The best apps for your brand new iOS device

Macworld Australia Staff
23 December, 2010
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Given that it’s the festive season, we figure there are plenty of people giving and receiving iPhones, iPads and iPod touches this December. But anyone who already has an iOS device knows that they’re nothing without some great apps. Sure, you can browse the web, check your email, and even monitor the latest share trends on a brand new iPhone, but that doesn’t compare to a game of Words with Friends or mixing the tunes for your Christmas party on djay.

While an iPod touch without apps isn’t quite a remote control car that you open to find a note saying ‘batteries not included’, it’s just not as much fun as it could be. If you’re giving one as a gift, it’s a great idea to include an iTunes gift card to set your recipient off on the road to app-topia. Plus, if they’re new to iTunes, a gift card will allow them to set up an account without the need for a credit card. This is especially handy for any parents not wanting to give your kids unlimited access to your hard-earned cash.

(Note: even though there are plenty of free apps available, an iTunes account is still needed to download them, and a gift card or credit card is necessary to set up the account.)

The problem, then, is where to jump in. Whether you’ve got a brand-new iPad or iPhone of your own, or you’re putting one under a Christmas tree, there’s a multitude of apps you could install. Here’s our list of some of the best to get set up and make the most of your shiny new toy.

But first up, for newcomers, here’s a quick rundown of how to get an iTunes account up and running – which you’ll need to install any of these apps. An iTunes account will also let you purchase music from the iTunes Store and grant you access to Find My iPhone, a part of the MobileMe service that was recently made free for owners of Apple’s latest generation devices.

Sign up on an iOS device. To set up an iTunes account on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, you’ll need to open either the App Store or iTunes app from the home screen. Find the ‘Sign In’ button (toward the bottom of the main ‘Featured’ tab) and tap it. You’ll be presented with the options to use an existing Apple ID or create a new one. Select Create New Apple ID, and you’re off. It’s a matter of agreeing to the terms and conditions, typing in some details, and otherwise following the steps. Once set up, you can purchase and download apps directly to your device.

Sign up on iTunes. If you’d prefer to go through your Mac (or PC), Apple offers a support article running you through the steps to setting up an account. You’ll need to open iTunes and choose Store > Create Account from the menu bar. From here, you’ll be guided through the steps. Once iTunes is set up, you can purchase and download apps ready to be synced to your new iOS device.

Now that you’ve set up an account, it’s time to jump in. To keep it simple, we’ve split the must-haves into free and paid. Most iPhone apps will work on the iPod touch (unless they use phone functionality) and iPad in 2x mode, and universal apps are designed for both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad.

Some of the best freebies

  • Twitter (universal app)

    If you’re a Twitter user, this one’s a no-brainer. There are paid apps that treat the Twitter experience a bit differently, but the official Twitter app lets you keep up to date with your feed, retweet, follow, and more. The iPad app’s interface is loved and loathed by equal numbers, but its sliding panes are certainly a novel way to use the extra screen space. – Xavier Verhoeven

  • Adobe Photoshop Express (universal app)

    If you’ve got an iPhone 4, you’ll want to use its camera to take the odd photo. But there’s not much built-in to the iPhone to edit those images. The free Photoshop Express steps up here, letting you crop, recolour and add a whole range of effects or borders. It’s great on the iPod touch and iPad too. – XV

  • Shazam (for iPhone) & Shazam for iPad

    Ever heard a song on the radio or at a club and wished you knew what it was? Shazam records a part of it, uploads it to a database, then tells you the title, artist and album. It links straight to iTunes if you want to buy it, plus you can see it on YouTube and share the info with your friends via FaceBook and Twitter. – Dave Bullard

  • Epicurious Recipes and Shopping List (universal app)

    Get this app on to your iPad, buy a decent stand for the kitchen and you’ll never have to open your old recipe books again. Just search for a recipe or ingredient, browse sections such as “Dishes Kids Love” and you’ll be presented with the recipe, photos and user reviews. It’ll even make a shopping list for you. – DB

  • iBooks (universal app)

