Android tablet apps got a jolt of excitement this year when we learned they’re coming to Chromebooks soon, too. In our follow up to last week’s seventh annual Android pack, we’re checking out the apps that are doing the best with larger screens.
Wunderlist is still our top pick for Android to-do list and its tablet interface makes good use of the extra screen space. It can show you your lists, to-dos, and details all on a single screen. Google Keep takes a different approach, spreading your notes out in a grid-like array. Any.Do has also caught up with a useful tablet interface that shows your projects on one side of the screen and individual items on the other.
Today Calendar took our recommendation for Android phones. On tablets it has a nice layout with a month view on one side and day view on the other. Once you view an individual event, though, it starts stretching out to super-widescreen mode. If you’d rather use something that makes better use of the space, Google Calendar does the job. In the Week view, you can still get a thumbnail look at your month as well as all of your various sub calendars.
Google’s suite of office apps has only gotten better over the years. While Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides may be more powerful on the web, they’re also competent apps on Android. If you’re using a tablet with a keyboard, they really start to shine. You may not want to write a novel or balance your company’s budget solely from a touch screen, but if you need to make an edit or work on the road, these can get the job done.
In response to Google’s mobile efforts, Microsoft has started releasing Android versions of its major Office apps. You can use the basic versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint to view and make basic edits to your documents. If you want to unlock the full versions, including things like support for tablets larger than 10.1", you’ll need to buy an Office 365 subscription. For quick edits, the free version should be enough, but if you’re doing a lot of work on tablets (or a Chromebook), 365 may be worthwhile.
Whether you prefer Dropbox or Google Drive is largely a matter of opinion (and you all certainly have your thoughts), but both are must-haves for any device. Dropbox still suffers from the “stretched phone” look even after all these years, but it’s still plenty usable. Google Drive, on the other hand, takes the same card-style approach as most other Google apps, which means it looks roughly the same on tablets as it does on phones, but makes better use of the space.
Evernote’s tablet design is just as slick as the phone, but with plenty of extra breathing room so you can read more of your notes at once and get more done. Of course, if you use Evernote on your phone and desktop, you can’t use Evernote on a tablet without paying. If you’d rather not shell out the cash, OneNote from Microsoft offers a great alternative. You can add notes, manage notebooks, and even draw notes if you have a stylus.
Internet and Communications
Chrome’s ability to sync with its desktop counterpart and access open tabs on other devices still gives Chrome a huge lead on the competition here. Unlike the phone version of Chrome, on tablets the app has a tabbed interface which should make desktop users feel right at home. It also includes quick access to voice search right in the address bar.
There are few developers who really understand the power of Android quite like Pushbullet. As if the app wasn’t awesome enough on your phone, Pushbullet makes stellar use of your larger screen by showing a conversation view of all the people and devices you can push to. You can also browse all the channels you’re subscribed to quickly and easily. You might need a Pro plan if you want to send more than 100 text messages from your tablet a month, but for pushing links between your phone, tablet, and desktop, Pushbullet is still a must-have.
Hangouts supplies both individual and group chat, making it a solid contender for tablet messaging.. It also allows you to send picture messages and emoji, and conduct video calls. So far, Hangouts is still one of the most tablet-friendly chat apps. If you’re not a Hangouts fan, Facebook Messenger’s chat heads work sometimes, but its tablet interface is still stretched out and not really optimal..
If you have an Android device, Google Now should automatically be your right-hand app. It learns where you live and work, tells you how long it will take you to get to where you’re going, show you nearby restaurants and attractions, and keep you updated on weather, stocks, and news stories Google thinks you might be interested in and plenty more. You also get an extremely powerful set of voice commands, allowing you to add calendar events, set reminders and alarms, send messages, conduct searches, and identify songs with your voice alone. Be sure to check out our list of things you probably didn’t know you could do with Google’s voice commands.
Google Maps has always been one of the best apps on Android, and the tablet version is no exception. You can get directions, find new restaurants or places of interest, and lookup public transit or traffic info in the new Google Maps. The app couldn’t be handier, and it deserves its place as one of the most downloaded pieces of Android software.
Google’s own security app allows you to locate your other devices, remotely lock or wipe them, or ring them if you’ve misplaced it. It’s a handy, if fairly basic suite of security features. While you can register a tablet without installing the app itself, it’s handy for finding your phone or other Android devices.
