May 20, 2010, 1:32 PM — Our look at iPad apps that deserve a place on your device started out with the best apps money can buy--11 essential iPad offerings that are among our favorite additions to the App Store. But you don't always have to part with a lot of dough to equip your iPad with great mobile software. As with life, sometimes the best things in the App Store can be had for free.
In this second installment of our Essential Apps countdown, we turn the spotlight on nine great iPad programs that won't cost you a dime to download. As with the paid apps, we looked across a wide variety of categories--entertainment, social networking, productivity, the works--for a diverse sampling of apps that we feel deliver an experience that's unique to the iPad.
So enjoy our list, bargain hunters. And don't worry, gamers--your time is coming.
Your favorite ABC programs are never more than a tap away with ABC Player, a free app from ABC Digital ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) that streams the network's TV programs to your iPad on demand with limited commercial interruption. Wi-Fi video image quality is as impressive as the laughs on Modern Family. The recently added ability to stream shows via a 3G connection leads to some lower quality video--compression artifacts are more visible in action sequences like in Lost, though hardly noticeable in close-ups. You won't find every episode of every show, but Featured and Scheduled views makes it pretty easy to find your favorites. Whether you missed the latest Dancing With the Stars or you want a mobile view of The View, this is a great app for keeping up with your must-watch TV shows.--James Galbraith
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