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 exactly what it can do for you. This list goes over some of the many uses for the iPad, including ways it can be used for both entertainment and business.

Replace Your Laptop (Web, Email, Facebook, Etc.)

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The iPad is extremely efficient at fulfilling our most basic computing tasks. This includes looking up information on the web, checking email, and browsing Facebook. You can even connect your iPad to Facebook so apps you download can connect to the social network and share information with your friends.

The iPad can also perform a lot of the miscellaneous tasks often done on the laptop. You can download a calculator, use the Notes program (which now has the ability to secure a note with your fingerprint), find a good restaurant using ​Yelp, and even use a level app to perfectly hang a picture on the wall.

Can it really replace your laptop or desktop PC? Perhaps. The true answer lies in your personal needs. Some people use proprietary software that's simply not available for the iPad, but as more companies convert their platform to the web, it's becoming easier and easier to break away from Windows. And many people are surprised at just how little they use their PC after buying an iPad.

Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Etc.

Close-up of hands of tattooed woman with tablet
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For social media apps like Instagram, the iPad can actually add to the experience. The iPad's screen runs at a higher resolution than most monitors, which means photos look absolutely beautiful.

Did you know Steve Jobs was originally against the idea of an app store? He believed web apps would be sufficient. And in many ways, that is what apps on the App Store really are: advanced web apps. We say advanced because they can do more than a web page can do, but in many cases, they simply act as a website's portal on the iPad.

Most social networks have a corresponding app, including popular dating sites like And because the iPad can be more comfortable to use in bed than a laptop, the social network experience can actually be better on it. The iPad can even reduce the amount of blue light at night, which could help you get a better night of sleep. 

Play Games

ipad pro gaming

Let's not forget the fun side of the iPad! While it's perhaps best known for casual games like Candy Crush and Temple Run, it has quite a few 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's quite capable of delivering a deep gaming experience. And with games like Infinity Blade, the iPad's touch-based controls become an integral part of the game.

Watch Movies, TV, and YouTube

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The iPad really excels at movies and TV, with the ability to buy or rent from iTunes, stream movies from Netflix or Hulu Plus, or watch free movies on Crackle. And while the iPad doesn't support Flash video, it does support YouTube both from the Safari browser and the downloadable YouTube app.

But it doesn't stop with video streaming apps. You can also "sling" the video from your cable box to your iPad via the SlingPlayer or Vulkano Flow. Both allow you to watch anything you can see on your TV on your iPad by sending the video to your device even when you're not at home. And with EyeTV Mobile, you can add live TV without hijacking your cable signal.

Create Your Own Custom Radio Station

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

But listening to your own music collection is only one way to enjoy music on the iPad. There are a ton of great apps that allow streaming music or grant access to internet radio, such as Pandora or iHeartRadio. One cool thing about Pandora is the ability to create your own radio station 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 Music app.

Read a Good Book

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Do you like to curl up with a good book? The iPad makes a great ebook reader. In addition to buying books in Apple's iBooks app, you can access all of your Kindle titles via the iPad Kindle app, along with titles on Barnes & Noble's Nook. This makes the iPad a great platform for reading books from a variety of different sources. You can even sync your books from Kindle to the iPad, so you can pick up where you left off no matter which device you use.

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

Help out in the Kitchen

Mother and daughter looking at tablet while father prepares home made meal
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While we are on the subject of books, the ​iPad can also do great things in the kitchen. There are a variety of apps like Epicurious and Whole Foods Market Recipes that take the idea of a cookbook to the next level. Not only can you use them to find recipes with certain ingredients, like searching for chicken recipes or a great dinner that includes fresh salmon, but you can also search based on dietary needs, such as gluten-free recipes.

Video Conferencing

Two women colleagues on video chat in office
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Did you know you can place video calls with the iPad? The inclusion of front-facing and back-facing cameras with the iPad 2 allowed the device to use Apple's FaceTime video conferencing software, which lets users place free video calls to any iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch user. The iPad also supports Skype, including the ability to place Skype calls over 3G/4G, so you can keep in touch while on the go.

