The best iPad communication and social apps

The Apple iPad is one of the most popular and influential consumer electronics devices in history. Its sleek design and great portability have made it an excellent slate for web surfing, movie watching, email checking, and numerous other activities.

That said, the role that the Apple App Store has played in its success should not be overlooked. According to Apple, over 375,000 iPad apps have been released worldwide. That's a lot of apps that run the gamut from the entertaining to the business-centric. You can transform your iPad into virtually anything.

Obviously, you couldn’t possibly install all of these apps due to storage or quality limitations – and picking out the best iPad apps isn’t an easy task. You could scour the App Store for user reviews, but really, do you want to go down that road? First of all, it's an incredible time sink. Secondly, user reviews can be highly biased, and a little-known app may only have a handful of reviews.

That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you, and compiled our own list of top iPad apps. In fact, this will be the first in a series of articles which look at the best iPad apps in a number of different categories, including news, entertainment, business, and creativity. In this first article we’re looking at communication and social apps, as you’ve probably guessed from the title.

Note that our crowning of top apps focuses on native iPad apps that deliver unique and compelling tablet-based experiences all of their own, not iPhone apps running in 2X mode.

Install all the apps that appeal to you (assuming your iPad has the available storage!), and by the time you’ve finished reading this series, you'll be well on the way to an excellent tablet computer experience.

Finally, if you think we’ve missed some classic apps out, please let us (and other readers) know about them in the comments section below.

Right, that’s enough preamble, let’s get on with looking at the top communication and social apps for the iPad, which include the likes of Hootsuite and Duolingo. Click on the title of any app to link through to download it on iTunes.

AIM is easily one of the best instant messenger apps on the iPad. You can set up multiple usernames (and switch among them at any time), send IMs to any phone that supports text messaging, receive social network updates, and chat with Facebook and Google Talk users.

If you're looking to learn or practice a language on an iPad, Duolingo is indisputably the way to go. The potentially major limitation will be whether Duolingo supports your language of choice, as the list remains tight. Fortunately, Duolingo does include many of the languages most studied by English speakers: Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese (Brazilian). It also has an English learning program for speakers of those languages, except German. The app and program are both 100 per cent free, and they still outshine practically every other language learning app we've seen – even the very expensive ones. You can check out our review of the iPhone version of this app here.

Facebook took its sweet time bringing a dedicated iPad app to market, but since the social network released its Apple tablet version, this app has blossomed into a full-featured service. It needs just a few more refinements to meet all iPad users' needs.

HootSuite allow users to create numerous social network streams and view them in a clean and friendly interface, dispatching messages to multiple networks simultaneously.

Featuring an excellent design and loads of customisation options, Tweetbot is an iPad app that Twitter users should sample – but only if they use Twitter exclusively. If you want to integrate Twitter and Facebook, MyPad is the way to go, but if Twitter is your exclusive social network, Tweetbot is a superior selection.

Crafting new tweets may prove irritating due to an overcrowded screen, but Twitter for iPad is the best mobile Twitter client around, hands-down.

Yelp's iOS app brings the website's reviews and recommendations to the iPad, but diehard Yelpers will miss a handful of features that didn't get ported to Apple's tablet.