The tablet faction of mobile gadgets is still somewhat undefined -- it's a smartphone that doesn't really make calls, a netbook that doesn't close without a flip-open case. But tablets are designed to appeal to people who will take it everywhere, who tend to be the kind of people who don't want to waste a second, who, it stands to reason, are the kind of people who will load up tablets with apps promising to deliver convenience. Software developers, for their part, tend to refer to this type of software as "productivity," and the offerings of Android Market are no exception.
The Android tablet app market might not be growing as quickly as its fans have expected -- as of early July 2011, there were 232 Android tablet-specific apps available to the iPad's 90,000-plus options [source: Pogue]. Since Android developers tend to favor content over style, though, some of these offerings provide considerable benefits for Gingerbread- or Honeycomb-toting busy bees.
Part of the problem with quantifying Android tablet apps and discovering the jewels of the bunch is that there are different versions of the Android operating system designed to work on different service carriers' tablets, and as a result, a lot of apps are not universal. For the sake of simplicity and, well, convenience, we focused on discussing apps that aren't limited to specific manufacturers' devices. Keep reading to find out about Android tablet apps that might make life a little less complex.
It's safe to say tablet users are accustomed to getting things delivered rather quickly. If the WiFi connection's too slow, there's potential for serious issues. (The days of dial-up are, thankfully, long forgotten.) We've been conditioned to crave instant gratification; prompt responses to emails and texts have become the norm. As for the regular old mail...well, we still need a way to get Netflix delivered.
So what's the deal with Touchnote? The concept is innovative, but the end result seems almost quaint -- take a photo with your tablet, upload it and add a message, and the service turns it into a postcard, delivered to the recipient of your choice. The app is a free download, and postcards cost $1.49 apiece in the United States (it's available in other countries, too, and costs vary). Though Touchnote claims an estimated delivery time of up to four days, users say that it's often much longer and the production and delivery of the postcard can actually take a couple of weeks [source: Android Market].
Delayed deliveries are the biggest gripe, though, and even if Touchnote sacrifices a bit of its convenience factor, it's still a cool idea. It's a bit more thoughtful than an email or text, and much more personal (and sincere) than uploading that same picture to Facebook with a caption of "Wish you were here."
PocketCloud Pro Remote Desktop
PocketCloud Pro is among the highest rated remote desktop apps for Android tablet, and users report it's pretty convenient as far as tablet apps go. So, what is a remote desktop app and why would a tablet user need one? After all, shouldn't a tablet provide most of what you need, most of the time? Well, yes, but this app fills in the gaps for those who simply can't, but must, leave the primary computer behind, and the usual methods of carrying data just aren't sufficient. In simple terms, PocketCloud Pro turns the Android tablet into a portal for complete access to one computer from another.
Developer Wyse Technology Inc is really aiming for business users, so some of this app's functionality might be a bit extreme for a casual consumer. So though PocketCloud Pro loses points for the $14.99 price tag (at least compared to the rest of our list), it's redeemed by its security features, including an encryption system designed to safeguard highly sensitive business data. PocketCloud Pro also claims that users can count on fast, reliable connections to its servers and an easy setup process.
Since the dawn of web-enabled phones, it's become much easier to navigate the cityscape, whether you're traveling away from home or blazing a trail around your own turf. But even so, it still takes considerable time to, say, decide on a restaurant. Pull up one site to check the menu, another to check reviews, a third for reservations... and, oh, no tables are free... or worse, you arrive only to find out it's way out of your price range. Time to start over.
Even though there's already a lot of city search, directory, and restaurant apps, many suffer from the same limitations. No other option provides so many categories into a compact, easy to search package, so Poynt Corporation stepped up with a free app that makes things go a little more quickly. Poynt for Android scores points for convenience because it consolidates multiple search features into a single app, automatically providing information based on your current location or any other location you put in. (Poynt is quick to note that they only access such information upon your request, and will never share it.) The app even provides lists of current fuel prices at nearby stations, and a schedule of nearby events (like concerts, festivals and plays) which can sync with your Google Calendar to remind you of upcoming excitement.
Once you've decided what to do, you can make arrangements right through Poynt. Need movie tickets or restaurant reservations? Poynt provides the links you need, and you'll soon be on your way. If you'd prefer to travel with an entourage, Poynt will sync with your tablet's contact list, let you know if anyone lives or works nearby, and ask if you'd like to give 'em a call. Or, you can simply tap the screen to share details of your chosen entertainment, and be on your way.
