15 Great Apps for that iPad Under the Tree: iStocking Stuffers, 2011 Edition

12/23/11Follow @soonishpodcast

The iPad 2 won’t be the only tablet turning up as a holiday gift this year: it’s finally got some real competition in the form of the more affordable Kindle Fire. But let’s face it: you don’t buy (or give someone) a Kindle Fire because of the apps. The device is designed primarily as a portal to Amazon’s digital content, including books, music, and movies.

The iPad 2, on the other hand, continues to be the ideal tablet for app lovers, and the iTunes App Store still boasts the largest collection, by far, of apps optimized for the tablet form factor.

Last holiday season, I brought you a list of 10 paid apps to consider as gifts for new iPad owners. I decided to make it a tradition this year, so I’ve come up with 15 new recommended apps, most of them published within the last year. To make my list, an app has to be absorbing and well-designed, and must make especially good use of the iPad’s multimedia capabilities and touch-driven interface.

If you know someone who’s going to need to load up their iPad with apps starting December 26, you can get them an iTunes gift card, or pre-pay for specific apps using the “Gift This App” option in the iTunes App Store. (You’ll find it under the down arrow next to the “Buy App” button.)

A note for current or future iPhone owners: several of the apps in my list are also available for the iPhone, including Fahrenheit, all of the Fotopedia apps, Naturespace, Our Choice, Scrabble, Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP, and Wunderlist.

1. Da Vinci HD — Overdamped, $0.99 — A bare-bones but inexpensive app for browsing more than 100 paintings, studies, and notebooks by the original Renaissance Man. Overdamped publishes similiar apps collecting the works of nearly 70 other artists, from Cassatt to Velazquez.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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