These are the 10 best iPad apps of the past decade
Following the iPad's 10th birthday, we look back at the apps that have made Apple's tablet a hit with people of all ages.
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
It's now been more than 10 years since former
CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad. The move firmly pushed
into the mainstream gadget conversation while leading many to ask, "What the heck is this giant iPod touch?" (Oh 2010, you sweet summer child.) In a review of the first-gen iPad that year, CNET's Donald Bell described the device as "an elegant, affordable supergadget." One of the main draws was how easy it was to access and navigate the apps on the 9.7-inch screen.
Jobs said the iPad would define "an entirely new category of devices that will connect people with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before." He wasn't wrong: 10 years later, the
portability, user-friendly interface and variety of apps have made it a favorite device in many homes, classrooms and offices. We use it for web surfing, reading, drawing, binge watching and sometimes even working.
Looking back on that first announcement (and how much we made fun of the name iPad), you can see the evolution of our expectations for the iPad and its apps. It briefly looked like the iPad would be the next frontier for magazines, with its large, high-resolution screen and interactive capabilities. That never came to fruition, but Apple is still betting on the format with Apple News Plus, a service for accessing top magazines and newspapers in one place for one monthly subscription fee.
The iPad also held a lot of potential for mobile games and -- unlike the expectations for magazines -- that promise was fulfilled. Many of the most popular iPad apps today are games, and the Apple Arcade mobile game service now has more than 130 games you can download and play on the iPad and other Apple devices.
We selected 25 apps that have turned the iPad into a useful tool for entertainment, reading, working and playing. Here are the top 10 -- check out the rest in our full gallery of the best iPad apps of all time.
The release of the first-gen iPad coincided with the expansion of Netflix's movie and TV streaming service. The Netflix app on iPad allowed us to take our favorite shows with us everywhere we went, on a much larger screen than the
-- truly a game changer that helped push us into the streaming era. This became especially useful for parents, who can now hand an iPad to their kid to watch family-friendly Netflix shows in any room of the house, on road trips and in other places where a little bit of distraction could go a long way.
brought its desktop-standard photo editing to the iPad to use on the go. With a combination of free and premium features, Lightroom helps even professional photographers get important photo work done. With the advent of iPadOS, a recent update even lets you directly import photos into Lightroom from a memory card.
Flipboard is a curation tool that uses a combination of editors and algorithms to deliver news, videos and podcasts tailored to your interests. Founded in 2010, Flipboard was one of the first apps to take advantage of the iPad's magazine-like layout. In the iPad app today, you can create Smart Magazines that bundle together articles and sources around your specific interests, like photography, technology or recipes.
4. Amazon Kindle
The Amazon Kindle app for iPad helped open up the world of
, as it allowed people to purchase e-books on Amazon and read them on the iPad, instead of on a Kindle. You can't buy books directly from the app on your iPad, but the Kindle books you buy from Amazon (including Amazon.com from your web browser on the iPad) will automatically appear in the Kindle app.
An Apple Editor's Choice winner, Procreate is an art app made for the iPad and the
, featuring ultra-high definition canvases, hundreds of virtual brushes, and many design and animation tools. It's used by creative professionals, hobbyists and aspiring artists, who can import or export art as Adobe Photoshop files or in virtually any other format they'd like. Professionals who use the app view the combination of iPad, Apple Pencil and Procreate as a big upgrade to the digital tools of the past. (Check out our list of 10 Procreate app tips for budding iPad artists, too.)
6. Star Walk
Winner of the Apple Design Award back in 2010, Star Walk is a detailed astronomy app that allows real-time tracking of the night
and its stars, constellations, planets and more. The iPad app showed the benefits and potential of the device's large, portable screen. When you launch the app and point your tablet at the night sky, you'll see a labeled map of stars, planets, satellites and constellations from your location.
Another Apple Editor's Choice award winner, Notability is a comprehensive note taking app that lets you combine typed or handwritten notes and drawings with audio recordings -- taking advantage of the iPad's capabilities as a digital notepad. For an extra cost, it will even convert your handwritten notes to text.
8. Duet Display
Duet Display is an app that turns your iPad into a second monitor for your laptop, desktop or phone. Designed by former Apple engineers, the app can turn your tablet into a productivity tool, with full gesture support and customizable shortcuts. It also creates a Touch Bar on your tablet. The app works completely via software, so no cables or dongles are needed -- and promises zero lag time.
It's another old standby, but the YouTube app for iPad helped further the tablet's reputation as a mobile content consumption platform. YouTube was one of the default apps on the iPad until
6, when it moved to the App Store after Apple and YouTube parent company
license to include it in iOS expired. Almost a decade later, it remains one of the most popular apps for the iPad -- and along with other streaming video apps such as Disney Plus and CBS All Access, it makes the iPad a powerful mobile TV. (Editors' note: CNET is owned by ViacomCBS, which also owns CBS All Access.)
The most popular video-editing app for iOS, LumaFusion proved that iPads can be great not just for watching videos, but for making them. The app is a multitrack video editor used by professional video producers, filmmakers and journalists. It has six video and audio tracks for photos, videos, audio, titles and graphics. It also lets you add and layer effects and color corrections -- all from your iPad.