the subscription, it’s $7.99 a month. Universal App (Free)

Netflix – Already have a Netflix subscription? Now you can watch the shows and movies on your queue right on your iPad! This is part of your Nextflix unlimited membership. You can also resume watching where you left off on your computer or TV. Video out is supported on the iPad, iPhone 4, and iPod Touch 4G. Universal App (Free)

ABC Player – Turn your iPad into a TV! If you enjoy ABC shows like Modern Family, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, The View, and others, you’ll love this. Put your iPad in the kitchen and catch up on your favorite shows while cooking or washing dishes. Commercials are short and Internet connection is required. iPad Version (Free)

Discovery Channel – Watch your favorite Discovery shows on your iPad! Episodes of Dirty Jobs, Gold Rush, MythBusters, American Chopper, and many more are available. Tap around to see extra photos and learn more about the characters. Internet connection required.
iPad Version (Free) | iPhone Version (Free)

Glee Karaoke – Sing your heart out to your favorite Glee song! You can sound like a star with the option to auto tune and harmonize. Compete online to earn the stars and prizes. Additional songs are available for in-app purchase for 99 cents.
Universal App (99 cents)

Shazam for iPad – Ever heard of a song you like but just don’t know who sings it? This app helps you identify that song simply be recording a few seconds of it. A link to download it on iTunes, artist’s page, similar tracks, and social network sharing, along with part of the song are displayed after it recognizes the song. iPad Version (Free) | iPhone Version (Free)

Magic Fiddle – Learn how to play a fiddle right on your iPad! Holding it may be hard at first because of the iPad’s shape, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Try out Twinkle Twinkle as your first song in the songbook. Additional song sets are available for 99 cents.
iPad Version ($2.99 cents)

Garage Band – What if you could carry a portal music studio with you? Garage Band on your iPad is just that! It includes instruments like guitars, basses, keyboards, and drum sets that you an use to record and mix. Create music by mixing up to 8 tracks and easily share them with your friends. It is a big app, taking up 369MB of space. And it works best on the iPad 2. iPad Version ($4.99 cents)

Books and Reading

Goodreader – This is a wonderful PDF reader for the iPad. You can highlight and annotate text in your PDF. In addition, it could also read other file types such as: MS Office – .doc, .ppt., .xls, iWork ’08/’09, HTML and Safari web archives, High resolution images, and even audio and video! To my surprise, it also read Zip files! It’s like a Swiss Army Knife to file management on the iPad. iPad Version ($4.99) | iPhone Version ($4.99)

Dr. Seuss Books – These books are simply amazing on the iPad. Buy them for the child in your life and watch how they interact with the book. Or just buy it for yourself and bring back a piece of your childhood. I loved watching Dr. Suess’ characters come to life. All the apps are universal and have options to auto-read, have you read and manually turn pages. Tap all around the pages to make the drawing come to life. My favorites are How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the Cat in the Hat, and Fox in Socks. Universal Apps: Fox in Socks ($3.99) | The Grinch ($4.99) | Cat in Hat ($3.99) | Cat in the Hat Lite (Free)

iBooks – The iBooks store is fun place to look for new books to add to your iPad. Books simply look gorgeous in this app. When downloaded, your books are displayed nicely on a bookshelf. Each book comes with a chapter preview, so you can try before you buy. There are also many setting options to make your reading experience more enjoyable. Change the font size, font type, screen brightness, toggle sepia on and off, and add a virtual bookmark to your page. Search for text, highlight and leave notes in your book. Universal App (Free)

Kindle – If you already have a great Kindle/Amazon collection of books, this app is perfect. You can import all of your purchases over to your iPad easily. Just login and hit sync to bring your books over. Best of all, the pictures in your Kindle books will be in color! Enhanced books (ones with audio or video) are also available. Universal App (Free)

Google Books – Now you can buy your books from Google too. Access over 2 million Google eBooks on your favorite device. There are options to change font size/typeface, search within the book, more book info, page turns, night-reading mode, and offline reading mode. All you need is to log into your Gmail account to access your books. Universal App (Free)

