The Best Free Apple iPad Apps of 2010

iPad appsArticle first published as Best Free Apple iPad Apps of 2010 on Blogcritics.

It's that time of year - Top 10 Lists galore. So, I will play along and offer a few reflections on the year that was 2010 with a list related to the top gadget of the year, the iPad. The device itself debuted to great success, but as with all hardware and software relationships, you can't have one without the other. Thus, here are ten apps that I've used extensively throughout the year, with the best part of all being that they are free.

Pandora iPad
The online music streaming application is a must for me. I actually listen to mixes more often than my music collection with the hopes of discovering new artists and new sounds. Although early versions seemed to have fewer ads, the addition of multitasking to iOS 4 allows iPad users to stream in the background while enjoying one of the other apps listed below.

The most polished news app in the store. Unless I'm at a hotel where it comes for free outside my door, I'm not a huge fan of the paper edition, usually preferring the Times or the local Chicago Tribune. Although NYTimes recently updated their app for the better, it is still a bit clunky for my taste. USA Today has been functional and elegant from day one, and it makes for a great example of how a newspaper can be displayed in electronic form.

Epicurious iPad
Food: Epicurious/AllRecipes
I use each of these for different reasons, but both apps have earned a spot on my iPad's front page. Epicurious provides an excellent search interface and lists ingredients and the recipe side by side in landscape mode. Pictures when available are bright and vibrant, and reviews are accessible from within the recipe. Similarly, AllRecipes provides a bounty of features, including ingredient, method, and course filtered searches. There is a pro version available for $4.99 that unlocks more recipes and more options. AllRecipes gets a slight edge in that there is a timer and a better UI when you begin cooking. Still, I tend to find more refined recipes including those from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazine in Epicurious.

Remote iPad
One of the first apps I downloaded to the iPad, Apple's Remote application remains a cool and unique way to control a shared iTunes library, and with Apple TV recently released, the 2.0 version allows you to use gestures to navigate through menus much more effectively then with the small, thin, slivery remote that comes with ATV.

Back when I was all into trading individual stocks and options, this app would have really blown me away. Still, with a collection of mutual funds to look after, I find myself interested in the happenings of the stock exchanges. CNBC has put together a great app that focuses on scrolling tickers of stock prices and top headlines. Real time quotes, pre-market data, and CNBC stock picks to watch, tracking your portfolio never seemed cooler.

Netflix iPad
Essentially a polished app interface from day one, Netflix has been a firm fixture on my iPad since launch date. I've enjoyed streaming television series, current releases, and old movies on my iPad thanks to the easy to use and surprisingly stable app. With the minimum subscription (1 DVD per month + unlimited streaming) at just under $10, this remains one of the best bargains for home entertainment in my opinion. Scrolling, scrubbing, and swiping all help make the movie watching experience on the 9.7 inch screen pure joy. 

ESPN ScoreCenter iPad
ESPN ScoreCenter
I am almost tempted not to include this one here, since for the longest time, this app cost $4.99 in the App Store. And for so long I resisted, waited for a sale, and sure enough, soon after I took the plunge, so did the price. Well, let it be a lesson learned in App Store purchasing. Never buy an app for full price unless you really want it. It's kind of like going to the Gap and buying something for full price. You just know it will be on the sale racks in a few weeks. Anyways, the app itself remains a go-to for me, as I like having integration with my ESPN account, which stores my local and favorite teams. Stories don't seem to be as fresh as those found on the website, but video tends to work more often than not. Most importantly, the scores are fresh and automatically refresh.

Although it's not the sexy interactive magazine experience that many of us imagine coming from the iPad, Zinio provides quantity, quality, and a constantly improving reading experience for some of the most popular publications. I look forward to the notification that a new magazine has arrived, and subscription prices remain reasonable with several under $10. A full review of Zinio can be found here.

Evernote iPad
Productivity: Dropbox/Evernote
Technically two different apps, I highly recommend both if you are not already using their cloud based solutions. Dropbox is essentially online storage of files, but it allows you synchronize across many computers and mobile platforms. I've discussed how Dropbox could eventually replace the USB drive. Evernote essentially does the same in terms of accessibility, but does it for notes, clippings, audio recordings and more. I love that both have a dedicated iPad app, and it speaks volumes for each company's commitment towards making their product available. I end up using Evernote with Gmail and Toodledo on a daily basis to help me in getting things done.

FlipBoard iPad
Social: Pulse News Reader/Flipboard
Certainly, Flipboard made a huge splash on the scene with its innovative way of looking at news, RSS feeds, and social networking favorites: Facebook and Twitter. I often used it more often than the actual applications themselves, especially when a native app for Facebook on the iPad continues to elude us. However, I've recently found that I am often left wanting more detail than Flipboard seems to offer, so Pulse News Reader is my new go-to for a quick scan of my favorite feeds. It may come down to personal preference, so give each a shot and decide on your own.

In the end, you really have nothing to lose in downloading any of the apps mentioned above. Chances are you may already have most of them already, and if so, then we're in agreement on how the iPad can be useful in each of our respective lives. Hopefully, you've found something new here, and if not, well, I've got another 10 apps coming your way soon in my Best Paid Apps of 2010 feature. Unfortunately, those will cost you, but lucky for you, I've already taken the plunge, so I'll let you know whether it's worth it or not.

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