What would the end of the year be without another list for something? Right. So here are my twelve favorite apps for 2011. A couple of these are also available for the iPhone or were originally created for the iPhone.
I’ve included links to the developers’ sites for your convenience when using a desktop. But to download the apps (and see more reviews), it’s best to use the iTunes app on your iPad.
- Flipboard. $Free. It’s like having a magazine or newspaper written just for you. Flipboad aggregates postings not just from Facebook and Twitter, but also from news sources that you choose. It includes multimedia content in a flip-book format.
- HootSuite. $Free or $5.99 a month for premium service. The iPad’s built-in Twitter app is adequate at best, and Twitter recently made it worse. HootSuite makes it easier to manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, and with more features than I have space for here. The free version is ad-supported and gives you up to 5 profiles, and the paid version has no limit. It also includes analytics and other features.
- Lynda.com. $Free to download the app; subscription to the service is from $25/month to $375/year, all unlimited service. Yes I get paid for content I created for them, but I spend a lot of time using the service, too. If there is a software application or technique you want to learn, chances are Lynda.com has a lot of expertly-created videos for it.
- Facebook. $Free. The app makes it easier to use Facebook on your device rather than going to the web site.
- Pulse. $Free. It’s the best aggregator I’ve found to read blog and Twitter feeds of people you follow. Pulse is easy to configure and you can sync it with the Google news reader, which you can also use for free on your desktop.
- Skype. $Free. Pay inexpensive Skype charges to call regular phones. Use all the text, audio and video features of Skype on your iPad. Attach a headset (wired or Bluetooth), and your iPad works like a mobile phone, but almost for free, especially when using your iPad in Wi-Fi mode.
- The Weather Channel. $Free. There are plenty of weather apps, but this one is fast and no-nonsense. When you start it up, an animated screen shows you what the weather looks like right now (wind, sun, clouds, etc.) and quickly transitions to a 5-day forecast.
- Rhapsody and SiriusXM satellite radio. $Free to download the apps, uses your existing service. OK, so I have 13 favorites, but Rhapsody and SiriusXM both let you stream the same content you would at your desk or in the car, and for no additional fees. Get yourself a pair of Bluetooth speakers, and stream your music wirelessly. Note: these apps work in iPhone mode on your iPad. Press the 2x button in the corner to make them fill the screen.
- National Public Radio. $Free, relies on donations. It isn’t always easy to find NPR, especially if you aren’t near a major metro area. This app brings you all their shows, including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Science Friday and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Listen to shows either live or archived.
- Dropbox. $Free to download app and for basic service. 50 gb and 100 gb throughput for $9.99 and $19.99 a month. Since iPads don’t have USB connections, how do you move files on or off? You can sync photos and videos using iTunes, but it’s a tedious process just for one or two files, and those go only to two pre-determined folders. And what about other files? Dropbox gives you storage space in the cloud, and integrates with many other apps. Note: you’ll want to install the free Dropbox app on your desktop also, but don’t let it run automatically or it will slow your system down. Run it when you need it, then exit.
- Yelp. $Free. Read and write restaurant reviews. If you allow, Yelp uses the iPad’s geo-locator service automatically to display restaurants and maps near you. How can you tell Yelp is good? When Zagat got spooked, Google bought them and started dissing Yelp. They wouldn’t have cared, otherwise.
- Star Walk. $4.99. This is the #1 coolest app I’ve seen. Hold the iPad’s camera up to the night sky, and Star Walk will show amazing graphics of constellations, galaxies and stars, over 20,000 objects. Tap something on the screen to get more information about it. Star Walk works best with the iPad 2 and allowing it to use GPS. Its database is self-contained, so you can use it without an Internet connection. One day, I hope to find my home planet with it.