The Nexus 7, from manufacturer Asus in conjunction with Google, is the premier Android tablet, arguably better than any tablet released before it. And with a price point of only $199.99 for the 8GB version and $249.99 for the 16GB version (at least until the 32GB version drops for the rumored price of $249.99), the Nexus 7 is almost an impulse buy. Despite the low price, the tablet is full of value, even if you already have an Android phone with a large screen. How is that possible?
Because the Nexus 7 has a plethora of apps available that function well on phones, but better on tablets. Critics have long argued that competitors like Apple’s iPad have a leg up on Android in terms of the number of tablet-optimized apps available; but as Google encourages app developers to program their apps in such a way that they scale dynamically to fit screen size of any device, many quality apps work well on phones and even better with more screen real estate on tablets. Today I bring you a list of some of those apps. See the best available apps for the Nexus 7 below!
1. Amazon Kindle
Several Android e-readers have hit the market over the past couple of years, including the Nook line from Barnes and Noble and the more ubiquitous Kindle Fire from Amazon. Both lines of devices have their merits as e-readers, but as tablets, they lack many features. Fortunately, Amazon’s standalone Kindle app brings the best of e-reading to all Android devices. The app is available for phones and tablets alike, but the app really shines on a device like the Nexus 7, mostly because its form factor is similar to e-readers and, consequently, real, honest-to-goodness books. While Amazon does not necessarily make it easy for users to read texts purchased outside of Amazon in its app, anyone familiar with Amazon knows that the company probably has the largest selection of e-books available on the market. And with built-in functionality for defining words without launching any sort of external application, Kindle is undoubtedly one of the best reading apps for Android.
Play Store: Amazon Kindle
2. Google Currents
Google’s take on news, Currents is a unique, magazine-style news application. The app allows you to add feeds from blogs and news websites and creates a magazine using recent posts from those feeds. After you add so many feeds, the app creates a custom magazine that displays various posts among the headlines. The screen size of the Nexus 7 is conducive to reading text in a magazine layout as it is with reading a book, like with the aforementioned Kindle app. An app like Currents is an alternative to other news readers, including Google Reader, which simply list posts and small snippets with the option of launching a browser app to view the full article; in contrast, Currents displays a preview of the post and allows you to read the full post within the app, making it easy to view content and eliminating the need to switch between multiple apps. With avid news readers in mind, Currents is one of the best apps available for staying…Well, current.
Play Store: Google Currents
3. Google Earth
Earth is one of those apps that can be a one-time novelty for some and a regular staple for others. In either case, the Nexus 7 acts as a perfect viewing window into the planet most humans call home. The touch-based gestures of pinching and tapping to move and zoom create an intuitive exploration experience in the palms of your hands, establishing Earth as one of those apps that you can show to others to demonstrate how far technology has come over the years in terms of bringing us into that once-fabled future replete with gadgets about which we could only dream…
On the more practical side of things, Earth is excellent for visualizing locations, perhaps areas which you plan to visit or ones with which you wish to become more familiar. If you have used it on a desktop computer previously to navigate waters for boating or plot courses for hiking or survey an area for some other adventure, then you will recognize the benefits of doing so on a mobile device like the Nexus 7. Earth is an app that can wow others, but also provide functionality for those who seek it.
Play Store: Google Earth
4. Google Search
Google Search received a bit of an overhaul between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, and the results impress. With the addition of Google Now, which provides useful information about bus routes, flights, local businesses and other relevant items based on location, time, and, perhaps most importantly, search history, Search is one of the best apps on the Nexus 7 as well as other Jelly Bean devices. Search also now boasts a much improved voice search functionality that responds to certain types of fact-based questions with actual answers instead of a list of search results. And based on some research conducted by various users when the Nexus 7 first debuted, Google has already laid the groundwork for voice commands that control system functions, like turning off WiFi, for example. Whether those types of functions will be spun off into a separate app remains to be seen; for now, everything is wrapped up into Google Search, and as time goes on, I expect this particular pre-installed app to become even better, particularly on the Nexus 7.
Play Store: Google Search
5. Google Voice/Groove IP
For Android users in the US, Voice has long been touted as one of the best services Google offers. The service allows you to send and receive text messages and, with the aid of a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service like the one offered by Groove IP, make and receive phone calls, using your own phone number or the one you receive when signing up for Voice, all for free! What makes the combination of apps so appealing for the Nexus 7 is that obviously the tablet does not support the ability to perform those functions by default. Of course, using the Nexus 7 as a phone is not ideal because of its size and the fact that you need a constant WiFi connection, but using it in a pinch to make or take a call, or if you simply like the idea of free phone service, is not bad at all. And text messaging on a tablet feels just as natural as it does on a phone. Voice, for Americans only, is a free service/app. Groove IP offers free and paid versions of its app, with no ads and an increase in the number of features in the paid version.
