I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for cool new technology. My Ipad is just as much a permanent a fixture in our house as the living room couch, and if a day goes by where I can’t check email I start feeling anxiety, followed by dizziness, and excessive twithcy thumbs – no doubt yearning for twitter status updates on my cell phone. I’m also a sucker for article headlines like 15 Awesome Ipad Apps, which is why I decided to do one of my own, just for dads.
I’ve read so many Ipad apps lists on the internet, and most of them are crap. They either gloss over the pros or cons, if they mention them at all, or don’t dig into the actual features to tell you why they are useful. I would guess the authors of those articles either:
- don’t actually have an ipad
- have never used the apps they write about
- copied information about the app from another crappy article
In the end, most of the top 10 app lists out there are useless, which infuriates me because I can’t stop reading them. That’s the reason behind my top 15 list. It’s a list of apps that I use almost every single day. Most of them I use multiple times a day, and all of them help me accomplish the things I need to do in a more efficient and expedient way. Some help me write, others help me connect with friends. Some help me as a stay at home dad, others help me relax after a long day reading a book. Some help me color with my daughter, and others help me find cool things to do with her in my neighborhood. Most of the apple listed here are free, but some are paid apps. In my opinion, they are worth every penny and have returned to me much more than I spent purchasing them.
In each case, I explain the app, show a picture, and include a black button link to the app at Itunes where you can download the app, either for free or for purchase – some apps offer both.
So without any further explanation or b.s – 15 Awesome Ipad Apps for Dads:
Social Media Apps
Let’s face it, you probably spend half your time at home on the internet browsing Facebook or Twitter. Even more if you are a blogger, writer, or news hound. The two apps that follow bring that same social media functionality to your Ipad. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of apps that work with these two popular social media sites, but these two apps are the best, and believe me I’ve tried all of them.
Facebook doesn’t have an official Ipad app, and probably never will, because the site is already pretty easy to use on the Ipad’s browser. However, the MyPad app is probably the next best thing to using Facebook on your laptop or desktop. MyPad keeps things simple, but offers alot of Facebook power. The layout is easy to read, and the features mirror the functionality of the actual website. I would argue the smaller display of the Ipad forced the app’s creators to make better use of space, and in the end they created a clean, sleek interface with all the important facebook tools right there at your fingertips. With just a few swipes of your finger you can drill down into people’s profiles, photos, and friends list. And then a single swipe can clear them all, which is much easier than opening new windows or tabs on a desktop.
There are a few things you can’t do, like lookup your own pages, but the graphics are great and your friends’ photos are displayed in a really cool window. Finger swipes can be used to browse through menus, updates, friends lists, and wall postings. There are two versions to download, the free version, and the premium version, which is ad-free and comes with a few additional features, which in my opinion really aren’t worth the expense. Since I’ve started using this app on the Ipad, I’ve used Facebook online much less.
Hootsuite is program also offered online for your laptop or desktop, and the ipad app functions exactly the same way. It is basically a social media dashboard and allows you to post to your social media profiles like Twitter, Facebook, Ping.fm, Foursquare, and others. You can post to those places individually, or just do one big status update and post to all your profiles at one, all from one handy dashboard.
Hootsuite also comes in handy because it allows you to monitor your social media profiles from one easy to read page, laid out in tabs. You can run Facebook wall in one tab, Twitter profile in another, and keep everything neat and organized. As new posts are added to the timeline your tabs will update instantly. I like to monitor keyword searches on Twitter. If you are a blogger dad this is a great feature. Say you want to see what people are saying out there about Stay at Home Dads. You can enter that search term and start a tab. Whenever the keyword Stay at Home Dad is used on Twitter it will update right there on your screen. This is a much simpler and cleaner way of searching, and in my opinion, is easier to use than Twitter’s own search function. Maybe that’s why Twitter bought Tweetdeck.
There is a free version, which allows you to post on up to 5 of your own social media profiles. The premium account is a monthly subscription option, and costs $5.99 per month. It allows unlimited profiles and rss feeds. I don’t have that many accounts so I still use the free version, but when I eventually get to that point, and I’m sure I will, I will definitely pay for the app.
