Memphis Web Programming

Thedosmann's Blog

Printer issue - WSD port

At some point in life in the past several weeks something happened to my printer and it started having issues printing. The printer is an HP Deskjet 2600 series. The issue was print jobs would get jammed in the queue and I was unable to delete them. The process was:

wsd printer port I would print something

Conveyed Concept

Conveyed concept

concept12 years ago (2007) I wrote this article and placed it on Wikipedia. 10 years later they decide they don't like it and deleted it. 10 years! It went through a peer review and countless other revisions and checks. So, I'm cleaning it up and publishing on my site 2 years after they deleted.

 

ZombieLoad - A new but not so new threat

The latest threat to computers is the Zombieload vulnerability.

So many of the known threats to computer devices are because of how the software or hardware was created. The exploits and vulnerabilities we discover are flaws in how the system or code was constructed. Is it possible that we just didn’t have the tools we needed to test for security flaws?

zombieload exploit

What is Server-less

Cloud = server on the Web

I recently completed a project where I successfully moved a company from a server environment to one that is "serverless".

NYT- Technology

Memphis Business Journal

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 14:17
Ben Miller
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said it's expanding its drive-through testing for coronavirus to 15 locations in seven states. The Deerfield, Illinois-based pharmacy company (Nasdaq: WBA) said the seven states are Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. The Walgreens testing will use a device developed by Abbott Laboratories, the Illinois-based pharmaceutical company (NYSE: ABT), which can render positive results for the coronavirus in five minutes. Abbott said its…

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 13:56
Douglas Fruehling
If you've tried to call Wells Fargo or go on its website, you know all too well the frustration.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 13:53
Susan Ellis
Tucker sunk the majority of her money in Shapow's line of soaps, shampoos, conditions, beard oils, and body washes. So, now Tucker's doubling down on that line.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 13:35
Jacob Steimer
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chose Los Angeles-based development firm AECOM to help it convert Gateway Shopping Center into a temporary hospital. About 100,000 square feet on the west end of the Belz Enterprises-owned shopping center — located at 3240 Jackson Ave. — will be transformed into a facility for coronavirus-positive patients who don't yet need critical care, Gov. Bill Lee said April 2. The Department of Defense announced April 6 that AECOM's $12.4 million bid had been selected…

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 13:10
John Klyce
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, AutoZone is collecting financial parts — in case the virus causes its engine to sputter. On Tuesday, April 7, the company announced it had opened a 364-day, $750 million credit line. It also reported a sale of notes worth $500 million, due in 2025, and a sale of notes worth $750 million, due in 2030 — meaning the company has sold $1.25 billion in bonds, drastically boosting its liquidity position. Already, AutoZone had a $2 billion credit line, with $1.9…

Techradar

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 08:53
Naushad K. Cherrayil

Cybersecurity firm FireEye has seen as an increase in zero-day exploitations in 2019 than the previous three years in the Middle East.

Speaking to TechRadar Middle East, Alister Shepherd, Director for Middle East and Africa at Mandiant, a unit of FireEye, said that there are more private security companies investing a large amount of money, apart from governments such as state-sponsored actors, to develop offensive cyber capabilities and services to make additional income.

As a wider range of actors appears to have gained access to these capabilities, he said that there is going to be a greater variety of actors using zero-days, especially as private vendors continue feeding the demand for offensive cyber weapons.

“Unsophisticated threat actors have been able to buy malicious tools from the dark web for some time – you can buy access to a network and then buy the ransomware, and you just take the risk to deploy it.  We’re now seeing this being mirrored at a higher level, as Governments who have not developed their own capability, or who wish to extend their capability, can now buy off the shelf with sophisticated capabilities,” he said.

According to industry reports, espionage groups such as Stealth Falcon and FruityArmor have targeted journalists and activists in the Middle East, between 2016 and 2019, by buying malware sold by NSO, an Israeli software company, which leveraged three iOS zero-days.

Becoming increasingly commoditised

Shepherd said that SandCat, suspected to have links with Uzbekistan state intelligence, has been using zero-days in operations against targets in the Middle East.

BlackOasis, which could have acquired zero-day from private company Gamma Group, has demonstrated similarly frequent access to zero-day vulnerabilities in the Middle East.

“We believe that some of the most dangerous state-sponsored intrusion sets are increasingly demonstrating the ability to quickly exploit vulnerabilities that have been made public. In multiple cases, groups linked to these countries have been able to weaponise vulnerabilities and incorporate them into their operations, aiming to take advantage of the window between disclosures and patch application,” he said.

Even though financially-motivated groups continue to leverage zero-days in their operations, he said that they are less frequent than state-sponsored groups.

“Countries with the strongest capabilities are Russia, China, North Korea, the US, Iran and Israel, apart from other countries. We typically see Russia and China deploying these tools most broadly,” he said.

Moreover, he said that access to zero-day capabilities is becoming increasingly commodified and state groups will continue to support internal exploit discovery and development.

However, he said that buying zero-days from private companies may offer a more attractive option than relying on domestic solutions or underground markets.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 08:21
Craig Grannell

Perhaps you've just bought an iPad, or just been given one for the first time. Or maybe you're thinking that your Apple tablet is old and boring and there's nothing fun left that it can do.

Well, friend, you're entirely wrong. Fortunately, the App Store offers loads of gaming greats for you, even if you've forked out your last bit of cash to buy the iPad itself.

Our lists cover the best free iPad puzzle games, racers, platform games, and more, split into categories (one on each page) for your perusing pleasure.

Plus, check back every two weeks for our latest favorite free iPad app, which you'll find below.

Free iPad game of the week: Sticky Terms


Sticky Terms finds you piecing fragmented words together - and we mean that literally. This isn’t anagrams, with letters sprayed about the screen, but a game where you sit staring at what resembles abstract art. Only by recognizing and carefully manipulating letterforms can you reconstruct each phrase - which turns out to be something amusing and untranslatable from its original tongue.

Everything about Sticky Terms shines. The subtle paper background and gorgeous typography have a tactile, real-world quality that makes you forget you’re playing a video game. The controls are pitch-perfect, as are the sound effects that subtly help you when separating and connecting puzzle pieces.

Generously, you can unlock all puzzle packs instantly (rather than by watching ads) by entering a code from the creator’s own - and equally impressive - supertype. So now you need to go and download two great word games! 

Best free iPad arcade games

Our favorite iPad arcade games, including brawlers and fighting games, auto-runners, party games, pinball, and retro classics.

Oddman

Oddman is a high-intensity brawler, set in a world of strange bouncy protagonists, floating islands, and instant death. Like a deranged take on sumo, you fling your character at your opponents, trying to knock them to their doom.

Although you’re hardly equipped with a wide range of moves – nor any real semblance of subtlety – Oddman attempts to add variety to your life. Over time, you encounter new types of foe – including massive bosses – and different environments that shake up how you approach bouts. It’s immediate and very silly – although mastery takes a while, and you’re never more than an errant swipe from disaster.

Neatly, this free iPad game moves beyond solo play, too. You can pit your swiping digit against a friend, on same-device two-player brawls that make good use of the iPad display’s relative acres.

The King of Fighters ALLSTAR

Free iPad game The King of Fighters ALLSTAR comes across like a restless take on Double Dragon or Final Fight. This means you mostly duff up all manner of bad guys along side-scrolling streets, prior to laying into a big bad.

Like other King of Fighters titles, you have a team, so you can tag in others from your trio during battles. The game includes arena-style modes as well, unlocked when you’ve worked through enough of the story.

On iPhone, this game’s button-mashing is fiddly, but it works well on the iPad’s larger display, which also lets the lovely visuals shine. Newbies are catered for with ‘auto’ movement, but veterans can opt for ‘manual’, which echoes console fighting games, and provides far more nuance than the comparatively canned fare found in the Marvel and Transformers mobile brawlers.

Snake Rivals

Snake Rivals comes across like classic mobile title Snake got smashed into Fortnite. Dozens of reptiles are dumped into an arena, and the last snake standing – er, slithering – wins.

There are three modes to pit your tubular terror against: Classic allows endless respawns so you can learn the ropes and build tactics; Gold Rush is all about obliterating other snakes to turn them into gold to grab; and Battle Royale has you take out the opposition while the arena gradually shrinks to a tiny island surrounded by lava.

Although a simple arcade game, Snake Rivals works particularly well with an iPad flat on a table, giving you the space to spot rivals, without your fingers obscuring the display. Its freemium aspects aren’t too venomous either – largely being limited to optional snake customization.

Knight Brawl

Knight Brawl is to 2D fighters what Anchorman is to journalism. That is, Knight Brawl is absurd, silly, and entertaining, but it’s very knowingly not trying to be realistic – and it’s all the better for it.

Side-on battles have knights attempt to relieve opponents of their armor before delivering the final blow. Only the controls and physics – like in Colin Lane’s other games – make for an anarchic experience where characters bounce around like they’re on trampolines.

If that was all you got, this would have been fun – a medieval take on Rowdy Wrestling, with pointy weapons. But along with multiple battle modes, there are also missions where you raid castles and steal bling. This isn’t just a throwaway gag, then, but a game for the long-term – a serious slice of iPad comedy. 

Williams Pinball

Williams Pinball brings a selection of classic pinball tables to your iPad, and then adds animated remastering – at least, if you’re prepared to work for it.

Initially, you just get to unlock one table for unlimited play. (Pick a good one – Attack from Mars, The Getaway, or Medieval Madness – because you’ll be playing it a lot.) Through daily challenges, you’ll then slowly acquire the parts to gradually unlock other tables – unless you fancy splashing out on IAP to buy them outright.

This probably sounds a bit awful, but the truth is you’re ‘grinding’ by playing pinball. Also, the challenges often give you unlimited balls, so you can learn the tables. Stay the course, and eventually you can boost these already top-notch recreations with tough pro-level physics and animated components.

Fly THIS!

Fly THIS! echoes early App Store hit Flight Control, having you draw paths for planes to follow. But whereas the older title was an endless test that relentlessly ramped up the panic, this newer game feels more strategic and bite-sized.

The planes are fewer in number, but the maps are more claustrophobic. Also, you’re not just making planes land – instead, you ferry passengers between airports. Further complications come in the form of weather, and massive mountains you really don’t want to fly planes into.

Because each level has a set points target, Fly THIS! is great for playing in short bursts as well. In all, it’s a smart reimagining of a long-lost iPad favorite, which in many ways is more appealing than the game that presumably inspired it.

Beat Street

Beat Street is a love letter to classic scrolling brawlers, where a single, determined hero pummels gangs of evil-doers and saves the day. In Beat Street, giant vermin are terrorizing Toko City, and will only stop when you’ve repeatedly punched them in the face.

On iPhone, Beat Street is a surprisingly successful one-thumb effort, but on iPad you’re better off playing in landscape. With your left thumb, you can dance about, and then use your right to hammer the screen (and the opposition).

The iPad’s large display shows off the great pixel art, but the fighty gameplay’s the real star – from you taking on far too many opponents at once to gleefully beating one about the head with a baseball bat. It turns out they do make ’em like they used to after all.

Up the Wall

Up the Wall is an auto-runner with an edge. Or rather, lots of edges. Because instead of being played on a single plane, Up the Wall regularly has you abruptly turn 90-degree corners, some of which find you zooming up vertical walls.

The speed and snap twists make for a disorienting experience, but the game’s design is extremely smart where, most notably, each challenge is finite and predefined. Up the Wall isn’t about randomness and luck, but mastering layouts, and aiming for that perfect run.

It nails everything else, too. The game sounds great, and has sharp, vibrant visuals, with imaginative environments. It’s not often you’re frantically directing a burger in an abstract fever dream of milkshakes and ketchup bottles, nor a skull in a world of flames, lava, and guitars.

Silly Walks

Silly Walks is a one-thumb arcade game, featuring wobbling foodstuffs braving the hell of nightmarish kitchens (and, later, gardens and gyms), in order to free fruity chums who’ve been cruelly caged.

The hero of the hour – initially a pineapple cocktail – rotates on one foot. Tapping the screen plants a foot, causing him to rotate on the other foot and changing the direction of rotation. Charitably, this could be called a step, and with practice, it’s possible to put together a reasonable dodder.

And you’ll need to. Although early levels only require you to not fall off of tables, pretty soon you’re dealing with meat pulverizers, hero-slicing knives, and psychotic kitchenware in hot pursuit.

It’s admittedly all a little one-level – Silly Walks reveals almost all in its initial levels – but smart design, superb visuals, and a unique control method make it well worth a download.

Silly Sausage: Doggy Dessert

The world’s stretchiest canine’s found himself in a world full of sticky desserts and a surprising number of saw blades. His aim: get to the other end of this deadly yet yummy horizontally scrolling world. The snag: the aforementioned blades, a smattering of puzzles, and the way this particular pooch moves.

In Silly Sausage: Doggy Dessert, the canine hero doesn’t pootle along on tiny legs – instead, you swipe to make his body stretch like an angular snake until he reaches another surface, whereupon his hind quarters catch up.

The result is an impressive side-scroller that’s more sedate puzzler than frantic platformer – aside from in adrenaline-fueled time-based challenge rooms, which even Silly Sausage veterans will be hard-pressed to master. 

Our favorite free iPad games where you sprint, jump, drive, hoverboard, dig, or pinball to victory – or your doom.

Saily Seas

Saily Seas is a one-thumb endless game for iPad where you battle all manner of seriously aggressive sea life, and the kind of waves that would even make champion surfers retire to the beach.

There’s a day/night cycle that recalls the Alto’s games, and mountainous terrain that brings to mind Tiny Wings. But Saily Seas feels very much its own beast, with intuitive tap/hold/swipe controls that provide nuance as you soar above sharks and dive for fish.

Checkpoints exist, too – unusual for this sort of game. Although you can choose to start from scratch, you’re instead invited to continue on discovering landmarks. The aim is to continue striving to get as far as possible into the virtual sea, and this friendly progression system makes heading into Saily Seas’ depths far more likely.

Magic Bridge!

Magic Bridge! finds the heroes from moggie-infused iPad platformer Super Cat Tales 2 in markedly different surroundings. Instead of a side-scrolling Mario-style effort, this game takes place on a rickety bridge. You prod left and right arrows to tip it, causing the cat to slide or run, aiming to avoid the enemies and spikes raining down the screen.

It’s simple stuff, which initially seems to have the ferocity of a Flappy Bird. But once you stop wrenching the bridge to its extremes, you realize the game has nuance. You can subtly shift your kitty, and grab the odd power-up to blaze through levels, knocking foes aside like Superman. If Superman was a cat. Good stuff, then, not least for squeezing into odd moments when you lack the time for a Super Cat Tales 2 session.

Image credit: TechRadar / Flippfly, LLC

Race the Sun Challenge Edition

Race the Sun Challenge Edition isn’t so much about racing the sun. That would not only be ludicrous, but also impossible. Instead, you’re actually racing the sunset – although Race the Sunset sounds more noodly than cool, and so here we are.

Anyway, you’re in a ship, blazing along, trying to zip through minimalist cities without smashing into a wall. Because your craft is solar powered, it needs to stay out of the shadows, and also grab power-ups that reverse the sun’s direction for a few moments, thereby giving you a few precious extra seconds of daylight.

This one looks gorgeous on the iPad’s large display. And there’s plenty of longevity here, too, from gradually powering up your craft over time, to partaking in each day’s new and unique challenge.

Pigeon Wings Strike

Pigeon Wings Strike is an endless flyer. It’s set in a world that – for whatever reason – has decided the best way to defeat evil bad guys with deadly drones and massive flying fortresses is to kit out birds and other tiny critters with biplanes that shoot massive lasers.

Prior to your inevitable meeting with a brick wall or a bullet, you zip about the place, zig-zagging through tunnels and buildings, before getting all shooty, in order to down some adversaries.

The game’s vertical tilt controls are a tad more unwieldy on iPad than iPhone, although the weight of the device adds some tactile solidity to proceedings as you escape death by the skin of your beak. In all, this is a fast, fluid, high-octane arcade game of the very best kind.

Dream-Walker

Dream-Walker is a timing-based auto-runner. Your character walks along a pathway, with perilous drops either side. Whenever they’re at a corner, you prod the screen to ensure they don’t fall to their doom. Over time, things speed up, making prolonged success tricky.

So far, so familiar. But where Dream-Walker vastly betters its contemporaries is with visuals and atmosphere. As you progress, the game tries to distract you, abruptly opening new pathways, spinning blocks around, and sometimes going a bit Monument Valley with Escher-like constructions.

On iPad, the lush visuals really get a chance to shine, and the game’s ambience is further augmented by excellent audio. So although you might have had your fill of the genre, this one should not be missed, because it plays, well, like a dream.

Power Hover: Cruise

Power Hover: Cruise is an endless arcade treat loosely based on the boss levels from the superb Power Hover. Your little robot gets to tackle four distinct environments on his hovering board, weaving between hazards. The aim is to last as long as possible before being smashed into scrap metal when you inevitably mess up and fly head-on into an obstacle at insane speed.

The game is visually stunning on the iPad’s large display, whether descending into Dive’s hazardous underwater tunnel, or zooming along Air’s tubular road that winds snake-like through the clouds.

But controls make or break this kind of game, and Power Hover: Cruise is blessed with a simple left/right system with plenty of inertia. Initially, it feels unresponsive, but before long you’ll be scything through levels like nobody’s business, in one of the most beguiling endless games on iPad.

Dashy Crashy

With Dashy Crashy, the iPad shows bigger (as in, the screen) really can be better. The basics involve swiping to avoid traffic while hurtling along a road. New vehicles are periodically won, each of which has a special skill (such as the UFO abducting traffic, and the taxi picking up fares); and there are also random events to respond to, such as huge dinosaurs barreling along.

On iPad, the gorgeous visuals are more dazzling than on the smaller iPhone, and in landscape or portrait, it’s easier to see what’s in front of you, potentially leading to higher scores.

Also, the game’s multi-touch aware, so you can multi-finger-swipe to change several lanes at once – fiddly on an iPhone but a cinch on a tablet, making for an addictive, just-one-more-go experience.

Mars: Mars

There’s a delightful and elegant simplicity at the heart of Mars: Mars. The game echoes iPad classic Desert Golfing, in providing a seemingly endless course to explore. But rather than smacking a ball, you’re blasting a little astronaut between landing pads.

The controls also hark back to another game – the ancient Lunar Lander. After blast-off, you tap the sides of the screen to emit little jets of air, attempting to nudge your astronaut in the right direction and break their fall before a collision breaks them.

Smartly, you can have endless tries without penalty, but the game also tots up streaks without death. Repeat play is further rewarded by unlocking characters (also available via IAP), many of which dramatically alter the environment you’re immersed in.

PinOut!

The BAFTA-winning INKS rethought pinball for mobile, breaking it down into bite-sized simple tables that were more like puzzles. Precision shots – and few of them – were the key to victory. PinOut! thinks similarly, while simultaneously transforming the genre into an against-the-clock endless runner.

The idea is to always move forwards, shooting the ball up ramps that send it to the next miniature table. Along the way, you grab dots to replenish the relentlessly ticking down timer, find and use power-ups, and play the odd mini-game, in a game that recalls basic but compelling fare once found on the LED displays of real-life tables.

PinOut! is gorgeous – all neon-infused tables and silky smooth synth-pop soundtrack. And while the seemingly simplified physics might nag pinball aficionados, it makes for an accessible and playable game for everyone else.

Disney Crossy Road

Tie-ins between indie game companies and major movie houses often end badly, but Disney Crossy Road bucks the trend. It starts off like the original Crossy Road — an endless take on Frogger. Only here, Mickey Mouse picks his way across motorways, train lines and rivers, trying to avoid death by drowning or being splattered across a windscreen.

But unlock new characters (you'll have several for free within a few games) and you open up further Disney worlds, each with unique visuals and challenges.

In Toy Story, Woody and Buzz dodge tumbling building blocks, whereas the inhabitants of Haunted Mansion are tasked with keeping the lights on and avoiding a decidedly violent suit of armour.

Elsewhere, Inside Out has you dart about collecting memories, which are sucked up for bonus points. And on the iPad, the gorgeous chunky visuals of these worlds really get a chance to shine.

Looty Dungeon

At first glance, Looty Dungeon comes across like a Crossy Road wannabe. But you soon realise it's actually a very smartly designed endless dungeon crawler that just happens to pilfer Crossy Road's control method, chunky visual style, and sense of urgency.

You begin as a tiny stabby knight, scooting through algorithmically generated isometric rooms. You must avoid spikes and chopping axes, outrun a collapsing floor, and dispatch monsters. The action is fast-paced, lots of fun, and challenges your dexterity and ability to think on the move.

As is seemingly law in today's mobile gaming landscape, Looty Dungeon also nags at the collector in you, offering characters to unlock. But these aren't just decorative in nature — they have unique weapons, which alter how you play. For example, an archer has better range than the knight, but no defensive shield when up against an angry witch or ravenous zombie.

Our favorite free iPad gem-swap, tile-match, and rhythm action games.

I Love Hue Too

I Love Hue Too is a shape-match free iPad game based around colors. Every level begins with a canvas of connected tiles, painted with a single gradient. On beginning a level, many of these tiles disappear, and then reappear in different locations. Your job is to swap tiles and recreate the original layout, thereby wrenching harmony from chromatic chaos.

