When we talk about mobile and mobile apps, we often lump tablets and smartphones in together. But while they both use apps from the same store, tablets often fill a different niche than smartphones, and great apps for phones aren't always great apps for tablets.
I used a Nexus 7 tablet for my Android slate testing, and I'm often disappointed when a developer doesn't include at least a modified layout for when their app is used on a tablet. Not only does it just not feel special, it ignores the fact that tablets serve a different purpose than phones.
Think about it: Your phone is on your person all the time; it's there for fast responses and notifications. It's there to keep you connected to a fast moving world, and to waste small chunks of time. The apps for smartphones that do well don't overstay their welcome, and make the most of smaller screens.
Tablets, on the other hand, aren't always within reach — yours might be in your bag, or on your nightstand. They aren't as portable, but they make up for it with spacious screens and (sometimes) faster processors. These are the devices that are made to connect us to visual media — eBooks, articles, and images. These are also devices we're expected to spend more time with, not just quick breaks or train commutes.
What's more, developers don't always have tablets in mind when they create their applications, and sometimes the feel of an app can get lost in translation. Developers have to make certain assumptions about screen size and hand position when they create their apps; assumptions that might not prove accurate on a tablet.
While made-for-handset apps aren't always good for tablets, some tablet owners shirk critical utilities — like security suites. Just because your tablet isn't on you all the time doesn't mean it should be left to fend for itself. Your tablet is a significant investment, and probably has just as much of your personal information on board.
With all this in mind, we've created this brief list of the top 10 Android apps that are not only good, but look and feel perfect on a tablet. It's a far from comprehensive list (given the 800,000 apps on Google Play), but it's a start. If you see an app that we missed, be sure to leave us a note in the comments. We're not quite all-knowing when it comes to the app store. Not yet, anyway.
Using a "gameified" approach to teaching, Duolingo guides you through a series of bite-size lessons to help you learn a new language or just to stay in practice. Its clean interface is particularly attractive on large tablet screens and it's a free app to boot. The app supports German, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. If you already speak those languages but want to improve your English, the app has you covered as well.
You can already watch Netflix streaming on your television, your computer, and your phone, so you may as well add your tablet to that list. With an ever-changing array of movie and television shows, Netflix has something for everyone — even if they sometimes lose huge chunks of content. The extra screen real estate of a tablet makes for better viewing than a phone, and the interface is very touch-friendly.
Typing on a touchscreen is still a bit of a chore — even with fancy keyboards — but OfficeSuite Pro 7 makes it easy to create or edit text documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. I was particularly impressed with how the app handled spreadsheets and PowerPoint files, both of which seemed surprisingly well suited for touch controls. You can check out our full review of version 6.5 of the app here.
The big, crisp screens on Android tablets make reading a joy, but some websites are barely optimised for desktop computer screens let alone a tablet. Flipboard lets you view web content gracefully, with big images, easy-to-read text, and a minimalist styling. The page-flipping interface was made for touchscreens, which means this app is the perfect companion for any news junkie.
If you read eBooks, chances are that you're hooked into Amazon's ecosystem already. With the Kindle app, you can read all the eBooks you've purchased on your tablet. The app also syncs your position and highlighted selections so you have the same reading experience across all your devices. And yes, you can impulse purchase more books, too.
Amazon has dominated eBooks, but Comixology is the go-to place when it comes to buying and reading digital comics. You can access the Comixology store from the well-designed app, as well as a powerful comics reading app. You can also move panel-by-panel in a guided reading mode. Text and images are sharp and beautiful on tablet screens, making for a lovely reading experience wherever you are.
Your tablet is probably a sizable investment, which is why it's important to keep it safe from malware and (more importantly) loss or theft. With Bitdefender, your device will be constantly defended with independent lab-certified top-tier malware protection. You can also remotely set off a siren, lock your screen, and track the device via GPS. Though it has fewer features for tablets, Bitdefender is still a solid choice for keeping your device safe, and you can test it over a two week trial period for free. If you're more of a tinkerer, take a look at the kitchen sink product Avast Mobile Security.
Suited for quick sketches or digital painting, SketchBook brings a slew of powerful art tools to your tablet. Made specifically for screens which are 7in or larger, the app packs numerous brush tools, layers, and many other features to unleash your creativity wherever you are.
An expansive game on the PC, Minecraft PE brings the same mining and crafting experience to your mobile device. It's easy to play on your phone, but the bigger screen of the tablet gives you an even more immersive experience. The developers work hard to release frequent improvements to this game and recently updated it with enhanced touch controls. Minecraft is a great mobile experience for players looking for something a little less casual.
FL Studio is a solid choice for the iPad, and the Android version is probably your best choice for making music on the go. The app includes 133 instruments, a sequencer, keyboard, MIDI import/export, and much, much more. Admittedly there is a frustrating latency issue with Android devices, but FL Studio is a great choice for when you feel the urge to compose.