Nexus 7 Apps and Accessories
I have been using my Nexus 7 tablet for 3 months so I figured it was time to write down how I have my new tablet set up and put together a list of the apps and accessories I find most useful. This is my first tablet and my first Android device. Coming from using an iPhone it has been fun learning about Android. Whether you are contemplating buying one of these tablets or have recently purchased one I hope you can find something helpful here.
One of the nice things about Android is the idea of widgets. A widget displays data without you having to open an app. I like widgets because I can set up the device to be a kind of dashboard about the world and my life. For example, on the right is my home screen. The top widget allows me to easily change the sate of wifi, bluetooth, gps, synching and display brightness. No digging around through menus etc, just a tap and I’m done. The next widget is from Fancy Widgets and shows me the current weather conditions where I am. The last widget on my home screen shows me breaking news.
Android gives you 5 screens but it is different than iOS in that with Android you start out in the middle. That is, if we number then 184.108.40.206.5 your home screen is 3 and you have 2 to the left (1 and 2) and 2 screens to the right (4 and 5). You can surface widgets on any of these screens so deciding where you want to put what can be a fun challenge. Basically a decision of what you want to see right away and what you want to see with a simple swipe right or left.
I picked up an app called Business Calendar (there is a free version that is enough for me) to show my calendar in a widget. Android has a built in widget for your calendar but I really like all the options that Business Calendar has. Try them both out if you use Google Calendar. Best part of either one is you can show other iCal calendars as well as your own. For example, I have and iCal of the San Diego Padres that pulls in all the times of their games. This then shows up alongside all my other calendar entries. My daughter’s school has an iCal feed of all of their activities that is useful too. With the widget, a simple swipe right reveals my next 7 days of calendar commitments and Padres games (during baseball season).
I keep track of my tasks in Remember the Milk (RTM). the beauty of RTM is its flexibility to design your own task tracking system. I don’t want to spend time rambling on about it here but being a Pro RTM user lets you have widgets to display your different RTM lists. A simple swipe left shows my task list.
As you can see from my home screen above, I like to keep it uncluttered. All of my apps are in groups below in what Google calls the Favorites Tray. From left to right the groups are: News, Reading, Social, the built in All Apps button, Media, Misc. Apps. and, lastly, Utilities. Below are the apps in those categories
- BBC News – News from across the pond.
- Breaking News – this is the one that also includes the widget I use on my home screen
- Drippler News – This app is basically a search for news about the Nexus 7. They have similar apps for other Android devices as well.
- Flipboard – This is the first app I open every morning. Great way to skim through the hot news on your various social sites.
- GNews Plus – A reader for Google News.
Adobe Reader – for the rare PDF
Audible – I listen to audio books on my commute. This could go in the Media group but I think of it as reading so I put it here.
B&N Nook – I have Kindle books but you never know when you might get a B&N gift card and want to buy something from them instead. And that is the beauty of having an open tablet, you have choices.
Kindle – The go-to app for ebooks. Whispersync is amazing and lets you pick up where you left off an any device.
Play Magazines – Another built in app. I haven’t bought any new ones but strongly considering replacing some print mags with digital ones.
Readability – You can share articles from the web and read them offline.
Google Reader – Read all of your RSS feeds. There are also widgets that let you surface individual feeds if you like.
Facebook – Definitely not my favorite network but friends are on it so it is a necessary evil.
Foursquare – I use this more on my phone than the tablet but I keep it handy here.
GetGlue – Check in to Movies and TV. A way to share to other networks what you are watching.
Google+ – Built in app. This and Twitter are my most used social apps.
Skype – Another way to chat with family and friends. I have yet to really use this on the tablet but I keep it handy and updated for when I might need it.
Twitter – An old favorite.
BeyondPod for Tablets – This is a nice way to subscribe to podcasts and either stream or download them. Works great in landscape mode. I tend to use it around the house for streaming more than downloading.
Ceton Companion – This is admittedly a niche use app. I have a Windows Media Center connected to my TV at home that I use to record and watch TV etc. This app is really handy for managing recordings. Definitely a nice addition to the Media Center ecosystem.
Football Highlights HD – This app pulls in links to video highlights to NFL games. If you favorite team wasn’t on TV you can go here to see the highlights later.
iHeartRadio – Listen to some of your favorite radio stations
Netflix – Stream movies.
Play Movies and TV – Built in app. I haven’t downloaded anything new yet.
Play Music – Another built in app. I have all my music in Google’s cloud now. This makes streaming musing a breeze.
TunIn Radio – This is one of my newest additions. I think I may get rid of iHeartRadio and move to TunIn. It is really great in short use. Tune into stations all over the country. And if you follow an out of market NFL team, look around you may find a stream.
YouTube – Built in app. Lots of people lament the loss off Flash in Android 4 and above. There are ways around that but honestly, the only thing I needed it for was YouTube and this app takes care of that.
