Home iPad’s Top Apps and Early Trends

iPad’s Top Apps and Early Trends

What applications are the earliest testers of the Apple iPad trying out? Even though the “official” launch day for the new slate touchscreen computer isn’t until tomorrow, April 3rd, several journalists and even somecelebrities have already got their hands on one. And what are the top applications for folks like this? There are the usual suspects, of course: The Wall St. Journal, iBooks, Netflix (yes, it was true!), USA Today, ABC Player, NYT Editors’ Choice, NPR and others. But all these apps are free, big-name brands and precisely the sorts of things the iPad was designed for. What’s more interesting is a glance at the paid applications list for the iPad.

iPad’s Top Apps the Day Before Launch

Yesterday, iPad applications became available in the iTunes App Store. They appeared in searches for terms like “XL” and “HD” – the new acronyms developers are using to denote which of their mobile apps have been reconfigured for the slate’s larger screen. And although very few people actually have their iPad yet, a number of iPad apps have been downloaded, either by the early testers themselves or by those who are preparing their collection for tomorrow’s first-time sync.

In the free applications list, there are few surprises. From one to ten, the top free apps are: iBooks, Netflix, ABC Player, USA Today, The Wall St. Journal, NYT Editors’ Choice, NPR for iPad, Twitterific for iPad, eBay for iPad and Shazam for iPad.

Early Trend: iPad is Used for More than Media Consumption

However, the paid applications list hints at two early trends that may bode well for the device’s future and one that may not.

First, the good news. The iPad, despite its consumer appeal, is already making headway as a productivity application.  Half of the top paid applications are either categorized as “productivity” or “reference.” These include the individual apps of Apple’s own office suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote), as well as the note-taking app Bento and the reference app World Atlas HD.

Another early trend is games on the iPad. Four of the top paid applications are entertainment-based offerings including Scrabble for iPad, Plants vs. Zombies HD, Flight Control HD and SketchBook Pro. As with the iPhone and iPod Touch, it’s clear people are willing to pay to have a little fun.

iPad Games: Are Prices Too High?

That’s where the worrisome part may come in…at least for iPad owners: the prices. Apparently “XL” means super-size the price too. PocketGamer took an early look at the prices for announced iPad games and found that, although 99 cents remained the most popular price point, 55% of iPad games were priced $2.99 or higher (including the 1% that charges a monthly subscription). And 30% were $4.99 or more, making the average price of an iPad game $3.52. 

They then compared these prices to same versions of the games on the iPhone and found that, ignoring “universal” apps, developers were typically charging $1-$2 more for the iPad version of their game.

This trend holds up in the current top 10 list, too. Scrabble for the iPhone, for example, is $2.99. Scrabble for the iPad is $9.99. The same goes for Plants vs. Zombies. But besides having to redesign the apps for the larger screen, what exactly is it about them that makes them worth more?

It could be just a case of developers needing to recoup their investments. The true user base of the iPad is still unknown, although analysts predict anywhere from a million to six by quarter’s end. If the iPad becomes as widely popular as the iPhone, prices could come down a bit as the market becomes more competitive.

Game developers also have to wrestle with their pricing plan for their various versions. Do they sell the iPhone version separately from the iPad one or do they combine them both into a “universal” app? (Universal apps are apps you buy once and sync to any device, iPod, iPhone or iPad. The correct version of the app will be automatically copied over to whichever device you have plugged into your computer at the time of syncing).

Of course, keep in mind that none of these early trends, from pricing to app popularity, indicate the iPad marketplace’s permanent course. It’s far too early to determine that at this point. (Perhaps “trend” isn’t even the right word here). But these are interesting indications of how people are starting to use the iPad, what apps they deem “must-have” and what prices they’re willing to pay. The next few months should definitely be interesting to watch.

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