Did you score a new Android tablet for Christmas? You probably ripped it out of its packaging, powered it up and wondered what to do next. Here we've collected 25 great apps to help bring your new tablet to life.
Unlike Apple's iPad, Android tablets don't have tens of thousands of apps developed specifically for the larger screen size, and though you can install a majority of the apps available on the Android Market, you will find many of these are just smartphone apps stretched across the tablet's 10-inch display. Many apps will only be usable in portrait mode, and many will format poorly, with tiny blocks of text and masses of empty space, including big name apps like Facebook and Google Reader.
The apps below are different. Some are created specifically for Android tablets, and others simply translate well. We've tried to cover the activities we use tablets for most, including gaming and media playback, plus we've included apps that help bridge the divide between your tablet and your PC experience.
If there's one glaring problem for tablets, Android and the iPad alike, it's that these devices exist somewhere between smartphones and computers, but the device manufacturers are yet to commit to one side of this equation or the other. Splashtop Remote is a must-have app for anyone who thinks their tablet should be capable of a bit more PC-like heavy lifting.
This app requires you to install a streamer app on your Windows PC or Mac, and to have your computer on and connected to the internet. Splashtop can then access your PC from anywhere and allows you to control your machine remotely. In theory, this means you can play PC games on your tablet, but with the limited controls available Splashtop is best suited to business productivity for when you're away from your desk.
Price: Free (with ads)
Some Android tablets come with DLNA media streaming available out of the box, like the Sony Tablet S, but not all will let you stream media from a server to be played on the tablet. BubbleUPnP allows your tablet to jump onto any network-attached drive and stream music, videos and photos over a local network, meaning you can finally snuggle up in bed with a good movie.
If you've downloaded BubbbleUPnP, you might have also discovered one of the other common limitations of Android tablets — the list of video files your tablet can play is limited to some MP4 files and maybe Windows Media Video files. To expand your tablet's video codec library, we found it was best to install an app like MX Video Player. This app will essentially replace the tablet's default video player but offer the ability to play a huge list of different files including DivX, XviD and MKV files, plus support for SRT subtitle files.
Depending on which processor your tablet uses (most will use the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor), you may need to install an additional codec pack, though the MX Player app will let you know this when you first install it and should link you to the right Codec Pack in the Market.
Among the top uses for tablet computers, catching up on the news of the day would be towards the top of this list for most people. Pulse News is our pick for the best news app for Honeycomb tablets, with thanks to its awesome scrolling interface and great use of the available screen real estate. Pulse isn't best if you want to read the local newspapers online, but if you manage an RSS feed with all of your favourite topics, then this app should be on your new tablet.
If you've struggled with the tiny on-screen keyboards you get on smartphones, then you were probably looking forward to a larger keyboard on your tablet. Funnily, these keyboards tend to be too big, making it difficult to easily reach across the screen with your fingers. SwiftKey for tablets is the perfect in-between space. You can choose a full-size layout for the keyboard if you prefer it, but Swiftkey also features a cool split QWERTY layout, where you can rest your hands on either side of the tablet screen and not have to reach for any of the keys.
If you intend to use your new tablet as a productivity tool, then you probably intend to work on documents created in Microsoft Word and Excel. If you haven't used it before, Google Docs is a great alternative to Microsoft's business tools and offers free, integrated cloud storage into the mix as well. A recent update to the Google Docs app has made it much more tablet-friendly, with an excellent three panel preview pane (pictured above).
The Dropbox app is the one app in this list that really hasn't been optimised for tablet use, but it is so handy we can't leave it out of this collection. Dropbox is a free cloud storage service that lets you save and access a range of files online so you can easily share them across a number of devices. If we are creating new documents or media on our tablet, Dropbox is our preferred way to sync it with every other PC we own.
Do you have friends with iPad 2 devices gloating about how cool it is that their tablet turns off "magically" whenever they cover the screen with the Smart Cover? Well, for a mere AU$2 you can also have a tablet that will switch the screen off when covered.
There are literally dozens of note-taking or journaling apps available on the Android Market, but Groovy Notes takes our pick for having the grooviest-looking layout. This layout includes a handy calendar to manage when notes have been taken, which we love. Groovy Notes also lets you record voice notes and play them back, and it integrates with your Dropbox account to automatically synchronise and back-up the notes and recordings you make.
Tablets are excellent tools for people working in photography and graphic design, but you need the right tablet and apps to make it worth your while. Your tablet should have a full-size SD card slot (there are a couple, like the Sony Tablet S and the Toshiba Thrive that do) and an image editing tool like Photoshop Touch. Obviously, Photoshop Touch doesn't include all of the same functionality as the desktop version of Photoshop does, but it has enough tools to keep you working while out and about.
