The Android ecosystem has a ton of apps for your tablet, and a number of apps are optimized for larger screens. Sometimes this means you get extra functionality without having to navigate through submenus, while other times it might mean that you simply have more screen real estate for bigger photos and interfaces that require scrolling. Whether you've got a Google Nexus 9 or plan on splurging for a Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro, Google's app marketplace has a solid software selection for both productivity and plain old fun. From sleek UI launchers to hot games, here are our 25 favorite Android tablet apps.
Monument Valley ($3.99)
Monument Valley by usTwo is, by far, one of the best games on Android. Players take on the role of the silent princess Ida, who must traverse through a puzzle of seemingly impossible worlds (10 in total) filled with optical illusions that you must solve to progress. Monument Valley is the kind of game that messes with your mind (in a good way) as you try to figure out where to go next. It's an incredibly immersive experience that you'll want to play on the biggest screen you can find; its art alone is well worth the $3.99.
An Android tablet is a great device for kicking back and reading long articles and watching videos, but maybe you don't want to view them this very second. Pocket is a great app to store that media for later. When you use the app in conjunction with a browser extension, you can send news articles, YouTube clips, photo galleries or any other page on the Internet to your Pocket (and access them on any device). It’s an easy, free way to keep track of all of the media you want to consume on your tablet. While the interface is identical to the phone app, the reading experience is better; you can fit more words on the screen.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($6.99)
It's been more than a decade since the free-roaming action of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas became a national addiction on consoles, but the legendary title has recently gone mobile. This $6.99 Android port retains the original game's sprawling gang-drama story line, as well as the fully explorable fictional town of San Andreas. This location serves as your virtual playground, whether you want to wreak total havoc or just cruise around in a stolen cop car. This version of San Andreas has been optimized for tablet gamers with remastered graphics, customizable control schemes and support for Moga, Bluetooth and USB game pads.
Pushbullet can keep your digital life synced across devices. The app can share your texts between your phone and laptop, so you can access messages, links and files across the devices. This means you can put down one device and keep on working on another. You can also follow a number of notification channels to see when your favorite Web comic has a new post or to get updates from the stock exchange. A recent update allows for group texting from your tablet, and your slate's two-column view can show both information you have pushed and what your friends have pushed at the same time.
Google Keep (Free)
If you're the scatterbrained type, Google Keep is one of the best ways to keep your plans and ideas from falling through the cracks. This free app's clean UI looks like a well-organized board of Post-it notes, which can be filled with color-coded checklists, notes and photos. Google Keep can transcribe voice notes into text, and syncs with Google Now to provide important reminders. Since Keep stores all of your notes in the cloud, you no longer have an excuse for misplacing your grocery list.
The Weather Channel (Free)
The Weather Channel’s Android tablet app is not only useful — it's also gorgeous. The day's forecast is broadcasted on top of big beautiful photos that take up most of the tablet's screen (on a sunny day, I was treated to images of trees against a clear sky and hot air balloons on a cloudless background). The tablet app will show you more than a week's worth of forecasts at a glance, as well as a full-size radar view and videos from The Weather Channel on TV.
Spotify (Free, $10 subscription optional)
The current king of music streaming, Spotify is always getting better. On Android phones, Spotify restricts you to shuffle mode, but tablets don't have that limitation; you can listen to any song whenever you want. You'll have an even better experience if you subscribe for $9.99 a month, which nets you unlimited ad-free listening and the option to download tracks for offline use.
Swype Keyboard ($0.99)
Swype's keyboard is great for Android tablets because of the sheer number of slate-only options it offers with just one tap. I quickly switched between a full-size keyboard and a small keyboard, which adjusted to either side of the screen (for one-handed use). My personal favorite is the app's split keyboard, which is great for when your thumbs can't reach all of the letters in portrait mode. In many of those modes, you can swipe through letters and never have to lift a finger.
Google Drive (Free)
Your Android tablet is a productivity powerhouse, and nowhere is that more evident than with Google Drive. This app is Google's combination office suite and cloud storage solution that lets you create, edit and store documents, spreadsheets and presentations using an intuitive interface. With Drive, your content-creation powers are enhanced by the Google's stand-alone Docs and Sheets apps. Having Drive on your tablet will let you download files locally and edit them in your favorite tablet productivity apps. You'll also have much more space on the screen to organize your files.
Nova Launcher (Free, optional $4.99 upgrade)
Android launchers give you personalization options for your home screen that iPad owners will never be able to duplicate. You can set up widgets, start apps and personalize the OS interface. The Nova Launcher is among the best. It lets you create and scroll through several docks, change folder colors and even back up your settings from old launchers. The paid, Prime version ($4.99) offers additional gestures, and can hide those apps that you don't use but can't get rid of.
Snapseed provides easy-to-use, professional-level photo-editing tools for those who want a deeper level of control over their pictures. The app has a tablet-optimized interface with up to 2,500x zooming functionality, which lets you easily and precisely fine-tune your picture to get the best-looking photo every time. Multiple filter options — including black and white, vintage, and grunge — can add a dose of style or make your brand-new photo look like you took it on an old-school camera. And thanks to the recently added HDR Scape filter and Shadows slider, it's never been this easy to make a simple photo look stunning.
Google's own social network isn't as successful or widely used as Facebook. But the search giant's Android tablet app is leaps and bounds above that of Mark Zuckerberg's social network, with an attractive, magazine-style layout that prominently features multimedia content. If you're a photo junkie, Google+ can also automatically back up your photos and videos to Google's cloud so you never have to worry about saving them.
