iPad apps: defining experiences from the first wave

There are now over 1,348 approved apps for the iPad. That's on top of the 150,000 iPad-compatible iPhone programs already available in the App Store. When Apple's tablet PC launches, just hours from now, it will have a software library greater than that of any handheld in history -- not counting the occasional UMPC. That said, the vast majority of even those 1,348 iPad apps are not original. They were designed for the iPhone, a device with a comparatively pokey processor and a tiny screen, and most have just been tweaked slightly, upped in price and given an "HD" suffix -- as if that somehow justified the increased cost.

Besides, we've seen the amazing potential programs have on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and webOS when given access to a touchscreen, always-on data connection, GPS, cloud storage and WiFi -- but where are the apps that truly define iPad? What will take advantage of its extra headroom, new UI paradigms and multitouch real estate? Caught between netbook and smartphone, what does the iPad do that the iPhone cannot? After spending hours digging through the web and new iPad section of the App Store, we believe we have a number of reasonably compelling answers.

Update: Now includes Wormhole Remote, TweetDeck, SkyGrid, Touchgrind HD, GoToMeeting, SplitBrowser, iDisplay, Geometry Wars and Drawing Pad.

Properly programed, an iPad will help you to:

Get your creative juices flowing

Mixr DJ turntable - Though the jury's out on whether iPad-toting disc jockeys will make it past a club bouncer -- much less be allowed to spin -- Mixr sounds like the app they'd want to use. The program's creators say multitouch will allow prospective DJs to simply reach out and touch the virtual tables to manipulate knobs, faders, transitions and digital vinyl, and turn the iPad on its side to flip through their "record crate" library of ready albums.

Pricing unknown, planned June 2010 release

Nota piano trainer ($8) - Nota's no stranger to the App Store; the piano training software received considerable acclaim in an earlier iPhone incarnation, and as far as we know, its laudable features translate directly to the larger screen. So why are we excited to try it on iPad? Simple: now that we can fit more than three fingers on screen, we can actually play the blasted thing. [Via Crave]

19.8MB, now available

Brushes painting application ($10) - Brushes paintings famously made it onto the cover of The New Yorker; now the popular iPhone app wants a faster, larger home. Taking advantage of not only screen size but enhanced processor power, Brushes for iPad allows you to zoom to 3200% (twice as far as its smaller counterpart), store favorite colors as swatches, and watch how your creations came together after the fact in a video replay mode.

3.6MB, available at launch

Sketchbook Pro painting application ($8) - With the iPad still hours away, it's impossible to say whether Brushes or Sketchbook Pro is the better painting app, but believe it or not, the latter actually has more brushes -- 75 in all -- than its close competitor. Both feature color wheels, custom swatches, eyedroppers, six discrete layers and deep multitouch zoom, but a lower price and a professional pedigree (plus the ability to export layered PSD files) might see Sketchbook Pro win the day.

10.7MB, available at launch

Drawing Pad kids' coloring book ($2) - It's not the end results that make Drawing Pad worth a look; with practice, you'll likely get far better paintings out of apps like Brushes or Sketchbook Pro, regardless of whether you're six or sixty. No, it's the childlike wonder that comes from flipping through boxes upon boxes of crayons, markers, stickers and paper, more than you could ever afford, all tucked away neatly in a Mary Poppins-sized drawer. At the current $500 price, few are going to buy their child an iPad -- but if Drawing Pad is as good as the above video, we'd certainly pay an extra $2 to let a child play on ours. [Thanks, grkhetan!]

19.1MB, available at launch

Organize your business and life

Omnigraffle diagram designer ($50) - Like Sketchbook Pro, Omnigraffle is a piece of professional desktop software migrated to your iPad -- but unlike Sketchbook, this app also comes with a professional price. If dropping $50 doesn't scare you away, however, we could well imagine the ability to turn freehand drawings into quality flow charts, layouts and wireframes would be quite accessible and perhaps even fun on the large, multitouch screen.

5.5MB, available at launch

iMockups layout designer ($10) - Sure, Omnigraffle covers the bases, but if your visions of a better tomorrow are limited to user interface design, we imagine you might save money and try iMockups instead. Even if your pen-and-papers skills haven't degenerated to the point ours have (we blame these comfy, ergonomic keyboards), explaining what you want your website's front end to feel like looks surprisingly easy in the above video. [Via TUAW]

9.1MB, available at launch

Bento personal database ($5) - If you're building a business, managing an organization, or just need an app to keep tabs on your life, Bento appears to be one heck of a to-do list. With 25 database templates, it can keep track of persons, places, objects or anything else you might want to log, and will reportedly let you act on those logs with integrated email, browser, video and photo viewers, plus sync to the desktop version of Bento for even greater flexibility.