Ebook Apps and Readers
Why do I have two book readers in the top 15? They both have incredible selections of books, but I have found that Google Books has a better selection of free books than Kindle, and it is easier to search on the term “Free” at Google as well. Most of the books in the public domain are offered for free through Google and Amazon.com, but good luck trying to find them on Amazon. There are so many publishers, like Penguin Classics, who have a snobby professor add an introduction and two page analysis on the work, therefore creating a new work, and can charge you a few dollars for essentially the same thing that you can get online for free. Don’t get duped.
Both sites have a good selection of current and past best sellers, and each runs a pretty good deal from time to time. I’ve found most books can be purchased for less than $10 in ebook form. Sometimes the new releases are a bit more expensive. Both have great reading platforms, and the applications work very well on the Ipad. The differences are listed below.
Gives you portrait and landscape reading, though the latter is only a newer feature. In book features include a table of contents allowing you to skip around in the book, the ability to change font sizes, bookmarking, and a search feature which allows you to highlight text and search google for that info; a handy feature. The option to select free books in the Google store takes only one click, which is easier to navigate than the Kindle App for Ipad, but Kindle has other features which Google does not offer.
Kindle is the 800 pound trend setting gorilla in the book market, and this year ebook sales accounted for more total sales than print books did on Amazon.com. That’s quite an amazing feat for only being a four year old product and service. Kindle literally offers millions of ebooks at super low prices. It’s good to see Amazon making publishers pass on the lower cost of ebook production to the customer, rather than jamming home a few extra bucks. They have a good selection of free books, and an amazing selection of everything else. It is very easy to shop for books, and with the one click subscription option you can purchase a book and be reading it on your Ipad in just a few seconds, literally.
In book options for Kindle include table of contents, bookmarking, highlighting and annotating text, and select and search features for Google and Wikipedia.
Goodreader is one of my all time favorite Ipad apps, and the first paid Ipad app I purchased. Goodreader started as a PDF viewer, but has grown into so much more. Today, it is an all-purpose productivity app with the following features:
- PDF reader – can also annotate PDFs with text, images, drawings, and notes
- Note taker
- Ebook reader
- File Browser – can open many file types saved on your ipad include movies, documents, pictures, and more.
- Web browser
In addition to all that cool stuff, it also allows you to transfer files to and from web servers like Google Docs, and DropBox. And it allows Wi-Fi transfer of files to other devices on your home network like a laptop, desktop, or home server. It can unzip archives, or zip files, move files between folders, and even find files on your ipad.
It is constantly updated by its developers and keeps evolving. It has quickly become an indispensable app for me.
Here’s how I use it:
Sometimes I’ll have a meeting with a client, who will send me a document to review for the meeting. I open that document in PDF form on goodreader and annotate it with my notes right on the screen in my own handwriting. I can access those annotations as we read through each page of the document, or through a bookmark section which can let me jump to each annotation directly. I use it to transfer files to and from my computer wirelessly without having to hookup Itunes document transfer, and I use it to transfer to other people when I’m working on their networks too. I also use it to read ebook formats that don’t open in Kindle or Google Books. The new version comes with a free 5GB sugarsync account for hosting your own files, and native video mirroring for Ipad2.
If you buy only one app – GoodReader is the app to buy. $5.99 fee from the App store.
I have used the Ipad’s native Safari Browser, Atomic Web Browser ($0.99), Skyfire Browser ($4.99), and Mercury Browser ($0.99), and Terra Browser is just as good, if not better than them all. It certainly crashes alot less often. The browser is responsive and lean, but with many of the features you’d expect in a mobile browser like bookmarking, social media integration, and the ability to archive pages for reading later. Best of all, it’s free.
An Ipad without games is just a shiny looking book reader, and what fun would that be, right. And let’s face it, if you’re a dad you either grew up playing games yourself or are being asked to buy them for your kids. While the games I list here don’t feature amazing graphics or long adventure stories, they help you unwind after a long day. They also help me pass time waiting for the doctor, on the subway, in the park, and are the reason I don’t hear half the things my wife tells me we need to take care of. In particular, there are two games I love on the Ipad, and are probably addicted to.