Amazon Kindle (Free)
Amazon is the industry leader in e-books, and the Kindle app is a must-have for Android tablet owners. Users will enjoy access to millions of e-books and a robust app interface that lets you customize your reading experience. With the Android app, you can bookmark pages, highlight passages, use the built-in dictionary and take notes in the margins. Your information is synced to the cloud with Amazon's Whispernet, so you'll never lose your place, no matter what device you use. If you're an Amazon Prime member ($99 per year), you can access the Kindle Lending Library, which lets you freely borrow one of more than 350,000 e-books.
Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus (Free)
Your Android tablet is vulnerable to malware and viruses. Avast's free mobile-security program will quickly scan your device, apps and Internet connection to ensure that your tablet is squeaky clean. The program also lets you add PINs to apps. It's easy to navigate thanks to an accessible sidebar that takes advantage of the space offered on a tablet display.
Autodesk Sketchbook Express (Free)
In addition to simply viewing content, tablets can be used to create it, and that's where Sketchbook Express comes in. This digital drawing application features on-demand, professional-level tools. With it you can create colorful works of art while taking advantage of the full tablet screen. Sketchbook comes with 15 brush styles so you can fine-tune your sketches, with more available for purchase.
Sports fans on the go should look no further than ESPN's Android tablet app. Three columns of information — scores, news and updates — fill the screen. It's a textual feast for those who need to know the latest in athletics. You can customize the app to focus on scores for your favorite teams and leagues, which, if you're like me, means putting the Maryland Terrapins on the top of your list.
Dropbox (Free with 2 to 18 GB of data, Paid data storage plans available)
Thanks to a powerful Android tablet application and polished user interface, Dropbox rises to the top as our go-to cloud-storage solution. You can set pictures taken with your tablet (or phone) to automatically upload to Dropbox so you never lose them, or you can use the intuitive app interface to manually upload pictures, documents and whatever else you need to have stored.
Feedly has emerged as the most compelling reader, letting Android users view and interact with their RSS feeds; share content with their Twitter, Facebook and Google+ friends; or save it to read later with Pocket or Instapaper. Feedly also helps you organize your feeds into categories (tech, news, politics, etc.) in either the app or Web interface, so you can manage your content more effectively. The tablet app provides a better reading experience thanks to the extra screen real estate. It also integrates with different apps than does its smartphone cousin, including Press and Corgi for Feedly.
Frequent travelers need to download Hipmunk. The service operates much like Expedia or Travelocity, letting you book flights and hotels quickly and easily and for the best possible price. But while competitors focus on price alone, Hipmunk created an "agony factor," which accounts for number of layovers and flight duration to give you the best possible options. Best of all, the tablet-optimized Android application has a clean and colorful UI and presents information in an intuitive way.
Netflix (Free app + $8 per month subscription)
The gold standard for streaming movie and TV shows, Netflix rules. Aside from having a ton of content available for streaming, including Netflix-exclusive shows such as Daredevil and House of Cards, the Netflix Android application has made significant improvements in recent months.The app's UI makes it easy to find the content you want, and with continuous play now featured in the app, you won't have to tap the screen every 20 minutes when watching TV shows. The tablet version of the app looks just like the desktop website when in portrait mode on tablets, so you'll get the full experience on mobile. Bonus: Your content is synced in the cloud, so you'll never lose your spot, regardless of which device you want to use to watch. But you'll need a subscription, starting at $7.99 per month.
Before you take that backpacking trip through Europe, you should probably pick up a few phrases in the local parlance. Duolingo will help you learn more than 16 languages, including Spanish, French, Russian and Esperanto. Each day, you'll get a bite-size lesson teaching you words and phrases. The difficulty level slowly advances to prompting you to speak in full sentences (be sure to start before you get on the plane, though, as the app requires a Wi-Fi connection).
Keeping a budget is important for your financial health, but it can be a major frustration to manage. Mint makes this process much easier, nearly fully automating the process once you've linked your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage and other loans into Mint's system. The Android tablet application provides at-a-glance spending and income information in neat-looking graphs and charts, which allow you to drill down for more detailed information about your personal spending habits and account balances. You can set up email and text alerts to have the app notify you of upcoming bills, fees or low account balances. The app also works offline.
TeamViewer for Remote Control (Free)
Tools such as TeamViewer for Remote Control let you remotely access and control your PC from afar, which is helpful for when you need to transfer files or access programs from your tablet TeamViewer can be used to remotely access the computers of friends and family, so you can help troubleshoot issues they may be having on their PCs from your tablet. You can even remotely re-boot a PC.
Most tablets come equipped with front-facing cameras, often with a high-definition video-capturing capability that's perfect for video calling. Skype is the leader in the video calling and messaging arena, with more than 250 million worldwide users on the company's video and text messaging or phone calling services. On tablets, you'll be able to see more information and larger menus than on phones. A recent update to the Skype app brought the ability to have group video chats with multiple users, and you'll appreciate the extra room for multiple faces.
Johnson & Johnson 7-Minute Workout (Free)
If you follow medical advice, you known you should get 30 minutes physical activity in a day. The Johnson & Johnson app can get you started with 7 intensive minutes of daily workout. The tablet version of the app has enough room to show you a demonstration of each exercise, a timer and music controls so you can pump up your jams. The app also provides a library of exercises, with videos and audio descriptions.