iMore's authoritative guide to the very best, absolutely free apps and games for iPad
Looking for great free apps and games for your iPad? The App Store is home to over half a million apps and games, and a surprising number of them are available for free. That's free as in free of charge to buy, free of subscriptions to use, and free of any crippling or time-bombing to make you pay later. They're just free. But which free apps are the best? Which are the top free apps you just absolutely have to download right now?
That's where iMore comes in! Here's your ultimate, authoritative guide to the top, 100% free iPad apps for social networking, IM and communications, education, entertainment, finance, fun and games, health and fitness, kids, music, navigation and location, news, photography, productivity, reading, shopping, sports, travel, and general utility.
Whether you're new to iPad and looking for a fast, free way to get started with apps, or you're just bored and looking for a little free fun, check out the apps and games below. And hey, since they're free, you can download them all!
Best free social networking apps for iPad
Facebook is the most popular social network on the planet, and it's always been one of the most popular free apps on the iPad. Inside the free Facebook app, you can update your status, view photos, and check into your location. You can also keep up with your news feed, messages, events, pages, chat, as well as upload your photos and videos, and much, much more. (And if you're looking for more friends, check out our Facebook name swap thread!)
The free, official Twitter app for iPad is the best way to get started finding cool celebrities and interesting internet personalities to follow, and trending topics to get involved with. (And be sure to check out our Twitter name swap thread to find other iMore members to tweet with!)
With the LinkedIn app for iPad, you will have on-the-go access to your professional network. You can keep up with the latest news and keep up with your groups and share content.
Best free IM and communications apps for iPad
The free Skype app for iPad lets you make free audio and video calls and exchange text chats from your iPad to other iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users, as well as Android, Mac, Windows, and millions more Skype users around the world. You can also buy Skype credits to call conventional phone numbers at really low prices.
IM+ from Shape Services gives you free access to Facebook, Google Talk, WLM, AIM, ICQ, and more right on your iPad. It also includes free Mobile to mobile Beep service, and works as a free alternative to SMS. Group chats, message history, multimedia messages and more are also included.
imo instant messenger
imo is another great, free iPad app for those who love traditional instant messaging (IM). imo supports Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Skype, MSN, ICQ/AIM, Yahoo, Jabber, Hyves, VKontakte, Myspace, and Steam. You can send text, images, and voice as well.
Best free educational apps for iPad
The free iTunes U app for iPad gives you access to courses from universities and schools. These courses are completely free and even include assignments. iTunes U and the instructors provide course materials, including audio, video, books, documents & presentations, apps, and books. iTunes U includes over 500,000 free lectures, videos, books, and other resources on thousands of subjects from Algebra to Zoology.
Khan Academy is one of the best products of education and the internet, and with the Khan Academy app for the iPad, you will have free access to over 2700 videos on topics ranging from kindergarten, advanced science, humanities, history, and more. Even more, you can download the videos to watch offline, keep up with what the teach is saying with organized captions, and earn achievements as you learn.
With school comes lots of studying. One of the most common studying techniques is to use flashcards. With the free Flashcards+ app for iPad, you can say goodbye to the stacks and stacks of flashcards that accumulate over the course of a semester and use electronic flashcards on your iPad instead.
Best free entertainment apps for iPad
While apps like Netflix are free, you still have to pay for a subscription to actually use them. Not so with Crackle! The free Crackle app for iPad lets you watch hours and hours of Hollywood movies, from Resident Evil to A Few Good Men, and TV Shows from I Dream of Jennie to the Tick, absolutely free. And it supports AirPlay so you can watch on your big screen TV.
IMDB's free iPad app means you're always only a few taps away from the latest show times, trailers, movie and TV rations, and cast and episode lists. It's the perfect couch-side companion for any serious entertainment buff, and the perfect mobile app for cinema buffs!
The free TED app for iPad blurs the lines between education and entertainment, showcasing riveting talks from experts in the fields of technology, entertainment, and design. With the TED app, you can browse their complete catalog of talks, bookmark and download your favorites, and share individual talks and playlists with your friends. It's like holding genius in the palm of your hand. For free.