Epicurious – Download recipes from the fabulous site, right onto your iPad and read it in the kitchen while you cook! Choose from over 30,000 different recipes. Save your favorites, and create a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need to cook it. It’s a delightful app for the most seasoned chef, to a casual cook. Universal App (Free)

InstaPaper – Instapaper is a free web service that allows you to save web articles and links for reading at a later time. The Universal iOS app caches the articles you save for offline reading on your device. This is really handy when you want to save articles to read on the plane or when traveling. Many apps also have Instapaper built-in so you can send links to it too. Highly recommended if you enjoy reading a lot of webpages and news. Universal App ($4.99)


Penultimate – a great notebook app. Take notes by writing (preferably with a stylus) and organize them in separate notebooks. Choose from graph, lined, or plain paper for your notes. The app is fast and simple to use. There are also options to email your page (or entire notebook) to someone, save it to your photo roll, or print. iPad Version ($1.99)

ToDo – If you ever carried a daily planner with you in the past, you’ll fall in love with this app. It’s a gorgeous To-Do list that’s wrapped up in a beautiful interface. Create your list of To-Do’s and reminders and check them off as you complete them. The simple and beautiful interface is what makes this app unique. Change out the theme as your mood changes. Additional themes can be purchase in-app for 99 to $1.99. iPad Version ($4.99) | iPhone Version ($4.99)

SketchyPad – This is perfect if you’re an web or app designer. Add your design on the canvas, along with various components. Double tap on the component to customized and change. This is the perfect app when you need to jot down your ideas for a client. Design a page/app quickly to demonstrate your ideas. There’s even an option to email the design or save in your photo roll. This works well when you need to share your design idea with your development team. iPad Version ($4.99)

Dropbox – store your files in the clouds. It’s like a hard drive that follows you everywhere, no matter what device you use. Your files will be synced all across your devices. A Dropbox account is required. The free Dropbox account comes with 2GB of space that you can use for as long as you like. You may upgrade up to 100GB. Universal App (Free)

Bento – create your own personal database. Have a collection or cds or inventory you need to keep up? Store it in Bento and sync your databases across your devices. Bento comes with 25 ready-to-use database templates that can be easily customized to organize any type of information you have. You can manage contacts, track projects, organize your album collection, plan events and so much more. iPad Version ($4.99) | iPhone Version ($4.99)

Brushes – Love to doodle, paint, or draw? This app has a beautiful interface that’s simple to learn, yet powerful enough for professional artists. This app comes with 19 high-quality brushes, up to 6 layers, a quick zoom, in-app replay of your paintings (amazing feature), VGA/TV output, and much more. iPad Version ($7.99) | iPhone Version ($4.99)

Evernote – this is the app that can remember everything you can’t! Store your thoughts, pictures, and anything you want to remember in the cloud. You can even tag, search, and organize all your thoughts too. Creating an account is free. You can also go premium if you would like to be able to upload any file time, and up to 1GB of space per month.
Universal App (Free)

Pages – If you edit or create a lot of formatted documents, this is the app you’ll need. Simply type your text like you would in MS Word or Pages. Select and highlight text that you would like to bold or change color. Add, drag, and drop images into your file and move them around easily. Spell checking and word count also available. iPad Version ($9.99)

iMovie – Now that the iPad 2 has cameras, you’ll probably be taking more videos! Edit them right on your iPad with this easy-to-use app. Add photos, music, sound effects and give it the whole Hollywood treatment with 8 different themes to choose from. Some features exclusively on the iPad 2 are the Multi-Touch Precision Editor and Audio waveforms. Overall, it’s a great app to edit videos on the go without the need of a computer.
Universal App but compatible with iPad 4, iPod Touch 4, and iPad 2 Only ($4.99)


Photoshop Express – Now that there’s a camera on the iPad 2, this app will come in handy. It’s like Photoshop for your fingers! Import your image and edit away. Pinch and zoom to apply filters, and then save the image, or upload to
Universal App (Free)

Coolibah – This app is probably geared more for the crafty people. You’ll be taking a lot more photos on your iPad now. What better way to spruce up your photos than with a splash of patterns and colors. Digitally scrapbook your photos on the fly and post them to your favorite social networks. Export higher quality versions to make prints as well! The app is free to download, but your creations will have a watermark on them. You can upgrade via in-app purchase ($4.99), as well as purchase more scrapbook templates for 99 cents each. Universal App (Free)


