Android Tablet Apps: The Communication Collection
We humans are social creatures, and technology has made us more connected than ever. Armed with an Android tablet, you can take your communication to new heights--if you have the right set of apps in your arsenal. After countless hours of searching and testing, I've pulled together some of the finest communication programs available for Android tablets today. All of them are optimized to take advantage of a tablet-size screen, and all of them offer standout features that will add power to your shiny Android slate. Ready to load up your tablet? Read on.
Still relying on your carrier's text messaging service? Grab SyncSMS, a nifty little app that lets you send and receive standard SMS messages on your Android tablet. SyncSMS actually runs simultaneously on your phone and your tablet. The initial setup is a bit involved, as you have to install the app on both devices and also provide credentials for a new or existing Dropbox account (which the app uses to store data temporarily as it syncs messages). Once configured, though, SyncSMS is as smooth as silk; incoming texts pop up on your tablet with threaded conversations and contact photos in place, and composing new texts is incredibly easy. SyncSMS costs $3.
Wikitude World Browser
Bring a social layer into the real world with the free Wikitude World Browser for Android tablets. Wikitude harnesses your device's GPS function to give you detailed user-generated information about your surroundings. The app offers an interactive map filled with tweets sent from folks in your area, user reviews written about nearby locations, local businesses with lots of check-ins, and Flickr photos captured close by. You can find restaurant lists and Wikipedia articles, too.
Social sharing service Reddit has a rabidly devoted fan base, and if you're among their number, the Reddita Android tablet app is ready and waiting to serve you well. Reddita, created by a third-party developer, gives you a great tablet-optimized interface for keeping up with all the latest Reddit chatter. You can browse through the site's many categories ("subreddits") to view items and then tap on any item to bring up its content--whether it's plain text or an embedded link--within a separate on-screen panel. You can also scroll through Reddit's threaded comments, of course, and leave your own witty remarks. Reddita supports up- and down-voting, customizable notifications, and messaging for signed-in users. The app is free but ad-supported; an ad-free version is available for $1.60.
Plume for Twitter
When it comes to Twitter and tablets, Plume for Twitter is without a doubt at the top of the pack. Plume gives you an elegant interface for keeping up with your tweets: Its main screen shows three customizable columns for viewing your timeline, mentions, and any searches or lists you like. Tapping a tweet brings up a larger window with any relevant images plus options for replying, retweeting, and viewing the poster's profile. Plume even has its own optional built-in browser so you can open attached links without having to exit the program. The main Plume app is free but ad-supported; you can go ad-free with a $5 "premium" upgrade.
If you use multiple instant messaging services, IM+ is the app for you. IM+ connects numerous types of IM accounts into a single streamlined interface, giving you a simple way to chat with pals without having to install a dozen different programs. IM+ works with AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN, Skype, Yahoo, and several other popular platforms. It supports photo- and audio-file sending as well as group chats, so it's perfect for conversing with your friends and colleagues. You can even set up multiple accounts within the same IM service. IM+ is free but ad-supported; for an ad-free environment, you can buy the optional IM+ Pro upgrade for $5.
Don't let the plain-vanilla style of this app deter you from realizing its full power. Google's free Google Voice service gives you unlimited text messaging and powerful voicemail management, and together with the Google Voice app, it lets you keep up with conversations on your tablet, too. The free Google Voice app puts your inbox front and center, with all of your SMS and voicemail messages displayed in a single streamlined list (just as they are on the Google Voice website or Android phone app). You can search archived messages, browse by label, and compose new messages. The Google Voice app provides full notification functionality as well, so you can receive an alert on your tablet anytime a new message comes in.
Friendcaster for Facebook
Facebook has yet to release an Android app that's truly optimized for tablets, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer. Just download Friendcaster for Facebook, the free third-party Facebook app that does make tablets a priority. Friendcaster, now for phones and tablets both, lets you keep up with your News Feed and post status updates from an intuitive, tablet-oriented interface. The app provides full support for Facebook photos and messages, as well as for groups, events, and pages (Facebook chat is not integrated directly into the app, but is available via a free add-on). Friendcaster has optional notifications, too, if you like to get alerts when new activity happens. An ad-free version costs $5.
And another from the Google family: the company's official Google+ Android app, available for free in Google Play (Android Market). The Google+ app offers tablet-friendly functionality for a slew of Google+ features, including the network's Messenger instant-messaging utility and its Hangouts tool for on-the-go video chat. Google+ also provides an "instant upload" option that can automatically sync photos from your tablet to a private online album, making the images instantly available on any computer or mobile device. The Google+ app, like the service, is free to use.