The 21 Best Free 'Must-Have' iPad Apps

Watch TV, relax, and find your way with these apps

You've purchased a new iPad and now you're ready to fill it up with productive, useful, and fun apps. To get you started, here are our picks for the 21 best free iPad apps. We cover a range of interests, so you're sure to find some great apps to download.

Unsure of how the whole App Store process works? Get a quick lesson in downloading apps

01
of 21

Crackle

Crackle website featuring free entertainment
What We Like
  • Great selection of movies and TV shows.

  • Free with no subscription commitment.

  • Original and on-demand content.

What We Don't Like
  • No live-streaming choices.

  • You'll see ads before watching content.

  • Few kids' options.

Move over Netflix and Hulu Plus, there's a great new movie app in town. Crackle delivers excellent entertainment in an interface that stands up to Hulu Plus and exceeds Netflix. Plus, it's a free download with no subscription costs. With free movies and TV shows, Crackle is a must-have app and one of the best free apps on the App Store.

02
of 21

iWork

iWork for iPad with Number, Keynote, and Pages
What We Like
  • Free to download and use.

  • Apps have a clean, easy-to-use interface.

  • Access your work on other devices via iCloud.

  • Open, edit, and save documents in Office format.

What We Don't Like
  • Writing tools in Pages aren't as robust as Word.

  • Not as many online support resources as Office.

Apple began giving away the iWork suite of office apps to anyone who purchased a new iPad or iPhone after the release of the iPhone 5S in late 2013. The iWork suite includes a word processor (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers), and presentation software (Keynote). 

How do these apps stack up to Microsoft Office? The iWork suite isn't quite as complete as Microsoft Office, but it's also not quite as bloated. Most of us don't need all the extra features packed in with our word processor or spreadsheet, and for us, iWork is perfect. 

03
of 21

Facebook

Facebook on the iPad
What We Like
  • Use Siri to create status updates.

  • Connect with friends and family on the go.

  • iPad Facebook interface is easy to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Help resources are lacking.

  • Facebook is often mired in controversy.

Facebook works fine from the iPad's web browser, but to get the best experience, download the official app. With Facebook on your iPad, it's easy to send images directly to Facebook via the iPad Photos Share button. Send web links from Safari, update your status using Siri, and more.

04
of 21

Google Maps

Google Maps on the iPad
What We Like
  • Get maps for multiple transportation modes.

  • Easily share maps with friends and family.

  • Street View perspective, indoor maps, and a host of other tools.

What We Don't Like
  • Street View occasionally captures images you may not want to see.

  • Offline navigation is available only for cars.

  • Design could be more streamlined.

When Apple replaced Google Maps with its own Maps app, it created such a backlash that Tim Cook apologized. Apple Maps has come a long way since its initial release, but many people still prefer Google Maps.

If you want to use your iPad as a navigation tool or to map your route before you get into the car, Google Maps is one of the must-have apps on the App Store. Apple's Maps app would certainly win the award for prettiest, but Google Maps is still the most functional.

05
of 21

Evernote

Evernote iPad app
What We Like
  • Tons of features that go beyond note-taking.

  • Access Evernote on multiple devices.

  • Access note history.

  • Notes are synchronized in real time.

What We Don't Like
  • If you have a large notebook list, it can be hard to access the one you want.

  • Mistakes numbers for phone numbers and creates a clickable link.

Evernote works similar to the Notes app that comes with the iPad but includes a number of super-charged features. Evernote is cloud-based, so you sign in to your account to retrieve your notes. This means you can sign in with your PC, iPad, or Android device. Create notes and task lists, email them from your Evernote account, and organize them by tags.

06
of 21

Pandora

Pandora app on iPad
What We Like
  • Create stations based on artist, genre, and more.

  • Use Voice Mode to control playback with voice commands.

  • Find podcasts through recommendations.

What We Don't
  • You'll need to pay for Pandora Plus to download music for offline listening.

  • Free version contains ads.

Your iPad isn't complete without installing a music app. Pandora for the iPad is both simple and sleek, offering the versatility of the Pandora website without much clutter, and allowing you to play music (and podcasts) in the background while you do other things.

When you combine Pandora with the ability to use Home Sharing to gain access to your entire music collection, it's easy to see how the iPad can replace your home stereo. Pandora is easily one of the best apps available for the iPad. Pandora is free to download and use, and includes many features, but you'll need to upgrade to Pandora Premium for other features, such as offline playback.

07
of 21

Yelp

Yelp free app on iPad
What We Like
  • Find great, highly recommended businesses.

  • Easy-to-use interface.

  • Share feedback on your experiences.

What We Don't
  • Spiteful reviews with no merit take away from the experience.