You can approach I Love Hue Too in various ways. You might remember the original layout, and try to match it that way, or perhaps you’ll slowly piece things together by recognizing small differences between colors.

Either way, there are no timers to stress you out – the only targets are based around moves, comparing how many you make against the minimum and the worldwide average. On iPad, with its large display, the game proves to be a relaxing, tactile, engaging experience.

The Ninja in the Dark

The Ninja in the Dark finds evil forces amassing, and threatening to take over the world. Fortunately, they’re a bit dim, meaning in each of the game’s several hundred stages, you get a free swipe at them. The tiny snag: while you do so, the lights go out.

Quite why this happens, we’ve no idea. Perhaps the titular ninja is a show-off and just wants to boast about not even having to see his targets to hack them in half. Still, this makes your life harder, having to memorize everything on the screen before unleashing your finger of doom, swiping across where you believe baddies to be lurking.

Do well and you accrue points, unlock characters, and get to yell ‘HI-YAAAA!’ a lot. Hit a bomb and, well, your ninja’s days will have permanent darkness.

AuroraBound

AuroraBound is a puzzle game that’s all about matching patterns. Each level provides you with a tiled board, onto which you place colorful pieces. The aim is to ensure that all the lines and colors join up.

This isn’t the kind of puzzler designed to smash your brains out – for the most part, it’s a rather relaxing experience. But as the boards increase in size, with patterns on each tile that are only very slightly different, you may eventually find your ego and complacency handed back to you.

Even so, AuroraBound never becomes frustrating. There are no time limits, and you can experiment by shifting pieces around at will. Neatly, the level select screen is a tiny puzzle to complete as you go, too.

Little Alchemy 2

Little Alchemy 2 is an exploratory logic game. You start off with a small number of items, which can be dragged to the central canvas. Items are then merged to create new ones.

At least that’s the theory. If you just set about randomly shoving items together, nothing happens. Instead, you must utilize rational thinking – or a little whimsy. For example, combine a couple of puddles and you’ll get a pond. Obvious, really. But also you can create a blender from a blade and ‘motion’, and a rocket from ‘metal’ and ‘atmosphere’.

In all, there are over 600 items to discover, and although Little Alchemy 2 can irk if you hit a brick wall, you can always pay for hints via IAP if you get stuck. Alternatively, tough it out and feel like a genius when you hit upon a suitably clever combination.

Estiman

This one’s all about counting really quickly. That admittedly doesn’t sound like much – but stick with it, because Estiman is actually a lot of fun.

It begins by displaying a bunch of neon shapes. The aim is to prod a shape that belongs to the most numerous group, and work your way to the smallest. Do this rapidly and you build a combo that can seriously ramp up your score. Now and again shapes also house credits, which can be used to buy new themes.

On iPad, the game looks great, and although some themes (such as gloopy bubbles) make the game easier, that at least gives you a choice if the minimal original theme proves too tricky.

And despite Estiman’s overt simplicity, its odd contrasting mix of relaxation (chill-out audio; zero-stress timer) and urgency (if you want those combos) proves compelling.

Groove Coaster 2 Original Style

Like a simulation of having a massive migraine while on a stomach-churning roller-coaster, Groove Coaster 2 Original Style is a rhythm action game intent on blasting your optics out while simultaneously making your head spin.

It flings you through dizzying, blazing-fast tracks, asking you to tap or hold the screen to the beat of thumping techno and catchy J-Pop.

The game looks superb – all retro-futuristic vector graphics and explosions of color that are like being stuck inside a mirror ball while 1980s video games whirl around your head.

Mostly you'll stick around for the exhilarating tap-happy rhythm action, which marries immediacy with plenty of challenge, clever choreography tripping up the complacent on higher difficulty levels.

It never becomes a slog though – tracks are shortish and ideal for quick play; and for free, you can unlock plenty of them, but loads more are available via in-app purchase.

Imago

With its numbered sliding squares and soaring scores, there's more than a hint of Threes! about Imago. In truth, Threes! remains the better game, on the basis that it's more focussed, but Imago has plenty going for it. The idea is to merge pieces of the same size and colour, which when they get too big explode into smaller pieces that can be reused.

The clever bit is each of these smaller pieces retains the score of the larger block. This means that with smart thinking, you can amass colossal scores that head into the billions. The game also includes daily challenges with different success criteria, to keep you on your toes.

Planet Quest

Having played Planet Quest, we imagine whoever was on naming duties didn't speak to the programmer. If they had, the game would be called Awesome Madcap Beam-Up One-Thumb Rhythm Action Insanity — or possibly something a bit shorter. Anyway, you're in a spaceship, prodding the screen to repeat beats you've just heard.

Doing so beams up dancers on the planet's surface; get your timing a bit wrong and you merely beam-up their outfits; miss by a lot and you lose a life. To say this one's offbeat would be a terrible pun, but entirely accurate; it'd also be true to say this is the most fun rhythm action game on iPad — and it doesn't cost a penny. 

Threes! Freeplay

The best puzzle game on mobile, Threes! has you slide cards about a grid, merging pairs to create ever higher numbers. The catch is all cards slide as one, unless they cannot move; additionally, each turn leads to a new card in a random empty slot on the edge you swiped away from. It's all about careful management of a tiny space.

On launch, Threes! was mercilessly cloned, with dozens of alternatives flooding iTunes, but 2048 and its ilk lack the charm and fine details that made Threes! so great in the first place. And now there's Threes! Freeplay, where you watch ads to top up a 'free goes' bin, there's no excuse for going with inferior pretenders.

Triple Town

Triple Town is a match game where you merge cartoonish plant life and buildings. But don’t be fooled by the cute facade – this is a brilliantly designed brain-smashingly tough puzzler where you must think many moves ahead to succeed.

In this game, trios of things combine to make other things – for example, three bushes become a tree, and three trees become a hut. Such merges then give you space on the tiny board to evolve your town – especially when one particularly cunning move chains several merges together.

All the while, roaming bears and ninjas complicate matters, blocking squares on the board. At times surreal, Triple Town is also challenging and addictive. Note that free moves are on a replenishing timer, but if you can’t wait for another go, there’s an unlimited moves IAP.

Our favorite free iPad platform games, from classic side-on 2D games to ambitious console-style adventures.

Cat Bird!

Cat Bird! might be exaggerating its capabilities somewhat. That’s because in this platform game of pint-sized levels, packed full of islands, traps, and massive spiked rocks determined to pummel you into kitty paste, this moggie can’t really fly. Instead, hold the jump button once the cat’s airborne and it can glide for a bit.

That might not sound especially thrilling, but it makes for some tense moments, not least when you find yourself in empty space, above a pit of spikes, and have to instantly decide whether to complete a big leap or run back to safety.

With its bold visuals, gentle difficulty curve, and endearingly daft bosses, this game’s a delight over its 40-level length. It might not be drowning in innovation, but it’s nearing purr-fection in every other way.

OCO

OCO strips back platform gaming and combines it with minimal modern art. Each single-screen level is based around a circular design. Your polygonal protagonist automatically moves, and you prod the screen to leap, aiming to scoop up collectables before making your way to the goal.

The trick is in figuring out how to get to your targets, which often requires rebounding off of walls, and making use of jump mats and other objects. As you play, OCO provides a treat for your eyes, your pathways simultaneously building a dazzling visual spectacle and procedurally generated soundtrack. And when you’ve beaten all 135 levels, you can make your own in an editor.

With console-like platform games on iPad, you might reason there’s no space for one-thumb contenders. OCO suggests otherwise.

Spicy Piggy

Spicy Piggy is a hardcore auto-running platformer, featuring the porcine winner of a chilli-eating contest desperate to down something cool and refreshing.

Between pig and drink are screens full of hazards, including deadly saw blades, roaming zombies and massive pits. As the screen scrolls, you must tap buttons that make you jump, slide, and belch burps fiery enough to obliterate enemies or even entire walls.

This game is bruising. You’ll need to commit an entire level to memory, and then get your timing just so, in order to get to the end. And although restart points exist, each requires you watch an ad to unlock (unless you plump for an IAP).

Still, if you’ve got what it takes, mastery here feels deeply rewarding each time you successfully get the rotund hero to the juice bar.

Yeah Bunny 2

Yeah Bunny 2 is a one-finger platformer. Instead of you getting directional controls and a jump button, you can only tap the screen to make the titular bunny jump into the air – or away from a wall it’s precariously clinging to.

Your aim is to roam levels, leaping on enemies, grabbing bling and finding trapped chicks. Because of the inability to turn – unless you bounce off of a wall – getting somewhere specific can be quite complicated.

Sometimes backtracking gets old, but for the most part Yeah Bunny 2 is a fast-paced, colorful treat. Its chunky visuals really click on the iPad, which also affords you a larger viewing area. And there’s plenty of variety in what you face, from pinball-like bumpers that ping you around to a ferocious screen-high pig king in hot pursuit.

Super Cat Tales 2

Super Cat Tales 2 is a platform game that requires just two of your thumbs. Tap and hold the left or right of your iPad’s display, and you can make your on-screen heroes – cats with unique super powers – walk, dash, leap, and wall-jump like kitty ninjas.

Naturally, there’s a point to all this activity: the cats are trying to save their world from an alien invasion. They must therefore scoot about, avoid enemies, find hidden secrets, and grab the bling that’s oddly left lying about in this kind of game. Also, for some reason, they can sporadically jump into huge yellow tanks to dish out serious destruction.

With a smartly written script, superb level design, and vibrant retro-infused visuals, Super Cat Tales 2 is one of the best platformers on iPad. That it’s free makes it a steal.

Soosiz

Soosiz is a fun platforming adventure which features a blobby protagonist, who in traditional platformer fashion runs left and right, leaps into the air, grabs gold coins, and jumps on enemies to dispatch them.

The twist? The world of Soosiz is based around tiny circular islands hanging in space, each of which has its own gravitational pull, adding an exciting new twist to a tried and tested format.

As you sprint from left to right, the screen spins and whirls, disorienting you as you figure out a route to the exit – and how not to leap from a floating island into oblivion. After a recent refresh, the game represents a great spin on an age-old concept.

It’s Full of Sparks

It’s Full of Sparks is a platform game in a world where firecrackers are cruelly aware they’re about to explode – and are desperate to find water to extinguish their sparks.

Each side-on level is an urgent sprint to the finish line. The first is literally just that, but – inevitably – you’re soon dealing with platforms and hazards, many being triggered by a trio of colored buttons that enter the equation.

This thumb choreography adds another level to It’s Full of Sparks. It’s not enough just to be fast and know your way to the exit – you’re also frantically tapping buttons on and off, all too aware that your firework is about to go out in a blaze of glory.

It’s frustrating when that happen moments before watery bliss, but short, smartly designed levels keep you running, jumping and splashing, even when you’re occasionally gnashing.

Runventure

Runventure is a streamlined platform game that finds your little hero darting through trap-laden jungles, temples and castles. However, rather than use a traditional D-pad or have you auto-run and tap to jump, Runventure tries something new.

At the foot of the screen is the run-jumping bar. Drag across it and the hero runs, and the game previews the jump you’ll make on lifting your finger. With deft timing, you’ll leap on enemy heads, rope-swing across deadly ravines, and totally not die by falling into a spike-filled pit like an idiot.

That’s the theory. Initially, you’ll fail often as you get to grips with what seems like a needlessly awkward control system. But stick around, discover the nuance in the leapy action, and Runventure proves compelling. If nothing else, grab if if you’re tired of the same old thing.

Cally’s Caves 4

Cally’s Caves 4 is a free game that appears so generous that you wonder what the catch is. The Metroid-style run-and-gun shenanigans find you leaping about, shooting anyone in your path. However, the hero is a girl with pigtails and a surprising arsenal of deadly weapons, neatly subverting convention.

The plot’s a tad more mundane - something about finding a cure for a curse. But the game retains its oddball credentials with a gaggle of strange enemies - everything from footballers to cleaver-lobbing chefs.

The jumping, blasting, and exploring is compelling stuff, which is just as well, because this is a big game, with hundreds of sprawling levels, 11 bosses, and stints where you temporarily control a psychotic ninja bear. No, that last bit isn’t a typo; and, yes, those bits are particularly great.

Hoggy 2

Hoggy 2 is a platform puzzler, with a firm emphasis on the puzzling. It features some cartoon slime molds, who’ve got on the wrong side of the villainous Moon Men. These rogues have taken the heroes’ kids, and so parents Hoggy and Hogatha vow to get them back.

The Moon Men’s fortress is a huge maze peppered with jars. Within each jar is a room filled with platforms, enemies, hazards, and fruit. Eat all the fruit and you get a key. Get enough keys and you can venture further into the maze.

The snag is that getting at the fruit can be tricky. Hoggy 2’s levels are cunningly designed, often requiring you perform actions in a specific order and manner, making use of power-ups that transform the protagonists into trundling granite squares or screaming infernos.

Add in lush console-style visuals and a level editor, and you’ve got one of the biggest bargains on mobile.

Our favorite free iPad logic tests, path-finding challenges, bridge builders, and turn-based puzzlers.

Tile Snap

Tile Snap is a match game. But unlike in Bejeweled, matched elements are never replaced. Each level is therefore a puzzle, to be completed in a strict order, working your brain rather than only your swiping digit.

Said levels are constructed from tiles that pleasingly flip when dragged. This will be familiar to players of Dissembler (by the same creator) – although that app’s austere minimalism has in Tile Snap seemingly been replaced by vibrant digital takes on 1970s wallpaper.

What’s most surprising about Tile Snap, though, is its generosity. This is a premium experience, with beautifully responsive, tactile controls, and cleverly designed, hand-crafted levels. Yet there are no ads, and IAPs only exist for optional hints. So grab it now – and if you like it, buy one of the creator’s other games as a thank-you.

Dream Detective

Dream Detective is all about hidden objects. You’re presented with an animated illustration and a set of items to find, and must scroll about the screen and tap objects accordingly. This often plays out against the clock, and errant presses are punished, so you can’t just poke the screen with merry abandon.

Underpinning Dream Detective is quite a lot of complexity in terms of its interface and IAP. But do your best to ignore all that and you’ll find an entertaining, interesting example of this kind of game. The scenes are varied, with early examples including riffs on famous movies, and comic book pages.

The game might lack the elegance and chill-out vibe of the likes of Hidden Folks, but as a free alternative with time-based incentives, it’s a decent download – especially when you play on the iPad’s large display.

Kubrix

Kubrix sits part way between puzzler, meditative experience, and plain weird. First, the puzzling: this involves linking the center of the puzzle to square nodes, often (although not always) situated towards its edges. To achieve your goal, you rotate patterned sections of the puzzle, aiming to create unbroken pathways.

The meditative side comes from is free iPad game’s zero-stress nature. It’s the sort of thing you can play in a state of zoned-out bliss, working your way to a solution by fiddling around with what’s in front of you.

What really sells the game is its strange presentation. The center of the puzzle creepily beats like a heart, and other sound effects include mechanical scrapes and gruesome squelches. You work through each level feeling like you’re manipulating a techno-organic construct – some kind of living being, even if Kubrix is of course never anything other than abstract.

Total Party Kill

Total Party Kill upends any gaming conventions you’d expect when a heroic party enters a dungeon. Usually, each member would help the others survive. But here, the knight, mage, and ranger use their powers to ‘sacrifice’ team-mates, and use their corpses as stepping stones to tricky-to-reach exits.

Early on, it’s simple enough to figure out what to do. But as you reach the later dungeons, figuring out the precise order in which to dispatch your colleagues – and precisely how to do so – can be a serious challenge.

The black humor is appealing, as your ranger leaps on a cross-eyed mage pinned to the wall, before doing a little dance on reaching the exit. But the mechanic also freshens up what could otherwise have just been yet another entry in the single-screen puzzler sub-genre.

Sky: Children of the Light

Sky: Children of the Light is a multiplayer online adventure. Created by the brains behind console classic Journey, Sky is a visually dazzling game, which often finds your winged protagonist gliding above lush landscapes and skidding down hillsides.

Your aim is to spread hope through a kingdom by returning fallen stars to the skies. This means plenty of exploration to find objects that unlock further progress. Most puzzles barring your way are quite simple, but they often require the help of friends – temporary or permanent – you can make in-game.

From the eye-popping visuals to the smartly conceived social interactions, Sky is a must-install. There are odd moments of frustration, but these are easily forgotten when you’re reveling in the experience, lost to one of the most beautiful game worlds imaginable.

XOB

XOB is a precision platform game that’s heavy on the path-finding and puzzling – and even heavier on the psychedelics. The gameplay primarily involves tilting a play area comprising square blocks. The aim is to nurse a trundling square to an exit, grabbing pick-ups along the way.

Fall over an edge and the entire level flips accordingly. Similarly, you can leap to a ceiling to turn everything upside down. As you progress, routes become increasingly labyrinthine.

All this plays out alongside a gorgeous old-school CRT aesthetic, which feels perfectly at home on the TV-like display of an iPad. As a freebie, the game’s also got the kind of business model we wish others would steal – you’ll only ever see 24 ads, and if you want, you can watch them all at once. Top stuff.

Ilu

Ilu is a puzzler that wants you to illuminate the darkness with a combination of lights and logic.

A light can be placed anywhere on the board, at which point beams head vertically and horizontally until they reach a wall. What complicates matters is, in a ruleset vaguely reminiscent of Minesweeper, the board has nodes that indicate how many lights must be placed next to that point.

Put too many lights by a node, or shine two lights into each other, and a yellow energy bar starts turning red. Too much red and all your lights fizzle out. Your best bet, then, is to think your way methodically towards the single unique solution for each board, in what’s an engaging and, yes, illuminating slice of iPad puzzling.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is a sliding puzzler with lashings of gore. That’s not a combination you hear too often, but Killer Puzzle is unique. Set broadly in the world of Friday the 13th, it features horror icon Jason Voorhees on a mission to chop up anyone in his immediate vicinity.

That might sound horrific, but Killer Puzzle is more South Park than splatter flick. The chunky visuals present everyone as colorful but gormless cartoon characters, and the more bloody (and ridiculous) cut scenes can be skipped entirely.

Really, it’s the puzzling bits that will make you stick around. Across the game’s many levels, your brains are given a beating as you figure out labyrinthine routes to get to your final targets. (Still, that’s a nicer ‘brain beating’ than the targets end up getting…)

A Way To Slay – Bloody Fight

A Way To Slay – Bloody Fight is a series of epic sword fights reimagined as turn-based strategy. You start each bout surrounded by weapon-wielding foes eager to take your head off. Double-tap one and you almost instantly appear before them, for a swift bit of ultra-violence. But then enemies get their turn. End up too near one of them and it’s curtains for you.

Assuming you can deal with liberal amounts of videogame blood being sprayed about, A Way To Slay is an excellent puzzler. Parked halfway between action and strategy, it feels fresh; and it’s enhanced further by the clever way you can adjust the zoom and panning of what you see before you, as if directing a very stabby movie.

King Rabbit

There's not a lot of originality in King Rabbit, but it's one of those simple and endearing puzzle games that sucks you in and refuses to let go until you've worked your way through the entire thing.

The premise is hackneyed — bunnies have been kidnapped, and a sole hero must save them. And the gameplay is familiar too, where you leap about a grid-like landscape, manipulating objects, avoiding hazards, finding keys, unlocking doors, and reaching a goal.

But the execution is such that King Rabbit is immediately engaging, while new ideas keep coming as you work through the dozens of puzzles. Pleasingly, the game also increases the challenge so subtly that you barely notice — until you realise you've been figuring out a royal bunny's next moves into the wee small hours.

Does Not Commute

Time travel weirdness meets the morning rush hour in Does Not Commute. You get a short story about a character, and guide their car to the right road. Easy! Only the next character's car must be dealt with while avoiding the previous one. And the next. Before long, you're a dozen cars in and weaving about like a lunatic, desperately trying to avoid a pile-up.

For free, you get the entire game, but with the snag that you must always start from scratch, rather than being able to use checkpoints that appear after each zone. (You can unlock these for a one-off payment of $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49.) 

Our favorite free iPad on-rails, 3D and 2D racers, and trials games.

Gravity Rider Zero

Gravity Rider Zero is a bike trials racer, set in a future where Tron appears to have collided with mankind’s desire to launch people from hills while they sit astride a two-wheeled vehicle. Everything is stripped back, and so steering around the futuristic courses is automatic; however, getting past obstacles does require very careful use of throttle and balance controls. 

Although races are ultimately about getting to the checkered flag first (avoiding the many spikes and lasers racing in the future apparently mandates), Gravity Rider Zero is primarily about finesse. You must learn the nuances of each course, in order to succeed. Sometimes, this is fiddly – and occasionally maddening. But nail a tricky bit, enabling you to progress to the next, tougher outing, and you’ll find this one a two-wheeled delight.

Pico Rally

Pico Rally is a high-octane racer controlled with a single thumb. In short, hold down on the screen, and you get a burst of speed; raise your digit and you slow down a bit. Steering is taken care of, and so victory is about learning the twists and turns in each circuit, and not losing speed by smashing into barriers and other cars, or grinding across the dirt.

In essence it’s more or less slot racing, in terms of the basic nature of the controls, and the behavior of the cars. But the way Pico Rally keeps shaking things up with its varied track design, races, and pursuits, ensures it blazes through the checkered flag as one of the iPad’s premier racers, despite being a million miles away from traditional fare.