Best free financial apps for iPad
Bloomberg for iPad is a great way for casual traders and investors to interact with their stocks and stay up to date with world news. Whether you need to casually monitor stocks on your iPad or just find the urge to check out financial news, the free Bloomberg app has you covered -- for free!
The free Mint.com for iPad app gives everything you love about the web site on the go and in the palm of your hand. You can track, manage, and budget your money, connect your bank, credit, and other financial accounts, and safely, securely keep it with you wherever you are. It also syncs with the Mint.com website so you're always up-to-date.
Checkbook HD Free
If connecting your checking account to a third party service isn't your style, Checkbook HD Free lets you use your iPad as a checkbook registrar and more. You can also track your spending on credit cards, savings accounts, cash on hand, or any other account types you may have. While you track your spending, Checkbook HD will create pie and bar charts and reports about your spending and where your money is going.
Best free games for iPad
Angry Birds HD Free
The free Angry Birds app lets you play one of the most popular games in the world right on your iPad -- for free. Yes, it is supported by adds, but you'll be too busy catapulting birds and destroying pigs to even notice them!
Draw Something Free
Draw Something is a sensation and you can play it on your iPad for free with Draw Something Free. In Draw Something, you have a partner and you take turns drawing pictures with the goal of getting each other to guess the correct word. Just like Angry Birds Free, Draw something Free is supported by ads.
Hero Academy is a great turn-based free iPad game where you and a friend (or random partner) take turns moving and attacking each other with various army pieces on a checked board. You have a set number of action points with which to move your pieces, bring in fresh ones from your stash, upgrade your pieces, and, of course, attack. The main goal is to either whittle down a few crystals on your opponent's side of the board, or run them out of troops.
Best free health and fitness apps for iPad
One of the biggest aspects of living a healthy life is to eat healthy food, and with the help of Epicurious Recipes and Shopping List for iPad, you shouldn't have a problem conjuring up healthy choices. This gorgeous recipe app is packed with recipes and regularly updates with new ones.
WebMD is a reputable and accurate online source for medical facts and advice, and with the free WebMD iPad app you'll have complete access to mobile-optimized health information and decision-support tools including WebMD’s Symptom Checker, Drugs & Treatments, First Aid Information and Local Health Listings.
MyFitnessPal is is free, the MyFitnessPal account is free, and if you’re dedicated enough to stick with them, the positive effects they can have on your health are priceless. Keep track of what you eat, how much you are working out, etc. If you’re looking to take better control of your weight or your fitness, get MyFitnessPal and get one step closer to a healthier lifestyle.
Best free kids apps for iPad
PBS KIDS Video
The free PBS KIDS Video app brings all your child's favorite shows right to your iPad. Curious George, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Dinosaur Train, SUPER WHY!, Sesame Street and Wild Kratts and are all here and ready to entertain and educate.
Squiggles! is a very fun interactive drawing iPad app for kids. Each drawing page asks the child to add squiggles to the picture to make cars drive, give nests to birds, create cotton candy, add water for fish to swim in, etc. When the child is done adding their squiggles and other additions to the picture, they press "GO" to watch it come to life. It's very fun and actually amazing that this app is free.
Best free music apps for iPad
How many times have you been listening to the radio, or attending a party, or watching TV when you hear a song that you like but have no idea what the name of the song is or even who the artist is? With the free Shazam app for iPad, all have to do is let your mic listen to the song for about 30 seconds, and Shazam will tell you exactly which song it is!
Don't have much music stored on your iPad? Don't fret! With the free Slacker Radio iPad app you can stream radio to your iPad for free. The Slacker music library features millions of songs from thousands of artists and you can customize your own radio stations with your favorite artists and songs. In addition to music, you can also listen to ESPN Radio, ABC News, comedy and more.
