When you get an Android tablet one of the first things you’ll want to do is fill it up with apps from the Play Store. But with so many hundreds of thousands to choose from, where do you start?
We’ve scoured Store to find the 23 best tablet apps that we think cover all of the basics. These apps will get you off to a great start, before you begin tailoring your tablet experience to your interests: and there are apps for literally everything, from learning to play golf to shopping with QVC.
We’ve tried to avoid doubling up on the apps that are already installed on most Android tablets. Apps like Chrome, Maps, Gmail and Calendar are all good enough that they don’t generally need alternatives.
We also haven’t included any anti-virus software. Despite there being many options on the Play Store—and a few scare stories doing the rounds—Android devices do not need anti-virus software. It will only serve to slow down your tablet, while delivering no actual benefits.
Watching TV in bed is one of the great joys of owning a tablet. And if you’ve got a Netflix subscription you’ll want this to be your first download.
There’s no better way to binge on Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. Even better, you can pair Netflix with a Chromecast to beam the content to your big-screen TV too.
Apps for other streaming services including Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox (in the UK) and Hulu (in the US) are also available.
If you’re in the UK, TVPlayer is the perfect companion to Netflix. The app streams live TV from the main free-to-air channels (including BBC, ITV and Channel 4) and has an impressively comprehensive TV guide as well.
Also look out for separate apps for individual networks, including BBC iPlayer, 4OD and Sky GO. All other countries will have apps for their local networks too.
And one more for UK TV viewers. The Sky+ app is genius. It has a full TV guide and connects to your wi-fi enabled Sky+ box so you can schedule and manage your recordings, as well as changing channels and controlling playback, all from your tablet and without interrupting the programme you’re currently watching.
You’ll never need to use your fiddly Sky+ remote control ever again.
IMDB has always been perfect for those moments. Install the app on your tablet and you’ll be asking—and answering—that even more often.
It’s an awesome source of movie trailers, as well as offering guides to what is showing in your local cinema.
Android tablets come with a perfectly decent ebook reader and service called Google Play Books.
However if you are already a Kindle user you can get your full library onto your tablet with the Kindle app. It works brilliantly, not only bringing all your purchased books across to your new device, but it will also sync your bookmarks so you can carry on reading on one device from the exact point you left off on another.
Most newspapers have their own apps that will deliver their content to you in an easy to read format. Some are free, and some require subscriptions.
If you’d prefer to have the latest news, sport and other subjects of interest presented to you in a more browsable way from a variety of sources then Flipboard is the app to get.
Setting it up requires you to do no more than select a handful of topics that interest you, and a handful of pre-selected news outlets that report on those topics, to create your own daily newspaper. It’s effective, fun and a great browse over your morning coffee.
If you’re a radio addict then TuneIn Radio is the only app worth considering. It offers access to thousands of digital stations from all around the world in every genre imaginable.
Virtually any station that is available online can be accessed through this app, either live or using the record feature. It’s completely, although there is a paid version for the really heavy user.
If podcasts are more your thing then you need Pocket Casts. The app is beautifully designed and so easy to use.
There’s a discovery section to help you seek out the best podcasts, no matter whether they are popular or obscure, and tons of options for updating and downloading on a schedule, ensuring you’ve always got the latest episode of Serial as soon as it comes out.
Pocket Casts is incredibly fast. No matter how many podcasts you subscribe to it never takes longer than a couple of seconds to update. A handy home screen widget makes it ideal for leaving in the background too.
If you’re moving your photos to your tablet, either via the cloud, an SD card or from a wi-fi enabled camera then Snapseed is the tool you need to touch them up before you share them.
It is surprisingly powerful, giving you the full range of controls from basics like brightness and contrast, to advanced functions like curves.
There’s also plenty of filters for those one-click enhancements.
The Chrome browser on most tablets will be good enough for most users. But we prefer Opera.
It’s based on the same engine as Chrome, so performance is similar. The benefits it offers is a full-screen interface, easier controls and a handy text reflow feature that means you will never have to scroll sideways in a web page no matter how far you zoom in.
This essential app is the simplest way to share files and folders between your tablet, PC and phone.
Simply install the app on all the devices you want to use it on, then as soon as the save a file into the Dropbox folder it will automatically—and almost instantly—show up on your other devices. If you open, edit and re-save that file your changes are also instantly synced across your devices.
