The HP TouchPad has a slick, multitasking-friendly interface, a browser that supports Flash, and Skype video calling built in. But all of these goodies won’t be enough to satisfy owners of the first webOS tablet. They need apps, and HP promises about 300 of them for launch. While that number is puny compared to the iPad’s library, we’ve found some compelling choices in the App Catalog. Here are our top picks so far.
USA Today (Free)
USA Today offers a colorful grid-style interface on the TouchPad that delivers the latest headlines in multiple categories: news, money, sports, life, tech, and travel. You also get one-touch access to a five-day forecast for your location and at-a-glance scores for your favorite sports teams. Sliding the little handle at the bottom of the screen can make a story take over the whole display, and USA Today also embeds videos. We’d like to see sharing via Twitter and Facebook added to the mix, but overall this app is slick.
Dead Runner (Free)
Simple but addictive, Dead Runner is a survival game in which you tilt the TouchPad to avoid trees as you hurtle forward. The ambiance works too, with creepy music and horror-flick style fog. Choose from Distance Mode (go as far as you can without dying) or Points Mode (collecting yellow orbs). In this mode you can also collect purple and green multipliers, which increase your speed and points, but also the likelihood you’ll get a face full of wood.
SpazHD for Twitter (Free)
SpazHD for Twitter is the closest thing to TweetDeck you’ll find on the TouchPad. The app features an easy-to-navigate, column-style interface that displays your home timeline, mentions, and direct messages. We especially like that SpazHD delivers Twitter alerts when you’re not using the app via webOS 3.0’s elegant notification system. When posting new updates you can have the app shorten URLs, and you can upload photos.
What’s it like outside? Weatherbug will show you—literally—using a photo imposed on a window graphic, adding a fun and useful new twist to weather apps. Right up front you’ll get the temperature and current conditions, and beneath the window sill you’ll see the extended forecast that includes the next two days. Tapping on the umbrella icon will pop up the seven-day outlook, and you can tab between the summary, detailed forecast, and hourly forecast. The radar map option is a nice touch, but it loads slowly.
Angry Birds HD (Free)
Having Angry Birds on your platform is a litmus test for its validity. And, if you’re not sick of it yet, it’s nice to know that you can flick birds at pigs with a slingshot on the TouchPad when you’re not surfing the web or updating Facebook. Gameplay was smooth in our testing, and the TouchPad’s speakers get nice and loud—so you can hear the pigs laugh at you clearly when you miss the mark.
Glyder 2 HD ($2.99)
One look at Glyder 2 HD and you know that the TouchPad and webOS 3.0 have lots of potential for 3D gaming. Take control of Erin and fly around richly detailed environments by tilting your tablet and collect items. You can earn new wings and earn new wings and outfits as you progress. While sticking landings can be tricky, this is one world that’s worth exploring for just $2.99.
No, it’s not made by Facebook. But HP did a nice job delivering the best of the world’s most popular social networking service. The default interface provides easy access to your news feed, messages, events, places, friends, and photos. Tap the icon that looks like a flag at the bottom of the screen and the Facebook app will switch to a slicker Flipboard-style layout, making your news feed look like a magazine. You can also check into nearby places. The only thing missing is chat.
eBook readers, rejoice. Amazon’s Kindle app is available on the TouchPad, complete with instant access to your library, Whispersync for picking up right where you left off from your dedicated eReader or smartphone, and the ability to highlight and make notes. You shop for new titles in the browser. The Kindle app lets you tweak everything from the screen brightness to font size to maximize your reading pleasure.
Yes, you can download the phone version of the Pandora app to get your Internet radio fix, but TuneInRadio was designed from the ground up for the TouchPad. This app features more than 40,000 channels, combining local AM/FM and Internet radio. We especially liked being able to tune in WFAN in New York to get the latest on the Yankees and KROQ in Orange. The interface makes it a cinch to find your favorite stations, and you can drill down by category (talk, sports, music, etc.).
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit ($9.99)
If you like racing games, the intense action and gorgeous environments of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit will definitely satisfy. You race either as the cop or as the outlaw in up to 20 real-world supercars. EA has enhanced the interface and controls specifically for the TouchPad, and you can execute special maneuvers like 180 spins. Cops (spike strips, EMP locks) and racers (jamming, oils slicks) each have their own special weapons, and with 24 career events this title has a lot of replay value.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.