The free TuneIn Radio app for iPad gives you on-the-go access to over 50,000 radio stations worldwide. From the local station where you may live now to the far away station where you may have grown up or simply visited and always remembered, TuneIn radio has over 120,000 free shows for you to choose from, right on your iPad.
Best free navigation and location apps for iPad
Waze social GPS & traffic
The free Waze app for iPad uses Open Street Map data, which means you're contributing to building a map as you drive, and you also get to view the things added by others. The crowd-sourced nature of Waze lets users share information about traffic jams, accidents, speed traps, and other pertinent data. It includes standard turn-by-turn navigation, but the accuracy can vary depending on the quality of the maps in your area.
The free Google Earth app for iPad lets you, literally, hold the world in your lap. Spin the globe, fly over Antarctica, zoom through Tokyo, or simply check out your own back hard. Google Earth beautifully melds satellite and aerial mapping and imagery to give you just a glimpse of how Superman might feel.
You iPad is equipped with a compass, yet Apple chose not to include the Compass app that can be found on the iPhone. Compass++ HD is a free app that will fill that void. It features a huge beautiful compass in the middle of the screen with the digital degree vales for true north and magnetic north. Compass++ also has 5 different themes that you can swipe through.
Best free news apps for iPad
The free Flipboard for iPad app shows you the news that matters to you, along with recommendations from your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram friends. That makes it a dynamic, up-to-date, but highly personalized magazine, right in the palm of your hand! It's also makes it easy to share the stuff you like most back with your friends and social circles.
Pulse News, from Alphonso Labs is an awesome free newsreader for iPad that brings all your news together into one place. With Pulse News, you choose the categories you want to display and the specific content for each section. For example, you might want to add a Gaming, Sports, News, Tech, Science, Art and Design any number of additional categories.
The free AP Mobile app brings the Associated Press right to your iPad. With comprehensive, timely coverage of local and global news it's not like having a newspaper or TV station in the palm of your hands -- it's like having their news sources. Plus, if you find yourself in the middle of the news, you can even send the AP your tip!
Best free photo apps for iPad
The iPad is an awesome device for editing photos, so if you're looking for a fantastic app that lets you make impressive edits -- for free -- look no further than PhotoToaster Jr for iPad. PhotoToaster Jr allows to choose from 14 different effects and different white balance presets, and add vignetting and frames. All of the filters and effects also allow you to fine tune them to your liking by adjusting saturation, sharpness, color filters, cross processing, and more.
There are a lot of collage apps in the App Store, but what's great about Pic Stitch is that it's free! With Pic Stitch for iPad, you can create beautiful collages that tell a story in just a few taps. It features 32 different layouts and after you've finished your masterpiece, you can share it to your favorite social network or another photography app.
Best free productivity apps for iPad
With the free Adobe Reader app, you can have all your PDFs stored right on your iPad. What's more, you aren't limited to just viewing PDFs, but you can annotated them with text, handwriting, strikethroughs, highlights, and more. You can also fill out forms and add your signature.
Evernote isn't just a great free note-taking app for iPad. It's a great free note-taking app on almost every platform. That means no matter where you are, or what device you have access to, your notes are always there for you. You can also add pictures and search for text in the images, add voice notes, and easily share what you've collected.
The free Dropbox for iPad app gives you access to all your files stored in your Dropbox account (free up to 2GB). You can mark items as favorites to store them locally on your iPad for offline viewing, save photos and videos to your Dropbox account, and easily share them with family, friends and colleagues.
Best free reading apps for iPad
iBooks is Apple's free ebook and PDF reading app for iPad. It's a stylish way to read not only books purchased from the iBookstore, but all the free books from the massive Project Gutenberg library as well as any of your own ePub or PDF files.
Readability offers a gorgeous way to read articles from your favorite website without the distraction of ads and other fluff -- for free! You simply set up your free account and add articles with a bookmarklet . A lot of other apps, like Twitter, offer Readability support so that you can add articles directly from those apps.
The free Kindle App for iPad is Amazon's ebook reader. Unlike Apple's iBooks, Kindle is cross-platform. If you already have a large Kindle book collection, free or otherwise, or you just want to keep your options open for the future, Kindle is a great choice.