Google Docs is a cloud storage service specifically for documents (as the name implies). But that doesn't mean it's laden down with limitations. Google Docs allows its users to work with text documents, presentations, image files and spreadsheets. Document owners can grant different levels of permission (such as editing, sharing or read-only access) to collaborators, and files can even be modified on the go. One of the coolest features is the ability to take a photo of any printed text document, and, when uploaded, Google will convert the photo into a Google Docs file. The service is free, and as GMail users already know, the storage limits are nearly nonexistent.
In a lot of cases where there is overlap between a service and an app, it's hard to tell where one really ends and the other begins, raising the question of whether or not the app is actually necessary. If it's faster or easier to go straight to the source, the app is usually somewhat unnecessary, existing only so its developers can say it's there. But Google has never been about the superfluous. True, the search engine may come back with a lifetime's worth of links, but Google services tend to be clean and elegant, basic without being stingy. And it makes sense that a Google-designed app for a fine-tuned Google service developed specifically to run on a Google-owned platform would epitomize everything that Google stands for. So it's no surprise that PC World Magazine reports that the Google Docs Android tablet app is noteworthy mostly for its especially well designed integration with the web-based Google Docs service [source: Strohmeyer].
Multitasking is convenient, right? If you've already spent a few hundred bucks on your tablet, why shell out more for an e-reading device? The Kindle for Android app brings most of the functionality of the Amazon Kindle right to your tablet, and it's designed to take advantage of Honeycomb's best assets. The screen's been optimized for a large page view and easy menu navigation, and the touch screen makes for fun page-turning with a natural feel. Look up words with a dictionary feature, and search the text for names, places or favorite scenes. If you have the Kindle app on more than one device, the Whispersync feature will save and sync your spot to your other devices, as well as any notes or annotations you may have made.
The Kindle for Android app is free, and most new and recently-released e-books are available on Amazon for about ten bucks (although there is a sizable and growing collection of free downloads, including classic books and some magazines). So lend your Kindle to a friend, make your Android multitask a little harder and shed a little weight from your tote bag.
Dropbox is a free app by Dropbox, Inc. Like others appearing near the top of our list, Dropbox isn't exclusive to Android tablets; to do so would defeat the purpose. This app makes it easy to access and save your important stuff to every one of your computers and computer-like gadgets with an Internet connection. Want to back up a document, share a photo, or have a document ready to update on the go? Drag the file to Dropbox and, once it's uploaded, it syncs the file to every device on which you've installed the app. And, taking advantage of the functionality of cloud computing, uploaded files can be viewed and edited through Dropbox's website, too, in the unlikely but potentially critical circumstance you have Internet access, but none of your devices are nearby.
This app might be especially helpful to people prone to losing their mobile devices -- or people with a healthy fear of theft. Keep sensitive data in Dropbox and it'll be secure and easily retrievable. This mobile tablet app makes cloud computing seem as simple and straightforward as an everyday drag-and-drop.
Cozi, a free app by Cozi Group, is another standout on the list of to-do and scheduling enablers that run on the Android tablet. Cozi is different because it was designed to meet the needs of families. Since cell phones are now generally accepted as must-have accessories for busy kids, they might as well be used for purposes beyond texting and Facebook.
Cozi allows families to sync and share a calendar, shopping list, and to-do lists, so they're easily accessible all the time. Each member of the family creates a login for the Cozi program that grants access to the family's account, where all the schedules and lists are stored. When a list or schedule is updated, it can be pushed to other family members' inboxes. The app's simplicity encourages family interaction. Color-coded schedules help parents keep track of kids' activities; whoever stops by the store on the way home can pick up the pet food and the ingredients for dinner and check off items as they go. The notes function enables people to leave messages for all to see, all in one place. An easy to use blog-like family journal stores memories and photos, and can be shared with selected people beyond the family account.
No more fridges stuffed with duplicates or left completely bare; no more kids scrambling for a ride home from practice. Cozi can help streamline a family no matter how scattered it is throughout the day.
Evernote, as its name implies, is among the many apps designed to let users record thoughts on the fly. Gone are the days of frantically searching for the lost Post-It, grocery receipt or cocktail napkin that contained the hastily scribbled business plan for the next Pet Rock. A note-taking app saves, stores, searches and syncs a user's thoughts and insights, from the brilliant to inane.
With such stiff competition in the notebook-app arena, it takes a particularly thoughtful medley of features and interface to create a standout bit of software -- there are a few stellar note apps and a bunch of mediocre imitations. Evernote Corp. seems to have hit upon a winning formula: users sing the praises of Evernote's intuitive approach. Although this app isn't tablet-specific, that provides a core part of its functionality: the ease of syncing notes across different devices, from phone to tablet to computer. Thoughts can be recorded in voice, photo or type form. And of course, Evernote only records ideas; it can't distinguish between bright and banal. So when discussion becomes imperative, the app can share notes with designated collaborators for feedback.
