20-app showdown: iPhone vs. iPad

Everyone knows that the iPad's screen is bigger, but does size necessarily give you better apps? We take a look at 20 popular cross-device apps to show you how they differ.

A few weeks back we put together some screenshots of games on the iPhone versus their iPad iterations . It was a resounding hit with the exception of our execution, which was to shoehorn the lovely, full-size comparisons into a little under 600-pixel-width screens. To make amends for this, we're giving it another go. But this time we're taking a look at some popular non-game applications, as well as bringing it to you in pixel-for-pixel goodness.

You'll find that not all of the apps on this list are necessarily better than their pocket counterparts. In fact, in a few cases they look or function a little worse. There are, however, quite a few that offer a dramatically different experience than what's available for smaller screens. Read on to see what we dug up.

Editor's note: To see the full-size version of each screen, you just need to click on it. Hitting the back button in your browser will bring you right back to the story. You can also click through these in slideshow form by hitting the link just below this text.


1. Evernote (free, universal)
Evernote is an office favorite and one of the few note-taking and archiving apps that's a free download on just about every platform under the sun. As you can see, the difference in the amount of notes you're able to see is quite dramatic. Not shown are the extra options you get when creating a note, including being able to record audio as you type, as well as actually see what you're typing since the keyboard doesn't get in the way as much.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

2. Box.net (free, universal)
We got a preview of the Box.net iPad app ahead of its launch. The obvious benefit (as seen below) is that you can see the source list of a folder alongside its content. When held sideways, this list stays on screen--that is, unless you want to hide it. As mentioned in an earlier look, the iPad version is miles ahead of its pocket-size sibling in ease of reading and skipping around but is currently missing a way to upload files to your account. Both versions are also missing a way to store files locally--something we've been told is coming.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

3. eBay (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
For skimming things like item descriptions and checking out the close-ups of a used gadget you want to buy, the iPad version of eBay is far more efficient. It's also got a neat way to narrow down how much you want to pay for items in the search results by selection a portion of a timeline--just as if you were editing a movie clip in QuickTime or on the iPhone 3GS. Sadly missing from the iPad version, however, are push notifications. This means you won't be able to get a quick heads up if you've been outbid on an item. You're also unable to view other items from a seller, which can be a good way to tell if you're barking up the wrong tree on what you think is a one-of-a-kind piece.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

4. Soundhound (free, universal)
Midomi's Soundhound (formerly known simply as "music identifier") is an app that can ID whatever music is playing in just a few seconds. Fortunately, it has made a graceful transition to a larger screen.

Just like the iPhone and iPod Touch version of the app, it can be set to start listening to a song right when you launch it. The big difference is that the app automatically begins showing you the most popular songs that have been tagged on the service, as well as tagged items that aren't getting radio air time. Both of these lists can be expanded and sit on top of a ticker of the most recently tagged songs by users.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

5. Shazam (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
Like Midomi, Shazam is a music identification service. On the iPad, all the UI has been pushed from the bottom to the sides where you can now hop around the various features by tab. The core identifier, however, remains unchanged.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

6. Pandora Radio (free, universal)
Pandora is one of the more dramatic face lifts in this group. Like Apple's rejiggering of the iPod app to more closely resemble the company's iTunes jukebox software, iPad users can now do other things within the Pandora app while the music is playing--all without losing access to the player controls. Other niceties include being able to see the album art of the last few songs that have played and start a search no matter what part of the app you're using.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

7. Google (free, universal)
The voice-powered search app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is not all that much different for the pocket-size version, except for the fact that iPad users are getting the "full" version of Google's search results. While the mobile version can do Web, image, local, and news searches, the iPad version tacks on shopping, blogs, books, and translate (just to name a few). While the two apps may not be all that different right now, we wouldn't expect it to stay that way for long.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

8. Wolfram Alpha ($1.99, universal)
Wolfram Alpha is now a much more affordable app than when it first came on the market. Those with an elephant's memory will remember that when it first became available on the App Store, it cost $49.99. It was later dropped down to $19.99, then returned back to $49.99 At the beginning of April, the company dropped the price to $1.99 for good, as well as giving everyone who bought it a refund.