Data Wing

Data Wing is a speedy but elegant neon-clad top-down racer. It’s also an intriguing narrative based around an irrational artificial intelligence’s attempts to escape its lot.

The racing bit is superb as you pilot your tiny craft, scraping track edges for boosts of speed during time trials. New challenges are slowly unlocked, such as races, and levels that flip everything on it side, pitting you against gravity and forcing you to use boost pads to reach a high-up exit.

A simple two-thumb control system ensures the game works brilliantly on every size of iPad, and as game and story alike unfold there are plenty of surprises in store. But perhaps the biggest is that a production this polished is entirely free. Get it!

Asphalt 9: Legends

Asphalt 9: Legends is a brash arcade racer with such a scant regard for physics and reality it almost makes its bonkers predecessor look like a simulation.

You blaze along hyper-real road circuits, having pimped-up sports cars do things no manufacturer’s warranty had ever considered. 360-degree turns off of massive ramps to pinwheel through the air! Nitro-boosting through skyscraper windows! Playing chicken with massive trains! We’re not in conventional racing territory here…

Like all Asphalt games, this one scrapes a key along its pristine bodywork in the form of IAP and grind; also, some players may be irked by a default control scheme that has you swipe and tap to time actions rather than actually steer. But despite its shortcomings, Asphalt 9: Legends remains a glorious and compelling oddball arcade racer.

MMX Hill Dash 2

MMX Hill Dash 2 is a one-on-one monster truck racer, with tracks akin to roller coasters, full of unlikely peaks and crazy dips. Helpfully, then, the physics is so bouncy vehicles often feel like they’ll bound off of the screen, never to be seen again.

At first, this makes for an off-putting experience. It can feel like you’re fighting the physics with the two-button control system that deals both with braking and also rotation when a vehicle’s airborne. But grab vehicle upgrades and properly plan how to tackle a track, and you start making progress.

The game then becomes strangely absorbing – almost puzzle-like as you gradually figure out the choreography and upgrades required to crack a track. It is, however, best for players with a slightly masochistic streak, since you’re often hitting the same track time and again, until you get the kit and brainwave to defeat it.

Carmageddon

Carmageddon is in theory a racing game, but is really more a demolition derby set in a grim dystopia where armored cars smash each other to bits and drivers gleefully mow down ambling pedestrians and cows.

It’s a game of questionable taste and a brains-free approach. You may not be surprised to hear it ended up banned in several countries when originally released on PC back in 1997. These days, though, its low-res over-the-top feel seems more cartoonish than gory – and the freeform driving is a lot of fun.

The maps are huge, the physics is bouncy, and your opponents are an odd mix of braindead and psychotic. There’s no nuance, but loads of laughs to be had – assuming you’re not the type to get offended when a game congratulates you for power-sliding a startled cow into a wall.

Vertigo Racing

Vertigo Racing is a sort-of rally game. We say sort-of, because although you’re pelting along a twisty-turny track, it happens to be at the top of a wall so high its base is lost in the clouds below.

Also, you’re barreling along in old-school muscle cars, to a classic guitar rock soundtrack, and you can’t steer.

Instead, the game does the steering for you, leaving you merely able to prod the accelerator or slam on the brakes, to stop your car plunging into the abyss. This transforms the game into a decidedly oddball take on slot racing, reimagined as a roller-coaster. Or possibly the other way around.

Either way, it’s fun, even if handling and camera issues make progress in later tracks tough. Still, the upgrade path is smart (with a generous dishing out of virtual coins to upgrade your cars and buy new tracks), making for hours of grin-inducing arcade action.

Reckless Getaway 2

If you’ve ever played the last level of PC classic Driver, with its psychotic police vehicles, you’ll have an inkling what you’re in for in Reckless Getaway 2. You pick a car and barrel about a little wraparound city, driving around like a maniac, until your inevitable arrest.

Well, we say ‘arrest’, but these police are crazed. SWAT vans will hurl themselves at your vehicle, oblivious to the carnage around them. Eventually, airstrikes will be called in, at which point you might question if the law’s applying a bit too much zeal towards grand theft auto these days.

Over time, the game’s repetitive nature palls a bit, and the physics is a bit floaty; but otherwise it’s a great fun freebie for virtual joyriders armed with an iPad.

Asphalt Xtreme

Instead of blazing through larger-than-life takes on real-world cities, Asphalt Xtreme takes you off-road, zooming through dunes, drifting across muddy flats, and generally treating the great outdoors in a manner that will win you no favors with the local authorities.

As per other entries in the series, this is ballsy arcade racing, with bouncy physics, simple controls, an obsession with boosting, and tracks designed to make you regularly smash your car to bits.

It’s also, sadly, absolutely riddled with freemium cruft: timers; currencies; nags – the lot. But if you can look past that and dip in and out occasionally to allow the game to ‘recharge’, there’s a lot to like in this racer that’s decided roads and rules are so last season.

Our favorite free iPad scrolling blasters, FPS games, precision shooters, twin-stick blasters, and vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups.

Banana Kong Blast

Banana Kong Blast somewhat brazenly riffs off of the bits in Donkey Kong Country where you use barrels to blast an outsized ape through the air. But what it perhaps lacks in originality, Banana Kong Blast makes up for in polish and fun.

On the iPad, the cartoonish visuals look great as you tap the screen to send your ape soaring (and, if you mistime things, plummeting), aiming to grab as many bananas as possible along the way. It’s not all about the barrels, though – some sections find you sliding down icy hills, barreling (oho!) along in a minecart, and even riding a friendly boar.

The canned nature of the game might eventually pall, but the 3D visuals and varied scenes make for as much single-digit monkeying around fun as you can conceivably pack into an iPad.

HELI 100

HELI 100 is an arena shooter that is thin on story but big on blasting. For some reason, you’re high above a city, attempting to obliterate flying alien armies, but the battlefield is restricted to a ring of airspace within an impassable barrier.

At first, the game’s quite sedate. You weave left and right, your guns automatically aiming and blasting the opposition to bits. But around the tenth of 100 levels, the pace ramps up. Suddenly, the arena walls start rapidly closing in, and enemies spew more bullets than is entirely necessary.

Fortunately, you can fight back with powerful weapon pick-ups – even if on larger iPads they are slightly awkward to reach unless you’ve got banana thumbs. Still, what’s a little discomfort when you’re saving the world?

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs moves the long-running Angry Birds saga into the third dimension. Rather than a side-on view as you catapult deranged birds at ramshackle buildings barely shielding kleptomaniac swine, you get a first-person viewpoint.

Given the iPad’s AR smarts, setting up the game on a table or floor is almost instantaneous. From then on, you get a new perspective (many, in fact) on your bird-flinging antics; you can explore levels from every angle, looking to set up shots that will hit sneakily hidden boxes of TNT for maximum destruction.

The few dozen levels may be completed in short order, but that doesn’t really matter. There’s plenty of fun to be had in this freebie that for the first time in years manages to add freshness to the Angry Birds formula.

Piffle

Piffle is another entry in an expanding sub-genre of shooters. You blast a string of ricocheting bullets at bricks, until the numbers on said bricks run down, causing them to explode. 

As you gather more ammunition and powers, things become entertainingly chaotic, your screen becoming a sea of ammo and explosions. Here, said ammo appears to be limbless, bouncy cats, which face off against encroaching walls of smiling blocks. Because levels are finite, you can approach each one in strategic fashion. 

There is some grind, with later levels being very tough to complete without power-ups. Still, there’s a premium sheen here reminiscent of Holedown – only instead of cool minimalism, you get vibrant colorful visuals, no price-tag, and a pile of furry critters to stave off a ‘cat-astrophic’ game over. 

Fortnite

Fortnite parachutes 100 players on to an island, with the simple task of being the last person standing. Okay, so it’s not that simple, given that everyone wants to kill you.

The road to survival initially involves realizing that your pickaxe isn’t going to cut it, and therefore locating weapons with which to dish out wanton violence. Over time, the area in which players can survive shrinks, at which point you might consider building a defensive fortress.

The mix of building, scavenging, exploration and action mixes perfectly to create unique scenarios within every game, and the game is kept fresh with regular content updates.

Fortnite’s origins on platforms with physical gamepads are somewhat betrayed by complex virtual controls, however this is a much more minor issue on iPad given that there’s more than enough space for your fingers not to cover the action.

Shadowgun Legends

Shadowgun Legends gives you a big, dumb, brash first-person shooter for your iPad. It looks superb, whether you’re mooching about the neon-bathed central hub world, or merrily blasting hordes of evil aliens.

From a gameplay perspective, it’s no Call of Duty or Doom, but that’s fine for touchscreen play. After all, when you don’t have a gamepad in your hands, you’ll be glad you only need two thumbs to control movement and gaze, your guns discharging automatically when a foe’s in your sights.

But just because Shadowgun Legends is streamlined for mobile, don’t mistake it for being simple. There’s tons to do, a slew of power-ups to get you kitted out for tougher later missions, and an entertaining emphasis on ‘fame’ over character and story that if nothing else seems like savvy commentary on a great deal of modern media.

Drag’n’Boom

Drag’n’Boom is a breezy, fast-paced arcade game that marries Angry Birds, Tiny Birds, Sonic the Hedgehog, twin-stick shooters, dragons and The Matrix. No, really.

Each level finds your baby dragon zooming about hilly landscapes packed with castles and tunnels, roasting guards and grabbing coins. Movement and unleashing fiery breath alike happen by way of ‘drag and fling’ directional arrows, and everything slows down while you aim, Matrix-style.

This all makes for an interesting combination, enabling deliriously fast zooming about and violence across the tiny worlds, but precision when you need it. Over its 40 levels, Drag’n’Boom could perhaps do with more variety – there are scant few enemy types to defeat. But it’s an exhilarating thrill-ride while it lasts.

Evil Factory

You know a game’s not taking itself too seriously when it begins with the hero trudging through a blizzard, only to be faced by a giant heavily armed walrus guarding the fortress of a megalomaniacal genius.

But Evil Factory is just warming up, and subsequently revels in flinging all manner of mutated madness your way in its hard-nosed top-down arcade battles.

For each, you dart about using a virtual joystick, while two large on-screen buttons activate weapons. Unfortunately, your bosses are colossal idiots, and have armed you with the likes of dynamite and Molotov cocktails. Bouts often therefore involve dodging bullets to fling wares at a giant foe, before running away like a coward.

It’s silly, relentless arcade fun – or at least it would be relentless if the ‘fuel’ based freemium model didn’t butt up against one-hit-death and tough later levels. Still, if the stop-start nature of playing becomes irksome, fuel limitations can be removed with a $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

Darkside Lite

With Darkside Lite, you rather generously get the entire arcade mode from superb blaster Darkside. What this means is a slew of fast-paced and eye-dazzling shooty action, where you blast everything around you to pieces, while trying very hard to stay in one piece yourself.

The twin-stick shenanigans echo the likes of Geometry Wars (or, if you’re really old, Robotron) in terms of controls, but the setup is more Asteroids, obliterating space rocks – and also the spaceships that periodically zoom in to do you damage.

The entire thing’s wrapped around planetoids floating in the void, making for a dizzying, thrilling ride as you attempt to locate the last bit of flying rock before some alien attacker swoops in and rips away the last of your shields.

Phoenix II

In a marked departure from the impressive Phoenix HD and its procedurally generated bullet hell,Phoenix II shoves you through set-piece vertically scrolling shoot 'em up grinders. Every 24 hours, a new challenge appears, tasking you with surviving a number of waves comprising massive metal space invaders belching hundreds of deadly bullets your way.

A single hit to your craft's core (a small spot at its center) brings destruction, forcing you to memorize attack and bullet patterns and make use of shields and deflectors if you've any hope of survival. You do sometimes slam into a brick wall, convinced a later wave is impossible to beat.

To lessen the frustration, there's always the knowledge you'll get another crack at smashing new invaders the following day. Regardless, this is a compelling, dazzling and engaging shooter for iPad.

Smash Hit

We imagine the creators of Smash Hit really hate glass. Look at it, sitting there with its stupid, smug transparency, letting people see what's on the other side of it. Bah! Smash it all! Preferably with ball-bearings while flying along corridors! And that's Smash Hit — fly along, flinging ball-bearings, don't hit any glass face-on, and survive for as long as possible.

There are 50 rooms in all, but cheapskates start from scratch each time; pay $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 for the premium unlock and you get checkpoints, stats, iCloud sync, and alternative game modes.

Our favorite free iPad soccer, golf, tennis, basketball and other sports games.

Super Over!

Super Over! starts with cricket, hits most of the rules for six, and transforms what’s left into a high-octane arcade-oriented take on a sport that, in the real world, has matches that can literally last for days.

Here, you chase a total from a limited number of balls. A cricket bat zooms back and forth, and tapping the screen stops it on a number or the dreaded W. In the former case, a chunk is lopped off of your total; in the latter, you’re out and instantly lose the match.

The breakneck pace extends brilliantly  to a same-device two-player mode. There, you and a friend battle it out, one bowling while the other bats. You might argue this game’s just not cricket – but it’s all the better for it.

Image credit: Ellis Spice

Grow in the Hole

Grow in the Hole is a side-on minimalist golf game reminiscent of iOS classic Desert Golfing. As in that title, you drag to set each shot’s direction and power. The twist: for every shot that doesn’t make the hole, your ball grows.

Helpfully, the game keeps track of how many goes you have until your ball’s too big to putt – at which point, game over. Successfully putt, and the ball shrinks a little so you can continue your oddball golfing quest.

Grow in the Hole is visually crude, but gets things right in the gameplay stakes. The controls are precise, and there’s a decent selection of options, whether you fancy a quick nine-hole blast, or to pit your digits against a surprisingly intense (when you’re down to those last shots) endless mode.

Golf Blitz

Golf Blitz is a side-on crazy golf game, with you racing to the hole against online competition. A spiritual sequel to the highly lauded Super Stickman Golf titles, the courses here are far from standard fare, often comprising levitating islands, or trap-laden caverns linked by narrow tunnels.

The game isn’t designed to reward speed alone. After each shot, there’s a countdown timer, and so you must think ahead and figure out the optimum path to the hole. Power-ups can help – and unsportingly blast rival balls away by way of a grenade or rocket-powered super ball.

There are quibbles: the slight randomness of shots that can rob you of wins; constant nudges towards IAP. But the game’s otherwise a blast, and repeat play gets you upgrades – without anyone taking a swing for your wallet.

Nano Golf: Hole In One

Nano Golf: Hole In One is a follow-up to Nitrome’s own Nano Golf: Puzzle Putting, but whereas the earlier title was a fairly conventional mini-golf from above, Hole In One – as its name suggests – is all about sinking the ball first time, every time.

The controls are straightforward: drag backward to set direction and shot strength, and then let go. Courses are peppered with awkward routes and traps, plus  coins you can grab to unlock balls with special abilities later.

Clearly, this isn’t exactly PGA Tour for iOS, but then it’s not supposed to be. It’s a speedy, compelling high-score chaser with a sporting bent – one with plenty of drive, and entirely bereft of bogeys.

Rowdy Wrestling

Rowdy Wrestling is a sports game on fast forward – one that’s performed a pile-driver on nuance and lobbed it out of the ring. It features chunky retro cartoonish fighters, whose arms whirl as they speed about. The buttons you stab afford you a degree of control, but initially bouts are like attempting to control chaos – akin to trying to steer an avalanche.

Over time, you figure out a modicum of tactics – combinations of moves that more often leave you victorious and your opponents unceremoniously hurled from the screen. Get particularly good and you can buy new wrestlers with currency earned in-game, and then have a crack at the career mode.

As ridiculous as real-world wrestling is, a career in that sport isn’t a patch on the madness at the heart of this game.

Virtua Tennis Challenge

Virtua Tennis Challenge is an iPad reimagining of a classic Dreamcast tennis game. Although Sega claims it’s the most realistic game of its type on mobile, Virtual Tennis Challenge is in reality very much an arcade outing, with you darting about, attempting to defeat your opponent by way of lobs, top spins, and dramatic ‘super shots’.

The gestural controls leave a lot to be desired, resulting in tennis as if your player had downed a few too many drinks in the bar prior to their match.

But plump for the on-screen virtual D-pad and buttons (or use an external MFi gamepad) and you’ll find an entertaining take on repeatedly smacking a ball over a net, while the virtual crowd presumably gorges itself on virtual strawberries.

Flappy Golf 2

The original Flappy Golf was a surprise hit, given that it was essentially a joke – a satire on Flappy Bird. While Flappy Golf 2 is a more polished and considered effort, it’s essentially more of the same, giving you courses from the most recent Super Stickman Golf, and adding wings to the balls.

Instead of smacking the ball with a stick, then, you flap it skywards, using left and right buttons to head in the right direction. If you’re a Super Stickman Golf 3 aficionado, Flappy Golf 2 forces you to try very different approaches to minimize flaps and get the scores needed to unlock further courses.

For newcomers, it’s an immediate, fun and silly take on golf, not least when you delve into the manic race mode. The permanent ad during play also makes this a far better bet on iPad than iPhone, where the ad can obscure the course. (Disappointingly, there’s no IAP to eradicate advertising.)

Super Stickman Golf 3

Much like previous entries in the series, Super Stickman Golf 3 finds a tiny golfer dumped in fantastical surroundings. So rather than thwacking a ball about carefully tended fairways and greens, there are castles full of teleporters and a moon base bereft of gravity. The Ryder Cup, this is not.

New to the series is a spin mechanic, for flipping impossible shots off of ceilings and nudging fluffed efforts holewards on the greens. You also get turn-by-turn battles against Game Centre chums and a frenetic multiplayer race mode.

The spendthrift release is limited, though, restricting how many two-player battles you have on the go, locking away downloadable courses beyond the 20 initially built-in, and peppering the game with ads. Even so, you get a lot for nothing, should you be after new side-on golfing larks but not want to pay for the privilege.

WGT: World Tour Golf

If you like the idea of golf, but not traipsing around greens in the drizzle, WGT: World Tour Golf is the closest you'll get to the real thing on your iPad. Courses have been meticulously rebuilt in virtual form, based on thousands of photographs, and WGT's control scheme is accessible yet also quite punishing.

There's no mucking about spinning balls in mid-air to alter your shot here - mess up and you'll know about it, with a score card massively over par. But this is a game that rewards mastery and perseverance, and you feel like a boss once you crack how to land near-perfect shots.

WGT is, mind, a touch ad-heavy at times, but this is countered by there being loads to do, including head-to-head online multiplayer and a range of tournaments to try your hand at.

PKTBALL

This smashy endless arcade sports title has more than a hint of air hockey about it, but PKTBALL is also infused with the breakneck madness associated with Laser Dog's brutal iOS games.

It takes place on a tiny cartoon tennis court, with you swiping across the ball to send it back to your opponent. But this game is *really* fast, meaning that although you'll clock how to play PKTBALL almost immediately, mastering it takes time.

In solo mode, the computer AI offers plenty of challenge, but it's in multiplayer matches that PKTBALL serves an ace. Two to four people duke it out, swiping like lunatics (and hopefully not hurling the iPad away in a huff, like a modern-day McEnroe, when things go bad).

As ever, there are new characters to unlock, each of which boasts its own court and background music. Our current favourite: a little Game Boy, whose court has a certain famous blocky puzzle game playing in the background.

Our favorite free iPad RTS and turn-based strategy games, board games, and card games.

Void Tyrant

Void Tyrant is a card battler that mashes up role-playing, deck-building, and a stripped-back take on blackjack.

Missions involve a string of battles on various planets. You’ll face off against terrifying skull beasts in the desert and deranged robots on a spaceship. In all cases, you’re aiming to beat their totals in each round, and not go bust. Whoever loses gets a bloody nose – or worse.

If that was the entire game, it would be fun but throwaway – and a mite too random. So Void Tyrant wisely adds a slew of bonus cards you can strategically play to boost your chances, further damage your enemy, or protect yourself from harm.

With bold visuals, a smartly designed upgrade cycle, and an optional reasonably priced premium tier, this is an excellent free iPad game that’s far deeper than it initially appears.

Chessplode

Chessplode is a free iPad game that up-ends the rules of chess by adding explosions. Capture a piece and any others in its row or column are obliterated – including your own. The exception is when a king is in said row/column, in which case you get a standard chess capture.

To lead you gently into this oddball take, you get beginner setups designed to let you win easily. Beyond that, you’ll find yourself immersed in levels that look simple from the outset but that are anything but once some pieces have been taken, eradicating most of what’s on the board.

When you’re done with the game’s built-in levels, you can make your own in an editor – although it’s only possible to share them once you confirm they can be beaten. You can also pit your skills against online opponents, while mulling that standard chess will never feel quite the same again.

Pocket Cowboys

Pocket Cowboys is an online slice of multiplayer strategy that smartly marries immediacy and depth. It features gunslingers fighting it out on battlefields comprising hexagonal grids. Turns are taken simultaneously, with each player choosing between moving, shooting, or reloading. 

The result is a bit like rock/paper/scissors, but with a tactical injection: sometimes you can second-guess what an opponent is going to do, and line up your shot accordingly. Further strategy and curveballs come from your upgradable gang (each gunslinger having their own unique abilities), and environmental hazards like dust storms and horses.

On iPad, the game works really well. The visuals look superb, and when making a move there’s much less chance of you prodding the wrong spot on the larger display.

Hexonia

Hexonia is a turn-based strategy game that comes across like a simplified, fast-paced take on Civilization. You start out surrounded by mist, and with a single city. You must carefully balance resources, research new technologies, conquer villages and stomp about the place, obliterating enemies.

