Best iPad Apps of 2011

by Andrew Koziara

The iPad has really grown in this last year, both as a gaming platform and as a tool that does just about everything. Many useful apps use  the extra space on an iPad's screen to make beautiful flowing interfaces, and some of these apps are downright art. From professional media tools to productivity apps, there is something for everyone on the platform. Here are the best new apps of 2011.

Google Currents (Free)

A fairly late arrival in the year was the latest big thing from good ol' Google. A new app set to be the new top dog of news apps like Pulse, bringing you everything from published editions to your favorite news blogs. It turns these blogs into something of a digital magazine or newspaper that you can flip through at your leisure. It's an interesting aesthetic choice and I like how clean it looks compared to a regular browser. You need to log-in to a Google account to sync things, but it's well done and definitely an app to watch in the near future.

Snapseed ($4.99)

Snapseed turns your iPad into the ultimate photo editor. Take any regular photo and transform it into something extraordinary with dozens of applicable effects and edits. You can play with focus, add a myriad of fun textures and filters, tweak it to perfection and even frame it with an image border. Once your gorgeous creation is complete, easily save and share the photo with friends and family with the touch of a button. This is definitely a great app for any picture-lover.

Aweditorium (Free)

This app takes the idea of music discovery and turns it into a beautiful adventure. Explore a massive board of tiles, each representing a different song and artist, not knowing what the next tile will bring. As you listen to a song, various bits of trivia or lyrics pop up on the screen, and photographs, videos, and interviews are all a button-tap away. You'll pretty much only find indie music here, but even if your music taste doesn't line up with the app's, it's still a unique and fun iPad experience to have.

A Charlie Brown Christmas ($6.99)

By combining warm holiday nostalgia with the unique interactivity of an iPad, this app is perfectly set up to be enjoyed by everyone and anyone. The classic story is transformed into an interactive story book, narrated by the original voice of Charlie Brown himself. Relive the story and become a part of it through all the interactive features and mini-games. Your kids will love it because it's a storybook, and you'll love it because the wonderful soundtrack and memorable characters will force you to against your will.

GarageBand ($4.99)

This year saw the ultimate music-making application get released on the iPad, cheaper and more portable than ever. Even if you aren't a musician yourself, this app has always been fun to mess around with, whether you mix and match various drum beats or just mash away experimentally on the piano or guitar. Compose your own personal masterpiece using a wide variety of instruments, pre-set loops, and various settings. This is a great app for any music fan.

iMuscle - (NOVA Series) - iPad edition ($4.99)

iMuscle is the ultimate workout companion app, whether you're a serious body builder or an average joe trying to stay in shape. The app is totally comprehensive with exercises targeting every muscle, video demonstrations of exercises, detailed instructions and even random helpful comments. On top of all that, there's a highly detailed routine builder and progress tracker to help maximize the efficiency of each gym visit. This app is very well put together and easy to use.

Penultimate ($0.99)

Penultimate has always been a great handwriting app, but the release of iOS 5 saw some massive upgrades in the latest major update. With pens of various size and color along with a handful of paper options, this is the ultimate app for nonsense scribbling or doodling. It's quite useful for quickly illustrating a concept or idea without wasting any actual paper, and the writing itself feels very well done and accurate. It's not a serious art app by any means, but it's useful in its own way. You can pass virtual notes in class between real note taking, for example!

Flipboard (Free)

Yeah, this is another app that technically was released in 2010, but this year saw some big updates that brought tons of third party publishers into the fold, and it still reigns supreme over most of the competition. This customizable news app turns blogs and magazines into a beautifully laid out flip book. With a great variety of news sources to choose from, this app even learns what kinds of stories you respond to, and adjusts itself over time. Share interesting news stories with Twitter and Facebook, and even read your Facebook news feed like a real magazine or newspaper.

djay ($9.99)

Technically released at the very end of last year, this is a very cool app. It's a professional grade DJ song mixing app, and like GarageBand, it's fun to play around with even if you aren't a professional. You can mix any tracks from your iTunes library, or maybe even your own GarageBand compositions, record your creation, and show it off to your friends. There are plenty of tricks and features to enjoy, and there's even support for iCloud and AirPlay. I definitely recommend it to music enthusiasts, even if it is on the pricey side.

HowStuffWorks for iPad (Free)

HowStuffWorks has always been a fun and intelligent place to spend your time. Over the years it has grown to encompass all sorts of media, and now it's on your iPad. Featuring podcasts and blogs, special videos, random trivia, and even interactive quizzes, there's always something fun to do and something interesting to learn with this app. The interface is streamlined and everything is laid out well. This is definitely the best way to experience HowStuffWorks, and it's only going to get better over time.