All the Things the iPad Can Do

Play games, create your own radio station, and more

If you're thinking of buying an iPad, or if you just bought one and you're still exploring the device, it might be handy to find out precisely what it can do for you. This list covers some of the many ways to use iPads for business and entertainment.

Replace Your Laptop

The iPad is efficient at fulfilling most basic computing tasks. Can it replace your laptop or desktop PC? That depends on your personal needs. Some people use proprietary software that's not available for the iPad.

Business owner with headphones working at laptop
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For general use, the iPad can complete many of the miscellaneous tasks you perform on laptops or PCs. Search for information on the web, check email, and stay productive with tools such as the Notes app. Add accessories such as a keyboard and mouse to mimic a laptop or desktop setup.

Stay Connected on Social Media

Most social networks have a corresponding iOS or iPadOS app. For social media apps like Instagram, the iPad can add to the experience. Features such as Retina Display and True Tone technology render photographs and other visual content vividly. Enjoy more room than a smartphone but less bulk compared to a laptop for sharing updates.

Play Games

While the best-known iPad games like Candy Crush and Temple Run appeal to casual players, the iPad supports titles that would even satisfy a hardcore gamer. The newest iPad packs in as much graphics power as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, along with the processing power of most laptops, so it delivers a deep gaming experience. 

ipad pro gaming

Apple also offers support for some wireless controllers and keyboard and mouse play with certain iPad games.

Watch Movies, TV, and YouTube

The iPad excels as a media player, with the ability to buy or rent from iTunes, stream movies from Netflix or Hulu Plus, or watch free movies on Crackle.

But it doesn't stop with video streaming apps. You can also watch TV on an iPad. Use your cable provider's app or stream cable over the internet with services such as Sling TV or YouTube TV.

Create Your Own Custom Radio Station

The iPad makes a great music player, and it's as fully functional as the iPhone or iPod. Sync it with iTunes or your PC and gain access to your custom playlists. Or use the Genius feature to create a custom on-the-fly playlist.

Stream music or internet radio with iHeartRadio or create your own radio station on Pandora by selecting songs or artists you love. And with an Apple Music subscription, you can stream most songs and listen to curated radio stations in the app.

Read a Good Book

The iPad makes a great ebook reader. In addition to buying books in Apple's Books app, you can access your Barnes & Noble's books with the NOOK app or your Kindle titles via the iPad Kindle app. Sync content to the iPad in the respective app, so you can pick up where you left off no matter which device you use.

Stack of books with digital tablet
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One nice bonus: You can find a number of free ebooks from Project Gutenberg, a group dedicated to creating digital versions of books in the public domain. Some of those titles are classics like Sherlock Holmes's short stories or Pride and Prejudice.

Help Out in the Kitchen

The ​iPad can also do great things in the kitchen. There are various apps like Epicurious that take the idea of a cookbook to the next level. Use these apps to find recipes with certain ingredients or search based on dietary needs, such as gluten-free recipes.

Video Conferencing

Take advantage of the iPad's front-facing camera for video chatting with friends and family over FaceTime. If you want to use your iPad for professional meetings, download a corresponding video conferencing app for platforms such as Skype or Zoom.

Two colleagues on video chat in office
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Use It Like a Camera

The newest iPads have smartphone-quality, built-in front-facing and rear cameras. Use the various shooting and lighting modes to capture crisp photos. Even older iPads with the 8 MP iSight camera do well in the camera department, delivering fantastic photos.

There are several ways you can improve the iPad's camera to take even better photos.

You can also use iMovie to enhance the videos you take with your iPad and use iCloud to share iPad photos between devices or friends and family.

Load Pictures Into It

Load your pictures into the iPad using Apple's Lightning to USB, Lightning to USB-3 Camera Adapter, or Camera Connection Kit. These adapters support most digital cameras and can import videos as well as photos. You can also use photo editing apps or the iPad's built-in Photo app to do touch-ups to the images you import.

Hands holding an iPad
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Stream Movies/Music From Your PC

One great iTunes feature is Home Sharing, which allows you to stream music and movies from your desktop PC or laptop to your other devices, including your iPad. When you enable this feature, you can access your entire music and movie collection without eating up storage or requiring extra storage space.

Connect It to Your TV

There are several ways to connect your iPad to a TV. Use Apple Airplay mirroring with your Apple TV or another smart TV to connect wirelessly. For a wired connection, use Apple's Digital AV Adapter to connect via HDMI.

Person using smart TV apps on digital tablet on living room sofa

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Once connected, you can stream videos to your TV and also play games on the big screen. Some games fully support video out, maximizing your TV's graphics while using the iPad as a controller.

Replace Your GPS

If you prefer a more prominent display to follow turn-by-turn directions in your vehicle, use your iPad and Apple Maps to replace the GPS in your car. You will need an iPad with a cellular connection or a data-tethered iPad. A supportive iPad mount will also help.

