by Jay Hathaway Apr 2nd 2010 at 11:02AM
If you're anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new iPad, you might want to head over to the app store, where a couple thousand iPad apps are already available for purchase. You can shop now, and sync with the iPad when it arrives.
However, the question is what to buy? The current top sellers are Apple's iWork apps: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, so you'll get no help from that list. Instead, check out this crop of must-have apps that are already in the store and ready to be installed on day one. My picks ended up being equal parts free and paid apps, proving that you don't need to spend a fortune to equip the shiny new device you've already spent a fortune on.
I wrote about the possibility of a Netflix streaming video app earlier this week, and now it's actually available in the store. It's definitely a must-have for Netflix unlimited subscribers.
ABC Player (Free)
You can watch full episodes of ABC shows for free! This app works over wi-fi only, but it has a sweet-looking schedule screen to help you find the show you're looking for. The shows are ad supported. I'm not sure if this app works outside of the U.S., but the price is definitely right.
Flight Control HD ($4.99)
Flight Control HD is an iPad-optimized version of the addictive game that turned out to be a huge hit on the iPhone. You control the flight paths of planes, setting them up to land without hitting one another. As the pace picks up, though, you're headed for an inevitable crash. The iPad version adds bigger levels with new runways, as well as a split-screen mode, with both versus and co-op play. Multiplayer Flight Control? Oh, heck yes!
NPR for iPad (Free)
You've got your TV fix from ABC, and you can also get your public radio fix from NPR, and convert DVD to iPad. The NPR app is a lot like its iPhone counterpart, but expands the stories into a full-on magazine layout that looks like a pleasure to read while you listen. I've raved about the iPhone app in the past, and the iPad version looks just as sweet. Plus, it's free!
Things for iPad ($19.99)
The iPhone (and desktop) task manager app (to which I'm addicted) is available on the iPad, too. I cannot say enough good ... well, things ... about Things. Its interface just happens to match the way that I think about my to-do lists. The iPad app takes advantage of the device's screen real estate by adding a navigation sidebar and a new projects view. I know that everyone is different when it comes to productivity systems, though, so I recommend giving the desktop demo of Things a spin to see if it's for you before you shell out the $20 for the iPad app.
Twitterrific for iPad (Free)
One of the top Twitter apps on the iPhone has been lovingly redesigned for the big screen. Sidebar navigation has been added (makes a handy place for lists and trends!), and the user info popups look pretty sweet. If you're a Twitter addict, you're not going to want a tweetless mobile device, and Twitterrific looks like a good bet to deliver your early fix on the iPad.
It looks like the app that made me wish I had pre-ordered an iPad is finished in time for the device's first day. You can save any page on the Web and have it gorgeously reformatted for offline reading. It's perfect for those times when you need something to read and your iPad can't get wifi. In fact, I would call Instapaper the ultimate airplane app (Apple's own iBooks might beat it for that title, but that requires buying the books).
Plants vs. Zombies HD ($9.99)
For some serious time-killing gaming action, check out the iPad version of one of the all-time classic tower defense games, Plants vs. Zombies. In this one, your towers are various types of weaponized plants, and your opponents are waves of zombies. The iPad version has something that the iPhone and desktop versions don't have: multi-touch gestures. Apparently, you can control the game with up to 11 touch points at once. The graphics have also been revamped for the iPad, and they look extra-sharp.
Have you poked around the iPad aisle at the App Store yet? Let me know which must-have apps I missed, because you can bet we'll be covering plenty more of them!