11.1MB, available at launch

Do many things at once

Twitepad twitter / web browser integration ($1) - One Twitter app comes up with a new feature, the rest copy it as fast as they can -- such is the mobile arms race. On iPad, it's looking like that feature might be an entire tabbed web browser -- because after observing the glory of multi-column multitasking in the above video, we can't even bear to look our plain jane iPhone's Tweetie in the eye. [Via TUAW]

2.7MB, now available

Tweetdeck twitter / browser integration (free) - What were we just saying... something about you can expect any iPad Twitter app worth its salt to include a web browser. One of the clients du jour on desktop, TweetDeck is no exception, and unlike that upstart Twitepad, it will actually be out on launch day. Here, the browser and specific Tweets are displayed at the top of the page with two Twitter feeds below, a third accessible when you turn the iPad on its side; plus, you can also view your friends' tweet locations visually on an integrated Google Map. [Via AppAdvice]

1.7MB, available at launch

Mini apps multitasking panel ($1) - The iPad may not have multitasking -- at least, not till OS 4.0 -- but as we saw with Twitepad above, that doesn't mean you can't make a single program do several different things. That's the entire idea behind Mini apps, a space for you to store and use a whole bunch of Dashboard widgets at the same time. The initial release is limited, giving you only a browser, weather, calculator, sticky notes and NASA's Image of the Day, but considering you can spawn multiple mini browsers and notes, some might argue that's plenty -- and the developers insist more widgets are on the way. [Via TUAW]

Availability unknown

SplitBrowser splitscreen web browser ($2) - We've now seen Twitter clients, notepads and widget apps that integrate a web browser, but what about a program that gives you two browsers in one? That's what SplitBrowser aims to do, and in a rather ingenious way; it gives you control over the dividing line between two browser windows to adjust however you see fit. Since the app almost certainly hasn't seen a real iPad yet, we're not sure whether the device can actually handle all that video and multitouch web browsing all at the same time -- but even if this particular implementation doesn't work, we're definitely sold on the idea.

0.1MB, available at launch

Read, touch, view, and thereby learn

The Elements: A Visual Exploration interactive science book ($14) - even in its original flat paper form, The Elements got attention for providing stunning photographs and intriguing facts about the 118 elements of the Periodic Table. On the iPad, it's much more. Tapping on any element yields a rotating 360° view; updated facts from WolframAlpha appear on one side. Objects can be manipulated and thrown about using multitouch, and you can even split images in two to view the elements in stereo 3D -- assuming you have a pair of old-school cardboard specs. The publisher isn't even charging a premium for the interactivity, as the book costs less than its wood pulp analog. Hooray for science!

1.74GB, available at launch

Wired Magazine digital periodical - the above video is fairly self-explanatory, and completely mind-blowing. When it comes to interactive magazines, Wired has set the example to follow -- and should their publisher manage to produce content like that without charging an arm and a leg, they will receive great applause. We're note sure if Wired itself will be the ticket, but we can't wait to scrub through magazines like it on a touchscreen, tapping on explanatory videos and even interactive advertisements along the way.

Pricing unknown, Summer 2010

Popular Science+ digital periodical ($5) - Compared to Wired Mag's demo, Popular Science's digital edition looks fairly tame -- but unlike Wired, this magazine will actually be available at launch. The prototype for publisher Bonnier's Mag+ platform; expect its simple two-axis, transparency-filled design to be replicated across many magazines if this first issue takes off.

19.3MB, available at launch

AP News breaking news service (free) - When contemplating how news on a tablet PC would work, most every major news service decided it was time to embrace Negroponte's Daily Me, and produce an interactive newspaper that looked just like... well, a newspaper. We think the Associated Press has a more interesting take -- a program that sorts news by location, hands you headlines, or even just tosses you a stack of pictures to see which catches your fancy before you grab your cup of joe and settle in for a good read.

