The 33 Best Apps for Your New iPad

You just bought an iPad and you don't want to spend hours researching what apps to get. Here’s my subjective list of 33 great iPad apps to get you started:


If you’re like me, your first downloads will be games. Some of our family favorites:

1. Angry birds ($.99) The birds are angry at the pigs who have stolen their eggs. It is your job to launch them from catapults to destroy the pigs.

2. Cut the Rope ($.99) Figure out how to cut the ropes to feed the hungry candy-loving monster. Each level gets harder and more intricate.  

3. Veggie Samurai ($.99) Take out your aggressions against vegetables by slicing and dicing them with your fingers.

4. Moron Test ($.99) Developed for kids, this is fun & challenging for all. Prove you’re not a moron by following the instructions carefully and quickly. Sometimes you need to think outside the box to advance.

5. Flight Control ($.99) Land planes and avoid crashes. Simple to learn and impossible to put down.

6. Doodle Jump ($.99) Move the iPad back and forth to make the little guy jump higher and higher, landing on pads and avoiding monsters.

7. Osmos ($4.99) Beautiful and absorbing game where you grow bigger by engulfing smaller orbs, set to New Age-y electronic music.


Your iPad comes with iBooks installed, but you can also turn your iPad into a Kindle, Nook, or Google reader by downloading their free apps.

8. Kindle (free): You probably only need one of the additional reading apps. Kindle is a good one because of Amazon’s huge selection of books.

9. Overdrive (free): Overdrive lets you borrow ebooks from your local public library. I have some issues with it, as described in this post, but it’s hard to complain about free ebooks.

Social networking

Although you can go to the Safari browser to access sites likes Facebook or Twitter, the apps provide a nice interface.

10. Facebook (free): It’s not that innovative, but it’s nice to have a button on the menu page that takes you directly to Facebook.

11. Twitter (free): The Twitter app is more fun to use than the internet version.

12. Flipboard (free): As I wrote in this post, Flipboard is your own custom magazine that includes stories, photos and news from your Facebook and Twitter feeds, and any other social media streams. Flipboard also recommends excellent feeds on all topics (culture, sports, science, news, art, technology, etc). 

Science apps that will wow you

People have figured out some amazing ways to take advantage of the iPad’s interactive and GPS capabilities.

13. Star Walk ($4.99): This interactive astronomy app will make your jaw drop. Hold it up against the night sky and see what stars and constellations you are looking at. Rotate it down to your feet and see the night sky from the other side of the world.

14. Google Earth (free): Use your fingers to navigate anywhere on Earth. Find your house through the high resolution satellite and aerial imagery.

15. The Elements ($13.99): The periodic table of elements was never this beautiful, interactive, informative, or breathtaking.

16. NASA Visualization Explorer (free): NASA presents space and science articles using its stunning imagery (such as video of the swell and subside of plants absorbing carbon).

Educational apps

Some good apps for school age kids:

17. Brain Pop (free): My kids love this app, which provides a free daily short movie that teaches about some topic (a recent one we watched was wind power) and then quizzes them afterwards. A cute robot helps narrate and move things along.

18. Math Bingo ($.99): Practice math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) at three levels (easy, medium, and hard) while playing Bingo. Win a Bingo Bug every time you beat your own record and play a Brickbreaker-like game with them.

19. Sums Stacker ($.99): This math puzzle makes you think as you manipulate numbers into three stacks to simultaneously solve three addition or subtraction problems. You can view your numbers in innovative ways (spelled out, Roman numerals, in Spanish, on dice, etc).


20. Your favorite news site (free, some require subscriptions): Almost every newspaper or magazine has an iPad friendly app. Some require subscriptions (like the New York Times) and others are free (Washington Post, CNN, Slate, NPR, etc). The benefit of having these as apps is having a button that takes you directly to your favorite news source.

21. TED Talks (free): TED talks are short video presentations by innovative thinkers, scientists, artists, comedians, and others. Great food for thought.

22. Pandora (free): Free, personalized radio that lets you set up stations of your favorite artists or genres, introducing you to other similar artists.

23. Netflix (free): access your account and view movies on your iPad

24. NYTimes Crosswords (free intro, subscription to continue): play the daily New York Times crossword puzzle and compete against yourself and others on time. This is my new iPad addiction.

Picture book apps

The best picture book apps add interactive elements that can’t be matched by plain ebooks and involve more than just moving objects around.

25. Cinderella ($7.99) (by Nosy Crow) This is a fun and engaging story app. In each scene, you can click on the characters to get additional dialogue, flip them upside down, and play mini-games (like dressing Cinderella’s sisters, helping clean the kitchen, assembling the  carriage).  

26. Alice ($8.99) Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and the iconic illustrations by John Tenniel are gorgeously interactive, in both abridged and full text form. For example, make Alice grow and shrink, watch her fall down the rabbit hole, and throw tarts at the Queen of Hearts.

27. Bartleby’s Book of Buttons, Vol. 1: The Far Away Island ($.99) Young children will love this short story of Bartleby who must collect buttons. Each page is a puzzle and a game in which the reader must figure out the correct sequence of actions to continue.

28. Jack & The Beanstalk ($3.99) Kids will really enjoy the 30 pages of interactive fun. In each page, you need to figure out a game or action that you can take. My kids loved the page where you touch Jack and he belts out a song.

Art Apps (learn about & make art)

29. Art Authority ($9.99) This is a virtual museum of over 55,000 paintings from over 1,000 of the western world’s leading artists, from prehistory to the present. Wander through galleries or search by artist, period, genre, titles, and more.

30. Art Studio ($2.99) An intuitive and easy-to-use professional drawing and painting application that allows up to five layers (see my Illustration Friday post made with this app).

31. Drawing Pad ($1.99) A super kids’ drawing and painting app, with a plethora of tools (paint brushes, crayons, markers, stickers, backgrounds, use of iPhoto pics).

32. Book Creator ($6.99) A great app that lets both kids and professionals create electronic picture books (in fixed layout ePub format) that can be read in iBooks or published in the iBookstore.

And just because it looks great:

33. Weather HD (free) Check out the day’s weather (data from The Weather Underground) in lush, beautiful representative videos.

Which iPad apps are your favorites? I'm always on the lookout for great new ones. 

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