Best free iPad apps

UPDATE: Check out our Best iPad 2 apps round up of the best iPad 2 Apps to get

So you've got an iPad, but you've scraped and saved so much that you now don't have enough money to buy any iPad apps.

Well the bad news, is that while there are free apps out there, there are currently nowhere near as many apps as there were for the iPhone launch.

Still, quibbles aside, that isn't to say what there is available, isn't any good. Far from it, there are stacks of great free iPad apps that will let you get the most out of the iPad without spending any more money.

We've scoured the 3500 iPad apps available (mid May) on iTunes to see what's on offer when it comes to free. We've tried, tested and reviewed all of the following free iPad apps ourselves, rather than just guessing whether they're good or not.

Prepare to get something for nothing (well apart from the £429 you've just spent on the iPad of course.)

Dropbox

We'll waste no time in telling you that here at Pocket-lint we love Dropbox and how simple it is to work, and thankfully it offers an iPad version to work within the eco system.

Once connected you can then share your files quickly from your desktop to your iPad. The app allows full access to your Dropbox folder, the chance to email out, and the chance to upload photos via the app too.

This really is the quickest way to get your documents on to your iPad for free.

Rating 9/10


Atomic lite

A browser you say? Why yes, but this browser has one killer feature over the iPad's Safari. Private browsing.

If private browsing wasn't enough to sway you - ideal if your iPad is being left for the whole family to use (think birthday's not porn), then Atomic Lite also brings tabbed browsing to the mix as well.

Quick and simple, this is a good alternative to Safari

Rating 9/10


Bloomberg for iPad

One use for the iPad is as a desk companion for when you are at work. Here Bloomberg offers a snap shot at its stocks-and-shares figures in one handy app.

You get Bloomberg news equity indices, the ability to track stocks, currencies, commodities, futures, bonds, and access the company's Podcasts.

If you're into numbers and the markets, and looking for something that is considerably more advanced than Apple's Stocks app, this is certainly one to look at.

Rating 9/10


Dictionary.com

How do you spell that? What does it mean? Give me another word for...

Dictionary.com isn't the OED or The Collins, but it will give you the meaning of words, offer you thesaurus suggestions and even read out the word you are struggling with so you can hear it pronounced properly.

Word of the Day will improve your lexicon.

Rating 9/10


AcccuWeather.com free for the iPad

It's not as pretty as Weather HD, however this app is free compared to Weather HD's 59p price tag.

A 15-day forecast gives you some notion of what the weather has in store for you and an auto locking feature based on your location saves you having to enter where you are.

Simple, but it will give you a head up that you need to pack an umbrella for your weekend away.

Rating 8/10


Pocket Pond HD

It's got a touchscreen you say? Well if you get a question like that all you've got to do is whip out Pocket Pond.

Why? Well it does nothing more than offer a fish pond with some koi swimming around, but tapping on the screen sends ripples across the water, scaring the fish, and in the process allowing people who've never seen anything like this to playfully get involved.

They'll be putty in your hands, thinking you are a demi-god from the future.

Rating 8/10


Epicurious Recipes & shopping list

The iPad is a very fancy cookbook truth betold and epicurious is the cook book to let that dream become a reality.

Frustratingly very American in its cooking approach, nonetheless the app is easy to understand and follow with the ability search and browse through hundreds of recipes from drinks to deserts to starters to main courses.

What helps even more is that you can then email the ingredients to yourself or your maid so they can get them when they are next down the shops.

Rating 7/10


Plane Free HD

Thanks to the wonders of the ash cloud of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, tracking planes for some has become a wonderful pastime.

Plane Free HD is based on the same concept as Flight Radar 24, allowing you to track planes around the world as they go about their business.

The free version gives you a taster of what's possible and is limited by only two updates a day, while the full version will give you real time movements.

Clicking on a plane allows you to see where it's going and where it's coming from as well as stats about the plane itself.

If your flight is delayed, this will let you track it. Roger roger.

Rating 8/10


Twitterific

There isn't an official Twitter for iPad app so for the moment you're left with Twitterific or TweetDeck.

While we understand there are plenty of fans of TweetDeck we've found it incredibly buggy over the last couple of weeks, although it does benefit from the extra screen real estate.

Back to Twitterific, the free version gives you a chance to see what those you are following are saying, to track searches, see your lists, and look at Trends on Twitter.

Within your stream you can do all the usual Twitter stuff, add followers, email the tweet out and set stuff to read later.

Good, but unfortunately only limited to one account, and ultimately not as good as Twitter for iPhone.

Rating 7/10


Health Calc XL

All this sitting around surfing on your iPad whilst on the sofa is likely to mean you'll put on weight. Sorry but it's probably a fact.

In steps Health Calc XL, an incredibly quick BMI calculator that lets you punch in your details before it spits out that you're fat.

After you've inputed your level of physical activity, sex, age, height, and weight you'll get your BMI measure, your ideal weight, your recommended calorie intake a day and whether you're just right or a bit tubby.

Rating 8/10


Joost

Yep it's still going and yep it has a dedicated iPad app so you can watch the latest Joost videos for free when you're bored at home with nothing on the television.