This isn’t the most nuanced take on this particular genre. Even for a mobile game, your enemies are rather on the violent side, prone to stabbing first and not bothering to ask questions later. This means games can be a rush to more powerful weapons, not least each tribe’s distinctive, unique super unit.

Still, if you’re not fussed about being quickly pushed into combat, there’s a lot to like here. Hexonia looks and sounds superb, and scratches the turn-based strategy itch with aplomb.

King Crusher

King Crusher is a bite-sized, semi-randomized turn-based strategy game played in fast-forward. You and your merry band head out on adventures, most of which are scraps that take place on tiny grids. You swipe your team about, to get them in the best position to dish out some damage, but also to avoid getting shot, blasted, squashed or eaten.

Clearly, this is a game that was designed for iPhone, quickly flicking characters about in idle moments, but it works surprisingly well on the bigger screen of the iPad. The pixel art shines, and the extra space results in fewer erroneous swipes. 

Also, despite the stripped-back nature of the game, there’s enough depth and longevity to keep you engrossed for lengthier sessions as you set out to obliterate your enemies in the name of the king.

Look, Your Loot!

Look, Your Loot! is a free-roaming RPG reworked as a sliding puzzler. It’s an odd combination, but it works brilliantly, mixing Threes!-style tile-shifting, scraps with monsters, and accumulating bling and skills.

You play as a mouse in a dungeon, surrounded by murdery foes. Flick and you move to an adjacent tile. The tiles behind follow, and something new appears at the other end of the grid. Attack an enemy and you win if your energy level’s high enough. Otherwise: bye bye, mouse.

The game feels more premium than freebie, and as you get better at planning your routes, you’ll survive to see dangers that force new approaches. One boss, Jack (as in O’ Lantern), unhelpfully turns nearby tiles into death-dealing pumpkins. In short, then, top stuff for RPG fans of all stripes.

The Battle of Polytopia

The Battle of Polytopia is akin to turn-based strategy classic Civilization in fast-forward. You aim to rule over a tiny isometric world by exploring, discovering new technologies, and duffing up anyone who gets in your way.

The game is heavily optimized for mobile play. Technology stops evolving before anyone gets guns, you can only expand your empire via conquest rather than founding new cities, and there’s a 30-move limit that stops you dawdling. (For more bloodthirsty players, there’s a Domination mode, too, where you win by being the last tribe standing.)

You get the entire core game for free, but buy extra tribes and everything expands. You gain access to new maps, but also an online multiplayer mode, where you quickly discover whether you’re a powerful despot or one of history’s also-rans. However you play, Polytopia is one of the very best free games on mobile.

Flipflop Solitaire

Flipflop Solitaire is another of designer Zach Gage’s attempts at subverting a classic game. This time, spider solitaire caught his eye, and has been revolutionized by way of a couple of tweaks.

Like the original table-based card game, Flipflop Solitaire still has you arrange columns of cards in descending order. But now you can send cards to foundation piles, and also stack them in either order. (So a 4 or a 6 can be placed below a 5.)

These may seem like small changes, but they prove transformative. Every hand is possible to complete, if you can find the right combination of moves. This turns Flipflop Solitaire into a fascinating and surprisingly fresh puzzler, with you utilizing endless undos to untangle your web of cards.

Conduct THIS!

With a name that sounds like something an angry railway employee would yell before slapping you, Conduct THIS! actually starts out as a fairly sedate railway management game. Little trains amble along, picking up passengers you have to direct to stations that match their color.

The controls are extremely simple: tap a train and it halts until you tap it again; and switches can be triggered to send a train the most optimum way at a junction.

However, the layouts you face very quickly become anything but simple, with multiple trains to control and vehicles to avoid – both of which sometimes unhelpfully disappear into tunnels.

This is a smart, colorful mix of arcade smarts and puzzling – even if it does have the capacity to drive you loco(motive).

Westy West

With its chunky graphics and silly demeanor, Westy West isn’t an entirely accurate recreation of the Wild West – but it is a lot of fun.

You hop about tiny towns, deserts, and mines, shooting bad guys and being rewarded for being the kind of sheriff who doesn’t also shoot innocents.

Although the controls mirror Crossy Road (albeit with a tap to shoot rather than leap forward), progression is more akin to Looty Dungeon, with you having to complete each miniature room (as in, shoot all the bad guys) before moving on.

The net result is a game that’s ultimately an entertaining arcade title, but that somehow also feels like you’re exploring a tiny universe – and one with character. It’s amusing when you’re facing a duel, and a pianist is rather conspicuously outside, furiously playing an ominous score.

Spaceteam

One of the most innovative multiplayer titles we've ever played, Spaceteam has you and a bunch of friends in a room, each staring at a rickety and oddball spaceship control panel on your device's display.

Instructions appear, which need a fast response if your ship is to avoid being swallowed up by an exploding star. But what you see might not relate to your screen and controls.

Spaceteam therefore rapidly descends into a cacophony of barked demands and frantic searches across control panels (which helpfully start falling to bits), in a last-ditch attempt to 'set the Copernicus Crane to 6' or 'activate the Twinmill' and avoid fiery death. 

Our favorite free iPad games all about crosswords, anagrams, and playing with letters.

SpellTower+

SpellTower+ reimagines the original SpellTower and removes its price tag, instantly propelling it to the top of the best free iPad word game heap.

The basics echo the original 2011 hit. You’re presented with a jumble of letter tiles, and aim to find words within the chaos. On dragging out your (possibly snake-like) construction, the word’s tiles disappear, gravity plays its part, and you can continue. Depending on the mode, you may have a finite number of tiles to work with, or battle an ever-growing heap.

For free, you can’t access all the game’s modes, but there’s plenty here for even the most demanding word puzzle fanatic. And if you feel the urge to try everything SpellTower+ offers (or just remove the ads), that will only set you back a one-off $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99.

Typochondria

Typochondria is a word game, which features some very creative writing – creative in the sense of pages being peppered with misspellings. Your task is to spot them – against the clock.

With large text on an iPad’s sizable screen, you’d think this would be easy. It’s not. When the timer is ticking down at speed, it’s all too easy to prod a word in a panic, losing one of your three lives. At this point, you may gain a glimmer of empathy for put-upon editors.

The game offers alternate modes, too – one has you state how many errors are on a page; the other is a zero-risk no-timer mode for typo fetishists. Against the clock is where it really clicks, though, with what turns out to be a surprisingly exhilarating challenge.

Alphabear 2

Alphabear 2 has you tap out words on Scrabble-like tiles set into a grid-like board featuring bears. As tiles are used, bears grow to fill the gaps, often becoming comically tall or thin. Simultaneously, tiles have turn countdowns on them; those that reach zero become immovable stones, scuppering any gigant-o-bear schemes you had in mind.

This is very similar to the original Alphabear, only this time there’s smarter visuals, a story involving a time machine (everything’s gone wrong, but you can apparently fix history by spelling words), and a smattering of educational content through a built-in dictionary and modes based around morphemes.

An underlying meta-game with collectable bonus bears remains baffling and endearing in equal measure, but otherwise this one’s a furry good word game that’s definitely worth bear-ing in mind.

Wordgraphy

Wordgraphy is essentially a set of crossword puzzles. The tiny snag is that the letters are all in the wrong places, and although they can be moved, they can only swap with certain letters elsewhere in the puzzle.

You’d think this restriction would make things easier, but it really doesn’t. You’ll sit there faced with a set-up that resembles an H on its side. The central column will have a completed word, but you’ll stare in baffled fashion at all the other letters, flipping them about to make various flavors of gibberish.

But when things click, you’ll feel like a genius – at least until the point you’re then confronted by a new and even tougher puzzle.

Bonza Word Puzzle

Bonza Word Puzzle rethinks classic crossword puzzles, mostly by taking a completed one, hacking it to bits, and then tasking you with putting the thing back together again.

The result is something like a marriage of tetrominos, jigsaws and Scrabble, and it’s initially rather pleasant as you drag a few pieces about your iPad’s display, and feel slightly smug as everything comes together in seconds.

Naturally, Bonza’s sting in the tail then emerges: puzzles with loads of pieces, sprayed about the screen in a manner that’ll make your eyes boggle. At that point, it becomes a stern test, even if a clue helpfully hints at the kinds of words you should be making.

Spellspire

Spellspire features a grumpy wizard trying to make his way up a tower. Given that this is a videogame, all manner of deadly foes stand in his way. To clear a path, the pointy-hatted hero must blast enemies with his wand – a wand powered by letters.

Yep – this one’s actually an anagrams game, despite the role-playing-lite shenanigans. You get ten letters per floor and use them to spell words that are transformed into magical blasts. The longer your word, the more powerful the magic. 

There’s some grind if you want to make it to the top – bosses are initially very tough to beat. But every play adds to your coffers, giving you a fighting chance of reaching the top of the tower, where we can only hope the wizard finds a really big dictionary.

Letterpress

Letterpress is what happens when you mash Boggle into Risk with a fork. You get a small grid of letters, and tap out a word. Doing so turns its tiles your color. Your opponent then attempts to do the same, in a kind of lexicographer’s take on a tug ’o war.

The twist is that letters you surround are temporarily locked, meaning your opponent can’t flip them on their next go. Careful strategizing is therefore at least as important as showing off your long-word skills.

With a basic rule-set and minimal visuals, it’s interesting how gripping Letterpress proves to be. But when you’re deep into a match, you and an opponent figuring out how to grab those last few unclaimed letters, it’s like no other game of its kind.

Scrabble

Scrabble [non-US App Store link] should need no introduction. The much-imitated crossword game pits you against one or more opponents, as you lay down letter tiles on a board, attempting to make use of special score-boosting spots wherever possible.

This digital take on the classic boardgame enables you to brush up your skills against a computer player, play friends on your local network, or take on all-comers online. On iPad is the best way to play, providing you with a full-size board and stats, without any need to scroll.

If there’s any downside, the app does belt you with ads quite often, and you’ll probably at some point get irritated by the computer opponent’s penchant for deeply obscure words. Nonetheless, Scrabble on iPad betters its many clones.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 08:16
Craig Grannell

Free apps sometimes have a bad reputation, but many are gems that are so good you won’t believe they’re free. We’ve scoured the App Store to find the very best, and sorted them into handy categories, which you can find on the following pages.

On this page you'll find the app of the last two weeks - our top new selection to try out, and check back every fourteen days where you'll find a new option to test. After that, it's the best entertainment apps (surely the best reason to own an iPad...) and a variety of categories on the following pages to tickle your fancy.

Free app of the week: NetNewsWire


NetNewsWire is an RSS reader - a news aggregator that lets you subscribe to website feeds, and have headlines and articles beamed directly to the app. In fact, for many people, it’s the news aggregator, having been a big name in various forms since 2002.

This latest incarnation is open source and therefore free from a price tag. It’s also free from ads, IAP, and cruft. It’s less flashy than paid fare like Unread and Reeder, but has an elegant simplicity that sits well when you want a speedy no-nonsense experience that’s nonetheless friendly and usable.

Although gunning for efficiency, this app gives you all the most vital features: direct feed subscriptions, Feedly/Feedbin sync, dark mode, reader view, and feed import/export. In fact, it’s so good it might tempt you away from its premium-priced contemporaries.

The best free entertainment apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for having fun with your iPad, whether shopping, coloring, reading, watching TV or using Twitter.

Google News

Google News might seem redundant in the age of Apple News, but it serves a purpose. Like Apple’s equivalent, this free news app for iPhone learns as you use it, aiming to serve up stories you’ll be interested in. And in a similar fashion to Apple News, you can flag specific publications and topics you like to read.

Where Google News diverges from Apple is with the ‘full coverage’ button. Tap this and you can view a story across a range of publications, and check out a reports timeline – useful in an era of increasingly partisan coverage.

Beyond that, there are many other reasons to make the app one of your go-tos for news: fast access to any source’s list of stories; the means to hide any publication; a regularly updated briefing; an optional daily news email; and a stripped-back, cruft-free reading experience.

GIFwrapped

GIFwrapped is designed for GIF obsessives. If you can’t get through an entire social media message without welding a looping animation to it, this is the app for you.

Universal search provides fast access to more GIFs than you could conceivably hope to use in several lifetimes, even if you tried very hard. It’s also possible to import your own Burst and Live Photos. Whatever you find can be saved to your local library; GIFs can then be shared from the app itself, or in Messages by using the GIFwrapped iMessage app.

For other use-cases, stashing GIFwrapped in Slide Over seems to work particularly well. And if you get very deeply into the app, affordable subscription IAP removes ads, powers up search, and lets you remove the watermark from shared GIFs.

Lake: Coloring Books

Lake: Coloring Books seems ideally suited to iPad owners who like dabbling in coloring – especially if they also own an Apple Pencil. The One A Day feature provides a daily freebie for 60 days, and each of the varied coloring books also offers you a free image to try your hand at.

The coloring experience is solid. Friendly tool panels sit at the side of the screen. You can quickly swap palettes or switch from a brush to a spray can. If you don’t want to go over the lines, a single button press gives you a hand there, too.

Beyond scribbling inside of someone else’s lines, you can make your own with a blank canvas option, and your masterpieces can be saved to a gallery, so you can later show them off online.

Image credit: The Iconfactory

Twitterrific

Twitterrific is a client for Twitter that wants you to use the social network on your own terms. This means you get a slew of customization options – and a much richer user experience – compared to when using the official Twitter app.

On iPad, this is very apparent on exploring the tabs at the top of the screen. You get five. Home returns you to your main feed, but the other four can be set to open anything from mentions to lists – it’s up to you. As is how the app looks, given its range of built-in themes.

Twitterrific excels elsewhere, too. Next to the search field is a Center Stage button, which you press to browse through media tweets. Muting and sync are fully supported. All of this is free, in return for a single unobtrusive always-on ad banner.

Infuse 6

Infuse 6 enables you to watch your video collection – without first loading any of it on to your iPad. Instead, the app streams footage from files stored on local PCs, Macs, or network drives. Should you want to store some content on your iPad, though, Files integration makes that a cinch.

In fact, the interface throughout is superb – usable and sleek. It serves up not only your videos, but also cover art and background information – assuming you’ve named your files reasonably sensibly. Subtitles can be downloaded with a tap.

The free version doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles. Library/progress sync, streaming from cloud sources, AirPlay, and HD audio require a pro account, or the purchase of the standalone Infuse Pro 6. But even without these, you won’t find a better or more feature-packed free video player on your iPad.

Feedly

Feedly bills itself as a smart news reader. However, rather than attempting to second-guess what you’d like to read, based on you having tapped a few vague category buttons, Feedly takes a more old-fashioned approach: subscriptions.

In short, using the magic of RSS, you (for free) subscribe to the newsfeeds of your favorite websites – anything from news corporations down to the most niche of blogs. New articles are then sent to Feedly, and can be read in-app.

If you fancy discovering content beyond what you usually read, there’s an Explore tab; but Feedly’s best when you’re curating what you end up checking out, through focusing primarily on sources you trust.

As an added bonus, if you like the idea but not the interface, a Feedly account can be used to power other RSS readers such as TechRadar favorite Reeder

Pocket

Pocket is a read-later app. What this means is that rather than ending the day staring at dozens of unread browser tabs, you fling items of interest in Pocket’s direction. It then converts them into a streamlined personalized magazine you can peruse at your leisure.

The default iPad interface is an appealing grid, and individual articles are stripped back to words and images. This can be a major improvement over the original websites, letting you delve into content without distractions.

A night mode flips colors late in the day, to ensure you don’t get eye strain, but Pocket also allows you to ‘read with your ears’. This turns your reading list into an on-the-fly podcast. It’s an odd experience, but it can be nice to work through your reading list while cooking, walking or driving.

Infuse 5

Infuse 5 is a video player that lets you get at video from pretty much anywhere. This means if you have a massive video collection, you needn’t load it all on to your iPad. Instead, you can quickly copy across items as and when you want to play them – or just stream from local network storage.

This app isn’t unique in the field, but it’s friendly and sleek. Set-up is a breeze, and even when streaming from your local network, metadata (cover art; item information) is automatically downloaded. It’s also possible to download subtitles on the fly.

The free version has restrictions that require an annual subscription to unlock: some video/audio formats; AirPlay and Google Cast support; background playback; library sync. But as a freebie for anyone who wants to stream videos to their iPad, Infuse 5 really can’t be beaten.

Fiery Feeds

Fiery Feeds is a full-featured RSS reader. If you’re unfamiliar with RSS, it enables you to subscribe to almost any website’s content. You’ll then in Fiery Feeds get a list of headlines whenever you open the app, ensuring you don’t miss articles from sources you trust.

Most free RSS readers are clunky, but Fiery Feeds bucks the trend with a sleek two-pane interface, and a slew of customization options. It feels modern, but gives you very direct control over what you read, unlike the likes of News or Flipboard.

There’s a paid tier, too – US$9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 per year – which unlocks additional features, including a ‘must read’ folder, a text view mode (which loads full articles for sites that otherwise only send you synopses), and custom actions. Whichever flavor you plump for, Fiery Feeds is well worth installing on your iPad.

VLC for Mobile

VLC for Mobile is an iPad take on the popular open source media player.

On iPad, it has two main uses. The first is offline playback. You can load up VLC with videos, and – broadly speaking – be secure in the knowledge it’s actually going to be capable of playing them. During said playback, you can fiddle with the picture and audio, and use gestures to skip through boring sections – or backwards if you missed a bit.

VLC is also good for streaming. You can stream movies from a PC or Mac right to your iPad, rather than having to sit in front of a computer like it’s 2005. The interface throughout is sleek and minimal (irritating zooming to the options sidebar aside), and impressive for a video streaming app that’s entirely free.

JustWatch

JustWatch solves one of the biggest problems with the way we consume television and movies. With streaming services and on-demand increasingly rendering traditional schedules redundant, the key is usually finding out where and how to watch something, not when.

JustWatch asks you to confirm your location and the services that interest you. If you’re still into the big screen, there’s a tab for currently showing movies, which makes it a cinch to access local showtimes.

But this app’s mostly about TV, providing filterable feeds that list popular shows and bargains – and where to find them. Select a show, tap on an icon, and you’re whisked away to the relevant app. Whatever you want to see, JustWatch makes reaching it a whole lot easier.

Letterboxd

Letterboxd is an iPad take on a social network for film lovers. Sign up, and you can do all the usual following friends and bellyaching, only here you’re complaining about whether Blade Runner 2049 is 2049 times worse than the original, and who’s the best James Bond. If that sounds awful but you’re a film lover, Letterboxd has another use: the ability to log everything you’ve ever watched.

You can quickly assign ratings and ‘likes’ to your personal favorites, which are subsequently displayed as a grid of artwork that can be sorted and filtered. Beyond that, you can add tags, a review, and the date when you last watched the film. On the iPad’s large display, the entire app looks great – not least when you start checking out trailers of those films you’re keen to see.

Attenborough Story of life

If you’ve any interest in wildlife films, Attenborough Story of Life is a must-have. It features over a thousand clips picked from Attenborough’s decades-long journey through what he refers to as the “greatest story of all…how animals and plants came to fill our Earth”.

The app is split into three sections. You’re initially urged to delve into some featured collections, but can also explore by habitat or species, unearthing everything from big-toothed sharks to tiny penguins skittering about. Clips can be saved as favorites, or grouped into custom collections to later peruse or share with friends.

Some of the footage is noticeably low-res on an iPad – there’s nothing here to concern your Blu-Rays, and that’s a pity. Still, for instant access to such a wealth of amazing programming, this one’s not to be missed.

Chunky Comic Reader

The majority of comic-book readers on the App Store are tied to online stores, and any emphasis on quality in the actual apps isn't always placed on the reading part.

But with many more publishers embracing DRM-free downloads, having a really great reading app is essential if you're into digital comics. Chunky Comic Reader is the best available on iOS.

The interface is smart, simple and boasts plenty of settings, including the means to eradicate animation entirely when flipping pages.

Rendering is top-notch, even for relatively low-res fare. And you get the option of one- or two-up page views. For free, you can access web storage to upload comics. A single $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99 pro upgrade adds support for shared Mac/PC/NAS drives.

Can't figure out which iPad to buy? Watch our guide video below!

  • For a mix of free and paid apps, check out our amazing Best iPad apps chart. If you're more into a smaller form-factor or have your eye on the iPhone X check out our list of the best free iPhone apps.
  • Haven't bought an iPad yet and not sure which is best? We've got them listed on our best iPad ranking - or you can check out the best tablets list to see the full range available now.
  • Are you a professional? Then our pick of the 10 best business apps should have something for you.
  • Want a free app to keep your iPad safe? Check out the best free VPNs
The best free art and design apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for painting, sketching, drawing, graphic design and animation.

Charcoal

Charcoal is a sketchpad for people who don’t want complexity. Fire up the free iPad app and you can choose from three canvas sizes. When said canvas appears, it’s flanked by a selection of tools to the left, and a scrollable color picker to the right.

With a finger or an Apple Pencil, the tools prove responsive, and there’s a tactile ruler you can drag and twiddle about for laying down straight lines. And that’s about it – at which point you might ask after brush sizes, text tools, and layers.

To do so is to miss the point. Charcoal is basic on purpose. If you want an all-singing, all-dancing free digital sketching tool, Autodesk SketchBook fits the bill. But if that kind of app overwhelms you, Charcoal will scratch your digital drawing itch.

