iPhone and iPad

6 Beautiful Apps That Look Great Even Without a Retina Display [iPad]

Yaara Lancet 04-05-2012

We’ve all heard of the fantastic new iPad Apple Unveils New iPad at San Francisco Press Event [News] Read More and its amazing new Retina display. While many might not be overly impressed with this new iteration, I have yet to hear one bad word said about the new display, and many apps are adjusting accordingly.


There’s no lack of apps that look great on a Retina display 5 iPad Apps That Look Great On The New Retina Screen As a proud owner of a new iPad, I can honestly say I love the higher resolution screen. Apps that haven't been updated for the new retina screen are now painfully obvious, so here are... Read More , and no wonder, the Retina display is pretty awesome. But what about all of us who still have an old iPad? The new iPad is a popular choice, that much is true, but many iPad 1 and iPad 2 owners are still sticking with what they have. This does not mean they can’t enjoy the beauty of many visual apps, and make the most of the great display their iPads DO offer.

As a first generation iPad owner, I decided to collect some visually appealing apps that look great on any iPad, Retina display or not, because Retina is still not a must-have to appreciate the beauty of this world.

Google Currents [iTunes, Free]

beautiful ipad apps

Google Currents, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a magazine-style news reader by Google which lets you choose between hundreds of different editions, and lately got support for over 30 different languages. If you haven’t tried Currents yet, it’s worth it just for the visual appeal of the app.

Despite running it on a first generation iPad, the app is not only beautiful, but also surprisingly responsive. You can curate your own library and then browse news articles and images using the beautiful interface. Google Currents turns reading your feeds into a true visual experience.


Stuck On Earth [iTunes, Free] [No Longer Available]

beautiful ipad app designs

Stuck on Earth 7 Hidden Gems from Google That Can Still Surprise You Add a little fun and education to everyday tasks with the help of seven brilliant tools from Google. Read More is a travelling app for all of us who are currently stuck on earth. This is not just any old travelling app, though. Stuck on Earth is built around amazing photos from all over the world, which are sure to inspire you when planning your next trip. Even if your next trip is not around the corner, Stuck on Earth provides the next best alternative: the entire world in gorgeous images from every corner of the earth. It’s enough to get anyone itching for the road.

Magical Weather [iTunes, $1.99]

beautiful ipad app designs

Winning my vote for best weather app for the iPad, Magical Weather is also one of the most stunning-looking apps I’ve encountered so far in general. Seriously, I sometimes check the weather just to look at the beautiful backgrounds and watch the rain fall on my screen. Magical Weather lets you monitor 9 different locations worldwide, including your current location, and presents all of these on a gorgeous visual gird, with a graphic representation of the local weather.


When you tap a location, you’re taken to the screen you see above, and can watch how the entire background changes according to the current weather. Aside for being very visual, Magical weather is also a great weather app and provides lots of useful information.

National Geographic Today [iTunes, Free] [No Longer Available]

beautiful ipad app designs

If you love watching the National Geographic channel, this app will bring that experience and more to your iPad. When you load the app, the passing week unfolds in pictures in front of you. You can choose a specific day to look at, or browse the entire week day by day.

Each day includes images, articles and videos, all of them very pleasing to the eye, as you can expect from National Geographic. You can connect the app with Facebook for instant sharing of your beautiful finds.


Monolith Loop [iTunes, Free]

beautiful ipad applications

No, this is not a mistake. Moreover, the screenshot above is a true representation of this app. So what is a one-color simple graphics app such as Monolith Loop doing on this list? Simple – It’s one of the most visually appealing apps I’ve ever seen, and that’s without using images or a complex graphical interface.

Monolith Loop consists of a one-color background, onto which you gradually place white drops. The drops expand and shrink, and every time one hits another, a musical note is played. So this is not only a visual app, it’s also musical, and the music provides great ambiance. This app is absolute proof that all it takes to create an amazing app, even visually, is a good amount of creativity. Highly recommended.

Magic Window [iTunes, $1.99]

beautiful ipad applications


Speaking of ambiance, Magic Window will turn your iPad into a relaxing, atmosphere-enhancing prop which you can use every day or even on your next dinner party. The app includes interactive time-lapse scenes, which are accompanied by relaxing soundtracks. I know, it sounds cheesy on paper, but I assure you that if you like nature and nature sounds, this app is worth every cent of the $1.99 you’ll spend on it.

The app includes demos for about 15 apps, which you can check out and then download for no additional charge. There are also urban destinations such as New York City and Las Vegas available for an additional 99 cents each. Even without a Retina display, this app will bump up any living room just by leaving it running on your iPad in the corner.

Paper by FiftyThree [iTunes, Free]

beautiful ipad apps

Paper by FiftyThree has been widely discussed since it came out, and while I’ve heard only good things, I didn’t know how good it really was until I tried it. The free version comes with only one tool, but this solitary tool is enough to help you create your best yet drawings on the iPad. Not only is the design unique, but something about the way you can draw and sketch with Paper truly brings about the artist in you. And this is from a person who can’t even draw a stick figure. To top it all, it’s remarkably beautiful. If you haven’t tried it yet, be sure to do it soon!

Do you know of some other beautiful apps that look awesome even without the Retina display? Or does the Retina display eat all these for breakfast and comes back for more? Share everything in the comments.

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  1. Nick Marsh
    May 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Listen, I understand that one only learns by doing things like this, but I was so impressed (and inspired) by your article that I downloaded/purchased all of the apps mentioned within it.

    What a disappointment! Google Currents is a poor-man's version of Flipboard. Stuck On Earth is really slow to use, and is easily replicated by the geolocation feature in Flickr. Magical Weather is NOT the best weather app on the iPad, unless you think that putting 284,000 numbers and icons on a single screen is the best way of conveying what is going to happen with the weather. Magic Window is boring if (a) you don't live in the US, (b) can't be bothered to wait to download the 50MB+ files for places outside of the US, and (c) you have an attention span beyond 10 seconds because, put bluntly, nothing happens.

    However, Monolith is interesting (even if you'll probably not want to use it more than once) and Paper by Fifty-Three is well documented as being excellent.

    Any chance of a refund...?

    • Yaara Lancet
      May 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Hi Nick,

      I'm sorry most apps were not to your liking. I've included apps that I think are worth the purchase and that I believe are well made and visually appealing, even on my 1st gen iPad. Granted, we may have different opinions on the matter, and I'm sorry you ended up not liking apps that I find good (I really like Magical Weather, actually).

      Images for Magical Window downloaded quickly for me, and I have no speed problems with Stuck on Earth, which I think is a great app.

      Life being life, we sometimes pay a few dollar for apps we end up not using, I'm sure it's happened to you before, I know it's happened to me. :)

      BTW, you didn't mention what you thought of the Nat Geo app!

      • Nick Marsh
        May 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm

        The Nat Geo app was the only one which I skipped downloading, but it's also the best one - works like a dream, and the quality of the photography is great, too.

        Hey, thanks for the reply - Apps are always subjective, so it's all in the eye of the beholder. It's interesting to see other people's suggestions. :-)

        • Yaara Lancet
          May 6, 2012 at 5:50 am

          Glad you enjoyed Nat Geo, I think it's awesome too.

          If you have suggestions for beautiful apps, I'm all ears! I can always write a sequel post with more suggestions. :)