The Best Uses for the iPad

What can you do with your iPad?

There seems to be no end to the things you can do with an iPad, from streaming movies to playing great games. With the thousands of apps available in the Apple App Store, the iPad offers many great uses.

Information in this article applies to iPads running iPadOS 14, iPadOS 13, or any currently supported version of iOS.

Surf on the Couch

One of the most obvious uses for the iPad is ready access to the internet without having to unlock a laptop or go to a computer. If you're watching TV and wonder where you'd seen a particular actor before, or you want to do a quick internet search to resolve an argument you're having with your friend, having IMDb, Wikipedia, and the rest of the web at your fingertips from the comfort of your couch is useful.

Check Facebook, Twitter, and Email

The iPad is a great way to keep up with all your friends. Connect your iPad to Facebook to share comments, websites, and photos. Are you nuts for Twitter? With the Twitter app, you can connect your iPad to your account.

Setting up an email account on an Apple iPad device
CatLane / Getty Images

Play a Game

With each iPad generation, the ability to play games on the iPad gets better. The iPad 2 included front-facing and back-facing cameras, which made playing augmented reality games possible. The iPad 3 brought the gorgeous Retina Display, which allows higher resolution graphics than most game machines. Apple introduced its own Arcade gaming service that runs flawlessly on iPad Air and iPad Pro.

Apple added a graphics engine called Metal to the iPad, which takes games to the next level. While you may get a lot of other uses out of the iPad, gaming is the most entertaining.

ipad pro gaming
Apple Inc.

Read a Book

The ability to read eBooks from Apple's Books app, Amazon's Kindle, and Barnes and Noble's Nook certainly makes the iPad one of the most versatile e-readers on the market. The iPad isn't the lightest e-reader, but it's easier to read in bed on the iPad than a traditional notebook computer.

Help in the Kitchen

The iPad's size and portability make it great for any room in the house, including in the kitchen. While the iPad can't do the cooking itself, it has plenty of other uses in the kitchen. Start with recipes from great apps like Epicurious and Whole Foods Market. The App Store offers dozens of recipe managers that can keep your recipes neat, organized, and just a tap away. You can even manage your gluten sensitivity with apps like Find Me Gluten Free.

ipad in the kitchen
Drop

Family Entertainment

When you combine Apple's rigorous inspection of each app with the parental controls in its iPadOS and iOS devices and the thousands of great games and apps on the iPad, you get the perfect family entertainment system. The iPad is great for vacations when you need to entertain the kids in the back seat. Not only do they gain access to movies, but they can also play games for far cheaper than most portable gaming machines.

Listen to Music

Even if you don't have a large music collection loaded on your tablet, you can stream music to your iPad. Some apps include the ability to create unique radio stations from a single song you love. The iPad has good speakers, but more importantly, it supports Bluetooth. This compatibility makes it a great match with wireless headphones. With many new television soundbars supporting Bluetooth, the iPad can essentially become your home stereo.

Music Podcasts on iPad

Take Photos and Record Video

The back-facing camera on the iPad is surprisingly good. It's not quite up to the quality of the iPhone camera, but the iPad Air and iPad Pro cameras can compete with most other smartphone devices. What makes the iPad great for photos is the beautiful, large display that helps you frame up the perfect shot. If the iPad's camera isn't good enough for you, try several ways to improve the photos taken with the iPad.

Connect the iPad to Your TV

The iPad has a lot of great entertainment value, including the ability to stream HD video and play high-quality games, but what about watching it on the big screen? You can connect your iPad to your HDTV using AirPlay to wirelessly connect. Most connection solutions work with both video and sound so that you can get the full HD experience.

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How to Connect an iPad to a TV

Say Goodbye to Premium Cable

Stream Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max directly to your HDTV to replace your premium channels without having to watch movies on a smaller screen. Considering the amount of television available on those services, some people could dump cable completely.

Say Hello to Premium Cable

While cord-cutting is becoming increasingly popular, especially with the availability of services like HBO, cable is still the most popular way to tune in to your favorite shows and movies. Many cable providers now offer apps that let you watch some shows live on your iPad, which turns your tablet into a portable television. Also, many broadcast channels have their own apps, so you can watch the latest episode of a show even if you forgot to DVR it.

Edit Photos and Video

The iPad can take a great photo, but even better, you can use it to edit that picture easily. The built-in editing features let you crop, brighten, and bring out the best color. You don't even have to stick with the editing features of the Photos app.

Great photo-editing apps are available on the App Store, and you can also download filters to extend the Photos app. You can also use the iPad to edit videos. The iMovie app is available for free to anyone who buys a new iPad or iPhone. Along with basic video editing, iMovie comes with fun themes and templates, so you can put music to your video or create a fictional movie trailer.

pixelmator ipad

Share Photos and Video

You aren't stuck with Facebook or Instagram for your only ways to share photos and videos. The iCloud Photo Library includes shared albums where you create a private album limited to your friends or family and share both photos and videos to it.

