The iPad can be hammered and molded into a content creation device, but not without compromises. Where the iPad really shines is as a content consumption device. Whether it be watching video, browsing your Twitter feed, or listening to music, there does seem to be an app for everything. Here are 10 of our favorite apps for consuming content.
Photo by Annie Mole.
RSS seems like the forgotten technology in the age of Twitter (although not at 40Tech, where we have several times more RSS subscribers than we do Twitter followers). Part of the reason for that may be that Twitter is an easy and natural fit for mobile devices, so you can stay on top of your Twitter feeds on the go. That was my excuse for not keeping up with my RSS feeds, until buying Reeder for the iPad. Reeder makes processing RSS feeds a breeze, as it syncs with your Google Reader account. Your RSS feeds are grouped by tag, and from within the app you can read the feed, and see any links on a built-in browser. You can also perform several different actions on a feed, such as sending it to Instapaper, starring it, sending links to Twitter, and attaching a note to an item. I find that I blow through my feeds faster on my iPad than I do at my PC (see that screenshot, with only 11 unread items? Unheard of until I started using Reeder). Reeder is currently $4.99 in the App Store.
The official Twitter app, released for the iPad on September 2, is the Twitter app getting all of the love in the tech community. The official app does have all sorts of bells and whistles, with windows that slide in and out, and finger gestures that perform special functions. All of the App’s prettiness comes at a cost, though – wasted space. Your Twitter stream itself has a fixed width that only uses a portion of the screen width.
For a Twitter client that doesn’t waste space, check out Twitterific. In portrait mode, your stream gets full use of the screen width. This doesn’t actually result in more tweets on the screen at a time than the official Twitter app, but does make for a stream that is easier on the eyes, and an interface with a less cluttered feel. Twitterific still provides for easy switching between Lists, especially in landscape mode. It also gives you the options you’d expect, such as sending to Instapaper, replies, direct messages, and retweets (using both the official Twitter method, and the old “RT @” method).
Twitterific is free in the App Store, with a $4.99 version that gets rid of ads, and allows for the use of multiple accounts.
Netflix isn’t just about discs in your mailbox. These days, Netflix offers streaming movies on just about every platform, and the iPad is no exception. The iPad app is slow to load, but once a movie starts playing, the image quality is quite impressive, especially over WiFi. Yes, “especially over WiFi” – the app works not just over WiFi, but also over3G. The above image is a screenshot, taken of a movie playing over WiFi.
The app also allows you to manage your DVD and Watch Instantly queues, although that appears to be nothing more than a wrapper around the Netflix website. As with the site, you can search for movies, and add them to either queue, and also rearrange items within your queue. The Netflix app is free, but requires an $8.99 Netflix subscription plan or better.
If you’re a music fan, chances are that you’ve heard of Pandora, a multiplatform music app powered by the Music Genome Project. Pandora on the iPad works in the same way that it works on other platforms. You search by artist, song, or composer, and Pandora will build you a radio station of sorts. This “station” will play songs that match your search, as well as similar tracks. Pandora has an uncanny knack for finding the right stuff. Start your station, sit back, and listen.
The Pandora app is free, as is use of the service. For $36 a year, you can upgrade to Pandora One, which provides a desktop application for use on your PC, unlimited listening, no ads, higher quality audio, and more skips (the free version of Pandora limits the number of times that you can skip songs that you don’t like).
The Kindle app is a no brainer if you’re an avid reader. Kindle, Amazon’s book reading platform, allows you to carry your book collection with you. The iPad comes with its own book reader, iBooks, but there are a few benefits to using Amazon’s Kindle app instead. Among those benefits are Amazon’s larger book collection, and the community of reviewers on Amazon. This helps with recommendations, which allows you find a book that you like on Amazon.com, and then send it to the app with a few clicks.
The biggest benefit of the Kindle app is the ability to stop reading a book on your iPad, and resume reading it on any other Kindle-powered device, such as your iPhone. I also prefer the Kindle’s typesetting to the typesetting in iBooks, but that could be personal preference.
What apps do you like to use to consume content on the iPad? Let us know in the comments, and then we’ll see if any of them are in Part 2 of our list, coming soon.