    The essential app for reading. Use the store to buy and download Books directly to the device or import books and PDFs to your iTunes library to sync. iBooks also features the ability to print via AirPrint and sort books and PDFs into collections. – Tara Brady

  • Kindle (universal app)

    I have to disagree with Tara here. Kindle for iOS provides a better reading experience than iBooks (though you miss out on the fancy page-turning effects), and is generally cheaper too. Apple’s iBooks missed the boat in Australia with no good content until months after the iPad’s release. Kindle has a lot more books, too, and wirelessly syncs them to all your compatible devices. – XV

  • Facebook (iPhone)

    This app has an easy-to-use interface that allows all the functions of Facebook in a browser. The integration of Location Services enables the use of Places and photos can be uploaded from the Photos stored on the iPhone making it the perfect companion to Facebook users on the go. – TB

  • Pulse News Mini (iPhone) & Pulse News Reader (iPad)

    The best way to get all the news you want, when you want it. Choose from the popular feeds provided or customise the app with your own RSS feeds. The interface is easy to navigate and sharing articles has never been easier. With the addition of Facebook feeds, Pulse will be one of your most used apps. – TB

  • Dropbox (universal app)

    Dropbox is the easiest way to sync and share files online and across computers and iOS devices. A free Dropbox account provides you with 2GB of ‘cloud’ storage that keeps all the files synced between your devices. – TB

  • ABC iview (iPad)

    The ABC has pioneered ‘catch-up’ TV in Australia with its iview service. It ported the Flash interface of the web-based iview to the iPad only recently, but already it’s eaten a significant portion of my life. Navigation is a bit clunky, but the excellent content makes up for any shortcomings. – XV

  • Consume (iPhone)

    Quite frankly, if you plan to keep track of anything from your phone or internet use to your frequent flyer points or Myki balance, this is the app your iPhone needs. Just about anything that has an online trackable balance can be added to Consume, and its beautiful interface is guaranteed to be nicer and faster than logging into a website. – XV

These apps will cost you, but they’re worth it

  • OzWeather (iPhone) & OzWeather HD (iPad) – $2.49 each

    There are many weather apps out there, but OzWeather gives you the current and forecast weather in a nice-looking and easy-to-use interface. It also shows the latest animated radar images for your area and the whole of Australia, plus continent-wide satellite images and synoptic charts. – DB

  • Pocket Weather AU (iPhone) & Pocket Weather AU HD (iPad) – $2.49 each

    While a local weather app is a necessity for your iOS device, I have to disagree with Dave on which to opt for. I prefer the design of Pocket Weather AU. Both use official forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology, and thankfully, have lite (free) options so that you can try before you buy. – XV

  • Ocarina (iPhone) –$1.19

    This is a really cool way to show off your new iPhone or iPod touch; you place two fingertips from each hand on to glowing blue dots on the screen, then blow into the device’s microphone to play sweet music. You can even ‘see’ and hear what other people are playing around the world. – DB

  • Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy (universal app) – $3.99

    With Pocket Universe, you can hold up your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad in front of you and see the same view of the sky on your screen – complete with star, planet and constellation names. With many other features, including the ability to track the International Space Station, it’s an amateur astronomer’s dream. – DB

  • Midnight HD (iPad) – $1.19

    If you think particle physics is only for nerds, think again. With Midnight HD you use between one and 10 fingers to affect the way particles behave on screen. You’ll feel like a god as you generate, rotate, throw, excite and calm down beautifully coloured matter. A real show-off app for the iPad. – DB

  • TypeDrawing (iPhone) & TypeDrawing for iPad – $3.99 each

    There are plenty of drawing apps for iOS, but TypeDrawing, as its name suggests, lets you draw with type. You specify the words (and colour, font and point size, if you want), and as you drag your finger over the screen it draws using your words. It’s better on the bigger iPad, but still fun on the iPhone or iPod touch. – DB

  • iMovie (iPhone 4/iPod touch 4th gen) – $5.99

    Who’d have thought just a few years ago that we’d be editing movies on our phones? iMovie makes it easy, and will have you showing off finished masterpieces in no time (and without you needing to touch a Mac). You can even upload your movie directly to YouTube or MobileMe, or send via email or MMS straight to your family and friends. – XV

