My Family Tech column for January 1, 2012 (Facebook comments about column) is thoughts for the many people who received their first tablets on Christmas Day. I promised a blog post talking about how you can use your tablet, and phone for that matter, to go beyond the basic tablet functionality of reading, watching videos and surfing the net.
The same holds true for phones. A smart phone is really just a small tablet, connected to the 3g network (while some tablets are too, mine is wifi only).
Since April of 2010 I have used an iPad, since November of 2011, a Xoom Android tablet running Honeycomb.
By adding apps, usually free apps, I have added functionality in these areas :
There is no reason to rush to your PC just do few productive tasks.
Evernote is the first app that goes into this folder. I have written here about extensively. Having Evernote on all your computing platforms let you easily grab and save any information you come across, and recall it wherever you are.
Also handy are any of the apps that let you view Office Documents like Documents to Go, OfficeSuite or others. On my phone you really only need the free read-only version, while on the tablet I did opt for the version that lets me update documents.
Dropbox goes on all devices. It is the easiest way to share files across all platforms.
I also have the Google Docs app, a free calculator, a free voice recorder, and Google Goggles in this folder.
I find a PC is still the best writing tool, but adding a wireless keyboard to a tablet makes it easier to enter in text for later formatting and editing on a PC. Even after I have edited on the PC, a tablet makes a good platform to give it another once over, and is sufficient for small edits like correcting typos etc.
Fire users cannot use an external keyboard. The Fire does not support Bluetooth currently.
Here I keep my preferred airline booking app, in my case Kayak, and also Tripit for managing all your travel plans, and FlightView. Flight View saved me just yesterday. I arrived on a flight, and needed to meet a friend's daughter on a flight coming in 45 minutes later and give her a ride home. When I arrived, I could not find her flight number on the board for some reason, but FlightView told me she was arriving at the gate across from mine.
In this folder is Skype, my email clients, my IM apps, Google Voice app, and browsers.
Studies are showing a lot of people watch TV with the tablets nearby. I have a folder containing the IMDB app, so I can easily look up actors and their past roles. I also use an interesting app called IntoNow that listens to a program, and identifies not only the program, but the episode.
Also here are my photo gallery, video player, Netflix app, TV listing app, pod cast player, music programs like Pandora and Spotify, and ebook readers.
Google Maps, Navigator (if you have it), and other location aware apps go here.
Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus apps all go in this folder. I actually prefer reading Twitter feeds on my phone, although it is a pain to then read any web links mentioned. A tablet is a good Twitter consumer.
Apps like Google Connect on Android, or Flipboard on IOS that show news in magazine like format go here.
Also RSS readers like Google Reader. The Weather Channel app etc.
In this folder I put my devices App Store. On my Xoom I also have the Amazon App Store.
If you have a Fire, you have the Amazon app store, but cannot easily get the Google App Store.
On the iPad, you have the Apple App Store only.
I also have on my Android phone and tablet a file manager, wifi speed test, and wifi analyzer. The latter app makes it easy to find wifi dead spots in my home I need to fix.
A really geeky type app that is turned out to be quite useful is a VNC app. This app lets me see what is displayed on my PC on my tablet or phone, and even control my PC. Recently I uploaded 20 home videos to my PC, and cut DVDs of them. With my tablet I could see the progress of each action so I did not have to keep running down to my office.
You also have to install a small server app on your PC to use these.
Most of the apps I have spoken about are free, and available for both IOS and Android. If I am wrong about one, there is likely a similar app on your platform.
As you can see, tablets can be used for much more then reading, videos and web. And phones too.