Vectornator X

Vectornator X is a pro-grade vector art app for iPad that lacks a price tag, but has the kind of toolset that should appeal to everyone from jobbing artists and designers to people who just fancy transforming their favorite photos into sleek, poster-like works of art.

If you’re an illustrator, you’re well catered for with features that let you quickly work up projects with shapes, paths, type, and templates. Plentiful import/export options enable the app to be a mobile sketchpad for ideas you can then continue on the desktop.

But if you’re a mere norm, it’s worth picking up, too. Load a photo, select the Layers palette, unlock the layer, tap the photo on the canvas, tap the style tab, and then tap Auto Trace. Within seconds, you’ve gone from snap to vector art – and endlessly editable art at that.

FlipaClip

FlipaClip wants to unleash your inner Disney animator. Set up a project and you gain access to a streamlined interface for crafting your own scribbly moving pictures. The toolset is straightforward, but with enough flexibility for nuance. The brushes have multiple sizes, there’s a selection tool for grabbing chunks of art, and a flood fill for quick coloring.

The layers system enables you to separate elements, such as line art and coloring. Grids and onion-skinning (to see previous frames faintly on the canvas) provide further aid as you put together your masterpiece. And audio capabilities ensure you’re not just making silent movies. It all feels rather swish and professional – but also approachable.

There are limitations on the free version of this iPad app, plus full-screen ads that obnoxiously spring up when you open a project. However, if these irk you, they’re easily removed with a one-off IAP.

Desyne

Desyne makes it a cinch to quickly put together graphical layouts, which can then be used for flyers, posters and online banners.

You get started by picking a template. Unlike with many ostensibly similar apps, pretty much everything here can be edited. This means although you could just make a quick change to some text and export the result, you can also work with the built-in tools to fashion something radically different from what you started with.

The app of course locks a bunch of content behind subscription IAP, and welds a watermark to your creations – albeit only a small one in a corner. However, the free version has a lot going for it, not least fun stickers, a simple but powerful layers system, the means to save projects, and a range of export options.

Universe – Website Builder

Universe – Website Builder suggests you should be able to create a website in 60 seconds. That time scale’s a bit of a stretch, but Universe’s building-blocks system does make getting something online dead easy.

Each page is a grid. You drag out a section, and then decide what should fill it – a photo, text, social media buttons or video. You can start from scratch, or work with a theme. When you’re done, prod a button and your efforts are uploaded.

Should you want more pro-oriented features – analytics; a store; a proper domain – you’ll need to pay $9.99/£8.99/AU$14.49 per month. But for free, Universe is a usable, smart, simple way to get a personal website online, with little effort, and in a manner that feels entirely suited to the touchscreen.

Autodesk SketchBook

Autodesk SketchBook is a drawing and sketching app. Toolbars sit at the screen edges, providing quick access to a slew of editable brushes, a comprehensive layers system, and tools for drawing shapes, adding text and manipulating selections. Flow and size sliders sit on the brushes palette, so you can easily adjust your brush’s properties.

Tap the full-screen button and most of the interface falls away, leaving you with your canvas, but brushes, color pickers and layers always remain within easy reach, accessed by pressing a small on-screen switch.

This means that with a little time spent getting used to the interface, SketchBook provides as much power as you need – and for no outlay whatsoever. That makes it a good bet whether you’re an occasional doodler, or a jobbing artist wanting something powerful yet usable for working on their iPad.

Unsplash

Unsplash is an app that gives you fast access to many thousands of images generously gifted to the Unsplash website by the photographic community. These photographs can be used entirely for free, for any purposes you wish, and can be modified as you see fit.

The app and available photographs are both rather good. You can search for something specific, browse new photos, or explore by themes. The large iPad display is the perfect lean-back way to look through dozens of images, flicking between them in full-screen mode.

It’s a pity there’s no download option, nor a means to follow specific photographers. But then this one’s all about effortlessness and immediacy, and knowing that whenever you do find something that inspires you, it can be downloaded to your iPad’s Photos app with a single tap.

Artomaton - The Motion Painter

Artomaton - The Motion Painter is a little like Prisma, in that it uses AI to transform photos into something that looks like it was painted or sketched. However, this isn’t a single-tap filter app; Artomaton wants to afford you at least some control over your creations.

To start with, you paint in the natural media effects to the degree you’re happy with. Do so lightly and you get the subtlest of sketches; cover every inch of the canvas and you end up with a more complete piece of art. Beyond that, there are plenty of settings to fiddle with.

The resulting images aren’t always entirely convincing in terms of realism, but they always look good. And although many materials are locked behind IAP, you get plenty for free.

Autodesk SketchBook

We tend to quickly shift children from finger-painting to using much finer tools, but the iPad shows there's plenty of power in your digits — if you're using the right app.

Autodesk SketchBook provides all the tools you need for digital sketching, from basic doodles through to intricate and painterly masterpieces; and if you're wanting to share your technique, you can even time-lapse record to save drawing sessions to your camera roll.

The core app is free, but it will cost you $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 to unlock the pro features.

Brushes Redux

The original Brushes app was one of the most important in the iPhone's early days. With Jorge Colombo using it to paint a New Yorker cover, it showcased the potential of the technology, and that an iPhone could be used for production, rather than merely consumption.

Brushes eventually stopped being updated, but fortunately went open source beforehand. Brushes Redux is the result.

On the iPad, you can take advantage of the much larger screen. But the main benefit of the app is its approachable nature. It's extremely easy to use, but also has plenty of power for those who need it, not least in the layering system and the superb brush designer.

Canva

The idea behind Canva is to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating great-looking layouts based on your photos. Select a layout type (presentation, blog graphic, invitation, and so on) and the app serves up templates to work with.

These are mostly very smart indeed, but the smartest thing about Canva is that these starting points can all be edited: swap out images for your own photos, adjust text boxes, and add new elements or even entire pages.

Because of its scope, Canva isn't as immediate as one-click automated apps in this space, but the interface is intuitive enough to quickly grasp. Our only niggle is the lack of multi-item selection, but with Canva being an online service, you can always fine-tune your iPad creations in a browser on the desktop.

Pixel art editor - Dottable

Despite being lumbered with an awkward name, Pixel art editor - Dottable is a usable and nicely-conceived app. Choose a canvas size and then the interface is split between your drawing area, layers, and tools.

The basics are all there for creating old-school pixel art, but beyond brushes and fills, Dottable adds some fairly sophisticated shapes and transform tools.

If you want to trace an image, it can be imported, and optionally converted to pixel art form. Exports are also dealt with nicely, either exporting your image as a PNG, or converting each layer into a single frame of an animated GIF.

None of this is enough to trouble the pro-oriented Pixaki, but as a freebie for pixel artists, Dottable is mightily impressive.

Folioscope

One of the great things about the app revolution is how these bits of software can help you experience creative fare that would have previously been inaccessible, unless you were armed with tons of cash and loads of time. Folioscope is a case in point, providing the basics for crafting your own animations.

We should note you’re not going to be the next Disney with Folioscope – the tools are fairly basic, and the output veers towards ‘wobbling stickmen’.

But you do get a range of brushes (of differing size and texture), several drawing tools (pen, eraser, flood fill, and marquee), and onion-skinning, which enables you to see faint impressions of adjacent frames, in order to line everything up.

The friendly nature of the app makes it accessible to anyone, and there’s no limit on export – projects can be shared as GIFs or movies, or uploaded to the Folioscope community, should you create an account.

MediBang Paint

MediBang Paint feels like one of those apps where you’re always waiting for the catch to arrive. Create a new canvas and you end up staring at what can only be described as a simplified Photoshop on your iPad. There are loads of drawing tools, a layers system (including photo import), and configurable brushes.

Opening up menus reveals yet more features – rotation; shapes; grids – but palettes can also be hidden, so you can get on with just drawing. Judging by the in-app gallery of uploaded art, MediBang is popular with manga artists, but its tools are capable enough to support a much wider range of digital painting and drawing styles – all without costing you a penny.

PicsArt Animated Gif & Video Animator

You won’t trouble Hollywood with PicsArt (or PicsArt Animated Gif & Video Animator to use its unwieldy full name). However, it is a great introduction to animation and also a handy sketchpad for those already immersed in the field.

A beginner can start with a blank slate, paper texture, or photo background, on to which an animation frame is drawn. Add further frames and previous ones faintly show through, to aid you in making smooth transitions.

Delve further into the app to discover more advanced fare, including brush options and a hugely useful layers system. When done, export to GIF or video – or save projects to refine later. That this all comes for free (and free from ads) is astonishing.

The best free education apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for learning new things – from coding to astronomy.

Night Sky

Free iPad app Night Sky brings the planets and stars to your iPad, with gorgeous visuals and a rich feature set.

The basic view can be dragged around or be oriented by holding your iPad in front of your face. Illustrated constellation overlays appear and ‘melt’, and an expandable search box makes it a cinch to rapidly find and store favorite objects.

Once you’ve found something interesting, you can pluck it from the main view, explore the item in 3D, and share it with your friends. Twiddling constellations provides fuller insight into their depths and the distances between stars. With planets, you can land on them, to explore their night skies.

Grab a subscription and Night Sky takes things further with live sky tours and an AR orrery, but in its free form, it remains a generous and first-rate astronomy app.

Big Bang AR

Big Bang AR is an AR experience that blazes through 13.8 billion years of history in a matter of minutes. 

It begins with your outstretched hand, which you turn into a fist, and then open up, only for the Big Bang to explode out of it – a neat trick, if a bit awkward when you’re holding an iPad in the other hand. After that point, though, it’s all rather wondrous as you find yourself surrounded by the earliest components of the universe, which eventually form into our solar system.

With narration by Tilda Swinton, the odd bit of interactivity, further reading sections, and a nice ‘we are all made of stars’ selfie at the end, Big Bang AR is a rather lovely example of an immersive, immediate educational experience for iPad.

Civilisations AR 

Civilisations AR is an augmented reality app that puts over 30 historical artifacts in front of your face, ranging from an ancient Egyptian mummy to iconic modern art. It feels like a thoroughly modern way of exploring the past, enabling you to check out every nook and cranny of these famous objects.

Spin a globe to see where the items are from, then tap to select one and it will appear before you, ready to be resized and spun around. Discoverable hot-spots offer up more information by way of voiceovers.

Surprisingly, even paintings work really nicely in this app, enabling you to put your nose right up to the virtual canvas and inspect individual paint marks. An iPad display is big enough for you to truly appreciate these works of wonder.

JigSpace

JigSpace uses augmented reality (AR) to educate, by way of 3D models you can fiddle about with before your very eyes. Although the range isn’t exactly in Wikipedia territory, you get quite the variety of ‘jigs’ for free. There’s the anatomy of a trebuchet, a floating eye to fiddle around with, a manual car’s transmission, and many more.

JigSpace rapidly finds a flat surface onto which your object is projected. You can then pinch to resize it, or spin it with a swipe. Objects aren’t static either – many animate, and are gradually disassembled across a series of slides. For example, an alarm clock opens to show its gears and mechanisms – and because this is AR, you can check everything out from any angle.

Khan Academy

Maybe it's just our tech-addled brains, but often we find it a lot easier to focus on an app than a book, which can make learning things the old fashioned way tricky. That's where Khan Academy comes in. This free app contains lessons and guidance on dozens of subjects, from algebra, to cosmology, to computer science and beyond.

As it's an app rather than a book it benefits from videos and even a few interactive elements, alongside words and pictures and it contains over 10,000 videos and explanations in all.

Everything is broken in to bite-sized chunks, so whether you've got a few minutes to spare or a whole afternoon there's always time to learn something new and if you make an account it will keep track of your progress and award achievements.

Py

Py wants to teach you to communicate with computers. You provide some information about the kind of coding you fancy doing, and it recommends a course – anything from basic HTML through to delving into Python.

Lessons are very reminiscent of those in language-learning freebie Duolingo. A colorful, cartoonish interface provides questions, and you type out your answer or select from multiple choice options.

Py could be more helpful when you get something wrong, but its breezy, pacy nature gives it a real energy and game-like feel that boosts focus and longevity.

Unlike Duolingo, Py doesn’t have any interest in being free forever. A premium tier locks a chunk of content behind a monthly fee (along with access to mentors, who can help you through tough spots via an integrated chat). But for no outlay, there’s still plenty here for budding website - and app - creators to get stuck into.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is an app about coding, although you’d initially be forgiven for thinking it a weird game. Early lessons involve guiding oddball cartoon cyclops Byte about an isometric landscape by way of typed commands, having him trigger switches and grab gems along the way.

This is, of course, sneakily teaching you the fundamentals of logic and programming, and the lessons do then gradually become more involved. However, at no point does Swift Playgrounds become overwhelming. And the split-screen set-up – instructions and code on the left; interactive world based on your work on the right – feels friendly and intuitive.

It’s not Xcode for iPad, then, but perhaps a first step in that direction. More importantly, Swift Playgrounds can act as a first step for people who want to start coding their own apps, but for whom the very idea has, to date, simply been too daunting.

Wikipedia

Often, third-party apps improve on bare-bones equivalents provided as the ‘official’ take on a product, but Wikipedia is an exception. This freebie app for browsing the online encyclopedia is excellent on iPad – and probably the best option on the platform.

The Explore page lists a bunch of nearby and topical articles; after a few uses, it’ll also recommend things it reckons you’d like to read. Tap an article and the screen splits in two – (collapsible) table of contents to the left and your chosen article to the right. Articles can be searched and saved, the latter option storing them for offline perusal.

It’s a pity Wikipedia doesn’t rework the Peek/Pop previews from the iPhone version (by way of a long-tap), but otherwise this is an excellent, usable encyclopedia for the modern age.

Yousician

Learning a musical instrument isn't easy, which is probably why a bunch of people don't bother, instead pretending to be rock stars by way of tiny plastic instruments and their parent videogames.

Yousician bridges the divide, flipping a kind of Guitar Hero interface 90 degrees and using its visual and timing devices to get you playing chords and notes.

This proves remarkably effective, and your iPad merrily keeps track of your skills (or lack thereof) through its internal mic. The difficulty curve is slight, but the app enables you to skip ahead if you're bored, through periodic 'test' rounds. Most surprisingly, for free you get access to everything, only your daily lesson time is limited.

TED

TED is a video app designed to feed your curiosity, by watching smart people talk about all kinds of subjects.

Although the organization’s name stands for ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’, it’s fundamentally interested in ideas. Example talks we watched during testing included a piece about screen time for kids (and why related fears are not true), not suffering in silence from depression, and mind-blowing magnified portraits of insects. What we’re saying is: this app has range.

It also has smarts. Along with a standard search, you can have the app ‘surprise you’ with something courageous, beautiful, or fascinating, and revisit favorites by delving into your watch history and liked talks, which sync across devices.

TED’s perhaps not an app you’ll open daily, but it’s a breath of fresh air when you desire brain food rather than typical telly.

The best free health, food and exercise apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for cooking, relaxing and keeping fit.

Jour

On the surface Jour looks like a simple journal, but it’s mainly designed to help you feel good. It achieves this by encouraging you to concentrate on recording (for later posterity) good things that have happened in your life, and by guiding you to different ways of thinking.

You’re encouraged to dip in daily to record bite-sized memories, and over time this daily reflection proves effective. Guided journeys further encourage you to shake up your thinking, and how you approach your life, enabling you to better track goals, combat anxiety, and – as the app puts it – “live your best life”.

No free iPad app is a magic wand, but by spending a few minutes every day with Jour, you’ll at least have a record of good memories, get into the habit of writing things down and reflecting on them, and more easily identify what brings you joy.

Oak - Meditation & Breathing

Oak - Meditation & Breathing is an app that wants you to relax. It’s split into sections for meditation, breathing, and sleeping. A stats area provides the means to track progress, with you gaining streaks and winning badges through regular use.

Meditations can be guided or unguided, catering for all skill levels, and although you don’t get the wealth of options available in some apps, you can adjust instructor gender, session duration, and background noise. The three breathing exercises cover relaxation, focus, and invigoration. And the Sleep section offers guided breath exercises designed to help you unwind.

On iPad, the interface betrays the app’s iPhone origins and could do with optimization for the larger display. Other than that, Oak’s pleasing and effective – and won’t surprise you a few weeks in with a stressful demand for IAP.

Tasty

Tasty is a cookery app that wisely reasons modern-day cookbooks need to move beyond being digital equivalents of paper-based tomes. It achieves this by way of fast, filterable searches, and judicious use of video.

Rather than opening with a photo, your selected recipe instead initially shows the dish being made by way of a tightly edited video. Below that, you get an ingredients list (which can be exported), tips and step-by-step instructions.

Tap a button below the last of those and each step’s text and video loop is isolated – a great way, when cooking, to sanity-check you’re doing the right thing, and aren’t on the road to a culinary disaster.

Breathe+

Many of us are caught in high-stress environments for much of our lives, and electronic gadgets often do little to help. Apple has recognized this on Apple Watch, which offers a breathing visualization tool. But Breathe+ brings similar functionality to your iPad.

You define how long breaths in and out should take, and whether you want to hold your breath at any point during the cycle. You then let Breathe+ guide your breathing for a user-defined session length.

The visualization is reminiscent of a minimalist illustrator's take on a wave rising and falling on the screen, but you can also close your eyes and have the iPad vibrate for cues. For free, there are some ads, which aren't pretty, but don't distract too much. For $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99, you can be rid of them, along with adding themes and usage history stats.

Kitchen Stories

As you launch Kitchen Stories, you catch a glimpse of the app's mantra: "Anyone can cook". The problem is, most cooking apps (and indeed, traditional cookery books) make assumptions regarding people's abilities.

Faced with a list of steps on a stark white page, it's easy to get halfway through a recipe, look at the stodge in front of you, reason something must have gone terribly wrong, and order a takeaway.

Kitchen Stories offers firmer footing. You're first met with a wall of gorgeous photography. More importantly, the photographs don't stop.

Every step in a recipe is accompanied by a picture that shows how things should be at that point. Additionally, some recipes provide tutorial videos for potentially tricky skills and techniques. Fancy some Vietnamese pho, but not sure how to peel ginger, prepare a chilli or thinly slice meat? Kitchen Stories has you covered.

Beyond this, there's a shopping list, handy essentials guide, and some magazine-style articles to peruse. And while you don't get the sheer range of recipes found in some rival apps, the presentation more than makes up for that — especially on the iPad, which will likely find a new home in your own kitchen soon after Kitchen Stories is installed.

White Noise+

There are quite a few apps for creating ambient background noise, helping you to focus, relax, and even sleep. White Noise+ is perhaps the best we’ve seen – a really smartly designed mix of sound and interface design that is extremely intuitive yet thoroughly modern.

It works through you adding sounds to an on-screen grid. Those placed towards the right become more complex, and those towards the top are louder. Personalized mixes can be saved, or you can play several that are pre-loaded.

For free, you do get an ad across the bottom of the screen, only five sounds, and no access to timers and alarms. But even with such restrictions, White Noise+ is pretty great. Throw $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 at it for the extra features and noises, and it borders on exceptional.

7 Minute Workout

7 Minute Workout is designed to give you a complete fitness workout in just seven minutes. It’s far from alone on the App Store, but we like this take because it’s straightforward – and also properly free (rather than being riddled with IAP).

The exercise screens are basic, but bold. It’s always obvious where you are in a routine, and if you’re unsure about the next step, you can tap a video playback button to view a demonstration.

Beyond the exercises, the app enables you to track your weight and set the gap between exercises, which are regularly switched during the routine. The only downside is not being able to block specific exercises if, for example, you don’t have access to a chair, or cannot perform them due to accessibility reasons.

Epicurious

Epicurious is a massive recipe book for iPad. It provides access to over 35,000 recipes, and offers a magazine-like presentation. The entry screen is awash with new recipes with vibrant photography; you can quickly flick between that and dedicated pages for themed recipes and new videos.

The app’s search is excellent. You can select by meal type, and filter available recipes by selecting specific ingredients, cuisine types, and dietary issues (such as low-fat and wheat-free). Flicking back and forth between filters and results can irk, but the app at least does so quickly and efficiently.

The actual recipe pages are a touch basic – there’s no hand-holding like the step-by-step photos you get in Kitchen Stories. Still, if confident in your abilities, it’s a great app to broaden your culinary horizons.

The best free kids apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps, learning tools, and games for toddlers and children.

Toca Life: World

Toca Life: World mashes together all of the Toca Life apps into one big globe your kid can explore with a flurry of frantic tapping. New locations are built automatically if you have other Toca Life apps installed, or you can buy them with one-off IAPs.

Even for free, you get plenty to delve into. Bop City has a bunch of stuff to check out, including a hairdresser, theater, and mini mall, each with plentiful interactive elements. Figures can be dragged about, and you can make three custom ones in the free version of the character creator.

As a free app, it’s solid, generous stuff – especially on the iPad, where there’s more room to play. Combined with other Toca Life apps, it’s pretty much essential.

Noah’s Ark Animalibrium

Noah’s Ark Animalibrium might have the famous tale in its name, but this take on the story breaks with convention, to say the least. There’s no ark here – merely what appears to be a large wooden bowl. And rather than the animals heading in two-by-two, the colorful critters must all balance atop the wobbling craft.

