Getting the Most Out of Your Android Tablet
Android tablets have come a long way over the past few years, from the very first Samsung Galaxy Tab to Google’s own flagship Nexus 7 and 10. And while the little green robot doesn’t appear to be taking over the tablet market any time soon, there’s no denying the fact that those who do own Android tablets want to get the most bang for their buck. Here’s a look at how you can maximize your experience with the latest-gen slates.
If you bought a tablet, there’s a good chance that the media values of said device were close to the top of the list of reasons for the purchase. After all, tablets are primarily consumption devices, and everything else is basically an afterthought.
When it comes to killing time, relaxing, or just taking a much-needed break, there are a number of reasons to reach for your tablet in your downtime. Here’s a quick look at a few apps that you may (or may not) already be using to really get the most enjoyment out of that $400+ piece of equipment.
- Netflix/Play Movies/Hulu – because who doesn’t love a good flick now and then?
- Play Magazines – Don’t sell this one short, it’s a fantastic way to kick paper mags to the curb.
- Play Books - Tablets were made for reading (among other things) – why not spend some time with a book?
- Spotify/Rdio/Play Music – OK, given the tiny (read: crappy) speakers on most tablets, this one’s going to need some hardware assistance. We’ll get to that shortly.
- Press/Currents – If you’re a fan or RSS feeds, there’s no better (looking) way to keep up with the latest.
Now, you may have noticed there’s a bit of emphasis on Google products in that list. There’s a simple reason for that: Android tablets are designed with Google services in mind. Thus, they just work – and work well – on basically all Google-certified hardware. I mean, you’re already invested in the Android ecosystem – might as well keep everything together, right? Streamline, baby.
Of course, it’s not just about reading or watching movies, is it? There’s a huge market out there for mobile gaming, and there’s simply no better device than a tablet to play all the latest titles on – be it a quick game of Angry Birds Star Wars or a serious session of Dead Trigger. When it comes to playing games, I go for my tablet 100 percent of the time over my smartphone. The entire experience is just better on a larger screen. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
There’s one more group of apps I want to talk about that can really maximize your productivity on your Android slate: floating apps. If you’re not using floating apps like AirCalc, Overskreen, or Hovernote, you’re missing out on some of the best productivity-enhancing tools in the Play Store. I could probably write an entire post on just these apps, but I’m sure you can already see the advantages, so I’ll just leave them for you to play with.
Gaming, movies, and music are nice on a tablet. But you know what makes them better? Peripherals. Specifically, Bluetooth speakers and game controllers. If you really want to supercharge your downtime, get a good, portable Bluetooth speaker – you’ll be glad you did. The market is full of great choices right now, too: the Jawbone Jambox, Logitech UE Boombox, and Logitech Mini Boombox, just to name a few. It all depends on what you want and how much you’re willing to spend. There’s something for everyone in that arena, and it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to movies and music; in fact, even gaming gets a nice boost from the better sound.
Likewise, there are several different Bluetooth gaming controllers designed just for Android. Take the Nyko Playpad or the MOGA, for example. Both are good controllers that will really enhance the game-play experience (for titles that support controller input, of course) without breaking the bank. It’s a quick, easy, and affordable way of turning a casual game into some serious action.
But there’s also the business side of tablets: when you really need to get something done, a touchscreen keyboard simply will not do. Fortunately, there are a slew of manufacturers out there that make Bluetooth keyboards. Bottom line: if you plan on using your tablet to write a lot of emails, take notes, or any other activity that may require some lots of typing, get yourself a good keyboard. You won’t regret it.
This is one area that’s often overlooked when it comes to getting the most out of your Android tablet (or smartphone, for that matter). Many people just throw as many icons as they can onto the main home screen and call it a day. But you can get so much more information out of it at a glance if you set it up correctly.
- Utilize widgets. This seems like a no-brainer, but so many users ignore widgets. They’re one of the things that make Android great. If you find yourself needing certain info often, like weather for example, just drop a widget on your home screen. Then, it’s just a glance away. That’s just one example, though – there’s likely a widget for any info that you need quick access to.
- Folders! In Android 4.0, Google introduced folders into the stock launcher. This makes organizing your home screen impossibly easy. Bundle things that make sense to you, or things that you may want to launch at the same time – like the floating apps I mentioned above. Ultimately, it’s all about how you use the device.
- Look into a custom launcher. Now, I’m not one to tell people to start changing things right out of the gate, but you really do get some advanced functionality from a third-party launcher like Nova or Apex - things like customizable amount of home screens, a scrollable dock, overlapping widgets, and so much more. The possibilities are really endless with a good custom launcher – you can create your “perfect” setup.
- Examine how you use your tablet. Personally, I have a few home screens, all for different uses: work, gaming, social networking, and general. Each screen has all the pertinent information that I want at a glance, along with folders and shortcuts to individual apps in each category. It just makes sense.
I’m not going to claim that this is the die-all-end-all for getting a bit more enjoyment and use out of your Android tablet, but I do think it’s a good start. Ultimately, it depends on how you use your device, but hopefully these tips will at least point you in the right direction and help make your experience as smooth as possible.