Most-used iPad apps

With more than 100,000 available apps for the iPad, it's hard not to feel like I'm missing out on something cool. But before I seek out intriguing hidden gems, I want to make sure I've got the basics covered.

So I was glad to see the question "What are the three apps you use most frequently on your iPad?" included in the Reynolds Journalism Institute's spring 2011 iPad survey. What's used more often is more interesting data than how many times something's been downloaded (and possibly languishing unopened).

After Safari and Mail, the top-mentioned apps in the survey were the New York Times (I suspect the paywall may have put a dent in those numbers), USA Today and AP News. (See the full results below).

The Associated Press news app had enough poor ratings in the App Store that I hadn't downloaded it before. However, I reconsidered after seeing it show up as the third-most-used news app and added it to my tablet today.

Content-wise, I was disappointed to see this afternoon's top home page video was a story dissecting Kate Middleton's tastes in fashion ("News"? Really?). And the app did crash a couple of times upon first loading. Overall, though, the content seems worth a few design quirks, such as floating/rearranging headline boxes that can be a little annoying when first tapping a category (but they do settle down after a couple of seconds).

You can customize the app to add local news and weather as well as videos and photos to various sections, and change section views from "top stories" to "most recent."

Sharing is surprisingly well hidden, requiring you to tap and swipe to the right to see the menu allowing email, Facebook, Twitter and saving options. It's not really clear what the saving option does -- keep the story from scrolling off the screen when new ones come along? I didn't see a special area where saved stories might be accessed. You can also rate stories, although I'm not sure what the ratings accomplish.

Overall, this app could stand improvement in design and UI, but the content nevertheless makes it a worthwhile download.

The USA Today app is more visually appealing, as you'd expect from the people who helped pioneer colorful graphics in daily papers. I'm not a huge fan of USA Today content in general (although they do some very nice Census graphics and analysis), but it's easy enough to skim headlines in order to find what if anything I want to read in full. And, unlike the AP app, USA Today makes it clear how to share a story by email, Twitter, Facebook or by copying the link. I wouldn't consider this a must-download, but if you like multiple news sources or an easy-on-the-eye headline scan, it's worth a look.

The New York Times app, like the print version, is functional and serious. There are several dozen sections to choose from. I tend to use this one every day that I fire up my iPad. While the app is free, a subscription is required for access to "unlimited" stories.

Besides the Times, my go-to news apps have been Reuters and BBC. The Reuters app's general news content isn't nearly as robust as AP's; this is more for major stories and following business news. The stocks portion of the app lets you store your own list of stocks making it easy to track companies you own or otherwise follow.

The BBC news app is a well-designed way to follow important international news as well as stories from North America. It includes some BBC video snippets as well as access to listen to live BBC radio. If you're at all interested in a non-U.S. perspective on news, I'd highly recommend this one.

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Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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Most-used iPad apps

App Responses %All Rank
Safari 119 21% 1
Mail 110 20% 2
New York Times 71 13% 3
USA Today 55 10% 4
AP News 45 8% 5
Weather Central 44 8% 6
Flipboard 40 7% 7
Wall Street Journal 38 7% 8
NEWS* 37 7% 9
Kindle eReader 36 6% 10
The Daily 34 6% 11
Facebook 33 6% 12
CNN 32 6% 13
iBooks 30 5% 14
Twitter 29 5% 15
Netflix 24 4% 16
NPR 23 4% 17
BBC News 22 4% 18
WEATHER* 22 4% 18
Pulse News 21 4% 19
Angry Birds 20 4% 20
Reuters 20 4% 20
GAMES* 20 4% 20
ABC News 19 3% 21
Pages 19 3% 21
Huffington Post 17 3% 22
Washington Post 17 3% 22
Evernote 16 3% 23
Calendar 15 3% 23
GOOGLE* 15 3% 23
MSN 15 3% 23
FINANCE* 15 3% 23
Fluent News Reader 14 2% 24
GoodReader 14 2% 24
CNBC 12 2% 25
Pandora 12 2% 25
APP STORE* 11 2% 26
Instapaper 11 2% 26
Financial Times 10 2% 27
GPS* 10 2% 27
PressReader 10 2% 27
Scrabble 10 2% 27
Weather Bug 10 2% 27
Atomic Web Browser 9 2% 28
BOOKS* 9 2% 28
CBS News 9 2% 28
Zite 9 2% 28
AccuWeather 7 1% 29
AMAZON* 7 1% 29
Keynote 7 1% 29
Newsy 7 1% 29
Zineo 7 1% 29
Fox News 6 1% 30
Ongo 5 1% 31
Bloomberg 4 1% 32
Numbers 4 1% 32
eBay 3 1% 33
ESPN* 3 1% 33
B&N Nook eReader 3 1% 33
* General categories or not specifically apps

Source: Reynolds Journalism Institute Spring 2011 iPad survey

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