Oh, and one more thing: Evernote's wealth of features is available for free. See what can happen when good ideas are recorded for posterity?
Thinking Space Pro
Mind mapping is the current generation of what we used to know as brainstorming… and it just sounds so much more interactive, with good reason. Mind mapping software has been around for a while -- it's a fun way to plan projects and develop connections between ideas. When these time-tested techniques meld with slick Android functionality and a bunch of new-school features, mind mapping sheds some of its intimidation factor. What's the point of software that takes so long to learn that the inspiration is simply gone?
Kinesthetic Ltd charges $4.94 for its top-rated Thinking Space Pro, and users report that the cost is well worth the upgrade from the free version. The basic app lets users illustrate ideas with links to connect color-coded notes and icons. The upgrade enables file hyperlinking so reference information stays close at hand, developing and saving custom styles, and tagging and organizing projects with folders and categories. Whichever version finds its way to your tablet, let's admit it: nearly everything feels more creative on a touch screen.
It's hard to improve on something as simple and time-tested as a to-do list, but the convenient and well-chosen features of Due Today demonstrate that gadgets' evolving complexity, done well, can still feel intuitive. A basic handwritten bulleted list is an adequate friendly reminder, but when real motivation is necessary, nothing beats a tablet or phone's high-pitched alarm. Lakeridge Software charges $2.99 for Due Today, which, for all its tech-integration capability, is worth the upgrade from a pen and paper.
Due Today's sorting and tagging features keep all pertinent information close at hand -- no scrambling to remember what a certain task means or why it needs to be done. When a user adds a new task to Due Today, the item can be assigned a context (for example, categorized as a work project, a homework assignment, a household chore, or sending a birthday card). Projects can be broken down into sub-projects, so users can develop outlines on the go, and no element of the job is forgotten.
Due Today's alert function is one of the most compelling features of the app. Alerts can be set for one-time or regular chores. Remember birthdays, anniversaries and meetings with weekly, monthly and yearly reminders, or sync with Google Calendar to import existing commitments. When inputting a new task that starts at some point in the future and can currently be put off in favor of more pressing chores, a start date setting will issue an alert when the time comes. Due Today can also pressure procrastinators to play catch-up. Sometimes, when re-prioritizing on the fly, certain things just won't get done. Due Today understands, so the app's customizable alerts can be configured to issue reminders of hot-ticket tasks in days past.
Forget to set a reminder to bring your Android tablet? That's no excuse to blow off the entire day's agenda. Due Today's syncing feature can push your information to your smartphone or computer.
Keep reading for more information about productivity apps, Android tablets and other related topics.
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- Android Market. "Dropbox." (Aug. 20, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dropbox.android&feature=apps_tablet_featured
- Android Market. "Due Today." (Aug. 20, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.lakeridge.DueToday&feature=featured-tablet
- Android Market. "Evernote." (Aug. 20, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.evernote&feature=featured-tablet
- Android Market. "Google Docs." (Aug. 24, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.google.android.apps.docs&feature=search_result
- Android Market. "Kindle for Android." (Aug. 24, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.amazon.kindle&feature=search_result
- Android Market. "PocketCloud Pro Remote Desktop." (Aug. 24, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.wyse.pocketcloudfull&feature=search_result
- Android Market. "Poynt." (Aug. 24, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.poynt.android&feature=search_result
- Android Market. "Thinking Space Pro." (Aug. 20, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=net.thinkingspace.license&hl=en
- Android Market. "Touchnote." (Aug. 20, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?id=com.touchnote.android&feature=apps_tablet_featured
- Android Market. "Snowfall Live Wallpaper." Aug. 7, 2011. (Aug. 7, 2011) https://market.android.com/details?
- Cozi Group. "5 Ways Cozi Makes Your Family Life Easier." 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.cozi.com/Features-Overview.htm
- Raphael, JR. "10 Cool New Apps for Android Honeycomb Tablets." PCWorld. March 26, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/article223381/10_cool_new_apps_for_android_honeycomb_tablets.html#tk.mod_rel
- Rose, Brent. "10 Hot Honeycomb Apps for Business." PCWorld. June 19, 2011.(Aug. 14, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/230180/10_hot_honeycomb_apps_for_business.html#tk.mod_rel
- Sacco, Al. "11 Best (Free) Android Tablet Apps for Newbies." PCWorld. July 31, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/article/236660/11_best_free_android_tablet_apps_for_newbies.html
- Strohmeyer, Robert. "Four Essential Productivity Apps for Android Tablets." PCWorld. May 10, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/227583/four_essential_productivity_apps_for_android_tablets.htmlid=sites.google.com.martinmafiaorg.spchelper&feature=search_result