WEB REVIEW: Padding out the functions on your new iPad

Jim Cota
January 1, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Jim Cota

Judging by the action at the local Apple store, I think it’s safe to assume that many of you rang in 2011 with a new iPad.

Congratulations!They truly are amazing.

But you may have also experienced that moment—after you’ve checked your mail and used the Web browser to read the newspaper—where you thought, “What’s next?”

The answer, of course, is one of the half a million applications (“apps”) available in the iTunes Store, many for free. The problem with this answer is that there are half a million of them.

To help with this overwhelming abundance, the Rare Bird staff and I have compiled a list of the most used and most amazing apps we’ve found so far.

“Most used” is the easiest category. Excluding the standard Apple apps like Mail, Calendars, Safari and iBooks—they include NewsPro, USAToday, Wall Street Journal and BBC News, all great for news junkies. These all work as you’d expect with content updated regularly, some including video, most providing entirely free content. The WSJ has both free and paid access. 

Two others that deserve a little more attention are NPR and CNBC Realtime. If you’re a fan of NPR, you’ll love its app. It provides complete news coverage, in both written and audio form, an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use interface, and the ability to share stories across social networks. Aside from news, it allows you to listen to your favorite programs at your convenience—very handy if you missed the last episode of “Car Talk” or “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”

CNBC Realtime features live real-time quotes and streaming business news. It’s like watching CNBC while being able to customize the data to match your needs. And it’s free. Amazing.

Outside of news, favorites include Flipboard, which presents all your social networks in a magazine format; Hulu+ (like the service on your computer, but for the iPad; it’s very good, but needs more content); Instapaper, an aggregator of all the things you mark to read later; CalcBot, a great little app that fills the void left by Apple’s not including a calculator; Weatherbug; Penultimate (handwriting, note-taking, drawing); and Pandora, the same awesome functionality you love on your computer. Other favorites are Kindle for iPad, with access to Amazon’s unmatched bookstore; and iTeleport, which allows you to access and work on your main computer from the iPad. One of our developers says it’s “worth every penny.”

For video, there are several great entries outside of Hulu+. Netflix (if you have an account) provides access to their instant-streaming content, which is small but growing; ABC Player lets you watch nearly anything shown on the network; 60 Minutes provides complete video playback of shows, enhanced with additional coverage in “60 Minutes Overtime.”

There are some other general-purpose apps that come up time and again: Epicurious provides a vast library of great recipes; Eyewitness shows one photo each day from the news; Windowshop allows you to shop Amazon through an app instead of your web browser; Articles takes the content on Wikipedia and formats it in a reader-friendly way; Twitter is, well, Twitter; ESPN ScoreCenterXL offers everything sports-related from the de facto king of sports, including video highlights, live play-by-play and more; and Quick Voice, which is a surprisingly accurate voice-to-text convertor.

Last, but not least, are the games. There are thousands of them, and many of them aren’t even worth 99 cents.

But there are some real gems out there. WordsHD and Scrabble are both great and allow you to play against your friends. Monopoly allows four different ways to play, including a tabletop mode where the iPad becomes the board. Plants vs. Zombies defies explanation, but I will tell you my mom played for five hours straight on the way home to North Carolina. Field Runners is a modern version of a tower strategy game. VeggieSamurai requires that you use your fingers like swords to slice and dice. And Angry Birds lets you shoot birds out of a catapult to knock over the pigs that have taken their eggs (or something like that).

I’ve never really tried to explain any of those games before. Now that I’ve done it, they all sound odd, but trust me, they’re all fun.

The last entry is the one app to have for those moments when someone looks at your iPad and asks, “What does it do?” Open Starwalk, show them the screen (which is synced to your location) and raise it to the sky. Starwalk instantly maps the heavenly bodies that are above you, at any time, wherever you are.

Even better, take them outside on a clear night and start naming everything. This is truly amazing, and the best example I’ve found of the magic in Steve Jobs’ “magical” device.

This list has been shortened somewhat due to space constraints. To see my entire list, stop by http://blog.rarebirdinc.com).

Do you have a favorite that I’ve missed? Be sure to let me know and I’ll check it out and consider adding it.•


Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.


  • Surfboard for iPad
    I would like to throw my app into the mix as well: Surfboard.
    It is like safari combined with the functionality of the photos app for pinch zooming and slideshows. Once you set it up with the web pages you like to view, it will slide show them for you while the iPad is docked.

    Also, you can use it to get a quick view of your home pages while your iPad is offline later.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am a Lyft driver who is a licensed CDL professional driver. ALL Lyft drivers take pride in providing quality service to the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, and we take the safety of our passengers and the public seriously.(passengers are required to put seat belts on when they get in our cars) We do go through background checks, driving records are checked as are the personal cars we drive, (these are OUR private cars we use) Unlike taxi cabs and their drivers Lyft (and yes Uber) provide passengers with a clean car inside and out, a friendly and courteous driver, and who is dressed appropriately and is groomed appropriately. I go so far as to offer mints, candy and/or small bottle of water to the my customers. It's a mutual respect between driver and passenger. With Best Regards

  2. to be the big fish in the little pond of IRL midwest racin' when yer up against Racin' Gardner

  3. In the first sentance "As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss are build quality & price." need a way to edit

  4. As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss is build quality & price. First none of these places is worth $1100 for a one bedroom. Downtown Carmel or Keystone at the Crossing in Indy. It doesn't matter. All require you to get in your car to get just about anywhere you need to go. I'm in one of the Carmel apartments now where after just 2.5 short years one of the kitchen cabinet doors is crooked and lawn and property maintenance seems to be lacking my old Indianapolis apartment which cost $300 less. This is one of the new star apartments. As they keep building throughout the area "deals" will start popping up creating shoppers. If your property is falling apart after year 3 what will it look like after year 5 or 10??? Why would one stay here if they could move to a new Broad Ripple in 2 to 3 years or another part of the Far Northside?? The complexes aren't going to let the "poor" move in without local permission so that's not that problem, but it the occupancy rate drops suddenly because the "Young" people moved back to Indy then look out.

  5. Why are you so concerned about Ace hardware? I don't understand why anyone goes there! Every time ive gone in the past, they don't have what I need and I end up going to the big box stores. I understand the service aspect and that they try to be helpful but if they are going to survive I think they might need to carry more specialty parts.