Plants vs Zombies HD – This is one of the best games out there. And it’s even more fun on the iPad because you can get your tapping-action going. Protect your house from the zombies by planting super-power plants in front of your house. Don’t let the zombies get close.. or you may lose your mindiPad Version ($6.99) | iPhone Version ($2.99)

Angry Birds HD – You got to have the number one game of all time on your iPad. Your favorite birds are at it again, terrorizing the pigs and scaring them out of their homes. The adventure puzzle game just get better and better, especially being on such a nice big iPad screen. Hit your targets with better accuracy. And if you do miss too many times, call on the help of the big Mighty Eagle! Be sure to join Game Center and see how you rank in the world. (Angry Birds Seasons is a seasonal version of the game.)
iPad Version ($4.99) | iPad Lite Version (Free) | iPad Seasons Version ($1.99) | iPhone Version (99 cents)

Scrabble – Gather your friends around to play a round of Scrabble — everyone’s favorite word game! In party mode, the iPad becomes your game board. Have everyone else with iOS devices download Scrabble Tile Rack (Free) and they’ll be able to throw their letter pieces onto the board! It’s quite amazing to watch how the devices communicate with one another. Other modes are also available, but Party Mode is certainly the most entertaining. Best of all, you won’t lose any game pieces when it’s over. ;) iPad Version ($9.99)

Words with Friends HD – Play one-on-one with a friend with this word game. You can play quickly or take your time making your moves. There are more Triple Words (TW) places on this board, so you’ll be surprised how quickly the scores dramatically change. This game is available on both iOS and Android platforms, so you can play with all of your friends.
iPad Version ($2.99) | iPad Lite Version (Free) | iPhone Version ($2.99)

Cut the Rope HD – Who doesn’t love physics games with something as adorable as a green pet that only eats candy? Candy dangles on a rope and you must cut it so that it falls right into the mouth of your cute pet. Collect stars along the way to advance to the next levels. Trust me, you’ll love it. iPad Version ($1.99) | iPad Lite Version (Free) | Universal Holiday Version (Free) | iPhone Version (99 cents)

World of Goo – Winner of many design, puzzle, and game awards, this game is a must-have. Drag and drop moving and squirming globs of goo to build structures, bridges, canonballs, etc. Unused balls of goo will climb up your structure to reach and end point. Save and rescue enough Goo to advance to the next level! The World of Goo has beautiful graphics and an amazing soundtrack. It’s one of the best games for the Mac and even better on the iPad. Explore and get lose in the World of Goo! iPad Version ($4.99)

Smurfs’ Village – Hooray, hooray! The Smurfs are in here! Get ready for the smurfy cuteness to invade your iPads! If you enjoy games like We rule and Farmville, you’ll love Smurfs’ Village even more. Based on the original cartoon and comic art, this game brings back a lot of childhood memories. Universal App (Free)

Super Monkey Ball 2: Sakura Edition – Your favorite monkeys are on the loose again! Keep your monkeys rolling in orbs as you collect bananas and race to the finish line. Mini-games include Monkey Base, Monkey Target, Monkey Golf, and Monkey Bowling. Have an endless fun time with this accelerometer game! This iPad game was $14.99 but is now on sale for $3.99. iPad Version ($3.99) | iPhone Version ($2.99)

HoloToy – While you’re waiting for the new Nintendo 3DS to come out, get a taste of the 3D effect on your iPhone or iPad! HoloToy a series of 3D games you can play on your iDevice. Believe me, it’s not like anything you’ve seen in the app store before. New games are added frequently and best of all, it’s only 99 cents! Universal App ($1.99 cents)

Social Networking

Flipboard is an amazing and beautiful interactive magazine designed just for you. As you flip the pages, you will see personalized pages filled with your friends Tweets, Facebook updates, and posted photos. At least that’s who it would work if you were allowed to connect your account. They’re currently still working on the accounts portion, but it’s definitely worth the download. I suggest adding the “Tech Influencers” to your content list to get tech news, tweets, and announcements. iPad Version (Free)