Use It Like a Camera

A woman shooting video with her iPad
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Let's not forget that those cameras can be used for a more conventional purpose: taking pictures.

The newest iPad has a built-in FaceTime HD camera and 8MP back camera. It's basically a smartphone-quality camera on a tablet. And even older iPads do well in the camera department, with the 8 MP iSight camera delivering fantastic photos.

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

You can also use iMovie to help enhance the videos you take with your iPad, and you can even use the tablet's Photo Stream to share photos between devices or even between friends and family.

Load Pictures Into It

A woman holding an iPad
Public Domain / Pixabay

You can also load your pictures into the iPad using Apple's Camera Connection Kit. This kit supports most digital cameras and can import videos as well as photos. This is great if you're on vacation and want to store your photos so you can clear up space on your camera. You can also use apps like iPhoto to do touch-ups to the photos you import.

Stream Movies/Music From Your PC

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One great feature of iTunes that isn't often talked about is the ability to turn on Home Sharing, which allows you to stream music and movies from your desktop PC or laptop to your other devices, including your iPad. This means you can have access to your full music collection and your full movie collection without eating up precious storage space. This is a great solution for those who have rather hefty music and/or movie collections but don't want to spend extra $$$ on a more expensive iPad to get the extra storage space.

Connect It to Your TV

Senior woman using smart TV apps on digital tablet on living room sofa
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One of the coolest things the iPad can do is connect to your HDTV. There are several ways to accomplish this task, including using Apple TV to connect wirelessly and using Apple's Digital AV Adapter to connect via HDMI. Once connected, you can not only stream Netflix, Crackle, and YouTube videos to your TV, but you can also play games on the big screen. Some games, like Real Racing 2, fully support video out, maximizing the graphics on your TV while using the iPad as a controller.

Replace Your GPS

Mobotron MS-426 with a tablet mounted in a car

While Apple Maps caused quite a stir when it replaced Google Maps on the iPad, it does offer one major benefit that wasn't included with Google's application: voice-enabled turn-by-turn navigation. This means you can not only use the mapping feature of Apple Maps, but you can also use it to replace the GPS in your car. But, you will need an iPad with a 4G data connection, which also includes the Assisted-GPS chip needed for accurate GPS.

Act as a Personal Assistant

A photo of Siri activated on the lock screen.
When Siri is activated on the lock screen, a lock appears at the top. But she can still perform an array of tasks.

Siri, Apple's voice recognition software, is sometimes thought of as little more than a gimmick, but it actually has many great uses that can add to the iPad experience. One thing Siri can do is act as a personal assistant. You can use it to set up appointments and events, to remind you to do something on a certain date or at a certain time, and even use it as a timer. This is in addition to launching apps, playing music, finding nearby stores and restaurants, checking movie times, and finding out what the weather forecast is for the next few days.

Connect a Keyboard

The iPad Pro with smart keyboard and Apple Pencil
The iPad Pro line of tablets supports a smart keyboard and the Apple Pencil. Apple, Inc

A tablet's biggest drawback is the lack of a physical keyboard. The on-screen keyboard isn't bad, and you can even split it apart and type with your thumbs, but few people type as fast on a touchscreen as they can on a real keyboard. Luckily, there are a number of different options for connecting a physical keyboard to the iPad. It works with most wireless keyboards, and a number of keyboard cases can turn your iPad into a device that looks more like a laptop. One new keyboard solution by Touchfire basically fits over the on-screen keyboard and gives that touch-type feel without needing to be connected by Bluetooth.

Write a Letter

Close up of finger on tablet keyboard
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While the iPad is often called a media consumption device, it has a number of business uses as well. Microsoft Word is available for the iPad for word processing, and you can also download Apple's Pages app for free. Pages are Apple's word processing software, and for most people, it does just as good of a job as Word.

