New iOS Device for the holidays? Download these apps first!

by Phil Hornshaw

With each new holiday season, Apple finds itself selling a huge number of iOS devices, from old iPhone 4s to the brand new iPad mini. This means that there will be people waking up during December days off, stumbling through the iTunes App Store, wondering what they should be downloading on their shiny new devices.We’ve got answers. There are a few key apps that you should have to stay connected, productive and help unlock the full potential of your new iPhone or iPad. Before you do anything, start by downloading these apps first.

Facebook (Free)

This is a no-brainer when it comes to using your mobile device. Facebook’s app lets you stay connected to friends and family wherever you are, and the ability to upload and share photos immediately after taking them is a great addition to your device’s functionality – specifically with the way Apple has been increasing its devices’ camera capabilities in the last few iterations. With a billion people registered, Facebook has other uses, too, like messaging friends, finding people and making instant friendship and networking connections when you meet people in person.Facebook’s app has improved significantly during the last year, as well. The native iPad app is a big plus for users of that device, and Facebook has done a lot to work in new features like chat functionality for everyone. If you use Facebook at all, you’ll need this app – there’s a reason more people log in to the social network with their mobile devices than with computers.

Google Maps (Free)

You might have heard of all the controversy surrounding the loss of the Google Maps app on Apple’s iOS 6 software, and the subsequent train wreck that was the iPad maker’s replacement, Apple Maps. After some waiting (and some bad directions given out by Apple Maps), Google Maps has made a triumphant return, and in fact, it’s better than ever.The major new feature for Google Maps is that it includes turn-by-turn directions, a feature iOS users have wanted for years. In general, the app is a snap to use, and if you’re anything like me and millions of other iOS-device owners, you’ll find that maps and GPS capabilities are the things about your smartphones (and maybe tablets) you use most. This one’s essential.

Camera Awesome (Free – with in-app purchases)

Having a solid camera with you at all times isn’t something you think you need until you discover just how handy it is, and the cameras on iPhones and iPads have really come into their own in the last year or two. While the standard camera app is functional in a pinch, Camera Awesome provides a huge amount of additional features that make it much more like a real digital camera, and less like a camera stuck on a phone.Camera Awesome includes elements like a shot timer, burst shots and image stabilization for when you’re taking photos, and lots of things you can do with your shots after you’ve taken them. That includes a lot of filters, cropping and editing tools, and more. When you’re done, Facebook and Twitter integration, among other services, make sharing a snap as well. In all, if you want to be using the camera on your iOS device, you’ll want a solid camera app to add the features that can help, and Camera Awesome is one of the best.

Google Search (Free)

It’s pretty likely that you’ll find your iOS device is a lifeline when you’re out in the world and need information, especially in the case of an iPhone. Where can you go eat in this area? Where’s nearby parking? Who was that actor in that one episode of Lost? You can try to stumble around the world without that kind of crucial information, but you have a mobile device – an Internet-connected computer – in the palm of your hand.So to find handy information on the fly, you’ll definitely want to grab Google Search. It brings the full power of Google to you when you’re out in the world, and has great search features including voice recognition and even Google Goggles, a feature that lets you aim your device’s camera at objects and have Google search for and find them. Having access to the Internet at all times has some serious advantages, and Google Search lets you take advantage of them to make life a lot easier.

Netflix, Vudu, Hulu Plus, or Crackle (Free – some with subscriptions)

Your new device shouldn’t be only utilitarian. One of the great things about the high-resolution screens of iOS devices is that they make video look great, even on iPhones. That means that if you want to take advantage of watching a movie while riding the bus or streaming something other than the football game everyone else wants to watch in the living room, you can. There are a bunch of streaming apps available, and they all have great features, so it primarily depends on which you use and have subscriptions for.Of all the streaming apps, Crackle is one you should definitely check out first and foremost. It’s free from Sony, and it includes a number of movies that you can watch free of charge or subscription. Vudu is also a solid choice, as it includes lots of movies and TV shows you can pay to buy or rent from your computer, and you can also access and stream any digital copies of movies you get when you purchase Blu-Rays.

Pocket (Free)

Another awesome capability when it comes to iOS devices is how well they function as e-readers. In the case of iPads, reading ebooks and articles can be very comfortable, but reading on iPhones is also often very convenient. Pocket is an app that lets you save the articles you find on the web on your computer for later consumption on your iOS devices, but free of the ads and other clutter for an optimal experience.The great thing about Pocket is that it lets you use that downtime when you’re waiting in line or riding in a car to help you catch up on things that you found interesting, but for which you didn’t have time. It turns your device into a super-convenient means of staying up on news and events, and it makes actually reading articles (and also watching videos) a lot easier.

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