One of the most popular posts ever on newelty has been our list of top iPhone apps, so it’s no surprise that I received a request for the best iPad apps from a friend. Having made it happily from Seattle to Nairobi to Copenhagen back to Seattle again–and having found this travel easier and more pleasant than ever before, thanks to my iPad–I can say authoritatively that it has changed my travel life for the better. Period.
Here are the apps I use to fight jet lag’s confusion, get work done even without a laptop, and stay entertained while the plane pops and rocks with turbulence. I also pan some apps that aren’t worth their salt.
Staying in Touch
No, you aren’t missing anything–Facebook has no iPad app to date, probably because their and Apple’s lawyers haven’t finished some to-the-death cage match yet. In the interim, I use myPad (free). It resolves to the full iPad screen and gets the job done crash-free.
If you’re planning from blogging from the road, I like the simple, almost-email like app for WordPress (also free). A little while ago, I considered starting fresh with Tumblr for newelty, but their iPad app isn’t ready for prime time. WordPress could have more iPad support in terms of templates for how your blog displayed–Onswipe was also buggy for me–but in terms of the ability to quickly publish a post, WordPress is still the winner.
Your Little Travel Helper
My iPad feels like the awesome dashboard/assistant any traveler should have for a trip. I feel affection for it as it keeps me company throughout the journey, letting me know what time it is back home.
To that end, every traveler should have World Clock Pro on their iPad ($1.99). Have you ever done that thing of being jet lagged and trying to subtract hours to figure out the time back home–and realizing you calculated wrong, and it’s AM not PM, or vice versa? Never again. World Clock lets you enter a ton of cities and has a slider that you can move to double check that when you wake up in your morning, it’s still a reasonable time for a call back home. Check out the video above for a demo.
Looking through the scores of weather apps, I settled on Weather+ ($.99). Like World Clock, you can load up a series of cities to see the daily highs and get the general gist. I also love that it stores the info for when you are not online anymore (say, when you’re on a wifi-free plane). It may be a slightly expired data, but better that than the Weather Channel app’s “failed connection” response.
Moleskines are a overplayed, but the Moleskine app is more than a marketing ploy (free). It’s a great Notepad equivalent that displays like a digital version of one of their notebooks.
For more practical note taking, try Evernote (free). To repeat the theme from this whole section, you’ll want to have apps that work when you are both off and on wifi. When you are on, Evernote saves your files–no more emailing notes to yourself for later.
Feeding Your Brain on a 14-Hour Flight
I hate being stuck in the metal tube. Hate. I am a terrible flier who morphs into an insane armrest defender. My iPad has chilled me out, largely because with my high-quality headphones, I can simply pretend all the other people in the tube don’t exist.
My number one tip isn’t an app, but this:
Download tons of movies and TV shows via iTunes. TONS. All those shows you’ve read about but never actually had time to watch? Now you do. Download a couple of each of four or five shows, and you can stock up on additional episodes next time you hit wifi. I did that with “An Idiot Abroad” and was so happy I did. It might be the best travel show ever on television, and it made me laugh out loud while experiencing turbulence flying over the Sahara Desert. (Did I mention I am a crazy-nervous flier?)
Since you may be wifi-free for many hours, the important thing is to pack your iPad as you do your suitcase.
Kindle is the best book app, just because Amazon simply has more, and more obscure, titles than Apple (free, but–duh–you have to buy the books). Apple forced Amazon to remove the ability to one-click a book (cue additional lawyer cage fights), but that’s OK. Load up from Safari before you leave home and you’re fine. Amazon also offers first chapters of books as samples, so employ the same snack bar theory as with iTunes, above.
For magazines, props to Vanity Fair for an inventive app that deconstructs the magazine (free, but you have to buy individual magazines or subscribe). Plus, I just like their content for flights, and enjoy not having to haul the extra paper.
For a whole host of obscure mags, I like Zinio (free, but, again, buy stuff through the app). A long time ago–about two years’ time–I tried to get “Time Out Amsterdam” delivered to my home. It would have cost $100 for an annual subscription. Hello! Instead, I can get them delivered via Zinio, because it has every magazine in the world, as far as I can tell.
Instapaper is a little tricky to use, but is a hidden gem ($4.99). It lets you save web pages to read later, say, on a plane. You enter the URL and save it to your repository. I love this app when I have 20 page PDFs to read and no time to look at them at work.
Using the Hotel WiFi
In general, I use Feedly with my Google RSS Reader to follow blogs (free). The display is minimalist and clean, which I appreciate. It also has some popular blogs like Kottke and swissmiss pre-loaded, if you want to try it without bothering with a Google Reader setup.
Hitpad keeps track of what’s trending on Twitter, and provides all the background you could need as to why, in video, article, and tweet form (free).
If you do have wifi in your hotel, and it’s strong enough to support a stream, Netflix has a very good app that lets you watch most of their huge video library (free app, monthly fee for streaming). I generally do a combo of this and iTunes downloads, depending on the length of the trip and the amount of time I’ll be spending in various airports.
GoodReader is the most work-focused app here ($4.99). It opens Word docs. Sometimes I need that to happen, and am grateful that I downloaded this app.
When I’m traveling, I seem to be perpetually looking up information, including background on the new places I’ve been. The Wikipedia app is quick and easy (free).
Save Your Time and Money
I love the Daily Show, and miss it while I’m on the road. But the Daily Show app is terrible. Because the shows are for sale on iTunes, it only gives you one clip per episode. Since the segments are generally interlaced with what comes before or after, it’s a glaring omission to only include half of a joke. Save your money or buy the iTunes full episodes instead. Or wait until you get home and watch them for free on their website.
The Weather Channel app is a resource hog because of the satellite maps, and won’t load unless you’re on wifi. Stick with the other weather app recommended above instead.
Flipboard seems cool in theory, but in actuality, I never use it. It pulls in the links that your friends post on Facebook and Twitter, but it winds up feeling redundant, as I’ve mostly already seen those in their Facebook feeds. It’s basically just taking up space at this point, because I can’t bring myself to delete it, but I don’t use it either.
Any good ones I missed? Drop a line in the comments–I love to compare apps!