How to find the best Android tablet apps

June 5, 2013

However much Google tries, discovering great Android tablet apps isn’t as easy as it should be.

You’re sifting through an assortment of apps for smartphones and tablets and – with the search giant’s open ecosystem approach meaning there is not the same strict vetting process as there is with the App Store and Windows Store – quality varies wildly.

Here's what you need to do to make sure you only have the best – and most useful – native Android apps running on your tablet.

Find native tablet apps with Tablified Market

Tablified Market is a third-party app that essentially acts as an independent app store for Android tablet apps.

The developer has even taken an Apple-esque approach to quality control, pulling scaled-up phone apps from the search and perusing newly submitted apps for Android’s Action Bar and the tablet-specific Fragments API — tell-tale signs that an app is tablet-friendly.

From a user perspective, the Tablified Market is easy to use, even if it doesn't win many marks for design or formatting.

(App discovery will be one of the major session topics at the Tablet Ecosystem conference in San Francisco on September 12).

You can search for apps using keyboards, browse by category or see what’s hot by hitting Editor’s Choice or Recently Added (only available in the Pro edition).

As with any other app store, selecting an app brings up a brief description of the app, screenshots and reviews.

The free version of Tablified Market is rather basic, presenting a standard home screen with poorly laid-out categories for apps and games. For those wanting to avoid ads and better search capabilities, it’s well worth paying the $1.49 to download the Pro edition.

Dive into Google Play

Kudos to Google because they’ve been making strides in recent months, not only in persuading developers to make better tablet apps but also in making improvements to the Google Play store itself.

At last month’s Google I/O, the search giant announced that it was tweaking Google Play to show apps designed for tablets in its top app charts.

This feature may not work on every Android tablet – for example, the Ice Cream Sandwich tablet I've been using doesn't show this selection in the app storefront.

But never fear if you too can't find it on your device – you can always head to the desktop version of Google Play and see the list for ‘featured Android apps for tablets’. It’s not perfect – certain vertical apps aren’t listed as they are with the App Store – but it’s better than it ever was before.

Try before you buy with AppSurfer

Online demo site AppSurfer has come up with a novel way to finding great Android apps – by letting you trial them before you buy…and on almost any device.

Now that might sound just a little crazy but hold on, it actually works.

Developers are invited to upload their APK files for their apps on the AppSurfer website and, having done this, their app’s then adorn their own webpage where users can test it out on any smartphone, iPad, desktop or Mac.

You can even share links to good apps via Facebook or embed them on your own website.

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The start-up’s solution is not perfect – GPS, Android phone rotation, audio rotation and only some touchscreen controls are supported-  but it does offer various selections, including apps for productivity, education, books and reference.

There is one more reason this start-up has grown – Google only offers a 15-minute refund period on Google Play.

Check out app lists from review sites

Tech review sites often do list articles on the best apps for certain platforms and while that extends to Android, most of these haven’t been tablet-specific.

There are useful web resources around though; you just have to be on the lookout.

As just a few examples, InformationWeek has a neat list of some of the more popular Android tablet apps and CIO.com has a similar list for new Android tablet buyers. TabTimes' popular  list of the 25 best Android tablet apps for work, productivity and business is also worth checking out. Stay tuned for an updated version coming this summer. 

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