  • Some businesses claim legitimate, positive reviews are hidden.

Bored with the same restaurants? Want to find something new? There's nothing quite like Yelp for finding the best restaurants around you. Combined with a great audience of reviewers, you'll find out which restaurants are nearby, and you'll be able to choose the best. And for most restaurants, you can get a peek at the menu.

Yelp also works on almost any other type of business, so you'll be able to find a dry cleaner or an auto repair shop. Have a good experience somewhere? Share your thoughts on Yelp and help a small business thrive.

08
of 21

Dropbox

Dropbox free iPad app
What We Like
  • Upload, transfer, and share files to the cloud.

  • Set up automatic video and photo uploads.

  • Easy way to send large files.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need to upgrade to Dropbox Plus for additional storage and features.

  • Free version doesn't offer as much free storage as Google Drive.

Dropbox Basic (its free plan) is a great way to get 2 GB of free storage on your iPad. This cloud-based storage solution also lets you easily share files between your devices, so if you want a fast way to transfer photos from your iPad to your PC without bothering with a cable, use Dropbox. And if you have a lot of documents on your PC you want to access from your iPad, use Dropbox to store them.

Dropbox works with most devices; use it to share files between your PC and laptop, your laptop and your iPad, or your iPad and your iPhone.

09
of 21

IMDb

IMBd free iPad app
What We Like
  • Learn anything you want to know about actors, movies, and directors.

  • Get personalized movie recommendations.

  • Use the Watchlist to track your favorites.

What We Don't Like
  • Warning: You may lose hours exploring IMDb.

  • App contains ads.

  • Some users report poor site navigation.

If the iPad is the ultimate couch potato device, IMDb is the ultimate couch potato app. With access to the Internet Movie Database, you'll never be left wondering why an actor's face looks familiar or what other movies were made by a certain director. And you'll quickly become an ace at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

10
of 21

YouTube

YouTube free iPad app
What We Like
  • Get personal recommendations.

  • Find out what's trending in music, gaming, beauty, and more.

  • Connect with shared-interest communities.

What We Don't Like
  • Videos contain ads.

  • You'll need to upgrade to a paid YouTube Red subscription to download content for offline viewing.

Like Google Maps, YouTube used to be one of the default apps on the iPad. But when Apple and Google broke up, YouTube disappeared. The YouTube iPad app is great for those who want an app-based experience when browsing YouTube. The app can also be used as an external player for YouTube videos, so if you browse YouTube in the Safari browser, videos will open in the YouTube app.

11
of 21

Flipboard

Flipboard free iPad app
What We Like
  • Curates news and interesting info.

  • Personalize your news.

  • Collect and share the news stories you like.

What We Don't Like
  • No way to block a subject if you don't want to read anything about it.

  • Browser add-ons may affect how Flipboard displays.

Are you ready to turn your social experience into an interactive magazine? Flipboard ties together Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other social websites with traditional news and magazine sites like CNN and Sports Illustrated to create a magazine tailored to your own social experience. Customize your feed, find great stories, and learn about what's happening in the world.

12
of 21

Speedtest by Ookla

Speedtest by Ookla free iPad app
What We Like
  • Real-time assessment of network streaming quality.

  • Troubleshoot or verify a promised speed.

  • See connection consistency with real-time graphs.

What We Don't Like
  • Free version contains ads.

  • Results screen isn't intuitive.

Speedtest by Ookla allows you to test the overall speed of your internet connection measured in megabits-per-second (Mbps). While it may sound like something only a techno-geek would want on their iPad, it's handy for anyone, especially if you have an area of the house where you don't get a good Wi-Fi signal. Speedtest will help you determine how bad your connection gets and help you test solutions.

The actual numbers will vary based on the top speed of your internet connection. Many people these days have connections capable of 25 to 50 Mbps or even faster. It generally takes about 8 to 12 Mbps to stream an HD movie without getting a lot of interruptions, though 15 or higher is ideal.

13
of 21

USA Today

USA Today free iPad app
What We Like
  • Use My Topics to personalize your news.

  • Crosswords, Sudoku, and podcasts available.

  • Content is constantly updated.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need a paid subscription to remove ads.

  • Some content is available only to subscribers.

If you need to get your news fix, USA Today is one of the best news apps in the App Store. You'll get a free dose of daily news, and you'll get daily crossword puzzles and podcasts. Keep up with the weather, and sign up for breaking news alerts so you always know what's happening. The interface is highly visual and easy to navigate.

14
of 21

Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com free iPad app
What We Like
  • More than two million definitions and synonyms.

  • Test your vocabulary with a Quiz Widget.

  • Special tools for English learners.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need to upgrade to remove ads.