It's a fairly basic app, but you'll get a selection of staff picks, most popular videos, the ability to browse genres, and search for stuff.

While some of the content is country specific (mainly the films), most is available to everyone. Oh and we know, while you might not openly admit it, you'll be seduced by He-Man the cartoon streamed to your new tablet computer.

Rating 8/10


Harbor Master

While most will tell you to go for Flight Control HD, Harbor Master is virtually the same deal but with boats, and more importantly free, so you can see whether you like the concept before parting with your cash.

The idea is that you control more and more boats as they travel across the screen unloading their cargo and making sure no one crashes. If it sounds simple, or even dull, that's because it is. But it's also strangely addictive as your screen slowly gets more and more crowded and you've got to manage where your boats are, make sure they don't crash and get them out of the dock before the next ship arrives. 

With little else to do it's a fairly linear game that can become tiresome quickly. Those looking for more of a challenge would be better getting Flight Control HD, but at least this gives you a taster of what you will be getting. 

Rating 6/10 


Google Mobile

If you use any of the Google services and we are betting that you probably do, you can now get Google's Mobile App for the iPad.

The app is identical to the iPhone version, however it's been formatted to fill the whole screen rather than just an iPhone-sized one.

Google's offerings are listed in a rather bland list, not taking advantage of the new screen (we would have liked to see big icons in a grid format) and pressing on one fires you off to the relevant website which of course is now iPad friendly. You can also add support for your Google Apps domain.

The key feature here is the ability to quickly search via Google's voice technology to save you having to type on the keyboard.

Shouting Pocket-lint at your iPad for example will load up a search for us and then we are just one click away. The app saves that search and then you can find it quickly later. It's simple stuff, but if you are in a rush then this is a great way of getting things done quickly.

Rating 8/10


Amazon Kindle

You didn't think that Amazon would let Apple have all the fun with book purchases on the iPad did you?

Here you get Amazon's very good Kindle application that has been designed and formatted to benefit the bigger screen.

The free app lets you access some 450,000 titles both free and paid for from the company's electronic book store.

Signing up for the free service is incredibly easy and you can sync your books with other devices like the iPhone, BlackBerry or your computer; so you can pick up where you left off regardless of what device you've got with you.

As with iBooks (only available in the US at the moment) you'll be able to buy books on the fly, which is handy if you're in the airport and about to get on a long flight.

Within the iPad version you can bookmark pages to return to later as well as change the font size and select whether or not the page is shown on a white, black or sepia background (something the iBook offering can't do). 

Realising that a screen shining in your face when you're reading in bed might not be the greatest of ideas, you can also adjust the brightness of that screen to virtual darkness within the app.

Portrait and landscape modes are offered, although frustratingly landscape offers only a single column of text rather than two pages, making the line length rather long and at times difficult to read.

Fonts can't be changed, and unlike iBooks you're only able to note or highlight a word rather than access the dictionary or search for it on Google.

With more books on offer than the Apple iBook store as well as UK availability, this is one to check out if you are planning on reading on your iPad.

Rating 9/10


Marvel

So you like comics? Well the good news is that the iPad makes for an amazing digital comic book just like that one Tom Hanks demoed in Big. The free Marvel comic book store app lets you buy and download comics, to read under your duvet or more likely on the train. 

There are, of course, a handful of free comics to give you an idea of what's in store, but the idea is that you're supposed to buy more when you're done reading what you've got.

The app will notify you when the next edition is out, view a preview of the comic you are about to buy as well as giving you the option to read it either portrait or landscape.

In the comic you can zip straight to a certain page as well as view the comic full screen or tile by tile, with the app even giving you animations for that comic-book movie feel.

If you like comic books and the idea of reading them on that lovely 9.7-inch screen, this is the one for you.

Rating 8/10


Adobe Ideas for iPad

And who said Adobe wasn't available on the Apple iPad? Adobe Ideas is basically a blank sheet of paper (digital of course) that you can sketch ideas on to and then email out.

This isn't an art package, or a note taking package, but one that allows you to get what you are thinking down on "paper" so you can think about it some more later when you get back to your desk. 

You can import photos into the app to work with, change pen thickness and colour as well as manage the size of images you've imported. 

It's quick, it's simple, but if you've ditched the pen and paper (which let's face it is the point) this is a great app to get.

Rating 8/10


IMdb

We've all been there. That moment where you are watching a movie and you see an actor that you recognise but just can't place. Here IMdb turns your iPad into a massive movie database so you can quickly search a movie and solve the riddle at the press of a button.

While the app will give you wealth of features like latest on what's coming to the cinema and the top 250 movies of all time. It's most helpful when it's giving you the biography of actors that you are trying to place.

Find the movie, find the actor and then you get their page detailing their life story, with pictures, trailers, and links to buy their movies from Amazon if you're that way inclined.

Never again will you have the pain of knowing you've seen them, but for the life of you not remembering where.

Rating 9/10


Wikipanion

Trust it or not, Wikipedia is a great site for finding out stuff and the answers to most of your questions around a dinner party. In steps Wikipanion, an iPad app that lets you harvest Wikipedia for information, stats and the like.

