NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) is reportedly prepping its iPad 2 for launch next year, but the company is still expected to sell 8.5 million of its first iPad iteration in the U.S. by the end of the year.

The iPad comprises 88% of total tablet sales, according to eMarketer.

Of course, the development of innovative and exciting apps is a large part of the iPad's success. Culled from "top" lists on Apple's App Store and tech blogs and tested by TheStreet, here are 10 of the most popular free iPad apps to try ahead of the new year.

ABC Media Player

ABC's Player lets users stream dozens of their favorite ABC shows -- like Desperate Housewives and Modern Family -- to their iPads, for free. Available on the player are the most current episodes, as well as those from several weeks before. Besides browsing via show title, users can search by most popular, most recent and staff picks.

We love that the app's latest version includes 3G streaming capabilities, which means we can watch our shows even when outside the WiFi zone.

Our only gripe: waiting out the commercials that come with some shows.

CNBC Real-Time

CNBC's Real-Time app for the iPad is a must-have for market-watchers. The app delivers real-time stock quotes -- including postmarket and premarket trading -- as well as historical interactive charts that allow users to tailor their data timeframe, anywhere from one-day to 5-year charts. Breaking news alerts are pushed automatically to the iPad's home screen -- whether the app is open or not -- and a customizable news ticker scrolls along the bottom.

The "My Stocks" function allows users to create a portfolio of favorite tickers, as well as watch video clips of market analysis or CEO interviews.


Flipboard, named the iPad app of the year by Apple, displays information, pictures, updates, blurbs and videos from your Twitter and Facebook accounts in a beautifully designed, magazine-like format that you can flip through with the swipe of a finger.

Once you enter your social media account information, you can choose from several automatically-aggregated content sections to browse through, like general news, technology, finance and lifestyle. Users tap on the headlines to read story blurbs and view photos.

Google Earth

When users launch the Google ( GOOG) Earth app, up pops a globe that can be spun and manipulated via pinching. Users double-tap the sphere to zoom in on any country, city or block in the world; a swipe with two fingers allows the viewing of mountainous terrain.

Selecting one of the categories on the "layers" feature pulls up names of significant places, businesses and Wikipedia entries related to landmarks you're viewing on the map. If you're having trouble finding a precise location, you can look for it via the search bar. And no matter how far you've traveled around the world on the app, tapping its "location" button automatically "flies" you back to the exact block where you -- and your iPad -- are located.


Much more streamlined than its Web site, IMDb's app gives users easy access to movie, TV and celebrity information. The app's movie category lets you view show times near you, watch trailers, rate movies and browse the highest -- and lowest -- rated films of all time. When you search for a film using the bar on the top right hand corner of the app, you'll see cast information, photos, screen shots, reviews, trivia and a plot summary.

The TV category lists the shows airing in your local time zone, and provides recaps and entertainment news.

Pageonce Personal Finance

Pageonce Personal Finance is a free tool that organizes users' finances by pulling all online accounts -- cell phone information, travel itineraries, utility bills, etc. -- to one spot. Users can't pay bills with the app -- that's annoying -- but it tracks what you've paid and what you owe, and sends alerts for things like low balances and large transactions.

You can also monitor your investment portfolio, cell phone usage, and Netflix accounts, or see color-coded charts that break down your expenses into categories.

Weather Channel Max

Aimed at weather geeks, the Weather Channel App on the iPad gives users their own portable weather radar. Users zoom in or out as far as they want on the map and then can watch one of many consoles -- radar, clouds, rain, etc., -- that show, in real-time, oncoming weather and temperature trends.

The app also features quick links to Weather Channel programming -- shows like "Epic Conditions" and "Weather Ventures" -- and aggregates Tweets from national meterologists like NBC's Al Roker.


Internet stalwart WebMD ( WBMD), founded in 1999, has long been a source of supplemental medical information for consumers. The app's symptom checker, which shows a silhouette of a person, allows users to tap a body part, select a symptom from the pop-up list, then learn about what might be causing the affliction.

WebMD's "drugs and treatments" category features an alphabetized, encyclopedia-like list of drugs and side effects; the pill identification tool allows users to enter the shape, color, and imprint on the pill to pull up the drug's name.

The app can also locate the nearest physician, hospital and pharmacy based on the user's current location.


Wikipanion is a better, more intuitive way to search Web encyclopedia Wikipedia. Unlike the Web version, the Wikipanion iPad app is not bogged down with top-down menus of links; users can jump directly to subjects' sections by tapping subheads on the left side of the app.

Wikipanion also lets users view entries "related" to what they're reading, bookmark pages and look up unfamiliar words using the Wiktionary.


Publishing technology company Zinio, founded in 2000, was the precursor to all digital magazine formats. Now its iPad app lets you view thousands of titles -- BusinessWeek, PC Magazine and Outside to name a few -- which are transformed into PDF-like replicas on the iPad.

Once users register for an account, they can select a free magazine subscription. The shop button allows users to browse Zinio's selection of magazines and purchase back issues, single issues or subscriptions. Magazine pages and accompanying slideshows and videos are shown in gorgeous bright colors, and users can choose to read long articles in a text-only format. The app links seamlessly to the web from articles and advertisements without opening a clunky browser.

--Written by Olivia Oran in New York.

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