Edit a Spreadsheet

Businessman working and calculating, reads and writes reports using spreadsheets on a tablet.
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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 quite 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

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Rounding out Apple's office suite is Keynote, their presentation software solution for the iPad. Again, this is a free app for anyone who purchased an iPad or iPhone in the last few years. Keynote is fully capable of both creating and displaying great presentations.

Microsoft's 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 a great presentation solution.

Print Documents

A stack of white paper

What good does it do to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations if you can't print them out? 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, including the iPad's Safari browser, for printing out websites and Apple's office suite of apps.

Accept Credit Cards

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One of the popular business functions an iPad can perform is to act as a cash register and accept credit cards. This is great for small businesses that want a 21st century way of doing business or freelancers that need access to accepting credit cards no matter where they are located.

Connect Your Guitar

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IK Multimedia was an early adopter of the iPad in the music industry, creating the iRig guitar interface that allows guitars to be plugged into the iPad. Utilizing 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 a much easier way to play your favorite songs.

Create Music

Focused girl with digital tablet headphones at piano
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With the ability to accept MIDI signals, the music industry has taken the iPad to a new level with a number of 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, and it's not uncommon for music workstations to have an iPad companion app.

One really neat thing for musicians to do with their iPad is to hook up a MIDI keyboard and use the tablet for making music, although you don't need to since the iPad keyboard can be used as a piano keyboard. There are a number of different accessories like iRig Keys and the Akai Professional SynthStation49 Keyboard Controller that can help you get started.

Record Music

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Let's not forget the iPad's ability to record music. Apple's 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 just as an addition to the practice session.

Use as an Additional PC Monitor

Modern office with laptop and digital tablet on desk
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Did you know you can use an iPad as an additional monitor for your computer? Apps like DisplayLink and AirDisplay connect your tablet to your PC via WiFi. The performance is pretty good with these apps. You won't want to play World of Warcraft or any intensive games on it, but it can reproduce most video well enough and it's great for storing sticky notes and other reminders.

Control Your Home PC (iTeleport)

Computer Monitor With Cup And Office Supplies At Desk In Office
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Want to do more than just 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 will let you bring up your PC's desktop and control it through your iPad's screen.

Make It Kid-Friendly

Father and children lying in bed with tablet
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Are you planning to use the iPad as a family device? While it doesn't support multiple accounts yet, you can childproof the iPad by turning on the parental controls and applying restrictions. This includes limiting the type of apps, music, and movies that can be downloaded, removing in-app purchases, or removing the app store completely. You can also remove the Safari browser and install a child-safe web browser in its place.

Turn the iPad Into an Old-Fashioned Arcade Game

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The iPad and iPhone have built up their own ecosystem. And this ecosystem isn't just limited to a lot of cool apps that cover a wide range of uses. It also extends to interesting and outright cool accessories. And for anyone that misses the days of coin-op arcade games like Asteroids and Pac-Man, ION's iCade is a pretty cool accessory. It essentially turns your iPad into an old-fashioned arcade game.

Scan Documents

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It's actually quite easy to turn the iPad into a scanner. And most scanner apps do all of the heavy liftings for you. You simply place the piece of paper on a table and direct the iPad to it like you're taking a picture. The app will auto-focus, and when it calculates that it has a good picture, it will take it for you. The app automatically cuts the paper out of the picture and will even clean it up a bit to make it appear very straight, just as it would if it was run through a scanner.

The Virtual Touchpad

Finger Pointing on Digital Tablet
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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, you might miss the level of precision available on a PC's touchpad or mouse. But only if you don't know about the virtual touchpad!

The touchpad is available any time the on-screen keyboard is displayed. Simply put two fingers down on the screen at the same time and start moving them around and the iPad will recognize the fingers and behave as if the entire screen is one big touchpad.

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