You've taken the plunge and bought the new iPad. Its awesome Retina display and processing power made you fall in love with the machine and you're looking for accessories to take care of your new precious. Since the form factor is practically the same as the iPad 2, there are plenty of accessories available from day one. Before you even start thinking about a fancy Bluetooth keyboard or a pricey Smart Cover why don't you stop to think about the software that can make the new iPad a great product you want to use everyday?
Whether this is your first iPad or already have a decent-sized library of HD apps, I propose giving an opportunity to the tools that you're going to use under that huge high resolution display. What if, instead of spending some extra cash on a cover or any wacky accessory you used that amount purchasing high-quality apps? After spending $500/£400 on a new machine you probably don't have a problem equipping it some cheap case made in China. Are you really considering skipping some of the best software available today for tablets?
While I was waiting at the Apple Store to get my new iPad I observed how the product is pitched to customers. Obviously during a product launch the goal is to shift as many units as possible so the focus wasn't on up-selling accessories — I saw a couple of Smart Cover demos. From the graphic designer who came to pick up a Mac Pro left for repair to the lovely couple of pensioners curious about it, the message was always the same. A message of a post-PC era where mobile devices account for a major part of the sales. A hardware pitch with little mention to the apps that make it a delight to use.
200,000 apps available for the iPad, not all are great
I'm sure most of the people on the line before me will do a big deal of web-browsing and YouTubing with their brand new iPads —that's been my primary use for the last months with my original iPad too. In fact, the standard applications cover the bases pretty well and give you functionality right out of the box. Since I assume that at some point you'll launch the App Store and get a couple of free games to check how good the graphics look, I'm giving you a short list of the apps I consider indispensable for my iPad. I've seen it many times with friends and family: you just end up with some junk apps pretty quickly.
I strongly advise you to stop and check out the following apps. They're made by small teams of people who care about user experience and have a compromise supporting the apps — note how the majority had already updated their graphic assets to match the new iPad's Retina display by the time you got home with it. You can go through the list and come back at any time.
My challenge is asking you to put aside the dollars you would use for a Smart Cover and invest it in software. I believe there isn't anything better than equipping your iPad with the best available tools and I guarantee that if you do so, you'll spend 90% of your time using these apps and nothing else. You might even get a 'this justifies buying an iPad' thought in some weeks.
Instapaper - If reading on the sofa with a cup of tea after a long day at work sounds like a good idea, then Instapaper is your new best friend. This app allows you to save web content, strip it from its format and deliver it across devices at any time. You'll realise that many apps now support the service of the big 'I', allowing you to create simple workflows wether you're at your desk or on the go. Instapaper guarantees you don't forget about that article you skimmed through in the morning and only have time in the evening to enjoy properly. It gets extra points for being independent of any internet connection, making it a perfect reading companion for commuters.
Reeder - Keeping up to date with latest from your favourite websites was a chore before Google Reader and RSS. This iPad client handles those feeds with flair ensuring that your quest to inbox zero is done in the most pleasurable manner. Compared with other alternatives, Reeder uses some special magic to sync feeds extremely quickly at several rounds. Reeder is slick, has some very useful gestures and plays nicely with external services such as Instapaper.
Flipboard - Is a cross between a virtual magazine, your social networks and RSS feeds. Its approach is more playful and social, allowing you to share and comment bits of information on every page. I find Flipboard as a great light RSS reader and a good way to discover new publications and authors — if only the cheeky UI allowed you to do anything productive. On top of that, this is possibly the most elegant way to check Facebook updates on any platform.
Calcbot - Since the iPad doesn't come with a calculator, you'll need to get yourself a replacement. Obviously any cheap app can do the job, but nothing does it like an oversized black calculator with big buttons and numbers. Since I first installed it on the original iPad, Calcbot has become an essential part of my kitchen table, where I normally do the bills, taxes and occasional unit conversions. Not very exciting. Now imagine me shuffling countless supermarket receipts and punching virtual buttons with my other hand on the biggest calculator you've ever seen. The robotic sounds, the giant display and the ability to export all the calculation makes it less of a chore.
Tweetbot - Also from Tapbots, the developer behind my 'must-have' calculator choice, comes this iPad-specific Twitter client. I'm a recent convert and I was perfectly happy with Loren Britcher's take on what an app like this should be. Perhaps it's just my curiosity, feature list and pixel-perfect details that caught my eye. If you want to have the flexibility of multiple timelines, custom gestures and additional services such as Tweetmarker, this is the app for you.
Instacast HD - As a daily user of the iPhone version I never saw the point of this dedicated iPad app until I tried it. The functionality offered is genuinely revolutionary, so good I'm counting the days until Apple finally sherlocks it. I guess most iPads stay at home in the cosy company of a string Wi-Fi network, allowing Instacast to download comfortably those heavy video podcasts you would have to wait to watch otherwise.
OmniFocus - What can be said about OMNI's task manager that I haven't praised already? Combined with the desktop and iPhone app can do wonders. Used on it's own can make your iPad the key element of your GTD system. I particularly enjoy the review and forecast panes, which allow me to control all the tasks planned for the week ahead and the work done.
Articles - I could spend a whole afternoon browsing interesting facts on Wikipedia. The website's layout doesn't make it an good on a tablet and this app takes care of it: New textures, zoomable images, easy access to the search bar and language change. This is so simple it's almost embarrassing to recommend and I fear this app is approaching the abandonware state. UPDATE 22/03/12 Sophia has mentioned on Twitter that she's currently working on a Retina-ready version of Articles. Despite the recent trend to slash skeuomorphism, I still can't find anything as good as Articles.
Photo credit for viiviseppanen