  • Helpful features, like example sentences, are available only with a paid subscription.

We've covered entertainment, news, and the social experience, but the iPad can also be educational. The Dictionary.com iPad app has one of the best online dictionaries around without the usual high price tag. You'll also get access to a Thesaurus and a Word of the Day. Tip: Use vocal pronunciations of each word so you can make sure you're saying it right.

15
of 21

iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio free iPad app
What We Like
  • Find thousands of live radio stations.

  • Stream sports from stations like ESPN.

  • Find and follow your favorite podcasts.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need a Plus or All Access paid subscription to download music for offline listening.

  • Can't select podcast genres.

Pandora may be the best music app for creating your own custom radio stations, but it won't help you listen to real stations. iHeartRadio is a combination of both, allowing you to create custom stations based on a favorite band or play real radio stations from around the world. A fun feature is the Weekly Music Mixtape, where iHeartRadio will compile your favorite tunes from the week.

16
of 21

Epicurious

Epicurious free iPad app
What We Like
  • Explore 35,000 tested recipes.

  • Recipes from home cooks as well as cookbook publishers.

  • Video recipe demonstrations.

  • Shopping list and ingredient tools.

What We Don't Like
  • App doesn't support some of the website's features.

  • Search function could be more robust.

The iPad is already a handy helper in the kitchen, but it reaches new levels of usefulness with the Epicurious app, With more than 35,000 recipes and a slew of recipe-organization tools, this app is a must if you love to cook or just want to learn some easy recipes. The videos and instructions are clear, content is updated daily, and extra tools, such as shopping lists and ingredient organizers, make this app a must-have.

17
of 21

Calculator HD Pro Lite

Calculator HD Pro free iPad app
What We Like
  • Screen shows your input and the result at the same time.

  • Use more than one line for long equations.

  • Email a calculation.

What We Don't Lilke
  • This free app has ads.

  • No way to customize colors.

We all need a calculator from time to time, and this free calculator app does a great job of utilizing the iPad format to handle a slew of calculations. Calculator HD Pro Lite features a standard mode, which is great for simple calculations, and a scientific mode, which is great for advanced math classes.

18
of 21

Mint Personal Finance

Mint free iPad app
What We Like
  • Custom budgets and spend tracking.

  • Monitor your cash flow.

  • Track bills along with your account balance.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need to pay to remove ads.

  • Some features of the website aren't available on the app.

Mint (from Intuit) is the best personal finance and budgeting app available on the iPad. Mint will automatically collect data from your accounts and put it into easy-to-digest groups, breaking down your spending into food, gas, rent, and other categories. This makes it easier to set budget goals and determine how well you're doing with your personal budget. You'll need a Mint.com account to use the app, but it's free to sign up.

19
of 21

Khan Academy

Khan Academy free iPad app
What We Like
  • Prepare with practice tests, quizzes, and exercises.

  • Expertly created videos.

  • Bookmark content and learn while offline.

What We Don't Like
  • Not all the Khan Academy website functionality is available in the app.

  • No easy way to report mistakes found in a lesson.

Khan Academy is a great companion for any student, whether they're in college, high school, or middle school. The app includes lessons that span a variety of topics and classes. It even helps with SAT preparation.

But Khan Academy isn't just for students. Anyone can use it as a virtual classroom, so if you love watching the history or science channels on your TV, you'll love watching history and science videos with Khan Academy. 

20
of 21

Temple Run 2

Temple Run 2 Free iPad game
What We Like
  • Mobile game makes great use of the iPad platform.

  • Addictive gameplay.

  • Updated graphics, obstacles, and power-ups.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited characters and costumes.

  • This game could become a serious time-consumer.

Let's not forget about gaming. There are any number of great free games to download on your iPad, but if you're looking for something that combines the unique controls of the iPad with frantic action and addictive gameplay, the choice is simple: Temple Run 2. The sequel to the game that really defined the endless-runner genre is a whole lot of fun in an unassuming package.

21
of 21

iTunes Remote

iTunes Remote free iPad app
What We Like
  • Controls Apple TV, Apple Music, and iTunes.

  • Playlist creation and editing.

  • Use AirPlay to send or listen to music.

What We Don't Like
  • Must make sure your Apple TV, Music, and OS are up to date.

  • Your iPad must be running iOS 11.4 or later.

If you own an Apple TV or if you stream a lot of music from Apple Music on your PC, iTunes Remote is a must-have app. It is basically a remote control for Apple TV, which is great because the small remote that comes with Apple TV is easy to lose. The iTunes Remote app will also let you play music from your PC if you have Apple Music or iTunes loaded and Home Sharing turned on.

Was this page helpful?