On the iPad, the Wolfram Alpha app shines. This is the case not only for the results, which often contain large, colorful charts but also for the enormous, three story keyboard that stretches out like a cat waking up from a nap. On the iPhone you need to scroll through three different sub menus to view all the keys, whereas on the iPad it's all there for you--all at once.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

9. Kayak (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
Kayak's travel search is essentially the same as the iPhone app, but its menus have been snapped together in a four-up display. Surprisingly, this ends up working rather well. One thing iPad users do miss out on though, is the neat pop up effect the iPhone/iPod version has when jumping around the various search features. On the other hand, when browsing through the business end of Kayak, which is filtering through search results, the iPad version blows it out of the water. There, you can see close to three times the number of flights as well as what airlines you want to pick from--all on the same screen.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10. WordPress (free, universal)
WordPress is another app that like Google's may not be all that impressive with a screenshot, but it really is when you think about what you're supposed to do with it. Penning a blog post on the iPhone never really felt like it was designed to be a normal task. If anything, it felt more like an app that was set up to let people manage comments and make small changes while on the go. On the iPad, however, it has the larger area to work with and larger landscape keyboard lends itself more easily to crafting a full post. That said, it's a long way from being as easy to use as WordPress' own Web interface, which works fairly well in Safari as long as you don't want to add images or media.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11. Air Video (free, $2.99, universal)
Media-viewing apps looking better on the iPad is a bit of a no-brainer, and in the case of Air Video this rings true. The two apps are almost identical in appearance in functionality. The big change in the case of the iPad version is that you can see a preview of what the videos look like alongside the source list. The app can also be set to transcode your media content to the larger screen.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

12. Amazon Kindle (free, universal)
Amazon's Kindle app is an alternative to Apple's iBooks service and lets users access books they've purchased off Amazon's Kindle store onto the iPad. The differences between the iPhone version and the iPad version are night and day. Yes, both have the same features, but the amount of page you can see on the iPad version is (obviously) much larger. Though one shortcoming that remains in both applications is that the app will jettison you out to Safari to go browse and purchase new titles for it, which can be a bit jarring.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

13. Tweetdeck (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
Tweetdeck is popular Twitter browsing and posting software. This is one of the few apps on this list that's actually more desirable on the iPhone for reasons of performance. In our testing, we were able to get new tweets and search results to load faster on the iPhone version of TweetDeck, long before they loaded up on the iPad.

The one obvious benefit of the iPad is that you can turn it sideways and get three columns in view at once. The only bummer there is that the iPad's optional dock accessory puts the device in portrait mode, so you wouldn't be able to leave it in this position on your desk without propping it up some other way.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

14. Twitterrific (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
Twitterrific is another application for Twitter. Its iPad version is simply super-size and adds a very large and simple options panel that drops down from the top of the screen, or sits in sight when your device is in landscape mode.

The really odd thing about Twitterrific for the iPad is that it doesn't end up giving you that many more tweets to see, even though you've got extra pixels for days. This certainly makes tweets easier to read from a few feet away, but it involves what feels like quite a bit more scrolling on your part to work your way down the timeline. It's also missing any way to change the size of the text in tweets, which is something you can do on the pocket-size version.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

15. USA Today (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
USA Today has always had a very good looking iPhone app, and the publication's iPad app follows suit. What's really neat about the iPad version is that it goes out of its way to emulate the look of a real newspaper, complete with a feathered edge on top of the screen and a textured page grip on the side of the page. These, along with the zooming animations of articles, opening up go a long way to make the experience feel more organic.