15.9MB, available at launch

Skygrid real-time popular news stream (free) - Now here's an interesting way to sort through news. Rather than give you a single trusted news source or an RSS reader where you can choose your own, SkyGrid claims to provide the most popular news -- the news that's spreading across the web the quickest -- with some sort of secret algorithm, displaying headlines on the left and the actual news item on the right. Originally, the company provided a premium financial news aggregator for hundreds of dollars per month; since this one's free, we're eager to give it a try.

0.2MB, available at launch

Kindle bookstore - Amazon's books may not be as interactive as some of the materials above -- yet -- but the company's extensive bookstore itself will be a welcome addition to many iPads, offering not only competition to Apple's own book prices but -- Amazon claims -- a variety of features for pleasant reading experiences, too. Bookmark, highlight and annotate, sync your place in a novel with other e-readers, and even adjust the device backlight from inside the application.

5.8MB, available at launch

Get some friendly tabletop competition

Isocards virtual card deck (free) - The iPad is your card table, your card holders, your scorecard, and your deck of cards. There's no AI, so you bring your own opponents -- and the rules. But just because Isocards isn't intelligent enough to play against you doesn't mean it isn't smartly designed. Multitouch allows you to deal cards to each real-life opponent with a flick of the finger -- and keep cards hidden for clandestine play until the app detects you've cupped your hand over them for a safe reveal. The creator's even planning local Bluetooth awareness for a future update, so players can drag their cards off the screen, and onto a companion iPhone.

5.5MB, available at launch

BoardBox board game components ($4) - like Isocards above, Board Box relies on you to provide the opponent -- but ensures you'll never lose a piece in exchange. Fifteen classic board game presets are included alongside granite, mahogany and plastic virtual pieces, but creator Movile says you can mix, match and create your own as well. There's also an email feature that lets you play online -- we'd guess very, very asynchronously -- with other Board Box users around the globe. (via Touch Arcade)

16.6MB, available at launch

Game in 768p

Air Coaster XL roller coaster sim ($2) - We know what you're thinking. We wouldn't ride that coaster either. But we'd probably have a blast making it using Air Coaster XL's multitouch 3D interface. One finger rotates, two zoom and three pan the camera in an track editor mode, after which you can either ride or upload it to the shared community server, where someone less inclined to vomit can whip out anaglyph red/blue glasses and experience it in stereoscopic 3D. [Via 148apps]

25.4MB, available at launch

Real Racing HD racing game ($10) - After condemning thousands of souls to dreams of pastel plane crashes with Flight Control, Australian developer Firemint brought us Real Racing, a game that looked too good for many to believe it was an iPhone title. This is Real Racing in HD. What more do we need to say? We can see Real Racing HD has better graphics; Firemint says it also runs faster, allows you to skin your vehicle with imported photos and play against ghosts, and is cross-compatible with the original iPhone version for WiFi and Bluetooth play.

157MB, available at launch

The Pinball virtual pinball tables -- To date, developer Gameprom has released three pinball tables on iPhone to critical acclaim: Jungle Style Pinball, The Deep Pinball and Wild West Pinball. At first, this seems like a simple collection of all three -- but where the iPhone apps could only pan across a small section of the table at a time, The Pinball allows you to see the whole high-res table at once, view the action in anaglyph stereoscopic 3D, and even control the game from across the room using your iPhone or iPod Touch as a WiFi remote. The game started life as a Mac title, in case you're confused by the above video. [Via TUAW]

Pricing and availability unknown

N.O.V.A. first person shooter game ($10) - Like Real Racing above, N.O.V.A. (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance) was a fantastic-looking iPhone title that's more than welcome at the improved 1024 x 768 resolution, especially with iPad-optimized gesture controls. As you can see in the above video, your protagonist can doff a Metroid Prime-esque visor to lock onto multiple enemies with a flick of the finger, swipe two fingers across the screen to toss a grenade, or twist three around the handle of a pressure door to open it for entry.

166MB, available at launch

Need for Speed: Shift racing game ($15) - Not quite as pretty as Australian counterpart Real Racing HD, Need for Speed: Shift nonetheless impresses with improved graphics and touch controls -- including the ability to just touch the car to drop into first-person mode and an on-screen shifter you can flick with a thumb for manual gearshifts.

204MB, available at launch

Touchgrind HD miniature skateboarding game ($8) - Touchgrind was a big hit on the iPhone, giving players a fingerboard and a sizable miniature skateboard park filled with rails and jumps to play in. Problem was, on the iPhone you couldn't see where the heck you were going -- but screenshots show that will change drastically on iPad, with Touchgrind HD. If you happened to like playing blind, don't worry; you can divide that extra real estate in half with a new splitscreen multiplayer mode.