It’s an amusing slice of interactive entertainment, and should help young players to improve their coordination and (virtual) stacking powers. Beyond the balancing act, there are buttons to prod to change the weather, and snap a photo. And for those kids who fancy a trip back in time, a one-off IAP ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99) unlocks a pack of dinosaurs to save from a prehistoric flood.

Tankee

Tankee lets kids watch other people playing and talking about video games. If you’re of a certain age, that might seem baffling, but it’s something kids really like to do.

Where Tankee differentiates itself is in curation: every video on the system has been watched by an actual human.This avoids issues found in certain other online video networks, where kids may suddenly find themselves viewing unsuitable fare.

Tankee also deals with another big concern: comments. It achieves this by omitting such functionality entirely, although some barebones ‘networking’ remains. Create an account and your kid can stash favorite videos for later and follow specific creators. If they particularly enjoy a show, they can madly hammer smiley stickers in real time to let everyone know.

Wonderbly Story Time Books

Wonderbly Story Time Books is an iPad take on personalized illustrated story books for children. The premise is the protagonist has forgotten their name, and must go on an adventure to collect it, one letter at a time.

The story is nicely presented, and the app deftly deals with multiple instances of the same letter by providing variations for each one. (In fact, this works to an entertaining degree – we tried using the name ‘Aaaaa’ and were presented with five non-repeating vignettes!)

Part of the point of the app is you’ll get to the end, and then buy a real copy of the actual book. But even if you resist those papery, spendy charms, the app’s a blast – and it even lets you store previous adventures, so none are ever lost.

Lego Creator Islands

Lego Creator Islands is for fans of the popular construction toy when there are no plastic bricks close at hand. It starts you off with a little island, on which you build a house. Construction is simple: tap piles of bricks and they magically combine into pieces of a finished Lego set, which you drag into place.

Rinse and repeat a few times and your kid will beam as they watch their island increasingly come alive, populated with Lego minifigs and bounding Lego animals, and dotted with buildings, trees and vehicles.

The experience is, admittedly, not that deep, and you can see most of what it has to offer in an hour or so. But it’s always fun to return to, and certainly beats treading on a Lego brick while barefoot.

Sago Mini Friends

Sago Mini Friends is a sweet-natured collection of adorable mini-games, ideal for young children. After selecting a character to play, you visit a neighborhood of colorful houses. Knock on a door and you’ll be invited inside for a playdate.

The activities are varied and smartly designed. There’s a birthday party, where gifts are gleefully unwrapped, and a birdhouse to fix by hammering in nails. Our favorite, though, is a cleverly conceived snack time that finds two friends sitting side-by-side. Feed one and the other looks a bit glum, which encourages the young player to learn to share.

Entirely lacking IAP and advertising, Sago Mini Friends is a no-brainer for any parent who wants a safe, free, fun, educational app for their youngster to spend a bit of quality time with.

Zen Studio

According to the developer's blurb, Zen Studio is all about helping children to relax and focus, by providing a kind of finger-painting that can only exist in the digital realm. Frankly, we take issue with the 'children' bit, because Zen Studio has a welcoming and pleasing nature that should ensure it's a hit with every iPad user.

You start off with a grid of triangles and a column of colored paints. Tap a paint to choose your color and then tap individual triangles or drag across the grid to start drawing. Every gesture you make is accompanied by musical notes that play over an ambient background soundtrack.

Bar the atmosphere being knocked a touch by a loud squelch noise whenever a new paint tube is selected, the mix of drawing tool and musical instrument is intoxicating. When you're done, your picture can be squirted to the Photos app, ready for sharing with the world.

This is, however, a limited freebie in some ways. You get eight canvases, which can be blank or based on templates. If you want more, you can buy an IAP to unlock the premium version of the app. Still, for no outlay at all, you get a good few hours of chill-out noodly fun — more, if you're happy drawing over the same canvases again and again.

Lego Life

Lego Life is a social network for kids whose lives revolve around plastic bricks. Once you’re signed up, you explore feeds and follow themes, to become a better builder, or just see what’s current in the world of Lego.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a nod towards advertising of a kind, in new product videos being liberally sprinkled about. But mostly, this is an app about inspiration. You’re regularly offered building challenges and knowledge tests; during lazy days, you can slap stickers all over a virtual Lego kit, or build a mini-figure for your profile.

Given that it’ll mostly be kids using the app, it’s worth noting usernames are anonymized. You can’t type your own, and instead select from semi-random word lists. EmpressSensibleMotorbike, meet ElderSupersonicJelly!

Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby

Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby is a two-part game designed for children as young as six months old.

In Level 1, your youngling – now armed with a worryingly expensive piece of technology – can tilt and tap the screen to make shapes appear and bounce around. But Level 2 ramps things up considerably.

“Let’s put on a show,” chirps the app as the five shapes wiggle and jig about on the screen, lurking above a colorful keyboard. And you know what’s next: maddeningly jaunty earworms, augmented by a deliriously happy baby smacking the huge piano keys.

Your slow descent into madness will be worth it for the smile on their little face.

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales is a dressing up app. You choose from a male or female customer, and then set about giving them a new and exciting outfit.

As with other Toca Boca fare, this is a tactile, immediate app. Tap a garment to adjust its type; drag and you’ll change its length. Accessories can be added from an expanding box, if you decide your appreciative on-screen ‘manakin’ needs a trendy hat.

The best bit, though, is the materials section. For each part of the garment, you can drag and drop materials onto it. This isn’t a question of merely recoloring either – you can pinch/rotate to make all kinds of crazy patterns, and even import photos or snap a texture using the iPad’s camera. Great stuff for tiny wannabe fashion designers.

The best free music and audio apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for listening to podcasts, making music or being a virtual DJ.

Splash

Splash instantly puts the power of live remixing and DJing at your fingertips, through triggering loops on a grid. Simply select a track from the library, and then tap to kick off drum, bass, synth, and vocal loops. Fire up the effects, and you can make your tune go all strange and wobbly by way of flange, filter, reverb and delay. 

Although immensely tappable on the iPad’s display, Splash unfortunately demands you swipe between two screens rather than enabling access to every loop on just one. But other than that, this is an immediate, fun, and entirely free entry point into the world of making music. And should you want to retain a performance for posterity, the means to record and share is also built right in.

Figure

Figure is an app designed to let you craft beats in seconds. It’s been around for a while on mobile, but the current iteration frees itself from irritating social media cruft. Create an account and you’re good to go.

Although primarily designed for one-fingered operation on a phone, Figure works really nicely as an iPad app. Blown up on the larger display its tactile interface affords you more precision as you tap out beats, construct melodies, and fiddle around with settings.

This isn’t an app for crafting a top-ten hit, note – at most, you’ll end up with eight-bar loops you can export elsewhere. But it’s fun, great for inspiring new ideas, ideal for non-musicians, and perfect for creating bespoke ringtones and alerts for your Apple devices.

Image credit: Ultimate Guitar

Tonebridge

Tonebridge Guitar Effects has a different spin on the whole ‘turning your iPad into an amp’ thing. Rather than you painstakingly setting up a set of stomp-boxes, and pairing your creation with an amp, Tonebridge offers thousands of presets. Moreover, each one mimics the guitar sounds from an existing song.

This means whether you fancy being Clapton, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin, all you need to do is prod a recommended option, or have a quick search of the catalog.

About half of the presets let you preview the sound using some of the original song’s melody or chords. All can be tweaked to suit, if you know better than the preset when it comes to the precise level of echo a pedal should be emitting – or how much the chosen amp has been cranked up!

djay

djay once existed in various forms on iOS, but is now a free, universal app that invites budding DJs to pay for the level of features that they want.

If you’re not willing to splash out, there’s still plenty to enjoy. You get the full two-deck classic mode, featuring a pair of virtual record decks to spin, a crossfade mixer, scrolling audio waveforms, and a bunch of effects. The interface is intuitive and tactile, although you can delve into AI-driven auto-mixing when manual control seems like too much effort.

Paying subscription IAP unlocks a slew of extra features, including a four-deck pro view, video, MIDI, and high-end mixing. For jobbing DJs, that’s perhaps the only option; for bedroom deck-spinners, the free app’s more than enough – and rather generous, given its high quality. 

Beatwave

Beatwave makes it easy to create music. You select a voice and tap out notes on a grid. The grid can be set to various scales, ensuring the notes you use always sound good. Go deeper into the app and you can layer/arrange multiple loops, each of which can have a unique sound assigned.

The app looks great, with an explosion of color bursting from each note as the playhead hits it. This is a welcome hangover from the app’s previous incarnation as a simplified digital take on the Yamaha Tenori-on.

The more conventional redesign elsewhere robs Beatwave of some immediacy and playfulness regarding the play surface, although accessing all of its features is now a lot more coherent. Overall, it’s a good bet for beginners but also musicians looking for a fun sketchpad.

AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer

AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer is an iPad synth bursting at the seams with dials to twiddle, buttons to push, and all kinds of exciting noises that blast forth from your speakers.

Even if you’re not overly musically inclined, there’s fun to be had here by selecting presets - many of which use a built-in user-friendly sequencer, so you can fire off a melody by holding down a single key. There’s loads for musicians to delve into, including Audiobus and IAA support, customizable filters, and touchpad play surfaces.

It’s hugely impressive and the sort of thing you’d usually expect to set you back north of 30 bucks, so it’s all the more surprising that Synth One is entirely free from ads and IAP - and that will always be the case, given that it’s also an open-source project.

Novation Launchpad

Novation Launchpad is about remixing electronic music using a grid of loops. For the beginner, it’s a friendly, intuitive introduction to music-making. You load a genre and just tap away, safe in the knowledge everything will always sound great. You can even record live mixes and share them with friends.

There’s depth to Novation Launchpad as well – effects to apply, filters to experiment with, and the option to mix and match pad sounds. If you’re prepared to dip into your wallet, you can take things much further, importing your own audio files and working with a larger range of effects.

On iPad, you can buy all of these things – and a MIDI sync feature – for a one-off $14.99/£14.99/$AU22.99 IAP. But even if you stick to the free version, Novation Launchpad proves to be suitably noisy fun.

Auxy Music Studio

The thinking behind Auxy Music Studio is that music-making - both in the real world and software - has become too complicated. This app therefore strives to combine the immediacy of something like Novation Launchpad's loop triggers with a basic piano roll editor.

For each instrument, you choose between drums and decidedly electronic synths. You then compose loops of between one and four bars, tapping out notes on the piano roll's grid. Subsequent playback occurs on the overview screen by tapping loops to cue them up.

For those who want to go a bit further, the app includes arrangement functionality (for composing entire songs), along with Ableton Link and MIDI export support. Auxy's therefore worth a look for relative newcomers to making music and also pros after a no-nonsense scratchpad.

Garageband

On an iPhone, music-making app GarageBand is mightily impressive, but on iPad, the extra space proves transformative. In being able to see more at any given time, your experience is more efficient and enjoyable, whether you’re a beginner tapping the grid view to trigger loops, a live musician tweaking a synth on stage, or a recording artist delving into audio waveforms and MIDI data.

Apple’s app also cleverly appeals to all. Newcomers can work with loops, automated drummers, and piano strips for always staying in key. Pros get seriously impressive track controls with configurable effects, multi-take recording, and Audio Unit support for bringing favorite synths directly into GarageBand.

If you don’t feel terribly creative sitting in front of a PC, GarageBand’s the perfect way to unleash your Grammy-winning songwriter in waiting.

Overcast

Podcasts are mostly associated with small portable devices - after all, the very name is a mash-up of 'iPod' and 'broadcast'. But that doesn't mean you should ignore your favourite shows when armed with an iPad rather than an iPhone.

We're big fans of Overcast on Apple's smaller devices, but the app makes good use of the iPad's extra screen space, with a smart two-column display. On the left, episodes are listed, and the current podcast loads into the larger space on the right.

The big plusses with Overcast, though, remain playback and podcast management. It's the one podcast app we've used that retains plenty of clarity when playback is sped up; and there are clever effects for removing dead air and boosting vocals in podcasts with lower production values.

Playlists can be straightforward in nature, or quite intricate, automatically boosting favourites to the top of the list, and excluding specific episodes. And if you do mostly use an iPhone for listening, Overcast automatically syncs your podcasts and progress, so you can always pick up where you left off.

Seaquence

There are two ways to approach Seaquence, where the first is as a really bizarre interactive album. Select a track and a bunch of little creatures swim about on the screen, which results in spatialized sound mixes. (Stick some headphones on to hear how their movements affect the placement of sounds being played.) You can manually fling the creatures about, or tap-hold to remove them.

But Seaquence also enables you to edit. Add a new creature and it’ll instantly change the track. Tap a creature and you can delve into a scale editor, sound designer, and a sequencer for adjusting the notes of the current loop.

A $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 IAP opens up a bunch of pro features; but for free, Seaquence is entertaining whether you’re just listening and occasionally bothering the digital sea life, or figuring out how to construct your own tunes.

Beatwave

Beatwave is a grid synthesizer/sound toy, loosely based on Yamaha’s Tenori-on. This means you tap notes by turning on the grid’s lights. When the endlessly looping playhead collides with one, you get an explosion of color, and a sound plays.

Notes towards the top of the grid are higher, and those at the bottom are lower. Some instruments use the bottom two rows for drum sounds. Most importantly, though, Beatwave is designed to always make output listenable.

It’s actually quite difficult to create anything horribly discordant, short of filling every square on the grid.

For those who fancy more depth, the app offers plenty of alternate sounds, automated morphing, and the ability to save patterns to the sidebar, which you switch between with a tap. So it’s fun whether writing songs or just playing with sound and color.

The best free office and writing apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for writing, email, spreadsheets, presentations and calculations.

The Clocks

The Clocks is an alternative to Apple’s Clock app, and is primarily focused on a large, very legible display, rather than a bunch of tiny clocks telling you the time in a range of countries.

The free iPad app enables you to quickly flip between an analog clock, a lovely flip clock, and a colorful digital number that looks like it has escaped from the 1980s. Some elements can be configured: 12/24-hour time; whether seconds are displayed; the digital clock’s color.

The app has some extended features, too: there are alarms, and a double-tap on the top half of the screen launches a world clock view with six slots. Arguably, Apple’s app betters The Clocks for both things; but as a free great-looking display clock you can see from across the room, The Clocks can’t be beaten.

Documents by Readdle

Documents by Readdle might seem redundant on iPad now that the feature set of Apple’s own Files has improved. And, yes, it’s certainly less necessary now your iPad has traditional file system access and a means to create compressed ZIP archives – but that doesn’t mean Documents isn’t still useful.

The app makes it a cinch to connect to a wide range of local and remote storage types, and quickly import (not least with the new + button), manage, and share items. There are built-in media viewers, enabling you to play music and search PDFs. The built-in web browser is sleek, snappy, and now supports private browsing.

In fact, privacy is one area in which Documents excels. If you want Files to remain open, but hide some of your browsing/documents away from prying eyes, this app’s optional Touch ID/Face ID barrier may alone make it worth the download.

Hour Blocks: Day Planner

Hour Blocks: Day Planner is a calendar designed around razor-sharp focus. Rather than a week view with overlapping items, your day is broken down into the titular hour blocks. The idea is to avoid clutter and concentrate on one thing at a time.

This proves effective, and although the app will import existing Calendar data, you’re better off starting from scratch. On iPad, the minimalist nature does feel a little like a blown-up iPhone app, but it works well in Split View and Slide Over, and iCloud syncs your data between devices.

Should you feel the need, a pro IAP ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99) unlocks sub blocks for tasks, but it’s worth sticking with the free version initially, until you get that sense of focus to your day that traditional calendars just can’t bring.

Secure ShellFish

Secure ShellFish plugs one of the last remaining holes in the iPadOS Files app: the inability to natively access remote servers. 

Setting up SSH/SFTP connections is a breeze. Using the clear, simple interface, you can quickly connect to any shared drives the app can find, or manually configure servers to later access whatever’s stored on them. Define the app as a location within Files, and you’ll then be able to get at all your remote documents.

For free, Secure ShellFish is extraordinarily generous, with a feature-rich experience. For $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99, you can upgrade to remove interruptions and add offline features. But if you want something robust for the odd connection – and with no outlay – it’s hard to beat the vanilla version of this app.

Paper by WeTransfer

Paper by WeTransfer is the latest version of a much-loved iPad sketching app. It now echoes its earlier incarnation, in giving you a set of virtual journals that you then scribble pictures inside of.

The tools are straightforward, and designed for getting ideas down quickly. But although you’re not deluged with options, the look of pen strokes and dabs of watercolor is spot-on. When you’re done, you can export a page to share with others. It all feels rather sleek and elegant.

It’s worth noting that quite a few features are locked behind IAP: multiple image import; freeform cut; paste between pages; iCloud sync; multiple brush sizes. But the free take – despite its limitations – feels really nice to use, not least when you’re doodling with an Apple Pencil.

Otter Voice Notes

Otter is a voice memos app with a fine line in automatic transcription. Talk to your iPad, and the app should do an excellent job of getting your words down (punctuation and all), so you don’t have to bother typing them out later. You get 600 free minutes per month – 6000 if you move to a paid tier.

Notes can have imagery added inline, and you can highlight words or entire lines. Usefully, the app attempts to extract meaning from longer passages, giving you summary keywords to scan. Should you need to edit transcribed text, that’s possible, too.

Ultimately, the app’s perhaps less useful for recording on iPad – although it works well enough. But with cloud sync, and features for working in teams, it’s an excellent option for getting at and using content you've recorded on your iPhone.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser wants the internet to leave you alone. Specifically, it doesn’t want you being tracked. 

It comes across like a stripped-back alternative to Safari that’s determined to have you leave no trace. Third-party trackers won’t follow you as you browse, meaning no relentless and suspiciously targeted adverts because you several days back happened to check out a nice new TV online.

Sites are forced to use encrypted connections where available, and your searches are not tracked. The app grades sites you visit, too; and so even if you usually use Safari, DuckDuckGo gives you insight into any site’s underlying privacy measures.

Also, if all of that doesn’t go quite far enough, and you want your DuckDuckGo browsing history to be nuked from orbit, a tap is all that takes!

LastPass

LastPass in some ways echoes iCloud Keychain, in giving you a central repository for storing passwords and payment details. You might therefore wonder what the point is in using such a system.

First and foremost, LastPass is fully cross-platform, so if you also work with Windows and Android, it means you can take your passwords with you everywhere, securely. But there are other advantages, such as secure notes and form fill options, all of which seamlessly integrate with devices running iOS 12 or later.

There is a premium tier; US$24/£23/AU$38 per year adds sharing options, 1GB of encrypted file storage, and premium multi-factor authentication. For most users, though, the extremely generous free version should be enough.

Bear

A halfway house between full-fledged writing tool and capable note-taker, Bear provides a beautiful environment for tapping out words on an iPad.

The sidebar links to notes you’ve grouped by hashtag. Next to that, a notes list enables you to scroll through (or search) everything you’ve written, or notes matching a specific tag. The main workspace – which can be made full-screen – marries sleek minimalism with additional smarts: subtle Markdown syntax next to headings; automated to-do checkboxes when using certain characters; image integration.

There’s not enough here for pro writers – they’d need on-screen word counts, customizable note column ordering, and flexibility regarding notes nesting. Also, for iCloud sync, you must buy a $1.49/£1.49/AU$1.99 monthly subscription. But as a free, minimal note-taker for a single device, Bear more than fits the bill.

Numbers

With Numbers, Apple managed to do something with spreadsheets that had eluded Microsoft in decades of Excel development: they became pleasant (even fun) to work with.

Instead of forcing workmanlike grids of data on you, Numbers has you think in a more presentation-oriented fashion. Although you can still create tables for totting up figures, you’re also encouraged to be creative and reader-friendly regarding layout, incorporating graphs, imagery, and text. On iPad, it’s all tap - and finger - friendly, too.

With broad feature-parity with the Mac version, iCloud sync, and export to Excel format, Numbers should also fit neatly into most people’s workflow.

And although updates robbed the app of some friendliness (whoever removed the date picker needs a stern talking to), it still excels in that department, from nicely designed templates through to the handy action menu, ensuring common tasks are only ever a tap away.

PCalc Lite

PCalc Lite's existence means the lack of a built-in iPad calculator doesn't bother us. For anyone who wants a traditional calculator, it's pretty much ideal. The big buttons beg to be tapped, and the interface can be tweaked to your liking, by way of bolder and larger key text, alternate display digits, and stilling animation.

Beyond basic sums, PCalc Lite adds some conversions, which are categorised but also searchable. If you're hankering for more, IAP lets you bolt on a number of extras from the paid version of PCalc, such as additional themes, dozens more conversions, alternate calculator layouts, a virtual paper tape, and options for programmers and power users.

The best free photo and video editing apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for editing photos, working with filters, adding text to photos and editing video.

Graphite by BeCasso

Graphite by BeCasso is yet another filter app with aspirations of being an artist – or, rather, several artists. Load a snap, tap a filter, and you can instantly transform a photo into a pencil sketch, a watercolor, or even a blueprint.

These free iPad apps always produce results that are a touch mechanical, but Graphite’s attempts at art are some of the most natural looking and authentic we’ve seen. Head into the Edit tab and you can make further adjustments, to crop your shot or fiddle with saturation and brightness levels.

If you’re prepared to pay, you can take things further, choosing from a range of surface textures, and using your finger to make changes to the digital strokes. The control this affords you makes the IAP tempting stuff, but even for free, this one’s a must-have.