No longer will you lose an argument because your friend is more confident and assertive than you are as you can now search the entire Wikipedia database from the iPad in your hand.

The app lets you search for anything you want, whiz around the links in copy, look at related information, bookmark favourite entries for later and look at your search history so you can find stuff you once looked at. The home page lets you look up stories in the news as well.

Using your Wi-Fi or 3G connection, you can also learn about stuff that's in your immediate vicinity.

Settings allows you to change the font and size, email the page out to a friend - just to rub it in that you are right even further - and open up the link in Safari if that's your thing.

A great way to find out the answer to those queries you have without spending hours trying to find the information you want on wide open plains of the Internet.

Those looking to blow the budget ($4.99) can also get Wikipanion plus a paid for version with an offline option and a few extra features.

Rating 9/10


Guardian Eyewitness

Everyday the Guardian uses the centrespread of its newspaper edition to show one big picture from photographers around the world.

The pictures vary from people, to animals, to nature and more, but above all they are always stunning shots.

This app lets you scan through those images with a new one available every day giving you inspiration for you own shots perhaps.

Each image comes with a caption box as well as, and this is the good bit, a pro tip telling you either how the shot was taken, like composition or camera settings. In fact it's these bits that really make it interesting and helpful to photographers rather than just the images themselves.

Photos can be shared via facebook or email and you can "star" your favourite ones for viewing at a later date.

This being an app about showing off photos, you can also turn it into a slideshow, although the app fails to let you remove the toolbar, caption or sponsorship logo from Canon.

Rating 8/10


Frame Channel

While Apple's iPad does come with its own slideshow features to turn your iPad into a digital picture frame, it's limited by only serving you images from those you've got stored on the actual device.

With a Wi-Fi connection and an amazingly glossy and crisp screen, Frame Channel lets you turn your iPad into a photo frame and stream much more than just images on your iPad.

You'll have to create an account online (you can do it via the app but we had trouble) and then once that's done, load in a number of plug-ins to turn your iPad into much more when it comes to photos.

For the more boring, you can opt for a calendar mode (did you really just pay all that money to do just this) as well setting it to serve you images from a Facebook account, Flickr account and much more - there are stacks.

Photos, news, weather, sports results are all here, meaning when your iPad's not in your hands it can be bringing you information or images to spruce up your living room or kitchen.

Now all you need is a stand or wall hanging case so it doesn't slide off the mantle piece.

Rating 9/10


Shazam

Some 75 million users already swear by it and now you can find out what the devil that song on the radio or TV is too.

Shazam for iPad is virtually identical to the iPhone offering, but has more room to play thanks to the bigger 9.7-inch screen the iPad sports.

That means more space to read about the bands you've requested information on, and basically a better experience all around.

Once you've tagged a song, you can see if it's available in iTunes, look at similar tracks by other artists that you might also like and check out artist release data too.

If you're feeling social you can share the song you've tagged with Twitter, Facebook, or email it to someone, handy.

If you're just bored, you can see the Shazam chart that tells you what other people are searching for and therefore find the tune that you like, but have no idea what it sounds like

Rating 9/10


Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD

While many will say that Pianist Pro is the better app, it's also considerably more expensive than this free offering, and besides neither, while letting you create some music, won't replace your grand piano.

As a free offering, therefore, it's good for a bit of fun, giving you two keyboards to help you bang out some of your favourite tunes.

Basic isn't really the word for this, but it will quell your urge before you part with your cash for something better.

Rating 7/10


Soundrop free

Raindrops keep falling on my head... that's what you'll be singing after playing with this simple but mesmerising iPad app.

The concept is simple. A constant stream of balls flows out of an outlet down the page. You draw a line under the flow and when the ball hits, it sounds a note. The greater the fall the higher the note and so the cycle begins repeating the sounds you make until you either go mad or enter a trance.

With such simplicity this is great fun, albeit only for a couple of minutes, but is good for keeping the children quiet as you teach them the properties of cause and effect.

Lovely, but of course pointless.

Rating 9/10


Big Calculator

You can get them for pennies in the local stationers, you've got one on your phone, but hey, I bet they aren't as big or colourful.

It's free, it's got a paper tape so you can see the sums you've done already and you can even email them to people.

Call us childish, but it also, more importantly, means you can tell the 55378008 joke to your mates over and over again until they probably punch you.

Rating 9/10


Truphone for iPad

What actually is the iPad? One thing that it isn't supposed to be is a phone. Well that is unless you download the Truphone for iPad app.

The Instant Messaging come phone app lets you talk to your buddies on MSN, AOL, and Google Talk, but sadly not Skype, as well as making calls to regular land lines and mobile phones.

The catch is that it only works on Wi-Fi rather than 3G, but on the calls we've made (you get 50p worth of calls to get you started) everyone thought the quality was a good as a regular phone.

Truphone also offers an unlimited calling plan and free voicemail, but you'll have to pay extra for that obviously.

It's not amazing, but worth having in your armoury if you can find Wi-Fi and your phone battery has already died.

Rating 7/10


You

What are your favourite free apps? Let us know in the comments below: