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Make your Android tablet a socially connected photo frame

The free Dayframe app is just the thing for enlivening or repurposing a tablet during its downtime.

Breathe new life into that dying Android tablet with Dayframe's digital picture frame app. Cloud.TV

There's an incredibly handy application in the Google Play store that lets you turn your Android smartphone or tablet into a socially connected digital picture frame. Called Dayframe (free), it's similar to the Daydream mode that comes with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and later, except that Dayframe is much more social, more photo-friendly, and allows for very specific user-defined settings.

As to what makes this a "social connected" digital picture frame experience comes from the app's integration with various social networks. Dayframe displays pictures from services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as 500px, Tumblr, Google+, Dropbox, and Flickr.

This is good news, because unlike your more traditional picture frames, you won't have to load photos onto it using a microSD card or sending them to the device via e-mail or SMS. Simply go about your life the same as before and your old tablet stays current with pictures of your vacations, birthdays, and cats.

There are two ways to use Dayframe. The first is to set it to go during your tablet's downtime, like maybe when you're at the office in front of a computer that you use for tasks, when you're not using the tablet. You can turn it off by simply waking your device and jumping into your apps or games. The other use for Dayframe is on an older, unused tablet to turn it into a dedicated digital photo frame.

For the sake of this post, we'll pretend that you've got an old tablet lying around, collecting dust. Let's turn that into a digital picture frame that looks great on the office desk or on Aunt Alice's coffee table.

Step 1: Install and configure
Download Dayframe and install from the Google Play store. At only 11MB, you should be ready to roll in just a few moments.

Choose from your social media accounts or from Dayframe's curated list of topics. Scott Webster/CNET

The first time you open the app you'll be given options to choose your various photo sources, including taking photos that are already stored on the device. It's here that you can sign in with your social networks and services. Forget to include one or decide to add something else later? No problem, you can manage your accounts with a simple swipe to the settings page. In fact, I recommend adding things in slowly so that you can get a sense for what sort of signal to noise your sources provide.

Step 2: Customizing even more photo sources
On the off chance you don't have any social-media accounts, or even if you just want more images dancing across your screen, you can still pull in pictures from outside sources.

The service 500px, for instance, delivers a steady stream of gorgeous photos from folks all over the Web. It's in this early setup process that Dayframe users are asked to select from up to three areas of interest. Options include categories such as art, music, sports, and food; each is a curated list of sources from a variety of blogs, magazines, photographers, among others.

If you're planning on giving this new digital picture frame to Grandma, then you may elect to have Dayframe display very specific Facebook accounts and Instagram feeds that match up with family and friends' happenings.

Here's a pro-tip: Select keywords in Flickr and Twitter to pull in seasonal photos to admire, like roasting chestnuts, snowflakes, and spring blooms.

Keywords in Flickr or Twitter can keep things lively and fresh. Scott Webster/CNET

You can drill down as deep as you'd like with any of these sources, so definitely play around here. After watching my tablet cycle through the same photos of friends and family members over the last few days, I have elected for more discovery and inspirational content.

Step 3: Set a timer
Whether your tablet is going to sit on the wall and continuously display pictures or cycle only during work hours, head into the "Timers" setting and pick which window of time you want the screensaver to run.

You may notice that there's a "Prime" section floating around in Dayframe. I suspect that this feature will unlock in a future update and allow for more flexibility. Perhaps we'll be able to set specific playlists for a particular time of day. Maybe you'll have Facebook photos from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Instagram favorites cycling in the evenings?

Step 4: Get to know additional settings
If you don't plan to physically pick up the tablet or interact with it all that often, set the Dayframe app up to hide information or interaction buttons. This way, you'll have a truly gorgeous and always-updated digital picture frame.

Or, if you'd rather it didn't run continuously around the clock, you can set Dayframe to display during certain hours, which makes it well-suited for tablets that you use every day.

Users can define what battery level is required before the screensaver kicks on. If you only want to see it run at the office when you're connected to Wi-Fi, just pick the settings that work best for you, but know that you can change things at a moment's notice. Nothing with Dayframe is actually permanent.

If you plan to convert an old tablet into a semipermanent digital photo frame, you'll want to consider a stand or dock to display your device, or perhaps even a wall mount.

If you try Dayframe out, let me know in the comments how you like it, and which settings or sources work best for you.