Best free iPad apps of all time

by Ian Black

What are the best free iPad apps worth downloading right now? Although there are a lot of great free iPad apps to choose from, time is money and here we are recommending the best free iPad apps of all time.

Facebook (Free)

It took a long time arriving, but finally the Facebook app got updated to work on the iPad properly. Before October of 2011, many iPad users had to rely on the website-based version, but ever since, all the bells and whistles of the dedicated app are available to iOS users whether they access the social network on their iPhone or iPad tablet. The app supports a lot of the things iPad users were clamoring for including multitouch capabilities, games, Places and the abilty to easily snap and share photos. For Facebook fans out and about with their iPads in tow, access to their favorite social networking app is now much more straightforward.

textPlus (Free)

Ask any teenager about the best apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad and textPlus will be on the list. This app lets you send and receive text messages to and from anywhere (any carrier, even internationally) for free. The ads pay the bills for the service. On the iPad you’ve got the big screen keyboard for crafting your succinct witticisms and lots of real estate for reading the threaded conversations and group text chatter. The app provides a new number for you – so the first time you use it – you’ll have to clearly identify yourself to your recipients. Teens don’t seem to mind.

Google Earth

Carry the world in the palm of your hand. Google Earth for iPad is a stunning digital globe that you can manipulate in a number of exciting ways. Spin a 3D satellite image of the world, then zoom in, or fly directly to the current location of your iPad. Browse Wikipedia articles that are geo-located, or peruse the Panaramio layer that shows you millions of photos tied to their locations. It’s the smartest globe you’ll ever encounter.

NASA App HD

You think NASA just does space tech? Think again. NASA Ames engineers have created an out-of-this-world iPad app that will keep you better informed on NASA missions, space science, extraterrestrial discoveries, and news. Stream live NASA TV, or view their stunning Pictures of the Day. Explore your universe with science facts and photos, or keep up with current missions in real-time by reading the latest NASA tweets or tracking the international space station’s movements. With a couple of taps, you can share the information and articles over Facebook, Twitter or email.

NPR for iPad

Enjoy National Public Radio like never before with NPR for iPad. Designed especially for the iPad (because surveys say over 5 percent of NPR’s listening audience own one), the app combines magazine and radio formats. Play audio from NPR feature stories and shows while flicking around text and photos. Explore NPR photo galleries and video content from their website. Share your finds over Facebook and Twitter or upload your own thoughts.

NYTimes for iPad

Who better to create a truly digital newspaper than the New York Times? NYTimes for iPad feels like the newspaper seen in the film Minority Report. Flick forward and backward through articles, or bring up a table of newspaper sections with one tap and then jump to your interest area. Play HD video embedded within articles, or scan through multimedia slide shows. Press “update” and get a scrolling page of the latest news from NYTimes.com broken out into convenient sections.

Flipboard

What if your friends created a new magazine for you to read each day based on the content they chose? That’s kind of what Flipboard is like. Using your social network, it creates an iPad-style flick-and-touch magazine full of text, images, and video content created or shared by your friends. There's also a whole heap of news services sharing their content with Flipboard for easy viewing. Browsing content feels easier with this app than on Facebook or Twitter’s own websites, and content updates happen in real time so you’ll likely see something new every time you launch the app.

GoSkyWatch Planetarium for iPad

Ever go stargazing with an astronomer? GoSkyWatch Planetarium feels like there’s an astronomer at your side. Use the location feature to view the sky as seen from your city, then explore it in detail by focusing in on the constellations, planets, stars or deep sky objects. Ephemeris data on each object helps you find it if you have a telescope handy, otherwise, use the accelerometer of the iPad to scan around based on position. You can spin the night sky by adjusting the time or the date, or run a time-lapsed animation of star movements. You’ll be amazed at the vast universe above you.

Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD

Carry a piano in your hands. This app provides two sets of piano keys, one above the other, each about an octave and a half of a piano keyboard. The sound is the closest you’ll get to a real piano on any iPad piano application. Multi-touch allows you to play realistic sounding chords and actual songs. Tap the arrows to move each keyboard up or down by one key or one octave. You can also display the notes as symbols on each key for help playing a tune. With Virtuoso, you can tickle the ivories anytime, anywhere.

Weatherbug for iPad

People are fascinated by weather, hence the existence of the 24-hour Weather Channel. Scratch the same itch with the free Weatherbug for iPad app. Pinch and zoom a map of your current location, your state, the country, or the world, then jump to radar showing precipitation, temperature, humidity, and many other views. Save your favorite locations for quick access or view webcam feeds from around the country, a five-day forecast, or even weather update videos.

Others in this series:

1. Best paid iPad apps of all time

2. Best free iPad games of all time

3. Best paid iPad games of all time