10 Apps That Shine on the iPad 2

iMovieIn addition to being faster and thinner, the iPad 2 includes a gyroscope, and not one but two cameras. With this in mind, we looked for apps that leverage these improvements. The obvious ones are Apple's own Photo Booth and FaceTime (both built-in) as well as GarageBand ($4.99, app2.me/3798) and iMovie ($4.99, app2.me/2551). This article focuses on third-party apps that you might want to take a look at.

Apps designed for the iPad

This first group of apps were developed specifically for the iPad 2 or upgraded from previous versions to take advantage of the iPad's features. If available, iPhone/iPod touch versions are mentioned.

Theodolite HD

$3.99, iPad: app2.me/3793; iPhone/iPod touch: app2.me/3254; Free version: app2.me/3252

TheodoliteHDTheodolite is probably the most full-featured augmented reality app available for iOS devices, and the recently released iPad 2 version leverages both the camera and the gyroscope. The app is much more than a compass; it also provides GPS coordinates, maps, zoom camera, rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer functions. GPS capability requires a 3G version (AT&T or Verizon) of the iPad 2.

Jenga HD

$0.99, iPad: app2.me/3557; iPhone/iPod touch: app2.me/3451


Steve Jobs used Jenga to demonstrate the iPhone 4's gyroscope feature, and now there's an HD version for the iPad 2. Rotate your iPad in 360 degrees to remove the pieces without making the tower fall. You can even get a bird's eye view by holding the iPad flat.

Bill Atkinson PhotoCard

$4.99, app2.me/3794; Free "Lite" version: app2.me/3795


Apple fans should recognize Bill Atkinson as the man behind HyperCard, MacPaint, and other Mac programs. More recently, Atkinson has become an iOS app developer, offering an elegant app and service called PhotoCard. The combo lets you create real, hardcopy postcards. These can be customized, printed, stamped, and mailed from the service using credits you purchase within the app. You can customize the postcards with Bill's beautiful pictures or use the camera in your iPad 2 to provide your own photos. If you don't want to send a physical postcard, you can e-mail virtual postcards for free, complete with your own audio recording.


$1.99, app2.me/3265


This simple app is a great way to demonstrate simulated 3D "holograms" to your friends—without 3D glasses. For example, one of these lets you view and interact with a virtual fish tank, which includes a submerged photo frame with your own photo! Tip your iPad and the accelerometer changes your viewing angle. The app has 13 interactive holograms, including 4 games. Thanks to frequent updates, HoloToy keeps getting better. For example, the latest version includes support for traditional red and blue 3D glasses. The app can even perform face tracking, where the view changes as the angle of your face changes, using the front-mounted camera on an iPhone 4. Here's hoping that this feature will make its way to the iPad 2.

PhotoSpeak: 3D Talking Photo

$2.99, app2.me/3796


PhotoSpeak transforms portrait photos into moving 3D avatars that repeat your spoken words. It's fortunate that the iPad 2 has a faster CPU because the app requires a lot of processor power. In addition, the iPad 2's cameras allow you to take portrait photos instead of having to import them. Unfortunately, the interface is not very intuitive. For example, it wasn't obvious how to start and stop audio recordings or how to add costumes, hair, hats, etc. But once you've figured out the UI, you can create your own animated photos and share them with friends via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

You Gotta See This

$1.99, app2.me/3581

You Gotta See This!

You Gotta See This lives up to its name… it's much easier to understand if you see it in action. The app creates a collage of images you take by activating the app and sweeping the camera around in 3-dimensional space. More than a panoramic photo, the app creates a "panography" where multiple photos are shown as you rotate your iDevice. It's a cool effect that needs to be seen to fully appreciate.


Free, app2.me/3389; in-app purchase of language packs


WordLens translates text from Spanish to English and vice versa in real-time. Simply launch the app and point your camera at a sign you can't understand; an Internet connection is not required. The app digitally removes the text and replaces it with the equivalent in your language of choice. The free app only demos its capability by reversing or erasing the text. To activate the translation capabilities, you have to purchase language packs from within the app for $9.99 each. At this time, only two packs were available: Spanish to English and English to Spanish. An iPhone is easier to carry around and has a better camera, but the large screen of the iPad 2 makes it easier to view the translated text, especially if multiple people are looking at the app.

Star Walk for iPad

$4.99 iPad app2.me/2550; $2.99 iPhone/iPod touch app2.me/171


If you have even a passing interest in astronomy, you should download this app. Star Walk lets you point your iOS device at the sky and identify the stars, constellations, and satellites you're looking at in real time. The most recent update of this awesome and awe-inspiring app supports the iPad 2's gyroscope. Imagine holding the iPad up to the stars and identifying constellations and more! Arthur C. Clarke said that any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic—Star Walk is a prime example of that!

iPhone/iPod touch apps

The following two apps are available in iPhone/iPod touch versions, but work well on the new iPad 2. I hope the developers release iPad specific versions soon.

Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner

$2.99, iPhone/iPod touch: app2.me/3792; in-app purchase of game upgrades


Falcon Gunner superimposes space battles on your earthly surroundings and lets you control the action by rotating your iPad 2. At press time, only an iPhone/iPod touch version was available, but the app works fine with the iPad 2's forward facing camera. The game includes more than 20 levels of arcade action based on the Millennium Falcon's exploits in the movie. You can chase down TIE fighters, Star Destroyers, and more using the iPad's big screen in the 2X viewing mode. A plethora of in-app purchases are available. Dedicated Star Wars fans will want to add this to their arsenal, as will fans of augmented reality and shoot-em-up games.


$9.99, iPhone/iPod touch: app2.me/3797


CollabraCam is billed as "the world's first multi-camera video production app with live editing and director to camera communication." The app lets you use up to four camera-equipped iOS devices to create a multi-camera video in real-time! The video is limited to 640x480 maximum, but this could be just the ticket for Web videos. You can leverage many professional features, such as sending cues (pan, track, tilt, etc.) to camera operators, placing cameras in standby, and more. It's almost like having a TV studio in your pocket! CollabraCam is currently designed for the iPhone 3GS & 4 or the iPod touch gen 3 & 4, but it does work with the iPad 2's camera. The developers have told me an iPad version is awaiting approval and should be available by the time you read this. Even with the current version in 2X mode, the iPad 2's extra screen real estate will make the video editing and directing even easier.

Still room for improvement

The iPad has just about caught up with its little brothers, in terms of functionality. Apps are emerging that take advantage of the newest features such as the camera and gyroscope! Aside from photography apps, I hope we start to see apps that perform head tracking and allow you to interact with the iPad almost like the Microsoft Kinect device. Finally, there is still room for improvement in a future iPad 3. When the iPad has a Retina display and a 5-megapixel (or better) camera, we could really see the iPad as a content creation device, running apps in high definition.

Push your iPad to the limit!
July-August 2011
iOS Devices
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