Dropbox for Android also has a useful instant upload feature that saves all of the photos you take on your device to your Dropbox to be accessed on your other devices.
Tablets are great for replacing pen and paper around the house. Wunderlist is a list-taking app that can be used to jot down anything instantly and quickly, from a regular to-do list to your shopping list.
It use the cloud as well, so your lists are automatically available on any other devices you have the app installed on, including Android smartphones, PCs, Macs and even iPhones.
Microsoft Office Mobile
There are lots of office suites available for Android, and even one built in through Google Drive.
We like Microsoft Office Mobile, a free cloud-based service that integrates with Dropbox and has full compatibility with your desktop office file formats. It’s a stripped down editor, so not full-on document creation, but has most of the common features that you’ll need.
Widgets often straddle a fine line between eye-candy and functionality, and Chronus illustrates that better than no other.
This home screen widget features a large clock, weather for today and the next five days, information on appointments in your calendar, and even news headlines from your favourite websites.
Oh, and it also looks beautiful. There are a few options for customising the design; none are ever less than thoroughly classy.
Tablets are great in the kitchen, just load up your favourite recipe website or ebook and go.
To ensure you never leave your cakes in too long load up Beautiful Timer. The name says it all: it’s a timer and, yes, it’s beautiful. And that’s all there is to say. It’s a simple, single function app that works flawlessly.
Whether you’re planning your next trip or just browsing dream locations TripAdvisor is the best place to begin.
The app has all the features you’ll be familiar with on the website, ranging from hotel price comparisons, user reviews and photos, things to do while you’re away, and even the forums. You can get lost for hours in this app.
Be warned: owning a tablet makes shopping from your couch so easy. Almost easy.
With that said, here’s the Ebay app. It’s a little fiddly for selling but is just great for selling. You can browse, watch items make bids or buy now, and you’re supported all the way with notifications which mean you’ll always be ready to place a last ditch bid the moment an auction ends.
As with Ebay, so with Amazon. Shopping with this app is so easy you’ll find you’re reaching for your tablet to place orders for even the most mundane products. Delivery notifications keep you up to date with the status of your order too.
The Amazon app also has a few welcome extras. One is the full integration of the Amazon Prime Instant Video. If you have access to this service this is the only app that let s you watch it on a tablet—sadly it doesn’t support Chromecast, as Netflix does.
It also incorporates the Amazon Appstore, Amazon’s own store for downloading Android apps. There’s no real benefit to using this over the Play Store, although it’s worth keeping an eye on as Amazon does do a free app of the day offer where you pick up some decent paid apps for zero charge.
MightyText is a handy app that stops you needing to juggle your phone and tablet. It connects the two devices, and when a text message comes through to your phone it will appear on your tablet screen.
You can then write and send your reply on your tablet, and it will be sent via your phone. There’s no need to have a SIM card in your phone.
For Twitter, the official client is best avoided. It’s not particularly well designed, not well optimised for tablet screens, and has a tendency to fire completely irrelevant notifications at you.
There’s plenty of alternatives on the Store. A good starting point is TweetCaster. It is crammed with features, from basics like notifications, widgets and themes, to more advanced options like adding filters to your photos or enabling you to post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time.
TweetCaster is highly customisable, and though it may seem like too much for more casual users it can be tamed quite easily.
Just like Twitter, the official Facebook app isn’t too hot. FriendCaster comes from the team behind TweetCaster and works with a host of social networking accounts including Facebook.
It offers only the basics like positing status updates and checking your timeline, and for most general use this is enough. For more specific tasks you’ll be better served jumping into Chrome (or Opera) and loading up the full website.
NHS Health and Symptom Checker
This health app is worthwhile for keeping on a tablet being shared among the family.
If you’re feeling under the weather you can work through a symptoms survey to try and give you some ideas as to what might be wrong and what you should do about it. Although it’s a UK app it works anywhere, though obviously you’ll need to contact your local doctor if that’s the advice the app gives.
Pocket is an essential tool for storing those articles that you want to read, just not right now.
Whenever you come across a link on Twitter, a news story on a web page or even a video on YouTube that you’d like to come back to in future, tap the Share button followed by Add to Pocket.
When you next open the Pocket app you’ll see all your saved articles and content sat waiting to be read.
What’s your favourite app?
These top Android tablet apps cover all the basics, and if you install them first you will very quickly get up to speed with what your tablet can do.
Do you have any essential tablet apps of your own? Let us know your picks in the comments below!