6. Kingsoft Office
I wrote about Kingsoft Office previously, and my stance remains the same: it is one of the best office apps available for Android. And while touch-based mobile devices do not make for the best content creation in my opinion, Kingsoft Office is the best at what it does, and it does it for free. Read my original blurb on the app below:
“Kingsoft Office is a quality free office suite app in the same style as a paid app like Quick Office, which was acquired by Google approximately three months ago. Presumably the capabilities and features of Quick Office will be integrated into Drive over time, but for now, if you want a dedicated app that offers document creation and editing functionality, Kingsoft Office is the right choice. The app offers all of the features you would expect, including presentation creation and editing, which Drive lacks. And while it is strong when used on a phone, Kingsoft Office truly shines on a tablet, even one the size of the Nexus 7. A bit more mature than Drive and more feature-rich than its other competitors, Kingsoft Office is one of the best productivity apps available.”
Play Store: Kingsoft Office
7. NFC Task Launcher
The Nexus 7 has the hardware capability to use a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows the tablet to communicate with other NFC-compatible devices or items. Google is attempting to standardize the technology by pushing its inclusion in future Android phones and tablets, mainly for use with its Wallet app, which comes preloaded on the Nexus 7 and allows you to pay for items in stores that have NFC devices, like Mastercard PayPass terminals, at their registers.
While NFC is still a few years away from becoming mainstream, the Nexus 7 has the potential to make good use of the technology now, particularly with apps like NFC Task Launcher. In conjunction with NFC tags, which are available for purchase within the app or online from numerous other retailers, NFC Task Launcher allows you to perform certain tasks without even launching an app via the conventional method of touchscreen input. You simply choose which actions you want your device to perform and write the actions to an NFC tag by holding it close to the Nexus 7; once the tag is written, you merely hold the tablet over the tag and it performs the actions.
For example, I have a tag I use with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which also supports NFC, that turns on WiFi and connects me to my home network, turns off mobile data, changes my ringer volume, and sends a text message to my girlfriend to let her know I made it home from work; and that happens all in a matter of a second! NFC is still a bit of a novelty right now, but it does have some good uses; and NFC Task Launcher is a quality app that helps you to start taking advantage of the technology.
Play Store: NFC Task Launcher
Netflix is the gold standard for streaming television and movie content to most platforms, and Android is no exception. The free app, in conjunction with one of several Netflix subscription options, allows users to watch content on-demand on their Android devices. Given its size, the Nexus 7 in particular is definitely meant to be a media consumption device, and Netflix is one of the better options for consuming media. Despite being useless without an Internet connection, Netflix is a perfect fit for the tablet. For those that use their Nexus 7 at home, connecting to WiFi is generally not a problem. And for those who like to watch Netflix while traveling, tethering to another Android device with mobile data is always an option. I use mine a lot at home, and I have it fitted with a case featuring a built-in stand; using it in bed to watch an episode or two of a show on Netflix is easy and comfortable. If you already subscribe to Netflix, then not installing the app is not even a choice; if you do not, then subscribing for the option of using the app to watch content almost anywhere is certainly worth considering.
Play Store: Netflix (free with subscription)
Skitch is a handy drawing application from the developers of Evernote, one of the most popular note-taking applications on Android. The app integrates and syncs with Evernote, so you can draw a quick sketch to complement your notes and save it for later. Skitch is another one of those apps available for phones, but it benefits so much more from the screen size of a device like the Nexus 7. And though the screen of the Nexus does not play well with styluses like some other tablets, a fingertip works well for etching out a crude design idea or small diagram to represent some figures. Aside from its productivity uses, Skitch is a neat Paint-type app good for those who just like to doodle on occasion. And for a free app that appeals to different types of users, you could hardly do better.
Play Store: Skitch
10. Tablet Talk
If you have an Android phone in addition to your Nexus 7 and you send and receive text messages frequently, Tablet Talk is one of the best apps you could possibly buy. For $2.99, your Nexus 7 borrows an often essential function from your phone; you pair your phone with the tablet, either via Bluetooth or WiFi, and suddenly all of your text messages sync with your tablet! You can then send and receive text messages with your Nexus 7 in real time, allowing you to leave your phone in the other room to charge without worrying about walking back and forth to answer messages. The app even notifies you if you receive a call, leaving you time to walk over to your phone to answer it. Until Google unifies its various messaging services (text messages, Google+ Messenger, Talk, and Voice), Tablet Talk integrates text messaging seamlessly into your Nexus 7 experience.
Play Store: Tablet Talk
And that concludes our list for the best apps for the Nexus 7! If you have any other categories you would like us to tackle, any apps you would like us to review, or any lessons about Android you would like to learn, please let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading!
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