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Have you ever considered the possibility of tablets replacing smartphones? It really isn’t too far-fetched of an idea when given some thought. Smartphones keep getting bigger and faster, and infused with greater functionality, while tablets have better battery life, are getting smaller, and you can make calls with them using voice over internet protocol (VOIP).

Of course, no one wants to hold an iPad up to their ear for a phone conversation, but with wireless bluetooth ear pieces, remote control capable ear phones, and increasingly more accurate voice command technology, you don’t have to. Although, I’m sure it would garner a chuckle or two in a Starbucks.

While it’s certainly a compelling argument, smartphones are still the dominant piece of technology when it comes to making calls  and texting even though it looks like they’re slowly evolving into tablets. Until the final metamorphosis takes place, let’s take a look at some of the best iPad apps of 2012. Here are my favorite picks thus far:

1.  The first app I open every day is Flipboard, a brilliant digital magazine that you can customize to match your reading preferences. You can also stream your facebook and twitter feeds directly to it, so you can skip logging into those sites until you’re ready to post pictures of your baby sucking on a lemon, or the debauchery you got into the night before. While Flipboard can boast a sharp and colorful design, Zite is a similar app that is gaining popularity because of an intuitive feature that allows it to learn what you like to read. The more you use it, the better it gets.  If you own an iPad and you’re not using either of these apps, you may as well be reading stone tablets.

2.  Ever since I got my iPad, I have downloaded a plethora of free apps looking for the easiest and smoothest one to sketch with, so trust me when I tell you that Paper by Fifty Three is by far the closest thing to actual pen and paper you’re going to find. Watch the short demo and you’ll be making phenomenal sketches in no time. Those with an art background may prefer more dynamic applications like SketchBookX or SketchBook Pro ($1.99) for professional drawings, but for the rest of us who just want to doodle, Paper’s sharp minimalist style and easy functions make it a hard app to pass up. It comes equipped with a pen and eraser, but you have to pay $1.99 to unlock other tools. The watercolor brush is entirely worth it.

4.  I’m sure everyone has played Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds by now, so I won’t go into either of those. The next best action game has to be Agent Dash. Agent Dash is similar to the Indiana Jones-like Temple Run, where you navigate an endless obstacle course collecting treasure, but as Agent Dash, you get to use your government-issued peace maker. Watch out 007! You should watch out too because this one’s hard to put down. For those of you who prefer a slower, more strategic experience, I think you’ll really enjoy Cut the Rope HD. It starts out easy, but gets increasingly more difficult to feed that cute little monster (Nom nom nom).

5.  Besides it’s intuitive touch screen and beautiful retina display, the iPad’s functionality is also what makes it so wonderful. And an application that really leverages all of the iPad’s features to increase your productivity is Evernote, which I mention in a previous post.  However, when I’m not being productive, another activity I’m exceptionally good at is watching movies and television. Netflix has an app that is perfect for streaming movies and TV shows, while Time Warner Cable’s app allows me to watch HD channels from any room in the house…yes even from there. Currently, the Time Warner Cable app has some limitations, but I’m sure greater functionality and improvements will come with time. When I can’t decide what to watch on the tube, Boxfish is a live TV guide feed which I use to find what channel’s broadcast includes a specific word, phrase, or topic. This app is perfect for news junkies.

Well, there you have it, my Top Five (or so) Free iPad apps. What’s your favorite?

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