Friendly Facebook – Facebook doesn’t have an official app yet, so this app is the best next thing! It displays your Facebook profile, wall, and status updates nicely. Not to mention, the photos are gorgeous as well. You wouldn’t want to go back to the website after trying it. It also allows you to have multiple accounts, but from my experiences, the inboxes seem to get mixed up it there are two or more accounts. iPad Version (Free/99 cents – ad free)

IM+ – Sign into chat with this app and connect to your GTalk, Yahoo, MSN/Live Messenger, AIM/iChat, ICQ, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and Jabber accounts. There are push notifications when you receive a message. And it’s a universal app, so you only need to purchase once. Universal App (Free / $9.99 – ad free)

Twitter – Follow your friends and their tweets, real-time news searches, and your interests on the official Twitter app. It has a clean user interface, but is quite powerful underneath it all. Tap, swipe up and down, and reveal hidden features. The one thing I’d like to see add is the ability to manage users in lists. This feature seems to be absent on the iPad version.
Universal App (Free)

GetGlue – this is a social network for people who want to ‘check-in’ and rate movies, tv shows, music, books, and more! Earn stickers and badges along the way. You can also have your stickers mailed to you! Best of all, it’s free!
iPad Version (Free) | iPhone Version (Free)


NASA App is a fabulous app if you want to dive deep into space exploration. Explore each of the planets closely. Read tweets from space, read NASA news, see thousands of images from space, and much much more. Internet connection is required.
iPad Version (Free) | iPhone Version (Free)

WebMD – This app lets you check your symptoms, access drug & treatment information, get first aid essentials, and check local health listings. To check your symptoms, simply tap on the picture of the body to narrow down your affected area.
iPad Version (Free) | iPhone Version (Free)

WolframAlpha – Love information? Now you can access expert knowledge no matter where you are. Computer solutions to difficult math problems, balance complex chemical equations, get help with a crossword puzzle, and much much more. This app was at one time selling for $49.99 and is on sale for just 99 cents this week. It’s universal, so you’ll be able to use it on your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad! Universal App ($1.99 cents)

EMD PTE Periodic Table – If you’re taking Chemistry, or need to review the periodic tablet of elements, this comes in pretty handy. Click on the elements to get more information on it. The app is universal, working on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad!
Universal Version (Free)

3D Cell Simulation and Stain Tool is perfect for students taking Biology. Learn about what makes up the cell structure with a 3d model, as well as stain your own cell by selecting colors for each structure. Have fun rotating the cell around and finding the Golgi, Lysosomes, and Nucleus! iPad Version (Free)


Zappos – As if your weren’t addicted to shopping at already, they just made a gorgeous iPad app that let’s your browse through all of your future accessories! Select an item and swipe up and down to scroll though the different angles. It sure makes shopping a lot of fun! Tab through reviews, more details, and more info about the brand. Shop for shoes, clothing, bags, beauty products, as well as housewares. Great user interface and that’s both functional and easy to use! Universal App (Free)

Target for iPad – Getting ready for some Christmas shopping? Be sure to check out the weekly ads on the Target iPad app. Just set your store location and the ad will appear. Flip through the pages and when you see something you like, tap and add it to your list. When you’re done browsing, email the list to yourself and you’re ready to go shopping. The apps makes it a fun and green way to read the weekly ads! iPad Version (Free)

Windowshop by Amazon is a fun way to browse what’s available on Pictures of products are displayed according to categories and you can tap and swipe away. Tap on a category and the entire screen is filled with items from only that category. It does make shopping and finding gift-giving ideas much easier! iPad Version (Free)

Boutiques – Shop or “window browse” the latest and largest collection of curated boutiques. These have been created or inspired by celebrities, designers, fashion trends, and popular users. If you love fashion, you’ll love this app. Beautiful interface to tap and browse. iPad Only App (Free)

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  • IntegratedS

    I am a professional photographer and using sortshots and I find this app best for sorting pics. It has some other great features like you can add tags and tagging options also include personalized keywords, ratings, favourites, or type of media – photo or video. Tapping on a tag provides instant results so that we can further refine our search with additional tags and keywords.
    Great App! Perfect application for sorting the pics and videos on the ipad…..