Mobotron MS-426 with a tablet mounted in a car

Act as a Personal Assistant

Siri, Apple's voice recognition software, has many great uses that add to the iPad experience. One thing Siri can do is act as a personal assistant. You can use it to schedule appointments and events, set reminders, or use it as a timer. Siri also helps with tasks such as launching apps, playing music, finding nearby stores and restaurants, and providing the weather forecast.

Connect a Keyboard

A tablet's biggest drawback is the lack of a physical keyboard. The on-screen keyboard isn't bad, and you can adjust iPad keyboard settings, but few people type as fast on a touchscreen as they can on a real keyboard.

The iPad Pro with smart keyboard and Apple Pencil


There are several options for connecting a physical keyboard to the iPad, which works with most wireless keyboards. Some keyboard cases can turn your iPad into a device that looks more like a laptop.

Write a Letter

While the iPad is often called a media consumption device, it has many business uses as well. Microsoft Word is available for the iPad for word processing (with a Microsoft 365 account). You can also download Apple's free word processing tool, Pages.

Edit a Spreadsheet

Do you need to edit Microsoft Excel spreadsheets? No problem. Microsoft has a version of Excel for the iPad. You can also download Apple's equivalent, Numbers, for free. Numbers is a capable spreadsheet app. It also reads both Microsoft Excel files and comma-delimited files, making it easy to transfer data from different spreadsheet software.

Create a Presentation

Rounding out Apple's office suite is Keynote, their free presentation software solution for the iPad. Keynote is fully capable of both creating and displaying great presentations.

Microsoft PowerPoint is also available if you need more advanced presentation software. And when you combine these solutions with the ability to connect the iPad to an HDTV or projector, you get an excellent presentation solution.

Print Documents

What good does it do to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations if you can't print them? AirPrint allows the iPad to work wirelessly with a range of printers, including Lexmark, HP, Epson, Canon, and Brother printers. You can access the print capability in many apps.

Accept Credit Cards

One popular business function an iPad can perform is to act as a cash register and accept credit cards. Select and download your preferred credit card app and use the companion reader to register payments.

Credit card concept, Credit card payment
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Connect Your Guitar

IK Multimedia was an early adopter of the iPad in the music industry, creating the iRig guitar interface that allows guitars to plug into the iPad. Using the AmpliTube app, iRig can turn your iPad into a multi-effects processor. And while it may not be gig-ready, it's a great way to practice when you don't have easy access to all of your gear.

Add a sheet music reader, and you'll have an easier way to play your favorite songs.

Create Music

With the ability to accept MIDI signals, the music industry has taken the iPad to a new level with some cool apps and accessories. The iPad is now a regular at NAMM, the annual music festival where the music industry showcases the latest gadgets and devices. It's not uncommon for music workstations to have an iPad companion app.

Hook up a MIDI keyboard and use the tablet for making music or use the iPad keyboard to play the piano.

Focused girl with digital tablet headphones at piano
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Record Music

Let's not forget the iPad's ability to record music. Apple Garage Band allows you to record and manipulate multiple tracks. Combined with the ability to hook a mic into the iPad, you can easily use the tablet as a multi-track recorder or as an addition to a practice session.

Use as an Additional Monitor

Apps like AirDisplay and DuetDisplay transform your iPad into a second monitor for your PC or Mac. Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) and iPad models with the Sidecar feature make using your iPad as a second display simple. Activate the feature from System Preferences on your Mac.

Modern office with laptop and digital tablet on desk

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Control Your Home PC (iTeleport)

Want to do more than use your iPad as an additional monitor? You can take it another step and remote control your PC with your iPad. Apps like GoToMyPC, iTeleport, and Remote Desktop let you bring up your PC's desktop and control it through your iPad's screen.

Make It Kid-Friendly

Are you planning to use the iPad as a family device? Turn on iPad parental controls and apply restrictions on the type of apps, music, and movie downloads. You can also remove in-app purchases or the app store entirely and limit access to apps such as Safari.

A child playing a game on an iPad
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Turn the iPad Into an Old-Fashioned Arcade Game

If you miss the days of coin-op arcade games like Asteroids and Pac-Man, consider accessories that turn your iPad into an arcade game. Gadgets like ION iCade include a gaming cabinet complete with joysticks and buttons.

Scan Documents

It's easy to turn the iPad into a scanner with a helpful scanner app. Most scanner apps do the heavy lifting for you, including auto-focusing and straightening the document to appear as it would through a traditional scanner.

The Virtual Touchpad

The iPad's touchscreen generally does the work of a mouse, but when you need fine control, such as moving the cursor to a particular letter in a word processor, use the iPad's virtual touchpad.

Finger Pointing on Digital Tablet
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