Once you cook with a tablet, you will never watch Huey's Cooking Adventures again (yet another reason to buy a tablet). iFood Assistant Tablet is optimised for larger displays and it looks fantastic with a rustic, wooden look and feel. The recipes are a little disappointing, most are fatty American fare, but there is some worthwhile eats in the app nonetheless.
OK, so we've already said that the Pulse News reader is hands down our favourite news reading app. That doesn't mean you shouldn't check out HoneyReader, which is basically the same idea in a slightly different package.
If there is one thing the 10-inch screen size of tablets lends itself to well, it's for emulating the experience of tinkling the ivory. Piano Perfect is, again, one of dozens of apps in this vein, but we couldn't go past the excellent "learn to play" mode included with this app.
Render Droid comes with a bit of a disclaimer: this app is for hardcore nerds only. That said, there are a few apps that show off the power of the tablet computer like a 3D rendering tool. Render Droid isn't designed as a beginner's tool for making computer-generated graphics, but if you have the skills already it would be a nice way to play around with ideas you may have.
Speaking of showing off the raw power of your new tablet, Shadowgun is easily one of the most impressive games on the Android Market to date. A first-person shooter, Shadowgun makes up for its short play time with some really great-looking characters and environments, and some thrilling gameplay as well. The on-screen controls can be tricky to master (read: frustrating) and the in-game dialogue is a yawn, but don't let that stop you from having a crack at this one.
If you know about Minecraft we probably needn't say another word. Based on the phenomenally successful PC title, Minecraft for Android takes the best bits of the desktop version and squeezes them on to your new, smaller screen. Fans of the game may find some of the differences limiting — for example, the fact that you can't play on the same servers as on the PC — but it is still worth a look.
Crackle is an absolute must-have for any new tablet owner, especially one with a love of movies and TV. Developed by Sony, Crackle links you to a database of streaming movies and TV shows, and no, we're not talking about trailers or clips, we are talking full episodes and films — completely ad-free. Sure, the movies and shows are far from new releases, but free movies are never to be sneezed at, especially if your new tablet has an HDMI-out port and you can plug it into a TV. We've found that Crackle isn't available on all devices, it works on the Sony Tablet S, the Lenovo ThinkPad and the Acer Iconia tablets as far as we know, but let us know in the comments below if you have any trouble installing it.
If you download Crackle and you want to assess the credibility of any of the movies available to watch, the IMDb is your one-stop movie-hunting app. Featuring an awesome, full-screen tablet interface, the IMDb app is one of the few really great Android tablet apps.
Plenty of games on the Android Market are as good or better when played on smaller smartphone screens, but a great example of a game that really benefits from the larger screen real estate is Train Conductor. Your job is to guide the trains from track to track to make sure they arrive safely at their destinations, which may sound easy, but it soon becomes a frantic exercise in finger swiping.
This entry is really just to remind you that there are loads of awesome live wallpapers to consider when browsing the Android Market. Crazy Colors is good, but we reckon you could find better if you looked hard enough.
If you installed Splashtop Remote from the first entry in this collection then you might be already playing World of Warcraft on your new Android tablet. If not, allow us to introduce Order & Chaos, perhaps the closest thing you'll find to a Warcraft-like online role-playing game on a mobile device. The resemblance is uncanny, which may mean there are patent lawyers scanning the details as we speak, but for gamers, this just means the game is all the more awesome.
Price: Free (in-app payments)
If you've read about the game Infinity Blade for the iPad, you probably wish it was available for Android, too (we sure do). In the absence of this great game, Blood & Glory offers a comparable screen-swiping hack-and-slash experience. You play a courageous gladiator in ancient Rome, fighting for your life against harder and harder opponents. Being a game from Glu Mobile, Blood & Glory is one of those annoying "freemium" titles, where the original download is free, but you can pay for in-app add-ons to enhance the gameplay. Thankfully, the add-ons aren't necessary here to enjoy yourself.
Note: the link above takes you to the gory, bloody version of the game, which is exactly how we like our gladiator games. There is also a no blood version, though, if you prefer to play without the gore.
Price: Free (in-app payments)
As with Blood & Glory, Brothers in Arms 2 (BIA) is another "freemium" game title, so that rather than paying once for the game in the Android Market, you have the option to add to the game with in-app payments. Luckily, BIA is a great first-person World War 2 shooter, so it's easy to overlook the in-game currency. The game features some exciting military set pieces, and is definitely worth your time.
One of a handful of MMORPGs (online role-playing games), Star Legends is one of only a few not set in a fantasy kingdom with orcs and trolls. Sort of like Mass Effect, Star Legends is a space shooter with a choice of classes to keep things interesting.
Price: Free (in-app payments)
Developer TuneWiki is renowned for software that adds lyrics live to the music you are listening to, so who better to make a game to cash-in on the success of music rhythm games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Lyric Legend 2 takes the songs you love and adds a fast-paced rhythm game that we definitely recommend.