Create a Printed Photo Album

With an iPad, you can create a photo album and have it printed and shipped to you. After editing the photo in an iCloud Photo Library album, you can receive physical copies to share with your less tech-savvy friends and family members.

To use this feature, you'll need a Mac with either the Photos or iPhoto app.

Sample of iCloud Photo Library
Apple, Inc.

Scan Documents

Your use of the camera isn't limited to taking family photos and shooting videos. You can use your iPad as a scanner. The many different scanner apps do all the hard work for you, cropping the image so that only the document shows and focusing the camera so that the text is legible. Some scanner apps can fax the document or let you digitally sign it before printing it out.

Type Documents

Word processing isn't just for PCs. Microsoft Word and Pages are both great word processors available for the iPad. If you don't like the idea of typing on a touch screen, you have options to avoid doing so. Not only are plenty of wireless keyboards and keyboard cases available for the iPad, but you can also attach a regular wired keyboard.

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Voice Dictation

One of the overlooked benefits of having Siri is the ability to dictate to the iPad. This feature isn't limited to word processing apps or creating an email. You can use your voice to message your friends or to search the web. Whenever the iPad's on-screen keyboard pops up, you can choose to use your voice instead of your fingertips.

Personal Assistant

Speaking of Siri, it is an excellent personal assistant. While it may seem odd giving your iPad requests, you can use Siri to set reminders and schedule events. The program can even help you get reservations at your favorite restaurant or retrieve the latest sports scores.

iPad Siri listening pattern

Business

The iPad is increasingly appearing in businesses. One of the most popular uses for the iPad is as a point-of-sale device, with great services that let you take credit cards or payment via PayPal. With Microsoft Office on the iPad, you can use your tablet for spreadsheets, bookkeeping, and presentations.

Second Monitor

Here's a neat trick: using your iPad as a second monitor for your laptop or desktop PC. Through apps like Duet Display and Air Display, or the Sidecar feature that Apple added in macOS Catalina (10.15), you can use your iPad as if it were an extra monitor connected to your PC. These apps work by connecting with a software package you download to your PC and then sending the video signal to your iPad. It's best to use your iPad's connection cable to eliminate any lag.

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How to Use Your iPad as a Second Monitor

Control Your PC

Not happy with the idea of your iPad being a second monitor for your PC? You can take it one step further by taking full control over your PC from your iPad. The advantage of this approach is that you can use your powerful desktop PC from the comfort of your couch, basically turning it into a laptop.

Videoconferencing

Not only does FaceTime work on the iPad, but it's better on a tablet because you have a bigger display. The extra space gives you a great way to Zoom or otherwise videoconference with friends, family, or even for your business. Along with Facetime, you can also use Skype, which supports both voice and video calls.

ipad facetime
Apple Inc.

Make Phone Calls and Send Text Messages

You can use iMessage to send and receive text messages. You can also choose one of the other available texting options for the iPad. If you have an iPhone, you can place and receive calls on your tablet. If you don't have an iPhone, you can still use your iPad for calls with apps like Skype or FaceTime.​

Employ Siri in a Less Serious Way

Siri's tricks go beyond productivity. It also has funny questions you can ask, and if you're on a diet, Siri can look up the number of calories in the dish you are thinking about ordering. If you ask, Siri can tell you what song is playing on the radio or add milk to your shopping list.

Take a Class

Whether you need a tutor for school or a class to replace traditional education, the iPad has you covered. The Khan Academy has a simple goal of providing free online education that covers both K-12 and college-level courses. Beyond video classes, many apps can help your child get a jump on their education.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy

Portable TV

This little-known use for the iPad can be great for parents that often find themselves at soccer games and tennis matches but might want to catch up on their television. Beyond streaming videos through Netflix or similar apps, you can watch your own television using Sling Media's Sling Box. This device hooks into your cable at home and then "slings" it across the internet, letting you view your TV from your iPad and even change channels remotely.

GPS

The cellular models of the iPad line serve as excellent GPS replacements. With an assisted-GPS chip, the iPad can keep you from ever being lost. The Maps app also includes hands-free turn-by-turn directions. Don't like Apple's Maps? You can still download Google Maps from the App Store. These apps can be a great way to look up directions before you get into your car.

Be a Musician

For musicians, a ton of helpful apps are available, including a digital piano and a guitar effects processor. You can even turn your iPad into a DJ station. If you aren't a musician but want to learn, you can use GarageBand on the iPad to learn an instrument.

DJ Player on iPad

Replace Your Computer

Between its ability to use Facebook, read email, and browse the web, the iPad can replace a laptop for many people. With apps like Apple's Pages and Numbers, Microsoft Office for the iPad, and the ability to connect a keyboard, the iPad can be all the computer you need.

Ready to try out an iPad or need a new one? We've got few thoughts on which iPad you should buy.

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