Image credit: TechRadar

Darkroom

Darkroom is a premium photo editing experience for iPad, but one that bafflingly lacks a price tag. On launch, it immediately invites you to open one of your pictures. Do so and you gain access to a wealth of options, including superb cropping tools, a range of adjustment sliders, frames, and one-tap filters.

The app feels sleek and professional, but also immediate and usable. On first use, tools briefly explain what they’re for. The built-in help center provides added assistance for newcomers to editing.

Should you want to take things further, a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP unlocks curves and color tools, along with many more filters. But even in its free incarnation, Darkroom is a no-brainer install if you want to make your digital snaps sing.

Visionist

Visionist echoes Prisma in having you load a photo that’s then transformed into something resembling a painting. However, you get more control in this app.

There are 10 free styles to choose from (a one-off $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP unlocks 60 more), but Visionist doesn’t stop the second you select one. Along with adjusting the effect’s strength, you can define how abstract it is, adjust the manner in which it interacts with the original image, and mix styles together.

Some labels on the styles would be useful, not least those based on real-world artists; also, the end results do look rather digital in nature, rather than like they’ve appeared from the hands of an actual painter. But the important thing is they’re arresting, adding interest to even the most mundane of snaps.

Infltr

Infltr stands for ‘infinite filters’. The app isn’t quite packed with endless options (there are ‘only’ around seven million), but feels limitless as you drag a finger across a photo and watch it change.

But this is only one tool packed into a versatile, usable editor. You can crop, make adjustments to temperature and hue, fix perspective, mess around with blurs, and more.

Edits are non-destructive, so you can always update or remove a setting. You can save up to three favorites for one-tap application as well.

That limitation goes away if you pay for the subscription IAP - which also gives you HD export and additional tools, including color shift and selective HSL - but as a freebie, Infltr ably does the business. A no-brainer download for iPad users keen on fixing their snaps.

Enlight Pixaloop

Enlight Pixaloop wants photographs to get animated – in a literal sense. Load one up and you can draw paths to denote the direction of your flowing, looping animation, and use anchors and masks to make everything else stay put. The effect is like a cinemagraph, but you only need a single still, rather than a sequence of shots or a video.

On iPad, Pixaloop benefits from the larger screen, and the accuracy an Apple Pencil affords. You can create some seriously intricate and eye-dazzling effects, even from fairly mundane source material.

If you’re short on snaps, the app enables you to grab something from Pixabay. And when you’re done, you can export your work to video (although, alas, not animated GIF). It’s smart, sleek, and even though optional IAPs lurk, offers plenty of functionality for zero outlay.

Pic Collage

Pic Collage is a powerful app for creating photo collages. You can start with a freeform canvas or a card template, but the pre-defined grids are better. Select some photos and a grid, and the app will automatically arrange everything.

Many apps stop there, but Pic Collage goes much further. You can tweak the frames, and perform adjustments on individual images. Movement can be added through importing up to three videos and later exporting your creation as a GIF. And if you’re feeling arty, you can scribble all over your grid-based masterpiece.

Pic Collage hits that sweet spot of unlocking creativity in an immediate, usable manner. You get results fast. The only real negative is exports have a watermark, but if that bugs you, they can be gone forever with a one-off US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

Clips

Clips is a video editor designed for people who don’t want to spend a great deal of time editing – or even shooting. Unlike Apple’s iMovie, Clips is intended for impulsive shoots, and super-fast clip arrangement – a video editor for the social media generation.

On iPad, you might question its relevance. After all, you’re not going to whip out an iPad Pro to quickly shoot someone larking about on a skateboard. But the iPad’s larger screen is superb for editing, making it easy to rearrange clips on the timeline and get a proper eye for the many included filters.

There’s more lurking here too, including automatic animated subtitles, posters with customizable text and iCloud sync. Clips won’t make you a Hollywood legend, but it might just propel you towards Instagram stardom.

Photoshop Fix

It's become apparent that Adobe - creators of photography and graphic design powerhouses Photoshop and Illustrator - don't see mobile devices as suitable for full projects. However, the company's been hard at work on a range of satellite apps, of which Photoshop Fix is perhaps the most impressive.

Built on Photoshop technology, this retouching tool boasts a number of high-end features for making considered edits to photographs. The Liquify tool in particular is terrific, enabling you to mangle images like clay, or more subtly adjust facial features using bespoke tools for manipulating mouths and eyes.

Elsewhere, you can smooth, heal, color and defocus a photo to your heart's content, before sending it to Photoshop on the desktop for further work, or flattening it for export to your Camera Roll. It's particularly good when used with the Apple Pencil (still a funny name) and the iPad Pro, such is the power and speed of that device and input method.

Quik

Formerly known as Replay, Quik is a video editor primarily designed for people who can't be bothered doing the editing bit. You select photos and videos, pick a theme, and sit back as Quik pieces together a masterpiece that can subsequently be saved and shared.

For tinkerers, there are styles and settings to tweak. Post-Replay, the app offers its 28 varied styles for free, and you can delve into the edit itself, trimming clips, reordering media, adjusting focal points, and adding titles.

Alternatively, the really lazy can do nothing at all and still get results - every week, Quik will serve up highlights videos, enabling you to relive favorite moments. These videos are quite random in nature, but are nonetheless often a nice surprise. Still, anyone willing to put in the slightest additional effort will find Quik rewards any minutes invested many times over.

Snapseed

Apple's Photos app has editing capabilities, but they're not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of from a number of tools and filters, and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. You get all the basics — cropping, rotation, healing brushes, and the like — but the filters are where you can get really creative.

There are blurs, photographic effects, and more extreme options like 'grunge' and 'grainy film', which can add plenty of atmosphere to your photographs. The vast majority of effects are tweakable, mostly by dragging up and down on the canvas to select a parameter and then horizontally to adjust its strength.

Brilliantly, the app also records applied effects as separate layers, each of which remains fully editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else.

The best free productivity apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for being more productive with cloud storage, timers, iPad keyboards, automation and more.

Launcher with Multiple Widgets

Launcher with Multiple Widgets is like a home screen for Today view, but with the power to provide instant access to far more than just apps. You set things up in the Launcher app, mixing and matching shortcuts for apps/games, contacts, websites, and music.

Special launchers – some utilizing Apple’s Shortcuts – provide single-tap deep links into apps and services, such as setting up an ETA button in a mapping app, links to specific Settings panes, and the means to fire off emails to user-defined recipients.

With the ability to pin Today view to your iPadOS home screen, Launcher vastly increases the number of things you can get to in an instant. Pay for the pro version, and you can take things further, creating up to six widgets, and showing/hiding each one based on day, time, and location.

Focus - Time Manager

Focus - Time Manager will help you stay focused on the task at hand. Its system is based on Pomodoro-style work/break sessions, the idea being that you focus on a single task during the former, and have brief downtime during the latter. At the end of the fourth session, you have a longer break.

With Split View and Slide Over support, Focus fits nicely into your iPad workflow. Its interface is crystal clear, without being a distraction. Importantly, you can also customize the settings to suit, if you’re not keen on the default 25-minute focus session and five-minute breaks.

Splash out on monthly IAP and you can take things further, managing tasks and tracking activity over time. But when just used as a focus timer, this app is a top choice.

Agenda

Agenda is a mash-up of a notepad, a journal and a task manager. Notes can be organized into projects, have all manner of attachments (such as files or images), and be linked to existing Calendar and multiple Reminders entries.

Flagged notes appear in overviews, and the app’s timeline-oriented nature makes it ideal for tracking projects – before, during, or after the event. Agenda’s interface is clean, efficient, and usable: you can quickly get at a specific note, collapse items that aren’t a priority, and add important notes to Siri.

There’s optional IAP. A one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 gives you premium features, which power up integration with Calendar and Reminders, add pinned notes, and flesh out formatting. But in its free incarnation, Agenda is still a great choice for anyone who lives in notes apps, and wants them to do more.

Authy

Authy is a system designed to house two-step verification tokens. If you’re not already using two-factor authentication, you should be. It helps protect accounts from hackers by adding an additional layer of security – a regularly updating token linked to a specific device.

A major benefit of Authy is how easy it is to synchronize tokens across multiple devices, rather than having to set things up on each one. This speeds things along when you, say, buy a new iPad or iPhone. The app can also generate tokens offline, rather than you having to wait for an SMS.

On iPad, the app makes good use of screen real estate, with tappable buttons for accounts in a sidebar, and token text you could probably see from across the street, meaning you’re definitely going to locate it when you need to.

Copied

Copied is a ‘shelf’ app – a means of saving snippets so you can use them later. This is advantageous over the iOS clipboard, which only offers a single slot.

Text, images, and web page links can be sent to Copied from the clipboard or Share sheet, and the app is also drag-and-drop aware. In Split View or Slide Over, Copied can be used alongside other apps while researching and writing. Items within Copied can be formatted prior to pasting them elsewhere, too (to extract a web page photo’s source URL rather than the image itself, for example).

Some features sit behind a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP, notably clip organization (lists/rearrangement) and sync, but even in its free  version, Copied is worth a download if you spend time copying words and images between iPad apps.

Speed Test SpeedSmart Internet

Speed Test SpeedSmart Internet might have a name that appears to have sprung forth from an annual meeting of search-engine optimization experts, but the utility itself proves a useful install on your iPad. Prod a button and it checks your internet speed, providing readings on latency (response time), download speed, and upload speed.

These tests don’t necessarily show the full speed your router is getting, but if you’re having connectivity issues over a period of time, SpeedSmart can be a useful way of logging results.

Not only do you get a full history, but also a handy details pane that shows your location, offers extended information about each test, and lets you add notes. All good stuff to send your internet service provider’s way.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts is Apple’s revamp of automation utility Workflow. Its main goal is to save you time by performing complex tasks with simple interactions (such as a button tap), rather than going through a list of steps manually in multiple apps and websites.

There are two ways to approach Shortcuts. The first is to delve into the gallery’s dozens of premade actions. These include everything from calculating tips to saving documents as PDFs. Everything you download can be experimented with, or you can start from scratch and construct your own workflows in the user-friendly drag-and-drop interface.

This proves particularly effective on the iPad’s larger display, which gives you plenty of room to work. And this latest revamp makes workflows even easier to access, because you can trigger them using Siri voice commands.

Cheatsheet Widget

Cheatsheet Widget is a notes app for all those little things that you need to remember – but never do. Its items are designed to be quick, glanceable fare (like phone numbers, codes and combinations and a few words) and are made easier to spot by twinning them with icons.

Your list is created in the Cheatsheet Widget app, but the list can also be displayed as a Today view widget. Items within the widget can be deleted, or their content copied to the clipboard – ideal for things like open network passwords.

For free, the widget will display four items from your list, and you can opt to always place new ones at the top. As of iOS 12, there’s a dark mode; and if you splash out on the one-off IAP, you also get iCloud cross-device sync, a Cheatsheet Widget keyboard, and no ads.

Bundler

Bundler is a boon to anyone who regularly finds themselves having to collect a selection of files that then need to be sent elsewhere – a common task in many kinds of workplace.

Documents are added to ‘bundles’ using the Share sheet. In any compatible app, you share selected documents (or the current one) to Bundler and choose which bundle to place them in (or make a new one). On returning to Bundler, these documents can then be previewed and renamed. (In the latter case, ensuring your files have suffixes – JPG, TXT, and so on – is a good bet, or they aren’t always included on export.)

Sharing a bundle sends it to a location or app of your choosing as a ZIP archive. The process is sleek and simple, and the dual-pane view on iPad makes things even easier when you’re juggling a large number of files and bundles.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is a browser designed to make the internet less creepy, preventing websites following you around the web. It blocks every hidden tracker it can find, uses the privacy-oriented DuckDuckGo for search, and rates websites you visit in terms of how much they care about your privacy.

It’s a combination of educational aid and web browser, and the latter bit isn’t half bad. It’’s a bit stripped-back compared to Safari, but you can still bookmark sites, open pages in tabs, and share content with other people. When you’re done, you can nuke your session’s search history with two taps.

Even if it doesn’t become your primary browser, DuckDuckGo is worth installing. It’s ideal for browsing sensitive data such as financial and medical records, safe in the knowledge you’re not being tracked by nefarious scripts.

MultiTimer

Given the acres of space you get on an iPad display, it’s a bit odd that Apple’s own clock only provides a single timer. Fortunately, MultiTimer – as its name suggests – goes somewhat further by offering multiple options.

In fact, depending on the layout you choose, you can have twelve timers all ticking away at once. Each one of them can have its own icon, color and default time assigned, for those people who need to simultaneously exercise, boil eggs, and cook a turkey.

Smartly, the app works in portrait or landscape, and if you want a timer you can see clearly across the room, a single button press zooms it to fill almost the entire screen.

Should you want a bit more flexibility by way of multiple or custom workspaces, there’s a single IAP to unlock those features.

Slack

We're not sure whether Slack is an amazing aid to productivity or some kind of time vampire. Probably a bit of both. What we do know is that the real-time messaging system is excellent in a work environment for chatting with colleagues (publicly and privately), sharing and previewing files, and organising discussions by topic.

There's smart integration with online services, and support for both the iPad Pro and the iPad's Split View function.

Note that although Slack is clearly designed with businesses in mind, it also works perfectly well as a means of communicating with friends if you don't fancy lobbing all your worldly wisdom into Facebook's maw.

The best free travel and weather apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for planning a holiday, currency conversion, weather forecasts and mapping.

Air Matters

Air Matters flips weather apps on their head. Whereas most provide details of current conditions, and the briefest of nods to air quality and allergens, Air Matters does the reverse. When you check this app’s map, you won’t see whether it’s rainy or sunny in a location, but will instead peruse readings for the likes of AQI (air quality index) and pollen.

For anyone with allergies, this is great stuff – but it gets better. Settings allow you to define a primary index, and alter which AQI standard is being used. In some locations, you get individual readings for pollen types, such as grasses, alder and birch.

And if you’re planning a trip overseas, AQI rankings are built right into this free iPad app, which tend to suggest checking out Kobe, Japan or Stockholm, Sweden – and probably avoiding built-up regions in India, China, and Egypt.

Saildrone Forecast - Weather

Saildrone Forecast - Weather wants to be an app you gawp at because it’s so stunning. Even as the app delivers the news that your afternoon’s going to be ruined by freak torrential rain, it will do so in a way that at least bathes your eyes in visual bliss.

The dark UI is stylish, and looks very smart as bright clouds billow across the landscape, chased by snaking animated lines on an optional wind layer. It’s good at the forecasting bit, too. There’s unfortunately no next-hour’s rainfall graph, but you can delve into graphs for the next two days’ temperatures, rainfall, and wind speeds.

Given the polish and elegance here, Saildrone feels premium. It’s therefore quite the surprise to discover not only that it’s free, but also that there aren’t even any ads.

Today Weather

Today Weather is weather forecasting aimed at iPad owners with an eye for style. Launch the app and it displays a photo to represent the current weather in your location. Below that, you’ll see a brief overview of current conditions. Scroll and you get an extended forecast and further details (including rainfall, air quality and wind speed), all rendered in almost painfully cool neon tones atop a dark background.

If the photo’s a bit much, you can get rid of it. Either way, this is a great weather app for a docked iPad, and even the sole ad can easily enough be scrolled off-screen. Neatly, there’s also something for when forecasts don’t quite gel with your own observations: if you don’t get on with Today Weather’s data source, you can switch it for Dark Sky, Accuweather.com, or YR.no.

Google Earth

Google Earth is about exploring our planet. Search for somewhere specific and the app swoops and dives to its target. Important landmarks are rendered in 3D that’s surprisingly effective – if you don’t zoom in too far.

This is an entertaining, tactile app that encourages investigation. You can drag and spin the screen, and flick through cards that point towards local landmarks. Fancy looking at something new? Hit the random button, or tap on the Voyager icon for stories based around anything from UNESCO World Heritage Sights to trekking about Kennedy Space Center.

The app is effortless to use, and the iPad’s large screen enables you to more fully breathe in the sights; the result is armchair tourism that’s far more effective than what you’d get even on the largest of iPhones.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an app that might seem an odd fit for an iPad, but we’d argue it’s an essential install. First and foremost, it’s much better than Apple’s Maps for figuring out journeys: Google Maps can more easily find points of interest, and ably deals with public transport information.

Local areas can be explored in terms of amenities (food, drink, and sometimes entertainment), and in a more direct sense, with the road-level Street View. The latter is a great way to familiarize yourself with a place before you visit.

If you always have your iPad on you, Google Maps can save maps for offline use as well, so you don’t even need an internet connection to use it. Alternatively, sign up for a Google account, and the searches you make will be synced with the app on your iPhone.

Momondo

There are two things a good flight comparison apps needs to be: easy to use, and useful results. Broadly speaking, Momondo ably does the job in both cases.

Looking for flights is simple; the app allows a pleasing amount of vagueness regarding locations (including regions with multiple airports, such as ‘London’, or even entire countries, such as ‘New Zealand’), and it’ll happily enable you to search for singles, returns, or multi-city jaunts.

As search results gradually load in, the app points you to the cheapest and quickest options, along with what it considers ‘best’ when taking into account price, time and convenience. For some routes, a calendar graph lets you check nearby dates to see if you can snag a bargain.

Additional filters are available to further refine your results, and you can create an account to save favorites and receive fare alerts - plus hotel listing can be added in too, should you want a more comprehensive.

Townske

Townske seems to bill itself as an app akin to Foursquare – a place to find the best local cafes, restaurants, and sights in major cities. But really it’s more of a place where photo-bloggers can publish their unique take on amazing locations, thereby providing you with gorgeous photos and succinct chunks of writing to devour.

You can jump right into the main feed, or focus on a specific city. You then tap on a photo to open an individual story. Every one we tried was rich in superb imagery, with just enough text to add meaningful context without interrupting the flow of the visuals.

Neatly, you can tap a map icon to see where the various photos were all taken; and if you sign up for an account, favorite stories or individual images can be bookmarked for later. But even if you simply treat Townske as a regularly-updated lean-back digital take on a newspaper travel supplement, you can’t really go wrong.

Weather Underground

With a native weather app bafflingly absent from iPad, you need to venture to the App Store to get anything beyond the basic daily overview Notification Center provides. Weather Underground is the best freebie on the platform, offering a customizable view to satisfy even the most ardent weather geeks.

Current conditions are shown at the top, outlining the temperature, precipitation likelihood, and a local map. But scroll and you can delve into detailed forecasts, dew point readings, sunrise and sunset times, videos, webcams, health data and web links. The bulk of the tiles can be disabled if there are some you don't use, and most can be reordered to suit.

Although not making the best use of iPad in landscape, the extra screen space afforded by Apple's tablet makes the Weather Underground experience a little more usable than on iPhone, enabling faster access to tiles. And for free, it's a top-notch app, although you can also fling $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 at it annually if you want rid of the unobtrusive ads.

XE Currency

XE Currency is a currency converter that’s far from the prettiest of its kind – but it is useful and has all the right features.

Initially, it lists a few currencies, with the base one at the top. Tap an item in the list to select it as the new base currency; you can also adjust the base figure – tap on the number, and then enter something new in the calculator. The list of currencies can be changed at any point, and an item’s position adjusted by tap-holding and dragging it.

Beyond that, you can analyze rates, by punching in an alternate exchange rate, view graphs that outline rates for a pair of currencies over the past decade, and sign up to free rate alerts, which notify you when specific points are hit.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 08:05
David Lumb,Tom Bedford

The OnePlus 8 is one of the most anticipated smartphones of 2020, along with the OnePlus 8 Pro – and possibly also a OnePlus 8 Lite, as rumors would have us believe.

2019 was an interesting year for OnePlus, which split its lineup between the flagship specs at a mid-range price in the OnePlus 7 and the more polished (and pricey) true budget flagship OnePlus 7 Pro.

Those were refined with additional features in the 7T versions later in the year, as follows the phone maker's traditional tick-tock schedule. 

As such, we’re expecting the new phones - which are now confirmed to be coming on April 14 - to make a similar tech leap. And who knows, OnePlus might follow other phone-makers and release a Lite version of the handset as an even more streamlined and affordable version. But what will the OnePlus 8 series include?

Most details have either been rumored or confirmed at this point, with key features including a top-end Snapdragon 865 chipset, 5G, a 120Hz refresh rate, and more.

You'll find full details of all that and everything else we've heard or suspect below. 

Latest leak: The OnePlus 8 could have a Galaxy S20 Ultra-rivaling screen. Plus, leaked images show the OnePlus 8 Pro in three different colors.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The next OnePlus smartphone line
  • When is it out? April 14
  • What will it cost? Likely more than $599 / £549 / AU$874 for the OnePlus 8

OnePlus 7T

OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro release date and price

OnePlus has confirmed that its OnePlus 8 range will be announced on April 14, which tallies with what we'd previously heard from a source.

We’re expecting at least two phones, but probably three, and given the prices for its predecessors, we don’t expect the standard OnePlus 8 to cost less than $599  / £549 / AED 1,949 (around AU$868). 

Likewise, we don’t anticipate the OnePlus 8 Pro to cost less than $699 / £699 / AED 2,699 (around AU$1,010). However, there's now talk of a OnePlus 8 Lite, which could prove a cheaper option, though it's anyone's guess how much it would be.

