Top 15 Android tablet apps for work and play

Android tablets have come a long way since the first, the Motorola XOOM, appeared. The right apps make them great tablets for both work and play.
Topic: Mobility
1 of 16 James Kendrick/ZDNet

15 Android tablet apps for work and play

Android tablets have evolved along with the operating system to become full-featured devices. Samsung leads the way with its line of Galaxy tablets that come in all sizes.

Android tablets require good apps to take advantage of everything they have to offer and there are some great ones in the Google Play store. The 15 apps in this collection go a long way to making the Android tablet work well for both work needs and leisure activities.

In addition to the 15 apps covered, a bonus widget that works nicely on tablets is shown in the home screen above.

Beautiful Widgets Pro is a customizable clock widget that can turn your device into a work of art. The hundreds of downloadable themes vary from the whimsical to the simply elegant, and every aspect of the appearance is customizable.

In addition to the clock widgets, the package also has weather widgets and system control widgets for turning things like Wi-Fi on and off from the homescreen. There is also an integrated weather app, accessed by tapping the weather section of the widget, that is excellent for seeing the forecast from your favorite weather service.

The Live Wallpaper shown in the image above is part of the package. Besides being attractive, it shows the current weather conditions. The wallpaper changes with the weather condition so rain, snow, and other conditions are displayed to show the weather at a glance. It also varies with time of day, so the wallpaper slowly changes from daytime to night to provide an attractive screen that never gets boring.

Beautiful Widgets Pro is $2.59 in the Google Play Store

Beautiful Live Wallpaper is free but has extended functionality when used with Beautiful Widgets

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Paper Artist

This app takes your photos and transforms them into works of art. There are several filters that can turn any photo into a realistic looking sketch that can then be modified by finger painting or with a stylus. 

The resulting sketches are very artistic and don't look like a modified photo. You can create real works of art with Paper Artist.

Paper Artist is $2.99 on the Google Play Store

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Verizon Messages

Android tablet owners who also have a smartphone on Verizon should grab Verizon Messages. This app from Verizon allows receiving and responding to text messages on the tablet, even those with only Wi-Fi.

This is platform independent so it doesn't matter if the Verizon phone is Android or iPhone. Once configured all incoming text messages are routed to the tablet for review and response. The text messages are also on the phone as Verizon Messages does not change the way those work.

Verizon Messages is free on the Google Play Store

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A friend recently convinced me to join the online social network for book readers and I'm glad she did. Goodreads has a wealth of information about books for those who love to read. It is a wonderful way to discover books of interest that would otherwise never be found.

The Goodreads app is a marvelous way to work with the social network. It is tailor-made for the Android interface and a joy to use. If you are a Goodreaders member, run, don't walk, to the app store to get the app.

Goodreads is free in the Play Store

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Pocket Informant

If you spend a lot of time working with PIM data — contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes — then Pocket Informant is for you. The app aggregates all of those functions into one place and can sync with a wide variety of online services.

The app is fully customizable, almost dauntingly so, to make all of the standard data views just right. In addition to calendar, contacts, and task views, Pocket Informant has a useful Today view that aggregates onto one screen all information that is pertinent for the current day.

Pocket Informant is $9.99 in the Play Store

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QuickOffice Pro

This is my favorite office suite for Android, as it works with most popular cloud storage services. The word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and PDF apps integrated in the suite are very good.

It is expensive for an Android app, but has proven to be well worth the price.

QuickOffice Pro is priced at $14.99.

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Android has a big advantage over iOS as third party keyboard apps can be installed. SwiftKey is one of the best on Android and the first app I install on every device. In addition to being a useful keyboard that supports both typing and spelling words by swiping in one continuous movement, SwiftKey employs predictive text entry that gets better the more you use it.

The predictive text works as follows: start typing a word and after just a letter or two SwiftKey figures out what word you want and presents it above the keyboard. This process is so accurate it is uncanny. Every Android device should have SwiftKey installed.

SwiftKey is $3.99 on the Google Play Store

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Tunein Radio Pro

Tablets are good for listening to music in the background while doing other things, and that can mean streaming radio programs with TuneIn Radio Pro. This app handles stations from all over the world in every music genre imaginable. There is a simple preset system for saving favorite channels, and a local function that displays all radio stations in your particular area.

The Pro version allows voice control for listening to music hands-free.

Tunein Radio Pro is $6.99 on the Google Play Store

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Android tablets are great for listening to podcasts, and DoggCatcher is a great way to do so. Once you subscribe to podcasts of interest, the app downloads new episodes when they appear and handles playback simply. You can incrementally speed up the playback to get through long podcasts in much less time.

DoggCatcher has a good library of podcasts to help you find what you like, and you can search for specific shows right in the app.

In addition to handling podcasts nicely, the app can handle RSS news feeds, too. I've never used it for that, preferring to use it as my podcast app of choice.

$2.99 in the Play Store

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Google Play Music

I listen to music all the time on the Note 8.0 tablet and the Play Music app is very nice. The big display of the tablet makes it a breeze to search through my large music collection, which is stored in the Google cloud. Google's Listen Now service, which is Google's music streaming service, has a large collection and is as good as the recently launched iTune Radio service.

Google Play Music is available for free.


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Plume Premium

Twitter apps are a dime a dozen. but Plume Premium is the best of the lot for tablets. Its multi-column display is perfect for the tablet screen in landscape yet it works equally well in portrait. 

Plume supports all standard Twitter functions and augments them with features to make it easier to work with Twitter.

Plume Premium is $4.99 on the Google Play Store (there is a free version available with ads)

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I use Evernote for my work and this app on Android tablets is magnificent. The graphical interface is well designed and the touch operation is nicely implemented.

Sadly, the Evernote app doesn't handle pen input; the app would be near perfect on the Galaxy Note tablets if so.

Free on the Play Store

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Tablets, especially smaller models, are perfect for reading ebooks and the Kindle app is a great way to do that. It syncs up with the Kindle library in the cloud to keep the content up-to-date.

The user library is displayed in a nice carousel format for finding the desired book.

Unlike the iOS version (due to Apple's restrictions) it is possible to shop for Kindle books right in the Android app. Book purchases immediately appear in the user library.

Kindle is free on the Google Play Store

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This app originally appeared on iOS and has now evolved on Android so the current app is top-notch. Flipboard builds a news magazine based on your preferences. The tablet screen is perfect for flipping through lots of content in Flipboard.

A nice feature is the ability to add your Twitter timeline and Facebook news feed to Flipboard. Flipping through updates from friends is enjoyable on tablets of any size.

Free on the Play Store

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The social network from Google is worth mentioning in this collection as using the app on Android tablets is very nice. The animation effects used by the app are great and fast on most 8-inch and 10-inch tablets; it's a great experience using Google+.

This app is so good on the Note 8.0 I am using Google+ more than I have in the past.

Free on the Play Store

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Chrome (beta)

The Chrome browser is now standard on later versions of Android and it is the best mobile browser on any platform. It offers a browsing experience on tablets that rivals that on the desktop.

As good as the Chrome browser is, Google has a beta version that provides an early look at upcoming features. The Chrome beta app can be installed alongside the standard version of Chrome so there's no harm in trying it out.

I've been using the Chrome beta for quite some time and have no issues with it. One of the many cool features in the beta is the ability to add any web site to the tablet home screen.

Chrome beta is free in the Google Play Store

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