The apps that keep the iPad at the top of everyone's Christmas list

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The iPad is hugely successful. But will this be its last Christmas on top? David Phelan has a sneak preview of the latest apps and assesses the wonder gadget's future.

When it comes to tablet PCs, there's still only one name that matters: iPad. It's just topped a Nielsen poll as the most desired Christmas present.

And however many rivals are launched, they just can't make a dent in Apple's ownership of the market. Some competitors are terrific - the best was HP's TouchPad but that flopped so badly it was deleted within weeks of going on sale. And classy Android machines like Sony's beautiful Tablet S still can't get decent traction.

Not least this is because they're all about the same price as the iPad. Faced with Apple's smart machine with an unparalleled range of apps, astonishing interface and classy build quality and another similarly priced machine, why wouldn't you opt for the iPad?

But things may be about to change, now that Amazon has released its Kindle Fire tablet for just $199, less than half the cheapest iPad, though early reviews have been mixed. A UK date seems certain for early next year. Like the iPad, it has a massive range of content, from music to books to video. All easily bought from Amazon's store, as simply as stuff can be snagged via iTunes for the iPad. In the meantime, rival ebook reader maker Kobo hasstolen a march on Amazon by releasing its similar-looking Kobo Vox.

So what can keep Apple on top? This week I had an early view of a range of apps which Apple hopes will do the trick. First there were games. The word edutainment is not only ugly, it has associations with tiresome educational software barely enlivened by tedious but cute animation. But Apple seems to have turned it into genuine fun. Take The Numberlys, a new game from the makers of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore (£2.99), a sweet diversion with animation that wouldn't look out of place on the big screen. The Numberlys is set in a dystopian world where there are no letters, only digits… until five friends protest. Players must fashion 26 letters from digits with each puzzle involving a degree of ingenuity. It's out soon. There's no reason why Android shouldn't have games as good as this. But it doesn't.

Partly that's because of Apple's quality control - a system with its detractors but which more or less guarantees you won't be wasting your money on a title that performs badly. Android still feels like the Wild West, and it really shouldn't by now.

There are other kids' titles like Cars 2 AppMATes for littl'uns where you can buy a model vehicle from the movie Cars 2 and push it around on the screen. The iPad knows it's there and reacts accordingly. Some of the cars even have cunning mirrors inside them so light from the iPad is reflected into the model cars so the headlights light up. It's the first in a new way of using the tablet, with extra cars or add-ons possible. The app is free, but cars are bought separately for £12.95 each.

Older kids will appreciate A Charlie Brown Christmas which matches authentically styled animation with strong interaction. When Charlie Brown's friends are noodling around on their musical instruments, the player must learn a simple tune to play on the keyboard. The reward is an instant concert playing a familiar Charlie Brown theme. Nostalgic but fun, though not as cheap as some apps: £4.99. Other nostalgic games include Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk - Dizzy is an animated egg who starred in several video games in the late 80s. The iPad game, priced £2.49, is simple and charming, even if not quite perfectly adapted to a touch interface.

The inventive developer Smule builds on its success with Ocarina and Magic Piano with another noise-based app, MadPad HD, £1.99. You sample real sounds (car noises, breakfast sounds) with accompanying video and build a repertoire of “notes” which you can combine to make lovely tunes. Good fun and tests your imagination and musicality. 

The latest iPad has a lot of games for older players such as the popular Real Racing 2 HD. Similarly impressive is a new flying game called Sky Gamblers (69p), with some of the most advanced graphics yet seen, and which gleam on the 9.7in display, down to the superb water effects and reflectiondetail. The game will play on the first iPad, but the graphics are enhanced on the newer machine thanks to its faster processor and graphics oomph.

More serious ways to show off with your tablet include Solar Walk, £1.99, a sumptuous view of the planets around Earth which lets you spin planets, and zoom out so far you feel totally, utterly insignificant. Don't spend time with it when you're feeling gloomy.

And later this month, Boxing Day to be precise, Apple launches its regular annual crowd-pleaser, The iTunes 12 Days of Christmas.From 26 December to 6 January, Apple releases a free item each day, including videos, apps and music tracks. It's definitely worth signing up for.

As always, the iPad delights because it is constantly new, its capabilities changing as innovative apps are released that add to the machine's potential. Google does this with Android tablets when it releases a new feature on its own apps like Google Goggles, say. But Apple's skill is to have created a software environment where developers feel empowered to devise immersive, exciting experiences, so third-party apps are often as impressive as Apple's own. And the iPad hardware is inviting, handsome and pleasurable to use in a way that rival products have yet to match. Next year, perhaps Android and BlackBerry will have closed the gap, but for now the iPad still leads the field.

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

    SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power