07.25.10

The 20 Best iPad Apps

While Apple navigates an iPhone crisis, the iPad has become the summer's transformative gadget. From vivid Scrabble to Plants vs. Zombies HD, The Daily Beast's expert panel chooses the top applications.

Add this to the list of things for Steve Jobs to get his turtleneck in a twist over: Antennagate didn’t just take some luster off the new iPhone’s launch. It has also been a distraction from the  success of the iPhone’s supersize sibling—the iPad.

View Our Gallery of the Top 20 iPad Apps

Fact is, while wags have been busy joking about iPhone Band-Aids and debating Apple’s crisis-response chops, the iPad keeps booming. Apple says it sold more than 3.2 million of the devices in the past three months. On Friday, the company rolled out the iPad in nine more countries, including Hong Kong, generating the familiar sight of gadget-hungry customers lining up for Jobs’ latest goodies. Some estimates now call for nearly 13 million iPads shipped by year-end, boosted by holiday sales to folks like analyst-turned-news mogul Henry Blodget, who has blogged about needing more iPads in the house to keep his kids from fighting over the device. The iPad’s success is extra remarkable considering that the tablet is carving out a new niche, as opposed to the iPhone, which built on the familiar cellphone paradigm.

As new apps for the iPad continue to appear, they serve as a reminder of the extent to which software whizzes are still figuring out the possibilities of its big screen, touch interface, motion-sensitive sensors and other features.

“It’s more difficult to be great on the iPad,” says Marco Arment, the software developer who created the popular Instapaper app that saves Web pages for reading later. “It takes a lot more work, requires a lot more graphical design… but for many types of apps, it’s possible to make a much better app on the iPad than on the iPhone if developers really want to hit it out of the park.”

To give the iPad its due, The Daily Beast went in search of the most innovative and useful apps for the iPad. To find them, we convened a panel of more than a dozen Apple and tech experts, from Arment and other developers to software pioneers (including VisiCalc co-creator Dan Bricklin) to industry executives like Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, the company that produced app phenom Tap Tap Revenge and was recently purchased by Disney. (Our panel recently weighed in on the worst iPhone apps.)

What made the cut for Best iPad apps list? Our panelists were quick to highlight apps that help users up their productivity, including a system to make sure you can save and find every bit of digital information you need. And they also emphasized the iPad’s usefulness as an e-reader. But most strikingly, many selections tilted toward games and fun, with panelists saying big leaps in innovation for entertainment are still to come on the iPad. And we even learned about apps that can speak to your spiritual side. Not bad for a gadget that’s been out for less than four months.

Caroline Linton contributed to this story.

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Thomas E. Weber covers technology for The Daily Beast. He is a former bureau chief and columnist at The Wall Street Journal and was editor of the award-winning SmartMoney.com. Follow him on Twitter.