Android Tablet Apps: Multimedia Power Set
Multimedia may be a tablet's greatest strength. The handheld slate, after all, is the perfect vehicle for watching videos, playing with pictures, and rocking out to your favorite tunes. All you need is the right set of programs to do everything in style.
I've tested tons of apps to find the best of the best among tablet-optimized multimedia tools. The apps listed here all combine standout functionality with impressive interfaces designed specifically for the larger screen real estate of Android tablets. So what are you waiting for? Read on, and get ready to turn your tablet into a portable entertainment powerhouse.
Have Comcast? Grab the free Xfinity TV app to turn your tablet into a full-fledged TV command center. Xfinity TV lets you browse through listings for your local area, and schedule DVR recordings, with a couple of quick taps. You can even use your tablet as a remote control, finding and starting on-demand programs and changing channels on your TV from afar (I smell some fun prank potential there). The Xfinity TV app is simple, clean, and easy to use, and it takes full advantage of a tablet's large screen space. You need an active Comcast account, of course, to be able to use the channel-changing and DVR-scheduling features.
When it comes to the wide world of video, why limit yourself to movies and TV shows? Ustream unlocks an ocean of live streaming content for your Android tablet. The free app features all sorts of live programming, ranging from popular tech shows like This Week in Tech to news and event streams from sources such as PBS News Hour and Entertainment Tonight. You can even broadcast your own live stream, straight from your tablet to the Web. Everything is arranged in an intuitive tablet-optimized interface that makes finding and watching video a breeze.
One of the nicest benefits of a tablet is on-the-go movie watching, and one of the best ways to enjoy films is with the official Netflix app. The app was just recently redesigned for tablets, and is now a true pleasure to use. It gives you access to the entire Netflix streaming catalog, organized into scrollable category-based rows. It keeps everything fully synced with your Netflix account, too, so you can pick up watching a program where you left off at home (or on any other mobile device). The Netflix Android app is free, though a regular Netflix subscription is required in order to stream content.
If you don't have Google's free Google Music app on your tablet yet, stop reading this for a minute and go download it now. Google Music is a great way to manage the music on your Android device, but it does so much more. For starters, the app connects to Google's free Google Music cloud storage. That service allows you to upload all of your songs onto Google's servers, and then access them anywhere--on any tablet, phone, or PC--without the need for any locally stored files. Better still: Google Music also integrates directly with the Android Market-based music store, which provides a reasonably seamless and simple way to buy new tunes and add them directly to your cloud-stored collection.
Audiophiles will love the aural power of Equalizer. This tablet-optimized tool gives you total control over your device's audio playback, with a five-band equalizer setup. You can fine-tune the levels yourself, or select from a variety of EQ presets such as classical, jazz, and pop. Equalizer includes effects for bass-boosting, virtualization, and reverb. It works with the stock Android music player and a large number of third-party programs, including DoubleTwist, Pandora, PowerAMP, and Spotify. Equalizer is free, though a $2 unlock key is required for some of the more advanced features. It can help improve audio quality, but it won't work miracles if your tablet's speakers are inadequate to begin with.
BeyondPod for Honeycomb
For top-notch tablet podcast management, BeyondPod for Honeycomb is the app you need. BeyondPod is the full podcast-listening package, wrapped in an easy-to-use tablet-optimized interface. The app has all the bells and whistles, including audio and video support, granular controls for download scheduling, category-based organization, and Google Reader integration. It keeps track of where you stop in any given podcast, too, so you can pick back up where you left off. BeyondPod also includes a widget for playback control on your tablet's home screen. The basic app is free; the complete feature set requires purchase of a $7 unlock key.
Adobe Photoshop Touch
If you're serious about performing image editing on your tablet, Adobe's Photoshop Touch app is well worth the dough. Priced at $10, Photoshop Touch gives you a desktop-like Photoshop experience inside a tablet-friendly interface. The app allows you to apply a huge amount of Photoshop filters, and to use numerous other advanced editing tools--things such as layer separation, touch-driven selection, and multiple-image combination. Photoshop Touch integrates directly with your tablet's camera, as well as with Google (for image search and import) and Facebook (for instant image sharing). It won't replace your desktop editing, perhaps, but it will do more than you might expect. For a more in-depth look, see our full Photoshop Touch review.
PicSay Pro Photo Editor
What good is capturing and viewing photos if you can't also edit them? PicSay Pro Photo Editor gives you a varied set of simple controls for manipulating images on your Android tablet. The app has tools for everything from basic cropping and color correction to more advanced tasks such as exposure and temperature correction, and it's easy to use. It offers a host of fun effects, too, as well as the ability to add word balloons and "stickers"--hats, fake beards, funny haircuts--to your images. PicSay Pro is $4; you can also find a limited "lite" version that's free to use.
Nurture your inner artist with Autodesk's SketchBook Pro app for Android. SketchBook Pro transforms your tablet into a canvas, and provides everything you need to create professional-looking drawings on the go. The app has a wide range of brush types and sizes, along with text tools and other virtual art supplies. Autodesk says the app uses the same paint engine as its popular desktop program--which is, perhaps, why I found it so satisfying to use. SketchBook Pro runs for $5; you can try a feature-limited SketchBook Express edition of the app for free.