  • GoodReader for iPhone & GoodReader for iPad – $3.99 each

    GoodReader is the missing file manager for iOS that does just about everything. Do you want to annotate PDFs? Connect to MobileMe or Dropbox? GoodReader works with almost all file types and can connect networks and servers to get them. You can also transfer files from any computer using iTunes file sharing, and they’ll be visible in the app to open in your choice of compatible applications. – TB

  • Pages (iPad) – $12.99

    Pages has everything you need to create and share documents. Start with the perfect template, create your document from scratch using your choice of colours, fonts and textures, or import a Pages, Microsoft Word or plain text file. Easily save to MobileMe or share via email in file types compatible with all word processors. – TB

  • Words with Friends (iPhone) & Words with Friends HD (iPad) – currently on sale for $1.19 each

    You just have to have it! A scrabble-like game you can play over the internet with your friends or random opponents. Be warned: it’s addictive. You’ll end up with ten or more games on the go when your mates inevitably take too long to play their turn. Ad-supported free versions are available too. – TB & XV

  • Calculator Pro (iPad) – on sale for $1.19

    The iPad calculator app that Apple forgot. You see, the iPhone has a few extra apps built in (such as Calculator and Stocks), and while it’s easy to get by without some on the iPad, the Calculator is often missed. This one looks just like Apple’s iPhone one, is pretty cheap, and, well, calculates stuff. Perfect. – TB

  • 1Password for iPhone & 1Password for iPad – $12.99 each

    1Password is the best way to manage all of your passwords. It securely stores everything you need so that you can be safer online with stronger passwords – it can even generate them for you. It goes beyond passwords too: you can store credit card details, licenses, bank accounts and more. 1Password Pro is also available (for $17.99) and is a universal app for both iPhone and iPad. – XV

  • Instapaper (universal app) – $5.99

    If you do a lot of reading online, but don’t always have time to read entire articles, Instapaper is your friend. It’s a web-based service that lets you save web pages for later. Its interface is simple – what you’re reading is the star of the show. Plus, it can use your iOS device’s time and location to determine sunset and sunrise times to switch between dark and light reading modes. – XV

  • Real Racing 2 (iPhone) – $12.99

    There are too many games to recommend for your new iOS device. Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Astronut, The Incident, Flight Control, Doodle Jump, and Fruit Ninja are just a few of the hundreds of excellent options. But then Real Racing 2 came along and showed us what’s possible on a phone. It has stunning graphics with realistic and enjoyable gameplay. If you like racing games, you’ll love this. – XV

Add your own

Of course, any list of must-haves is pretty subjective. We want to know what you couldn’t live without. So feel free to add your own apps that you think iOS needs ‘straight out of the box’ in the comments below.


4 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Leslie | Iphso says:

    I’ve been using my iPad for around 6 months, and been through MANY apps. I thought I’d save you the trouble by letting you know what has worked well for me and why.

    I use the iPad primarily for business, specifically for travel, formal and informal meetings and brainstorming sessions.
    For the Best iPad apps for professional & business use & my experience & recommendations click here

  2. Edwin Groenescheij says:

    For the iPad:
    Free: Flipboard, VLC
    Paid: ReaddleDocs & Need For Speed!

    For the iPhone:
    Free: Viber & Bump
    Paid: TripView (my most used app)

  3. Mick Devlin says:

    Rain Radar is a much better app for weather radar than Pocket Weather AU. I use the latter for most weather info, but Rain Radar for radar as all the functions are available with one tap, not two.

    Oh, there’s a storm in the area as I type this.

  4. Chris Walker says:

    I got an ipad the very second they were Available in the US (via ebay) – I was amazed at the lack of a manual and wondered how my mum would go figuring this out for the first time.

    This prompted me to create Apptopia – my first app – for the iPad. It’s a TV show style presentation about getting the most out of your iPad.

    I’d recommend it (of course I would) – but please do check it out.

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