f you unwrapped a new iPad or iPad Mini on Christmas, congratulations! Someone really cares about you. But unless you're already iSavvy, navigating the labyrinth that is Apple's App Store can feel a bit overwhelming. Here are a few of our favorite apps to help get you on your way:
1. Google Chrome
You're going to spend a lot of time browsing the web. Maybe you're even reading this website right now using Apple's native Safari browser. If you like the speed and no-nonsense sensibility of Chrome on your desktop, you'll love the iPad version of Google's browser. Need to search for something? Just type it in the URL bar. Need to go into incognito mode for a bit? That's here, too. Plus, Chrome can sync the webpages you're looking at across all your devices — from your desktop to your iPhone. (Free)
Here at The Week, we read a lot of stories. A lot. And often, we come across a long story that's simply too long to read in a single sitting. Enter Instapaper, a simple, reader-friendly app that allows you to clip stories from all over the web to read later. When you use it, it strips noisy websites of all their usual trappings — it's just you, a white background, and the text. It's not free, but if you read a lot, it's worth the sticker price. ($3.99)
3. Find My iPhone
It's the app you'll hopefully never have to use. Say you accidentally leave your $400+ iPad with 3G in a cab. Oops. Activating Find My iPhone taps into the gadget's location data so you can use another device (like an iPhone) to pinpoint exactly where your tablet is. (Free)
Lots of people hate reading books on a screen. I used to be one of them. But downloading the Kindle app on my iPhone and iPad changed everything, and now it's my preferred medium — especially for brick-sized guilty pleasures like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series. You'll have access to Amazon's unrivaled digital library of ebooks (which you can download instantly from Amazon.com), and the app automatically syncs with the page you left off on regardless of what device you're using. (Free)
5. The Weather Channel
Apple's iDevices already come with built-in weather tools. But the official Weather Channel app is the best of the best, bar none. It's especially handy to check before bed, just in case you forget to pack an umbrella for the morning. (Free)
If you're a Twitter user, consider ponying up a few bucks for Tweetbot. It's much better than the social network's free client. Perusing tweets is a breeze, and Tweetbot simply does a better job of organizing other users to find and message with. Another favorite feature: You can tap and hold down on a story link to beam it directly to your Instapaper cue. But don't take my word for it. Check out what this happy customer had to say in his rating: "Tweetbot does Twitter so vastly better than Twitter itself, it's not even funny any more." All that for the cost of a (really cheap) cheeseburger. ($2.99)
Dropbox is the best cloud storage service out there. On the iPad, it's especially handy for uploading any photos and videos you take, thanks to a recent upgrade that arranges files in easy-to-browse galleries. (Free)
Watching Netflix on your computer? Really great! Watching Netflix on your shiny new tablet without ever having to leave your bed? Sublime! (Free)
Your iPad already comes with FaceTime, which allows you to video chat with anyone else on an iOS device, provided you're both connected to WiFi. But Skype works cross platform, meaning you'll be able to video chat with Mom even if she's using a five-year-old Windows machine halfway across the country. (Free)
If you're starting to feel guilty for loading up Google apps on your Apple machine, don't be. Gmail users will want to download the search engine's superior email application, which recently got redesigned for version 2.0 after a disastrous initial launch. Searching through your old archives takes advantage of Google's refined search algorithms, and turning your device horizontal lets you read emails while keeping your inbox open in a left-hand column. It's clean, fresh, and simply a must-have for anyone with a Gmail account. (Free)
Sure, the interface is ugly. But Pandora still effectively lets you listen to music without having to manually fuss through a playlist. Wirelessly connect it to speakers with Bluetooth or AirPlay, or just plug them into your iPad directly. (Free)
You're all set! And please share your favorite must-have iPad apps in the comments below.
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