10 Apps to Solve the 9 Biggest iPad Problems

Download these apps and you will use your iPad more.

A lot of friends unboxed iPads this holiday season.  Their reaction to the iPad continues to be the same, encompassed by the following three statements:

  1. It’s sooooooooooooo beautiful!
  2. It’s sooooooooooooo fast!
  3. Sooooooooooooo… what do you DO with it?

I’ve read dozens of lists of recommended apps from other tech bloggers, lists that have ended with me wasting a lot of money in $4.99 increments.  I’ve followed their recommendations, buying apps that were really cool the first time I tried them, but I never actually used on a regular basis. Why?

Because the iPad is a problematic device. It’s a “tweener” tech toy, not filling a specific need or niche.

So instead of recommending the “cool” apps, I’ve compiled my list of the apps that make the iPad more handy, useful, relaxing and fun.  Below are 10 apps that solve 9 of the biggest problems with the iPad experience.  These apps may not sound sexy, but wait until you’re using them.

Bonus feature: if you’re reading this on your iPad, the app icons link right to the App Store.


The Problem: “I love reading on the iPad, but when I do have time, I can’t remember anything that I wanted to read.”

The Solution:Instapaper

The Cost: $4.99

The Lowdown: The genius of this app starts not on the iPad, but on my other computers.  When I’m surfing and I come across an article that sounds interesting, instead of trying to read it while I’m busy, I click a “Read Later” bookmark.  Then I forget about it.

The next time I launch Instapaper, the app syncs with my account, and my entire reading list has been downloaded. 

This app is perfect for when I’m at work as I come across movie reviews, long essays, blog posts forwarded to me by friends, and a bunch of other interesting reading that I don’t have the headspace for when I’m at the office. Often opening Instapaper is like Christmas: I find interesting reading that I barely remember bookmarking in the first place.

The Bonus: Layout, layout, layout.  Instapaper only displays the content YOU want to read.

The crowded interface of the web

The clean interface of Instapaper


The Problem: “I have five minutes to kill and I’m bored. I don’t have time to get sucked into a complicated game.”

The Solution: Angry Birds HD and Cut The Rope HD

The Cost: $4.99 and $1.99 respectively

The Lowdown: The iPad is a great gaming system, but I’m not looking for Halo Touch. When I have 5 minutes to kill, nothing relaxes the brain like my two favorite games, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. They’re the junk food of gaming; disposable, bite-sized, empty of calories and hugely addictive.  My favorite thing is that both start out rock stupid simple and gradually get more and more challenging.

The Bonus: Holiday themed bonus packs make wasting time a seasonal treat!


The Problem: “Facebook and Twitter get borrring!”

The Solution:Flipboard

The Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Flipboard takes the content from my Facebook feed and my Twitter stream and lays it out like an interactive magazine.  It’s a relaxing way to “flip” through my social networks.

The Bonus: Comment, Like, Share and Retweet right from the Flipboard interface!


The Problem: “The iPad is a great place to take notes, but it really doesn’t help if I can’t read them on other devices.”

The Solution: Simplenote

The Cost: Free

The Lowdown: It’s basically the iPad's Notes app, but synced to my other devices. I can jot something down on my iPad, and it’s automatically updated on my iPhone.  If I add a note via the Simplenote website when I’m at work, it’s automatically added to my iPad and my phone. All my information, everywhere I want it!

The Bonus: Tags! Searching!


The Problem: “I hate making restaurant reservations over the phone.”

The Solution: OpenTable

The Cost: Free

The Lowdown: When making reservations, are you still talking to people?  How 2003!  OpenTable quickly gives me a list of the available restaurants and lets me make a reservation instantly: the whole process takes about 10 seconds.  Even better, if I have to slide the reservation time around a couple of times, there’s no guilt from having to speak with the poor hostess over and over again.  Cancel last minute, no hassle (at least for me).  I don’t have to deal with trendy-restaurant attitude on the phone, never have to be put on hold and forgotten about, and, thanks to the email confirmation, never have to play the “What do you mean you made a reservation, I don’t have anything written down” game when we show up.  Now if only there were an app to let me order my food without waiters!

OpenTable finds nearby restaurants with availablity

And let's me make a reservation with one click!

The Bonus: On top of the convenience, there’s an incentive program.  For every 20 reservations I make, I get a $20 gift certificate to a participating restaurant.  It’s not the reason to use the app, but it’s the reason I’ll use OpenTable to book a reservation at a restaurant I know has plenty of open tables!


The Problem: “I need to read my docs, spreadsheets, pdfs, etc, on my iPad. Now. Right now.”

The Solution:Dropbox

The Cost: Free

The Lowdown: This was one of my favorite services before the iPad came into my life.  It's a program that allows me to keep the same files on multiple computers.  The iPad app version is indispensible. It makes available all the files that I keep in a designated folder on my computer. Work on a spreadsheet at the office, open it on the iPad.  Start writing a document on my laptop, open it on the iPad.  Transfer some photos from my camera to my home computer… please tell me you get it by now.

Note: Dropbox has a great referral program, so if you do decide to try a free account, please tell them I (richtack at yahoo dot com) sent you!

The Bonus: This is a big one… Dropbox also serves as free online backup of all your important files, including the ability to “undelete” and resurrect older versions of the same files.


The Problem: “Sometimes I need to take a fast note, and I mean FAST. I don’t have time to dink around with the onscreen keyboard.”

The Solution: Penultimate

The Cost: 99 Cents

The Lowdown: Okay, this is an app you probably won’t use very much, but for the very few times you need it, it’s invaluable.  It turns my iPad into a big whiteboard/sketchpad/pad of stickies. Great for using my finger to handwrite and jot down a couple of quick notes.  Also great if a drawing is the only way to communicate or remember an idea.

The Bonus:


The Problem: Silence.

The Solution:Pandora

The Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Before the latest operating system, Pandora was just a way to use your iPad to play music.  But with multitasking, Pandora becomes the iPad’s soundtrack.  Free music, with minimal ads.

The Bonus: I’ve created different stations to match what I’m doing on the iPad.  Top 40 for surfing, bluesy jazz for writing, and classical music for reading.


The Problem: “Getting video from my computer to my iPad is a hassle, and often not worth the time to transfer.”

The Solution:Air Video

The Cost: $2.99

The Lowdown: If you have video on your computer, such as iTunes videos, video podcasts, TV shows or movies you “borrowed” via bittorrent, this app is a must have.

You install a small program on your computer that runs in the background.  Once installed, the iPad app talks to that program, and through it, you can stream any video from your computer directly to the iPad.  

The Bonus: if the video is in a file format that the iPad doesn’t support, the program transcodes it on the fly.  So almost all video is instantly accessible.

Final Thoughts:

Do the 10 apps above have the “wow” factor of apps you’d see on an Apple commercial?  Probably not.  They may not be the too-cool-for-school apps I’d use when I’m showing off the iPad to my friends.  But here’s my pledge to you.  If you do more than download these apps, but implement them into your digital lifestyle, you’ll find that you’ll use your iPad more.  And isn’t that really the point?  The iPad is still a “tweener” device, but now the term has a different meaning.  Now I actually use the iPad when I’m “tween” meetings.  It’s a handy device when I’m “tween” my home and work computers.  It’s a gadget that helps me be productive when I’m “tween” the gym and the office.  It’s the best possible upgrade (better than more ram or a front facing camera).  I’ve upgraded my iPad to have a role in my life.

What apps am I missing?  What apps have you using your iPad more, in ways I haven’t thought of?  I’m excited to try your suggestions, in the eternal pursuit of app #11.

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