This app is awesome, and hands down it is the best card game app on the Ipad. There are two versions, the free version, which is basically just solitaire – the number one online card game, and the HD Collection version, which has over 40 card games, including classics like spades, hearts, and even rummy. You can also play blackjack, kings, and a few more obscure card and casino type games. Some games feature betting, while others you play for points or score. My wife has racked up a pretty impressive tally on the solitaire game – just over 10,000 games played – she likes to play when she’s feeding the baby a bottle. You can customize the card table felt and card backs with custom images.
Breakout Mania HD
This is another new release game, and it is addictive. It’s just like the breakout you remember when video games just broke onto the scene almost 25 years ago (holy S#!T, I’m old).The app is free and includes a few levels, which, if you have at least 1 finger and an IQ of 10 you should be able to beat in just 5 minutes. Additional packs are sold in packages of 40-45 levels for $0.99 per pack, and include the classic boards, pro boards, challenge boards, and even a few new style levels. This is currently, my favorite game on the Ipad, and is worth hours of fun.
There’s been so much written about Evernote online, it’s hard to write something original here, so I’m not going to try. I’ll just tell you what it is, and how I use it. Evernote is a productivity note taking app. It allows you to type notes on the Ipad, which can be useful in meetings or in preparation thereof. It can sync with your laptop, desktop, and other mobile devices, which means you can access your notes just about anywhere. Evernote allows you to tag notes, which are searchable on your device, and it allows you to upload pictures, scans, and even includes a web clipping service by which you can include weblinks into your notes. You can capture audio and video for your notes, and even make action items with check box functionality. Evernote has a great OCR feature which can even search through your own handwritten uploaded text. It’s only limitation is that it does not have a handwriting feature. Currently, Evernote just allows types notes.
I use Evernote online to structure my wordpress posts, and sometimes I use the Evernote Ipad app to work on those notes while I’m away from the computer. If you have the Ipad 2, you can take a quick snapshot of something you see out and about and start a note around it, which can later become a post. You can also capture audio, and record voices, like for use during a meeting or class lecture. Evernote also has an application Trunk which extends its functionality further, adding things like social media updating, games, and outlook synchronization. Evernote is free for the Ipad, and also features a premium plan for an additional $5 per month or $45 per year, which gives you more online storage and premium support. Personally, I don’t have the need for 50mb file size notes, nor the need to save more than 1GB worth of notes a month, so the extra expense doesn’t make sense for me. If you have those storage requirements you’ll need the premium account, but I haven’t run into any barriers with storage yet on my free account.
Evernote can make checklists and to do lists, but to make those you have to create a new note, and that can be a buit cumbersome for just creating a simple shopping list. That’s where Toodledo comes in. This app is a very easy to use list manager. You can quickly create multiple lists, assign priorities, tags, and other details. You can email tasks to your desktop, or to other email addresses and users. You can also write short notes to yourself about each task. The application allows calendar scheduling, and task cloning for those tasks that are performed on a regular basis. You can also set reminders and alerts for tasks. If you like bringing your Ipad shopping, Toodledo is a great application to help you breeze through your shopping list.
If you’re like my wife, you have five different types of shopping lists, most of which have some kind of magnet holding them to the fridge. The paper is probably frilly or has some kind of picture of either cute kittens, babies, or stupid pictures of inanimate food with googley people eyes. Do yourself, and your manhood a favor, and buy this app so you don’t have to go to the store with your wife’s shopping list. It’s only $2.99 to purchase though Itunes App Store. Again, in my opinion, it’s worth the expense.
You don’t have Netflix yet? What have you been hiding under a rock? This is one of the best video apps ever created for any platform, let alone the Ipad, but the Ipad app for Netflix is just awesome. This app requires a netflix account, which will set you back between $8 and $15 a month, but it is worth every penny. Netflix has all the new releases, and many of them are available for instant download, which is where the Ipad app comes in. The Ipad version of the app is only useful for watching movies instantly, until they develop an Ipad with a DVD reader, that is.
The thing I like most about Netflix is your ability to watch entire seasons of television series. They also have a great selection of documentaries to watch instantly, and the cool part for dads: Netflix has a ton of children’s movies available to watch instantly.