This category is the biggest. If things don’t fit in the other categories and I need quick access to them, rather than going into the all apps, I put them here. Built in apps that don’t go in the other categories go here as well. Here are the ones I like to keep handy.
Google Drive – Access to Google’s cloud storage
Evernote – I keep everything here. Don’t know how I’d get along without it and its great search functions. If I have even a vague idea I may need to remember where I found something I store it in Evernote.
Handrite and LectureNotes – Both of these apps are for taking notes by handwriting on the screen. Each one takes and store the notes differently and I haven’t decided which one like best so I keep them both around. Both also let you export your notes to Evernote so you can see them on your other devices as well.
Kingsoft Office – View and edit MS Office documents.
NASA – Keep up with news at NASA. They also have an option for updating your wallpaper with NASA images from space.
Outlook Web Mobile – If your work uses Exchange and gives you Outlook Web Access and not active sync, this app turns the web into an app. Makes it quicker to check mail and access your calendar. You can even set it to notify you if you like.
Perfect Tool for Picasa – The built in Gallery app is good but I spend a lot of time captioning my pictures and the Gallery doesn’t show that caption when you are viewing the pictures. This app lets you do that and load pictures from Picasa online so you don’t have to take up lots of your precious local storage. This is what I’m using for now but I’m always on the hunt for something better and still hoping Google updates the Gallery app.
ESPN SportCenter – Great for keeping track of your favorite teams.
Shazam – Identifies songs by listening to them. Handy.
SkyDrive – Access Microsoft’s cloud storage
Airdroid – Lets you connect wirelessly to your tablet. Start the app then, on your laptop, start your web browser and link directly to your table on a special web page. Nice for moving files off the tablet with out connecting to the computer.
AutomateIt – This is an admittedly geeky app but it one of my favorites. With this you can turn things on and off at certain times or when certain events happen. For example, If I am listening to BeyondPod with headphones unplugged, the volume is automatically set to a higher level for speaker listening. This ads adds ton of flexibility and if you are willing to spend a bit of time following the wizards you can really make the tablet work for you.
Antek Explorer – A file explorer for Android. It has plugins too that let you access your cloud storage as well.
Clickfree – This lets me backup the tablet to one of my cloud services. I back mine up to Skydrive because I have the most space there.
Behind the scenes apps
There are utilities I have installed but they aren’t things you click on to use so they don’t live in one of my Favorites groups.
Unlock with Wifi – This app lets you keep your tablet locked all the time. Then, when you are in a secure location like a home you can set it so it stays unlocked when you are connected to your home wifi. It lets you add other wifi too so, for example, when you are at work you can add that wifi and to have your tablet stay unlocked. Additionally, it is access point specific. This lets me keep the tablet unlocked when I am at my desk but if I’m roaming around the building it stays locked. Great for ensuring it stays locked if I accidently leave it behind.
Thumb Keyboard – The built-in keyboard I good but I found I like Thumb Keyboard better. I have it add arrow keys to the display that make it easy to move the cursor around. Its predictive text is very good too.
Case – Protect your investment. This case is inexpensive and has saved my tablet on at least 2 occasions: MoKo(TM) Slim-fit Cover Case for Google Nexus 7 Android Tablet
Keyboard – Nice to have a Bluetooth keyboard in your bag for times when you need a mobile office. Lets you type email and other notes better and faster than you can on screen. This is is small and thin while still letting you type and not feel too cramped: Perixx PERIBOARD-804, Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard – 10×5″ Portable Size – Ultrathin 1/4″ Design
Stylus – Some styli are mushy rubber typed tools. This one has a kind of mesh across it that makes it feel better and more accurate when you are using apps like Handrite or LectureNotes. BoxWave EverTouch Capacitive Stylus
USB OTG – This USB On the Go adapter and the Nexus Media Importer app lets you attach any USB memory stick to your tablet. No worrying that you don’t have a lot of memory free, just put your pictures or movies on a USB key and access them this way. Even if you don’t think you’ll use it that often it is too cheap not to have in your bag. eForCity Micro USB OTG to USB 2.0 Adapter
USB Car Charger – You need power on the go and this adapter has 2 slots. One that outputs a full 2.1 Amps suitable for charging your tablet and another that outputs 1.0 Amp for charging a less demanding device like a phone. Mediabridge High Output Dual USB Car Charger For iPad and iPhone (3.1 Amp)
Charging Cable – This cable lets you charge your tablet. It doesn’t let you connect to the tablet for data at all, just charge. I keep this one in my car paired with the above car charger. Data cables can cause the device to think it is plugged into a computer and thus not get the full advantage of the 2.1 Amps. This way it charges faster. You could hack your own cable like this be searching around the net for which cables to cross but your time is money. PureGear Charge Only Cable for Universal Micro USB
Do you have a Nexus 7? What are your must have apps and accessories?