More free reading apps
Best free shopping apps for iPad
Catalogue by TheFind
Say goodbye to the giant pile of catalogs on your coffee table and pick up Catalogue by TheFind for iPad to meet all your department store shopping needs. You will find all the top catalogs for men, women, kids, beauty, toys, home retailers, and more. Catalogue features a simple, clean interface makes shopping easier than ever!
When you're not shopping catalogs and department stores, you probably head to eBay to search for the items you need. With the free eBay for iPad app, you can browse, buy, and pay for items on the popular auction service.
Who doesn't love a good deal? With Guilt for iPad, you can find sales for up to 60% off on today's best labels. You can shop for anything and everything -- and fast. Shopping has never been so fun and easy. And since you're getting such great deals, you can push those feelings of guilt aside when shopping with Gilt!
Best free sports apps for iPad
ScoreCenter XL is a free iPad app by ESPN that brings you the latest scores, standings, and news for dozens of sports and hundreds of teams around the world. If you have a free myESPN account, you get automatic access to all your favorites. If you don't, you can choose baseball, basketball, cricket, football, hockey, rugby and soccer teams to follow right on your iPad.
MLB.com At Bat
Although it has premium options, the free or “lite” version of MLB at Bat for iPad still gives you access to lots of great content. You can watch the scoreboard during every game, see news and highlights from recent games, buy tickets to upcoming games and check in around the league for other scores and highlights. While diehard baseball fans will want to buy the full app, the Lite version is great for casual fans on the go.
NBA Game Time Courtside
NBA Game Time is sort of like MLB.com At Bat – but for basketball. During games, you can follow the game practically play by play – seeing who is on the court at every moment and then seeing the scoring plays displayed on the iPad. You can also check the scores around the league, watch video highlights, check the standings, look at the schedule for every team and get information on each arena.
Best free travel apps for iPad
If you're searching for a place to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, the free Yelp for iPad app will provide you with a map or list of exactly what you're looking for. Each location is also filled with reviews by users who have been to that place before. When you decide on a place and have finished your visit, you can leave a review of your own for other users to read when in the same predicament that you were in.
The free TripIt app for iPad, when paired with a free TripIt account, becomes your virtual travel assistant. Simply email any flight or hotel confirmations to TripIt and they'll automagically get logged and displayed on your iPad, along with helpful maps and additional information to make your travel safer and easier.
While there are a lot of language courses and travel references available for the iPad, the free Google Translate app lets you find the right phrase, in the right language, right when you need it. Text translation is available in 64 languages and voice translation in 17. Yup, you can talk instead of type! Fantastique! Hen hao!
Best free utilities for iPad
Find my iPhone
The free Find my iPhone app by Apple will help you locate your iPad in the unfortunate event that you misplace it or it gets stolen. You can track your iPad from another iOS device or from the iCloud website. You can also send a message and alert to your iPad to help you find it or to provide contact information in the even that someone found your iPad. If you're concerned about the security of your data, you can remotely lock your iPad or even wipe it with the free Find my iPhone app.
Nightstand Central for iPad Free
Obviously your iPad knows how to tell time, yet Apple didn't include a dedicated clock app on the iPad like they did the iPhone. No worries, though, with Nightstand Central for iPad Free, you can use your iPad as an alarm clock each morning. It has a beautiful UI, plays a slideshow in the background, and includes current weather information.
The Weather Channel
Here's yet another app that Apple left off the iPad -- Weather! The Weather Channel app is a great replacement. It features interactive maps and radar, severe weather alerts, and hourly and 10 day forecasts. You can also watch videos of breaking news and weather coverage and upload and view photos of the weather taken by other users. And you get all of this for free!
Your favorite free iPad apps?
Did we miss any of your favorite free iPad apps? If so, head on over to our iPad apps and games forum and add yours to the favorite free iPad apps list! We'll be updating this post often, so your pick could be next!