Music and Photos
Pandora is the standard when it comes to internet radio. On tablets, it’s just as useful as it is on phones, so you can get your fill of music on your slate without a stretched out user experience. The multi-panel design allows you to browse new stations while exploring them more in-depth without constantly swapping screens.
Snapseed has managed to make editing photos on mobile a breeze. It allows you to apply a ton of filters, fixes, and corrections to your images. It even has some great tools for complex editing. Google Photos has also grown into its own with a tile-based interface that makes use of the extra space without changing much. Auto Awesome, powerful search tools, and cloud backups make Photos an essential app if you want to manage your photos on your tablet.
Google Play’s music subscription makes it a compelling option for streaming music, on top of being an excellent digital locker for your existing collection. The cards-style UI scales perfectly to larger displays and it adapts very well to different screen sizes. If you pay for the subscription, you can also get access to YouTube Red, which removes ads, and adds background playback which is awesome for multitasking on a tablet. Spotify offers a nice alternative if you’re not into Google’s app. You can even stream music for free to tablets on Spotify, which is even better than the free offering for phones.
The tablet version of the incredibly popular FL Studio is a little on the pricey side at $20, but it’s well worth it if you want to make whole songs on the road. You’re given a host of instruments and loops you can use to weave together real songs. It’s not a complete music studio, but professionals or aspiring artists should definitely check it out.
Movies and Video
IMDb is a must-have for anyone who’s ever said “What else was that actor in?” It’s also probably one of the few apps on this list that looks way better on tablets than it does on a phone. You can use the app to keep track of movies you’ve watched, ones you want to see, rate films, and even look up showtimes at theaters near you.
Netflix and Hulu serve very different streaming needs, but they go great together. Netflix serves up a bunch of original content plus a library of older TV shows and movies. Hulu focuses more on currently running series the day or week after they air. Both require a subscription to use on mobile, as well as an internet connection to play video (offline playback is not an option), but if you didn’t get that big display to watch things like Futurama and The Daily Show on, what did you get it for?
Reading and News
For reading RSS feeds and other content sources, Feedly offers a variety of views that make use of all that extra space. If you read RSS feeds heavily, the “Save for Later” feature is particularly handy for Pocket-like functionality without leaving the app. Scroll through feeds while sitting on the couch, save a few for later, then return to your bookmarks once you’re back to your desktop. Or do the same process in reverse for casual reading.
One of the most comfortable use cases for a tablet is sitting on the couch and reading. Pocket lets you set aside articles for casual perusal later. Because Pocket automatically downloads saved articles for offline reading, it’s particularly handy if you want to load up a Wi-Fi-only tablet and take it with you when you leave home.
Tablets make great ereaders. Google Play Books has worked its way up to our favorite ereader on Android. It comes with a ton of research features like Wikipedia integration, dictionaries, and notes. Amazon’s Kindle is another solid option. The unique X-Ray feature for novels helps you keep track of all the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire (you know, before they die).
AirDroid is the closest thing that Android has to a desktop client. It allows you to access your files and data on your tablet remotely without having to plug it in to your desktop. You can even reply to text messages or update applications. If you spend a lot of time at your desk with your devices plugged in, AirDroid is a must-have.
Tasker’s is just as powerful on slates as it is on phones. The app itself doesn’t cater to large displays much, but it doesn’t need to since Tasker runs in the background most of the time. There are plenty of ways to get started with Tasker if you’re unfamiliar with it. If Tasker is too overwhelming for you, IF from IFTTT (yes it’s confusing) is a much simpler automation tool that can plug into your other web services to do some truly awesome stuff.
Our previous pick for file explorer on tablets, ES File Explorer, got bumped way down our list when it started using shady adware. Fortunately, Solid Explorer is a gorgeous alternative that offers some useful features. You can browse your local files, cloud storage, cast to your Chromecast and more. Just like the phone, the app has a 14-day trial and costs $1.99 afterwards.
Widgets get neglected far too much on Android, but Dashclock comes through and it’s even better on a tablet. With a variety of extensions that you can plug in, you can use this widget to keep abreast of everything in your digital life. There are a ton of extensions available to supercharge Dashclock and on a larger tablet, you can turn this widget into a veritable control panel.
Titanium Backup remains the best app for backing up other apps on any Android device. There is no exception for tablets. The UI isn’t especially tailored to giant slates any more than it is to tiny phones, but backups don’t necessarily need to be pretty if they’re functional. Other areas may be worth exploring alternatives, but when it comes to making sure your data is secure, stick with the tried and true.