So you got a shiny new Android smartphone or tablet for the holidays and you're wondering what the heck to put on it so it can be all that it can. Here is a selection of my must-have apps and all look and run great on both Android tablets and smartphones.
Nothing keeps all your notes to self, screen captures and brainy moments organized and available everywhere like Evernote. There's the optional Skitch app if you want to integrated sketches too. Evernote is a cloud-based app so your notes sync to their servers and you get a healthy number of gigs for free. The app is available on every major platform including Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS and Windows phone, so you can share and collaborate easily. Free.
Pulse A highly visual news reader that has a large database of news feeds and you can sync to your Google Reader account. This app is particularly well suited to big screen smartphones and tablets given the graphical tile interface. You can easily read articles inside the app and even play embedded videos with no need to tap on links and run other apps. Honorable mention to Flipboard, a graphically beautiful news reader that focuses on top news articles more than organized feeds. Free.
If you want the skinny on movies currently in theatre, complete with reviews, showtimes and trailers, nothing beats Flixster. Video trailer quality is good, movie location info is accurate and the app is well organized. Free.
Now owned by Amazon, IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) is the source of Amazon's X-Ray for video feature, and it's still the go-to place for a wealth of information on movies and TV shows. Reviews, pub dates, actor listings and bios: it's all there. Free.
Netflix and Hulu Plus
If you're a customer of these services, you probably want these with you on the go for the slow times. Netflix is a monthly subscription service with a huge selection of movies and TV shows. Hulu Plus has a wide selection of TV shows available for a monthly fee (generally cheaper than buying several iTunes TV show subscriptions). Requires monthly subscription.
PicSpeed Wallpapers Let's face it: Android and wallpapers are a pain given the way the OS handles cropping images for the multi-screen desktop. PicSpeed takes the pain away and it has thousands of high quality wallpapers to choose from. Free (ad supported).
Nook and Kindle
If you're a customer of these stores, you can download the free app and read your books on your mobile device. The Nook app supports side-loading of non-B&N ePub books as well. And of course, Google Play Books is pre-loaded on most all Androids these days, so you can purchase books from the big G too. Free.
There are several great games for Android that look good on both tablets and phones; that's a subject for another article. But let's take Bard's Tale as a shining example of a great looking game that looks awesome and has entertaining dialog. This RPG is easy to learn and play too. It's a large game with the SD version weighing in at 1.8 gigs and the HD version at 3.5 gigs (after you buy the game, you can choose to download either version, and the SD version looks fine on higher end smartphones). Currently on sale for $2.99
MS Office Suites
There are several available including Documents to Go, Quickoffice, ThinkFree Mobile Office and OfficeSuite Pro. Prices average $5 to $10, and there's the free Kingsoft Office that's definitely worth a look. These get you the ability to view, edit and create MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Various prices.
TED talks are stimulating, informative and often inspiring. Watch and listen to some bright minds talk about things like climate change, bringing technology to those who lack it, the process of being a writer, how your posture changes your outlook on life and much more. Free.
Got a Samsung Galaxy Note tablet or phone, a Lenovo ThinkPad tablet or other tablet with a digital pen? Lecture Notes Pro is an excellent notepad with notebook organization and export to PDF and Evernote features. The UI is simple and the selection of virtual pens and paper are good. It supports palm rejection with digital pens (both N-Trig and Wacom) and you can use a capacitive stylus though that lacks the precision and palm rejection (not the apps fault, that's how the hardware works). There's no handwriting recognition, but most pen-based phones and tablets come with their own apps to handle that feature. $3.95