10 Nifty Apps for Your Android Tablet

By Dan Gookin

Nothing stirs up controversy like choosing only ten free apps for your Android tablet out of the million-plus apps available at Google Play. While it may not be definitive, these apps will definitely get your started.

Airline apps

All the major airlines have apps, and those apps have improved greatly over the years. Today, you use an airline app not only to make a reservation and check on flight status, but the app — and your tablet — serve as the boarding pass. The only downside to a digital boarding pass is that the airport security people have nothing to scribble on after they check your ID.

Perhaps the most convenient thing about an airline app are the updates. These apps inform you of flights changes, gate changes, alternative flights, and much more.

Games

It’s not a question of whether or not the tablet can play games. The question is which games to choose. The selection is overwhelming, almost to the point where you’re unwilling to give a game a chance because more exist. So rather than speed-date some games, here are some suggestions:

  • Angry Birds. Perhaps the most viral of the mobile gaming apps, it spawned an entire series of games and even a silly movie. Still, the original game is lots of fun.
  • Crossy Road. This game is similar to the old arcade game Frogger, but it’s just insane. Crossy Road is easy to learn and play, addictive, and it’s a great short-time waster.
  • Plants Versus Zombies. This game is a lot of fun and somewhat strategic.
  • X-Plane. This flight simulator is easy to learn, though you must download the maps before you can play.
  • Sudoku Daily. If you’re a puzzle addict, specifically the Sudoku puzzle, then you’ll enjoy this version of the popular game. It makes new puzzles available each day, with a wide range of skill sets, hints, cheats, and anything a Sudoku addict would enjoy.
  • Jet Car Stunts. This paid game is enjoyable from a road-racing standpoint as well as a flight simulator. It’s quite challenging.
  • Threes!. A strategy game, Threes! is delightful. It’s quick to learn, but increases in frustration quickly. It’s best to play when you have a friend who also plays so that you can compare scores.

This list is by no means complete.

Free or Lite versions of paid games are available in Google Play. Even so, a paid game is generally 99 cents. Treat yourself to a new paid game a month, or buy one before you leave on a trip to help keep yourself entertained.

Google Docs

Your Android tablet now comes with Google Docs.

Google Docs is really an entire Office suite of apps, including word processing, a spreadsheet, and a presentation program. Quite a few businesses use Google Docs exclusively, specifically because it allows for better document sharing than Microsoft Office. You can also use it for quick notes, shopping lists, and so much more.

Kindle

Yes, your Android tablet comes with the Google Play Books app. Sometimes that’s not enough. Consider getting the Kindle app as well. You don’t need to use it exclusively, it’s just good to have options available.

Obtain the Kindle app from Google Play. Use your Amazon account to sign in. If you already have Kindle books, they’ll appear in the library. If not, go out and buy some books. The Kindle store often contains books not available from Google Play.

Movies by Flixster

The Movies by Flixster app is your tablet’s gateway to Hollywood. It lists currently running films, premieres and openings, and it has links to your local theaters with show times and other information. The app is also tied into the popular Rotten Tomatoes website for reviews and feedback. If you enjoy going to the movies, you’ll find the Movies app a valuable addition to your tablet’s app library.

Sky Map

Ever look up into the night sky and say, “What the heck is that?” Unless it’s a bird, an airplane, a satellite, or a UFO, the Sky Map can help you discover mysterious objects aloft. It may turn out that a particularly bright star in the sky is, in fact, the planet Jupiter.

The Sky Map app works like a window you can look through to identify things in the night sky. Just start the app and hold up your tablet. Pan and tilt the device to identify planets, stars, and constellations.

Television alternatives

When you’re ready to cut the cable, your Android tablet is more than eager to step up to the plate and offer you a host of alternative TV and movie-watching resources. These apps offer media choices beyond what’s available at Google Play and viewable in the Play Movies & TV app. Here are some suggestions:

  • Netflix. The app is free, but you must have a Netflix subscription to access the content. When you do, you’ll be able to view the entire Netflix library of movies, TV shows, and documentaries on your Android tablet.
  • Hulu. Similar to Netflix, Hulu offers current TV show episodes, movies, foreign films, and other unique content to its subscription holders.
  • HBO Now. If you cut the cable but miss Game of Thrones, you can obtain the HBO Now app and subscribe directly to the service. HBO Now offers every series ever broadcast on the network, as well as its current slate of movie offerings.
  • CBSN. When you miss live news, consider getting the CBSN app, which shows a live feed of CBS news. The app is free.

Other apps are available, but often to view shows or events you must concurrently have a cable TV subscription. This burden isn’t required for the above-listed apps. For example, the ESPN and CBS apps let you watch sports and live TV, but only when you have an active cable subscription. This restriction may change in the future.

Translate

Not only does Google’s Translate app assist with other apps in translating foreign tongues into English, you can use the app directly to help you pass 3rd period French. You will easily get a C. Why a C? Because although the translation is okay, it’s not perfect — and the professor knows when you’ve used it. Even so, it’s fun to play with and brush up on anything from Chinese to Russian.

Voice Recorder

All Android tablets have a microphone and speakers, so where is the voice recorder app? Don’t bother looking. If you need to record your blurts, conversations, or that new song you composed on the ukulele, get the Voice Recorder app. It has an elegant and simple interface: Touch the big Record button to start recording. Make a note for yourself or record a friend doing his Daffy Duck impression.

Previous recordings are stored in a list on the Voice Recorder’s main screen. Each recording is shown with its title, the date and time of the recording, and the recording duration.

Several voice recording apps can be found at Google Play.

Zedge

The Zedge program is a helpful resource for finding wallpapers and ringtones — millions of them. It’s a sharing app, so you can access wallpapers and ringtones created by other Android users as well as share your own. If you’re looking for a specific sound or something special for Home screen wallpaper, Zedge is the best place to start your search.

Choose a ringtone to preview. If you like it, you can download the ringtone to your tablet and configure it as the main notification ringtone or set it as a ringtone for a specific app.

When you install a media app like Zedge, you will see the default app card displayed when you choose a ringtone or select wallpaper. The choices you’re presented with include Tablet Media and Zedge, plus any other media apps. You can choose a default app, such as Zedge, or be prompted every time.