OnePlus 7T Pro

OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro rumors and leaks

Here, we've compiled a list of all of what we've heard on the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro and 8 Lite. We've organised it by feature, so you can easily find what you want to know.

OnePlus 8 design and display

We know for sure that at least some of the OnePlus 8 models will have a 120Hz display, as the company has now confirmed as much. It has also said that it's working on an always-on screen, which might well be available on the OnePlus 8 from launch.

Plus, DisplayMate has already assessed the screen, giving it the highest possible rating (A+) and suggesting that it rivals the display on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Beyond that we're in leak territory, and the biggest design leak takes the form of leaked renders, one of which can be seen below, showing the standard OnePlus 8. You can see three cameras on the back, a single-lens punch-hole camera on the front, and a curved screen. The source added that there's a 6.55-inch screen with a 90Hz refresh rate.

We've also seen matching leaked renders from other sources, showing off multiple colors, including green and a new 'Glow' shade, which has a purple-to-orange gradient.

Leaks of the OnePlus 8 Pro have also emerged, including the render below, which shows a design similar to the standard OnePlus 8, but with extra camera hardware. The source claims that the Pro has a 6.78-inch 120Hz display.

In a separate leak the same source said that it's a QHD+ Super AMOLED display and that the OnePlus 8 Pro also has an IP68 rating (for water resistance) and comes in blue, black and green shades.

He added that the standard OnePlus 8 has a 6.55-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, comes in glow, black, and green shades, and doesn't have a water resistance rating.

An image even appears to have leaked showing Robert Downey Jr holding the OnePlus 8 Pro, though - while it matches the design above - we're not totally convinced it's genuine.

Elsewhere we've seen leaked images of the OnePlus 8 Pro in Ultramarine Blue, Onyx Black and Glacial Green shades.

Older rumors paint a largely similar picture to the information above, with some differences. For example, an early leak suggested the OnePlus 8 would go for a simple punch-hole in the top-left corner for the front-facing camera.

That leak also suggested the Pro would shrink from 6.67 inches down to 6.5 inches, or possibly even 6.44, and other older rumors also suggest it will be smaller than its predecessor - though notably the newer rumors above disagree on that front.

We've previously seen how the front camera might look in the leaked sketches below, which show both single-lens and dual-lens punch holes, with the dual-lens one likely being the OnePlus 8 Pro. That said, newer leaks only show a single-lens for both models.

We'd also previously heard that one or more OnePlus 8 models might have an IP rating, according to a tease from a reliable source.

As well as the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro (or whatever they launch as) we might also get a OnePlus 8 Lite, as just such a phone has also now leaked.

OnePlus 8 Lite leak

The render above shows how it might look, with the source (@OnLeaks - a reliable leaker) saying it's likely to have a 6.4 or 6.5-inch screen.

That would make it smaller than the OnePlus 7T range, but not necessarily smaller than the rest of the OnePlus 8 range if other leaks are accurate.

It's also apparently 8.6mm thick, putting it between the OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 7T Pro on that front, and it's shown as having two rear cameras and a punch-hole camera on the front. It's unknown what all the specs are, but this could be the cheapest OnePlus phone in a while.

Meanwhile, one huge early leak suggests the OnePlus 8 Pro will have a 6.7-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, and the OnePlus 8 and 8 Lite will each have a 6.44-inch screen with 90Hz refresh rate. Each of them is set to have a Super AMOLED display.

This 120Hz refresh rate could be slightly better than the one on the Samsung Galaxy S20, as another leak suggests it will work whatever resolution you're viewing the screen in.

Another source has also leaked full specs for the range, and they don't quite line up with the big leak above. This source claims the OnePlus 8 will have a 6.55-inch FHD+ screen, the OnePlus 8 Pro will have a 6.5-inch FHD+ one, and the OnePlus 8 Lite will have a 6.4-inch one (with no resolution listed).

They're all said to be AMOLED and all but the Pro apparently have 90Hz refresh rates, with the OnePlus 8 Pro having a 120Hz one, as previously rumored. We'd take this leak with a pinch of salt though, as it's unlikely the OnePlus 8 Pro would have just a FHD+ screen.

OnePlus 8 camera

The biggest OnePlus 8 leak yet suggests that the standard model will have 48MP, 16MP and 2MP sensors on the back, while the OnePlus 8 Pro will have two 48MP ones, an 8MP one, and a 5MP one, and both phones will have a 16MP one on the front - that last claim is something we've now heard multiple times.

The camera specs for the standard OnePlus 8 have been echoed in another recent leak which added more detail, saying to expect a 48MP f/1.8 main camera, a 16MP ultra-wide one, and a 2MP macro one.

An earlier leak meanwhile suggested the OnePlus 8 Pro will include a fourth rear camera, introducing a Time of Flight depth sensor to the trio of main, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses, which are still vertically aligned in the center.

We've also previously heard that the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro will come with 60MP cameras, joined by a 16MP on each, then a 13MP on the Pro and 12MP on the base device. That leak didn't mention what lenses they have, though.

We've also heard that the OnePlus 8 Lite could have 48MP, 16MP and 12MP rear lenses, and that the front-facing cameras could be 32MP on the OnePlus 8 and Pro, but 16MP on the Lite.

So there's some disagreement on camera specs. Whatever lenses it has though, the OnePlus 8 Pro looks set to have four of them based on images, including the leak of an alleged case which you can see below. 

OnePlus 8 leak

The fact that the OnePlus 8 Lite could have three rear cameras may seem surprising since it's the budget version of the devices, but the device was actually spotted in the wild with three cameras on the back. Therefore, the OnePlus 8 Lite could end up being a lot less 'Lite' than we expected, with camera specs to rival loads of other mid-range devices.

OnePlus 8 battery life

The biggest OnePlus 8 leak suggests that the OnePlus 8 Pro will have a 4,510mAh battery with 30W wired and wireless charging and 3W reverse wireless charging, and the standard model will have a 4,300mAh battery with 30W charging but no wireless charging.

The battery specs for the standard OnePlus 8 have also been echoed in another leak.

However, previous leaks suggest the OnePlus 8 Pro will have a 4,500mAh battery, and the others will have 4,000mAh power packs. Those are all decent sizes for smartphones, and will likely see you through a day of use.

One of the leaks adds that the Pro model will have 50W charging, while the others have 30W.

Another leak also suggests wireless charging will be included on the next-gen version of the phone. That would be a surprise if OnePlus did opt to include the tech on the next version of the phone as it hasn't done so in the past, but a leak from a trusted source suggests that may be about to change.

OnePlus 8 specs and features

First up, we know that these will be 5G phones, as OnePlus has confirmed as much, saying that it will be launching a “full series of 5G devices”. That follows a previous claim from the company that it was going "all in on 5G."

We've also heard many times that the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro will use the top-end Snapdragon 865 chipset.

Then, it looks like the OnePlus 8 Lite will have a MediaTek Dimensity 1000 processor, a chipset that won't have the same speeds as the Snapdragon. It will hopefully be good enough for everyday use, but if snappy speeds are important for you, then maybe the Lite isn't right.

We've also now seen benchmarks backing up the possibility of a Snapdragon 865 chipset. However, the benchmarks also list just 8GB of RAM for one of the models - though we're not clear whether this is the OnePlus 8 or OnePlus 8 Pro, and it's possible there will be multiple configurations, especially as another benchmark lists 12GB for one of the phones.

Clearing things up slightly is one of the specs leaks, which points to 8GB or 12GB in the OnePlus 8 Pro, 6GB, 8GB or 12GB in the OnePlus 8, and 8GB in the OnePlus 8 Lite. The leak adds that there's apparently a choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage in all three models.

Elsewhere we've heard similar, with a source pointing to 8GB or 12GB of RAM in both the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, coupled with 128GB or 256GB of storage.

OnePlus 8 / 8 Pro: What we want to see 1. Improved cameras

The OnePlus 7 Pro introduced a third ultrawide lens, like many other smartphones released in 2019, and it was good: the extra range makes the phone’s photo suite more versatile. But it can be better.

Specifically, we’d love an improved Nightscape, the company’s night mode - and yes, it’s wholly because the iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4 raised the bar again this year. Clarity, color vibrancy, and general brightness are being achieved to astonishing degrees, and we’d love to see Nightscape catch up.

So long as we’re asking, we’d also like a few of the modes that come standard in other phones. The new Macro Mode introduced in the OnePlus 7T is neat, but we’d also like standbys such as panorama and slo-mo. Heck, we’d even love slofies.

2. Wireless charging

True, wireless charging still isn’t speedy, but it remains a convenient addition to any phone. Slapping your phone down on one of the best wireless chargers is more convenient than having to plug it in and yank it out every time you need to check something. 

And while it’s not exactly a killer feature, the “reverse wireless charging” capability to lend some of your handset’s capacity to another device is handy (in theory, anyway.)

3. Face unlock

While fingerprint sensing is important, it’s nice not to have to perch your finger in a certain place every time you want to check something quickly on your phone. Given Android 10 enables Face Unlock, it would be great to have the feature in addition to (and not in replacement of, like in the Pixel 4) the fingerprint scanner.

4. 5G in the base OnePlus 8 model

While both generations of OnePlus phones in 2019 had a 5G version - the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and the rarer OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition - they were both the highest-specced Pro models of the phones. While certainly more affordable than other 5G phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, they were notably pricier compared to the base OnePlus models. 

We'd love to see the 5G revolution come to the masses in what will assuredly be a lower-cost yet high-specced setup that OnePlus is known for. While most 5G phones have been marketed as premium devices, the Moto Z3 and Moto Z4 have still delivered respectable (though not record-breaking) speeds with the 5G Moto Mod; if we could internalize that in the base OnePlus 8, it would go a long way toward bringing 5G to folks who don't want to spend top dollar.

5. A 3.5mm headphone jack

We might sound like a broken record here, but we love the 3.5mm jack in all phones and were sad to see it go with the OnePlus 6T.  While most of the industry has done away with it, we still yearn for the day when we can plug our nice headphones into our phones.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 08:04
Lewis Leong,Olivia Tambini

We've selected the best turntables of 2020 and we're happy to report that they're worlds apart from the dusty old record players you might find tucked away in your attic. 

Now you can get your hands on the best record players that are well-equipped with mod-cons like built-in Bluetooth connectivity and USB outputs, which allow you to record your LPs straight onto your computer. What that means is you can listen to your vinyls anywhere. 

With these additions, smart features and updated designs, the best turntables in the world today are thoroughly modern devices. This means that if you're a music lover who can't get enough of the warm sound of vinyl, one of the best turntables is essential for your home audio set-up. 

Because the vogue for vinyl is still well and truly in full swing, sales of turntables have been growing steadily worldwide since 2012 – and there's never been a better time to invest in a new record player. 

It's time to blow the cobwebs off your old record collection and get ready to spin your favorite tunes with the best turntables of 2020. 

What's the best turntable?

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB


The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is a great introductory turntable for any budding vinyl enthusiast.

Out of the box, it features the ability to play 33 ⅓, 45 and 78 RPM, which means there will never be an album you can’t play. There’s also a built-in phono preamp so you never have to worry about finding one on your own. 

New record collectors will love the easy setup and features while more vetted users will love the option to dial in the vertical tracking angle, tracking force and easily replaceable headshell. Sure, it looks like a Technics SL-1200 ripoff but at a fraction of the price, it’s entirely worth it. 

The AT-LP120-USB also comes with a USB output that allows you to record your record collection if you want. To put it simply, this deck strikes the perfect balance of ease of use for beginners while still including some more advanced features for you to grow into.

Audio-Technica AT-LP60


If you don't want to spend a fortune on the best turntable in the world and you're not worried about squeezing every last drop of fidelity from your LPs, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is a perfect starting point.

It’s portable, can play most vinyl and is by far the most inexpensive turntable we have on this list. It’s also totally automatic, meaning it’ll queue a record and return the arm to resting position without requiring a manual lever. 

The only caveat with a turntable this cheap is that it won’t grow with you as your vinyl collection expands. The built-in phono preamp means you’re stuck with it, however you can replace the needle once it wears out.

While there are cheaper, poorly engineered turntables on the market, it’s not worth it, as you risk damaging your precious records with poorly aligned and improperly weighted tonearms. Vinyl is expensive so we recommend the AT-LP60 for beginners just looking to get started. 

Make sure you check out our hands-on Audio-Technica AT-LP5x turntable review, too – it's another great starter record player from the Japanese company.

Denon DP-300F


The Denon DP-300F is a gorgeous turntable that sounds just as good as it looks. The included DSN-85 cartridge isn’t the most accurate but it nevertheless manages to make your music sound airy and reasonably detailed, especially for it’s price.You’ll need  to spend a lot more cash to hear more detail.

While the DP-300F lacks the USB outputs of some of the turntables listed here, it’s still a great starting turntable for anyone who doesn’t want to manually queue their albums or have a habit of falling asleep while listening to music. The Denon’s automatic start/stop feature means your needle won’t be worn down at the end of the record as the arm immediately returns when an album is done. 

Build quality is decent for an all-plastic turntable, but its buttons feel cheap – a minor problem but shouldn't be a deal-breaker for you. If the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB doesn’t fit your aesthetic, consider the Denon DP-300F instead.

Read the full review: Denon DP-300F review

best turntables

Fluance RT81


The Fluance RT81 is an excellent starter turntable for the enthusiast. It’s simple to set up and use for newbies but you can switch out the cartridge to squeeze out more performance later on. Newbies also won’t have to worry about getting a separate phono preamp, as one is built in. However, you can turn it off if you want to use a better external preamp. 

The only downside is that Fluance’s advertised “auto-off” feature simply turns off the platter, preventing excessive needle wear but you’ll still have to return the arm to its resting place yourself. You’ll also have to manually queue records, which isn’t a deal breaker by any means but is something to consider for those looking for a fully automatic turntable. The Denon DP-300F is a great choice for those looking for a fully automated record listening experience. 

Read the full review: Fluance RT81 review

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon


From here on out things start to get a little bit more ‘real’: The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is in the runnings to be the best entry-level hi-fi turntables you can buy. 

While vinyl newcomers may cringe at the price, the Debut Carbon is really an incredible bargain. For the money, you get an very well made deck that’s damped properly for fantastic sound quality. The carbon fiber tonearm is lightweight and stiff, and is usually reserved for turntables costing much more.

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is for the budding enthusiast that’s committed to the record collecting hobby and because of that commitment, it doesn’t feature niceties like an auto-returning tonearm, buttons for changing speed or an included phono preamp. Newbies may be turned off by the manual changing of the belt position to change speeds and the lack of an included preamp. However, if you want to extract more detail and resolution from your records than the cheaper options on this list, or if you want to get started on the path of being a true vinyl collector, the Debut Carbon is probably your best bet.

Like the Pro-Ject Debut III, but want a subtler look? Check out the Crosley C10, which features a chic wooden-look plinth combined with a Pro-Ject tonearm.

Read the full review: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon review

Rega Planar 1


There’s a lot of debate whether the Rega Planar 1 or the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the best entry-level Hi-Fi turntable. It’s a close match and there are no clear winners, each providing an excellent starting place for audiophiles on a budget. 

While the Rega may lack the fancy carbon tone arm of the Pro-Ject, the Planar 1 still sounds excellent and is well damped with its phenolic resin platter. And for newbies, the Rega Planar 1 is still easy to setup, though you’ll have to provide your own phono preamp. 

Ultimately, the Rega Planar 1 just sounds so good that it’s hard to fault it too much. Vocals are revealing and you can hear the texture from instruments like the violin. The included Rega Carbon cartridge isn’t anything special but manages to be a great match for the turntable. It’s a tough choice between the Planar 1 and the Debut Carbon but you can’t go wrong with either.

Marantz TT-15S1


The Marantz TT-15S1 costs a serious bit of change, but you’re actually getting a killer bargain. The Clearaudio Virtuoso included with the turntable is $1000 when purchased separately. Additionally, you get a killer tonearm and gorgeous turntable at a price that’s definitely an investment, but not unreasonable. 

So what does the Marantz TT-15S1 get you over the competition? Attention to detail. Just about every part of the turntable has been poured over to be the best it can be for the price. The fit and finish are excellent and it’s a pleasure to handle the high-quality components. This is a turntable you’ll find yourself admiring its visual and audible qualities. 

Newbies should not get this turntable as it requires more knowledge to set up properly than the entry-level turntables on this list. But if you’re ready to take your record collecting and listening to the next level, the Marantz TT-15S1 is the perfect place to start.

Read the full review: Marantz TT-15S1 review

Clearaudio Concept


If the Clearaudio Concept and Marantz TT-15S1 seem familiar, that’s because the Marantz was built by Clearaudio to Marantz’s specifications. This means everything about the excellent build quality of the Marantz carries over to the Clearaudio Concept (i.e. this is a turntable that is as gorgeous as it sounds). 

One small but notable difference between the Marantz and the Clearaudio is the ability to play 78 rpm records. While most people will never come across 78s, it’s nice to know that the Clearaudio Concept is capable of playing them. The Concept also has a handy speed dial on the plinth, meaning you don’t have to swap the belt position manually.

As for negatives, the Clearaudio Concept has no notable flaws. Yes, it’s expensive but you’re still getting a bargain in this price range. The included Clearaudio Concept moving-coil cartridge costs $1,000 by itself. Yep! 

Read the review: Clearaudio Concept review

Sony PS-HX500


The Sony PS-HX500 is a great entry-level turntable for those just getting started with record collecting. Its standout feature is its ability to record Hi-Res audio from its USB output in 96kHz/24bit resolution. This is an excellent feature for those looking to digitize their records. 

In terms of sound quality, the Sony PS-HX500 sound spacious and provides good detail. However, the included needle sounds a bit harsh and sibilant at times and lacks the resolution of more expensive cartridges. 

While some may like the minimalist design of the Sony, it’s utterly forgettable and its plastic build leaves a lot to be desired. Handling the turntable on a daily basis leaves us wanting more premium materials that don’t rattle. 

Cambridge Audio Alva TT turntable


$1700 / £1500 (around AU$2750) for a record player is expensive no matter the brand, and it’s Cambridge’s most expensive-ever turntable by a mile. But it’s uniquely specified, and intends to deliver all the many and various advantages of the vinyl format with very few of the compromises. 

The fact it’s able to stream wirelessly to a 24bit/48kHz aptX HD standard makes it number one in a field of one. No other record player from any better-established brand in this sort of market - Rega, for instance, or Clearaudio - is able to come close to this level of convenience.

Read the review: Cambridge Audio Alva TT review

Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT


With a budget-friendly price, easy assembly, and the convenience of wireless playback, the AT-LP60XBT could make a fantastic first turntable for any fledgling vinyl enthusiast. 

While the plinth does feel somewhat insubstantial, and the sound might not be detailed enough for some, it's brilliant price more than makes up for that – and the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity makes the AT-LP6XBT feel like very good value for money. 

Audio-Technica is known for producing high quality cartridges, and the one used on this turntable is no exception; the ATN3600L conical stylus fits perfectly into the grooves of the record and reveals details in songs you may have never noticed before – in short, it makes your music an absolute joy to listen to. 

Read the review: Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT turntable review

Technics SL 1500c

Meet the budget-friendly Technics SL-1500C that will only set you back £899 / $999 / AU$2499. It's still not the most affordable turntable on the market, but it's first the reborn Technics has so far delivered really remind listeners of what they loved about the brand in the first place.

Sound-staging is impressive, with recordings given plenty of elbow-room for individual instruments to make their presence felt. There’s depth and height to the Technics’ stage, as well as width, but despite all this breathing-room there’s no lack of unity to the sound the SL-1500C delivers.

Read the review: Technics SL-1500C Turntable review

What makes a good turntable?

One downside of the renewed interested in turntables with all their modern trappings and tricky naming conventions, is that navigating the market for the best record players can be pretty confusing – but stick with us and we’ll help you find the best turntable for you.

To start, we'll walk you through all the little details that go into choosing the best record player for your listening needs and budget. Do you want to go on the high end with a belt drive? Or how about a more user-friendly direct drive turntable or a Bluetooth-enabled model? What about phono preamps? Do you need one? 

All of these questions will be answered right here, so before you know it, those dusty old records will be spinning once more on your brand new turntable.

On of the most vital components to look for when you’re shopping for the best record player for you, is how well damped it is. 

Damping is essentially the method by which manufacturers combat vibrations – whether internal or external. They do this through the use of different motor configurations, and through the use of various components. 

Most of the time, belt-driven turntables are going to be a lot quieter and offer higher fidelity than their direct drive brethren, as direct drive turntables have a motor that is directly connected to the platter. However, there are some great direct drive turntables out there, so don’t write them off quite yet. 

Your own personal needs are important too, though, so don’t forget about them. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t need to be fooling around with a complex turntable with an adjustable vertical tracking angle, anti-skate and azimuth. You may even want a turntable that connects to your speaker wirelessly over Bluetooth. Do you want to rip your vinyl to your digital library? If so, look for a turntable with a USB output and reliable software to get the job done.

Best turntables 2020 at a glance
  1. Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB
  2. Audio-Technica AT-LP60
  3. Denon DP-300F
  4. Fluance RT81
  5. Pro-ject Debut Carbon
  6. Rega Planar 1
  7. Marantz TT-15S1
  8. Clearaudio Concept
  9. Sony PS-HX500
  10. Cambridge Audio Alva TT turntable
  11. Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT
  12. Techics SL 1500c

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