One of the areas where USA Today's iPad app really shines is in its "day in pictures" feature, which is a compilation of news photography. On the iPhone, this feature works well enough, but on the iPad you can read captions without them overlapping onto the photos, as well as scroll your finger through a timeline viewer at the bottom of the screen to change photos.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

16. New York Times (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
First things first, it's probably a little unfair to compare the two different iPhone and iPad apps from The New York Times, but we're going to do it anyway. The main reason not to is that the one on the iPhone is the full version of the publication, whereas the current iPad iteration is a selection of articles that have been picked by NYT editors. Still, a quick comparison to the front page section of both apps is filled with the same stories.

On the iPad version you get a very similar experience to what can be found in USA Today's, with an off-white background and aesthetically pleasing column widths. The one area where the iPhone version actually outshines the iPad version is in how you can then share an article you're reading. On the iPad you've got e-mail, whereas on the iPhone version you can send it to Twitter and Facebook, or to someone's phone by text message (even if you're on an iPod Touch).

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

17. LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99, universal)
LogMeIn Ignition for the iPad easily tops our list as the most dramatically better experience than what can be had on the iPhone or iPod Touch. Don't get us wrong, accessing your computer's desktop while out and about on an iPhone is just awesome, but it doesn't come close to using it on a display that's four times larger.

As far as functionality goes, using it on the two devices is the same (it is, after all a "universal" application), though we noticed that it was easier to mouse around the page and not cover up what you were trying to click on when using the iPad. And on the iPad version, it's a bit easier to "throw" the mouse in any given direction using a quick swipe. This makes it easy to get around if you're connecting to a machine with a considerably large resolution.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

18. Zagat To Go ($9.99, universal)
Zagat's food, drink, hotel, and shopping ratings app has made a very slick transition to the larger screen. The most obvious way to show this off is to head to the map view, which is given more than two-thirds of the screen. The use of the map in the iPad version more closely resembles Google Maps, so instead of clicking the back and forth button like you do on the iPhone, you can simply click on a Zagat pin to see what restaurant it is. Here again, the app makes use of the extra screen real estate and will give you a quick breakdown of what it is without leaving the map mode.

One really nice thing about the iPhone and iPod Touch version (which the iPad version does not yet have) is a way to download Zagat's ratings database for offline use. This stores a locally cached version of the ratings onto the device, so you don't have to worry about tracking down a data signal when you want to do a search. Since Zagat's app requires an Internet connection to pull up results, it's more likely to be useful with users who pick up the version of the iPad with the 3G hardware on board. We've been told the offline functionality will be brought to the iPad in the next big update.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

19. Epicurious Recipes and Shopping List (free, universal)
You probably shouldn't put an iPad near a pot of boiling water, but people have been doing it with their laptops and cell phones for years. Epicurious' universal app seems like it was meant to be used on the iPad, and between the two screens below, you'll probably agree.

The one edge the app has when being used on a smaller device is that it fits more easily in your pocket, which can be useful when taking advantage of the app's shopping list feature. But if you're in the kitchen and cooking something, using this app in landscape mode (not pictured) puts the ingredients side-by-side with the instructions--something that makes a recipe easy to hop back to if you prop up the iPad on something.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

20. The Weather Channel (free: iPad version, iPhone version)
Apple did not include its pretty, Yahoo-powered weather app on the iPad, which means you've got to go elsewhere to find out whether to bring an umbrella or a pair of sunglasses when leaving the house. The difference between the two apps is remarkable. While the iPhone version takes a tabbed approach, you can quite clearly see the current weather, a 36-hour forecast, six days of a 10-day forecast, and live radar all on one screen. The iPad version is even animated.

The iPad version is also packing something the iPhone and iPod Touch version isn't, which is a list of official Twitter feeds from The Weather Channel and its anchors, which you can view right within the app. You could quite easily create your own list like this and do it in a Twitter app like the aforementioned TweetDeck or Twitterrific, but it's a nice thing to have in this case.

Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Any big ones we missed? Leave them in the comments.

 

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