Here’s why I love Netflix:
When I’m on the road, I pop the Ipad in a handy holder which fits over the back seat in the car.That way the baby can watch the video screen, which she loves. If you don’t have a wi-fi version of the Ipad, simply use the tethering function of your cell phone or mi-fi card. It’s better than a mobile DVD player because you don’t have to leave it in the car and worry about it getting ripped off when you park. Plus, hours of entertainment for the kids, and if they each have their own Ipads, then they can watch movies independently and not reach across the seat to start a fight, which on a ten hour car ride to Pittsburgh is almost a guarantee.
I wrote an article about HBO Go on this site previously, and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth a look. Anyway, HBO Go gives you access to the movies and television series currently being features on HBO. It also gives you access to many of classic movies it has premiered, all of the original HBO production television and feature movies, and many of the full seasons of past television shows. I can’t even begin to count how many hours of entertainment that is. I recently finished watching the entire series of The Wire, and have gotten started on Treme and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
You might be tempted to ask a question like,” Craig, why should I get HBO when I can get the ABC player for free, and watch ABC Shows all night long?” My simple answer is this: Most of the ABC shows, and network TV shows in general, suck. If you’re sitting at home watching dancing with the stars you probably aren’t a dad, and if you are, you probably arent using an Ipad anyway, and should stop reading this article now. HBO has the best television programming of any network, cable or broadcast. Period.
Ipad2 offers native video mirroring, so with this app you can take HBO with you anywhere you go, even if they don’t have HBO. Just use your Ipad to HDMI connector and you’re all set to watch on a friend’s tv.
The only downside to this app is that it requires a subscription to HBO, which can be costly depending on your price gouging cable and internet monopoly, err I mean, cable or internet provider. There are a few cable providers throughout the country that do not allow access to HBO Go, even with an HBO subscription, but they are very few. You’ll have to check with the app or HBO to get exact availability in your market. If it is available in your area, the app is free to download.
For the Kids
Story Chimes isn’t a stand alone app, but it should be; and it is my single favorite app for entertaining my daughter. Story Chimes are children’s ebooks for the Ipad and Ipad2, which include video, animation, audio, and give you the ability to read either read the book at your own pace, or have the book narrated to you with different voices for the different characters. Story Chimes has hundreds of books for kids, including the classics and newer original books from previously unknown authors. Most of the books are only $0.99 each to purchase, but many of them are free including the following – just click the link and you’ll be taken to the free book at Itunes:
This app is so new it doesn’t even have a link I can give you yet, you’ll need to navigate on your own to find this one in the app store. Goby is an application that lets you search your neighborhood for events in your area. You can search via map, zip code, address, or by city. By using Goby, you can find things like:
- Musical artists
- Event venues: stadiums, concert halls, museums, libraries
- Nightlife: bars, concerts, theater, casinos
- Outdoor Recreation: hiking, biking trails, parks
- Adventure & Extreme: surfing, skateboarding
- Family Fun: bowling, zoos, playgrounds
- Sightseeing & Tours: walking, boat, bike tours
- Arts & Culture: historic, galleries, museums
- Health & Fitness: spas, swimming, yoga
- arts and crafts activities, local museums, concerts
Goby allows you to sync up with your Facebook profile while you’re out enjoying activities, so you can even invite friends down to enjoy the fun with you. I don’t know how Goby gets their information or how they populate the data, but it often lists prices of the events, where to buy tickets, contact information, and even web links. I’ve also found that Goby doesn’t just list the major attractions. Just this weekend I found a free concert series in a local park, and information for an arts and crafts fair that I did not find online.
Crayola Color Studio HD
You can choose from hundreds of Crayola Crayon colors, in addition to painting with a brush, markers, and pens. The app comes standard with a few free coloring pages, and additional scenes can be purchased through the application as well.
While the app is fun to use with your fingers, it becomes really cool if you use a stylus. Don’t buy the one the app suggests, its too expensive. I like the Griffin Technology Stylus for iPad, which I use for apps like this. You can be more precise with the coloring and its easier to select pens and colors too.
Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed reading about the 15 Ipad apps I think are really cool for dads. If there are apps out there that you think should be included in this list, whether for the Ipad, Iphone, or Android, please send me a note or post a comment here. I might just write another one of the top lists soon.