9.1MB, available at launch

Geometry Wars: Touch shoot 'em up game ($10) - While gamers were still waiting for decent disc-based Xbox 360 games to arrive back in 2005, they whiled away the hours with a simple but addictive top-down shooter, Geometry Wars, where the player controlled a lone ship in a box of space surrounded by wave after wave of neon foes. Then, the action was controlled with a pair of analog sticks; here, it's your thumbs in play. Honestly, we've always had a soft spot for the underappreciated DS version's precise touchscreen control even as we mourned its pitiful screen size, so we've got high hopes for this one.

40MB, available at launch

Be a couch potato, even without a couch

ABC Player online TV episode viewer (free) - Lost, Castle, Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy -- you can read the above picture -- they're all coming to iPad on launch day. Sure, there's a catch or three. You'll need a WiFi connection to use the service, so you're not going to be able to indulge your secret The Bachelor passion in remote locales over 3G. Also, ABC only plans to offer part of their lineup (we hear 20 shows) and the exact series and episodes offered are of course "subject to change." We want it anyhow.

1.5MB, available at launch

Netflix streaming movie app (free) - On iPhone, there were any number of apps that teased us with Netflix functionality, but really only let us manage our DVD queue. On iPad, we're waiting for the other shoe to drop -- but it looks like this time, we're getting the whole shebang. "Just download this free app and you can instantly watch TV shows & movies streaming from Netflix," reads the iTunes App Store page. We'll happily comply.

1.5MB, available at launch

Yahoo! Entertainment portal and TV guide (free) - If this were only a well-constructed way to manage our TV time, we'd give it a pass -- but judging by the screenshots and description, the Yahoo! Entertainment app will be a portal into Yahoo's considerable news resources as well, letting you watch video clips and read stories from all around Yahoo right on your iPad.

16MB, available at launch

Be somewhere else

iDisplay wireless secondary monitor app ($5) - Drag a program window onto your second monitor, then pick it up, take it with you, and continue working. That's what Shape Services is selling with its iDisplay, an app that not only extends your Mac (and eventually Windows) display onto the iPad, but also allows you to interact with content thus moved with multitouch control and the on-screen keyboard. Early reports tell us the technology's not exactly ready for primetime (read: it crashes a lot) but now that there's a proof of concept, we'd bet good money it's only a matter of time before someone gets this idea right. [Via TUAW]

0.6MB, available at launch

GoToMeeting audio teleconferencing app - Will you really attend important business meetings on an iPad? Depends on your boss, we'd guess. If he or she has a subscription to Citrix System's GoToMeeting service and is lenient enough to let you use it from your couch though, you'll might be able to "dial in" to get two-way audio teleconferencing and view entire presentations -- Citrix says you can pinch-to-zoom on whatever's displayed on the speaker's computer screen -- remotely with this app.

5.2MB, available at launch

Desktop Connect RDP and VNC viewer ($17) - Half those who rated Antecea's ezDesktop VNC and RDP software on the iTunes App Store gave it a single star, so we don't have too much hope for the company's sophomore effort. However, we definitely want what Antecea says it's selling -- an app that will theoretically give us complete tablet control over our Windows, Mac and Linux PCs and even redirect their audio back to the iPad, all from the comfort of our couch cushions.

2.3MB, available at launch

Wormhole Remote remote desktop viewer ($5) - Wormhole Remote won't support audio redirection, and will only connect your iPad to Macs running Snow Leopard by launch day, unlike the multiplatform Desktop Connect. Disclaimers out of the way, check out its upside: gesture-based remote control over a streamlined desktop interface that lets you simply flip from one application to the next. Also, this hilariously creepy video.

Availability unknown (rejected by Apple, currently resubmitting)

HSTouchPad home automation controller (free) - But why settle for remote desktop on a PC when you could turn your iPad into a remote control for the entire house? That's what HomeSeer's HSTouchPad promises to do. The interface may not look like much in the above screenshot, sure, but if you've got a HomeSeer automation system installed, this app gives you live feeds from each camera, touchscreen control over each individual light, temperature control per zone and a home screen which monitors not only the status of your security system, but also weather reports and a RSS feed. One of a number of home automation apps we expect to roll out soon.

1.5MB, available at launch