On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... an iPad app? Why not? The ease of gifting iPad apps to friends and family makes giving an iPad app for Christmas a great idea if you know someone who is addicted to their iPad. Sure, there may be a lot more useful gifts you could give... like a sweater. Or some socks. But is that going to go over as well as a really cool iPad app?
And while ordinarily I like to place a premium on free apps when they can compete in quality against their paid opposition, this list is entirely made up of apps that will cost you a bit of money, though none of these apps are going to break the bank. After all, you don't want to look cheap at Christmas, do you?
We'll start the list with some gifts that help people get into the spirit of the season. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic, so it is easy to designate this one as a great digital stocking stuffer. This eBook can be read like a traditional book, listened to like a book-on-tape or 'played', allowing the app to read and turn the pages itself.
This neat app turns Charlie Brown's classic Christmas tale into an interactive experience, combining the book with neat interactive mini-games that let you play the piano, finger paint with the Charlie Brown gang and take part in other activities.
Moving beyond the Christmas apps, we get to a series of apps that can be useful twelve months out of the year. Garage Band made its debut on tablets with the iPad 2 and is one of the best music apps for the iPad. With it, you can play keyboards, drums, guitars and other instruments. And the best part is that you don't have to be a musical genius. Instead, you can play with smart instruments that do the hard part for you. Nothing says "Frosty the Snowman" like playing the song on your iPad!
The Christmas season is also the season for looking at Christmas lights, but those aren't the only lights shining at night. Star Walk for iPad uses the iPad 2's camera to create an augmented reality, allowing you to point the iPad up into the night sky and have the different stars and constellations pointed out to you. This is a great way to learn more about the stars.
Christmas is also the season for family and friends, and what says that better than an app aimed directly at social networking? MyPad+ may be the cheapest app on this list, but if you know someone that is addicted to Facebook and/or Twitter, it may also be the best app for them. MyPad+ is the paid version of the popular (and free) MyPad.
Does that special someone lack the 3G version of the iPad? Instapaper is a great app that will save web pages to the device, allowing them to be read later -- even without a connection to the Internet. The app also allows for adjusting font sizes, line spacing and allows up to 500 articles to be downloaded and saved.
If Microsoft's Bing is the "decision engine" of search engines, WolframAlpha is the problem-solving engine. WolframAlpha is programmed with thousands of algorithms and formulas to help solve a variety of problems from algebra, geometry and calculus to probability, statistics, thermodynamics, nuclear physics, chemical thermodynamics, aeronautics, psychrometrics, astrophysics, geochronology... I think you get the picture. If that special someone is a math or science nut, WolframAlpha is a great choice in apps.
Don't worry, I didn't forget app gifts for that special gamer in your life. While most of the apps on this list are simply great apps, the games making this list are the best new games to debut in the last couple of months. And starting off the list is perhaps the funniest game on the iPad: The Bard's Tale. Based on the 2004 PS2/Xbox game, The Bard's Tale is an action RPG with a sense of humor.
Minecraft has taken on a life of its own, and it has finally come to the mobile world in the form of a universal app compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad. Minecraft Pocket Edition gives you the same ability to create anything you can imagine only now you can take it with you when you leave the home.
Epoch is a nice surprise from a new developer, hopefully ushering in a new line of top tier games for those who have been spending less time on their Xbox 360 and more time in front of their iPad. Epoch is a cover shooter, which means you don't just hang out waiting to get shot, instead choosing to run from cover to cover while you try to take down the bad guys. Combining stunning visuals with a nice story and frenzied shooter action, Epoch is definitely one of the best new games for the iPad.
You may not have ever heard of Epoch, but you've no doubt heard of Batman. In Batman Arkham City Lockdown, the inmates have found a way to get out and it'll be up to you to take them down. This sequel to Batman: Arkham City puts a focus on one-to-one combat and will put you up against some of the most famous villains in the franchise.
If that special someone loves role-playing games, you'll not doubt think I've save the best for last. Infinity Blade is one of the signature apps for the iPad, with its visuals used in the iPad commercials to display how good an iPad game can look. And Infinity Blade II keeps with this tradition, being both a gorgeous game and a great sequel.