Must-have apps for iPad mini, iPod touch

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, iPad Mini competitors.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, iPad Mini competitors. (Credit: CNET)

So you want to experience all the great apps and games on an Apple iDevice but don't want to commit to a new two-year smartphone contract or plunk down at least $500 for an iPad? You're in luck! Apple's just-released iPad mini starts at a more affordable $329, and the latest generation iPod touch -- which has the 4-inch screen size and Retina display of the iPhone 5 -- goes for $299.

So what are the best apps to download on these devices (with or without a data plan?)? Start with these five:

Bluefire Reader

(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, free)

If you are a dedicated user of a particular e-reader like the Kindle or NOOK, then by all means download those apps for free on your iDevice. You can sync your account information right away, and read the same book or publication across several devices. The limitation of those services, however, is that they only accommodate books you purchase through them. The Bluefire Reader application is more universal in nature and can support books and other documents published on the ePUB and PDF platforms.

Podcasts

(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, free)

While podcasts don't have the same pop-cultural cachet as apps, the digital audio files that can be downloaded through iTunes are a godsend to talk radio junkies and anyone who appreciates the spoken word. From past episodes of "This American Life" and "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" to comedy programs like "The Nerdist," to long-form interviews from your favorite sports commentators, there are podcasts that appeal to virtually any interest. Earlier this year, Apple launched a stand-alone Podcasts app that makes it simple to manage the programs in your feed and easier to find new ones.

Epicurious Recipes

& Shopping List

(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, free)

Don't have enough room in your place to store your collection of classic cookbooks? While most recipes are available online, it isn't very practical to place your laptop next to a chopping block when preparing a meal. Thankfully, there are apps like Epicurious, which curates more than 30,000 different recipes from the likes of Bon Appétit, Gourmet and other Condé Nast properties.

Songza

(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android Free)

From Pandora, to Slacker, to Spotify, there are plenty of wonderful music discovery services that you can access on your portable devices and through the Internet. Songza stands out from the mix by offering a highly curated selection of mixes that are designed to appeal to different moods and times of the day.

Zen Pinball

(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, free)

You don't have to be a hard-core gamer to understand and appreciate a little pinball tilt. This is the same old basic pinball we all know and love, but with some bells and whistles exclusive to video games. Tap either side of the screen to activate the respective flipper, and shake the phone to shake the table. The tables themselves are highly interactive, and even bring you to various side and mini games outside of the main game.