The newest version of Google’s popular Android operating system, Honeycomb, was released to the general public last month with a radical new interface and new features designed specifically for larger tablet screens. For a full rundown of the new features and a critical look at Android 3.0, please feel free to read my in-depth review of the OS.
As I wrote in my Honeycomb review, there are currently only about 120 applications available on the Android Market that are optimized for Honeycomb (meaning that their interface has been redesigned or upgraded to suit a larger screen). Having said that, most of the applications available right now are practical and very functional in their performance, and certainly do Honeycomb justice rather than being white elephants and simply hogging space on your tablet.
Here’s my rundown on the top 10 apps to download onto your new Honeycomb tablet right now. All the apps listed below (apart from MoboPlayer) have been optimized for Honeycomb and were tested on my Motorola XOOM.
Pulse is the daddy of all news readers and it feels much more at home on a tablet than on a cramped phone screen. The app displays feeds in an attractive mosaic view; to read a story, simply tap it to expand it in a side window. Pulse has full integration with Facebook and Twitter and allows seamless sharing as well as the ability to view your tweets or Facebook news feed.
For an application this refined, Pulse is bizarrely completely free (for the moment anyway…). It’s an absolutely essential application for anyone who wants to stay connected with the happenings in the world. Check out our full review of the mobile version.
Market Link: Pulse
Developer: Alphonso Labs
Sorry to state the obvious but what app list would be complete without a version of Angry Birds? The latest version is based on the movie Rio, and although in this version you don’t have to destroy evil green egg-robbing pigs (instead, you free trapped birds from cages) the gameplay is still very enjoyable. Plus the optimized tablet interface guarantees super-sharp accuracy to let you get working on that high score…
Price: Free (ad-supported)
Market Link: Angry Birds Rio
Developer: Rovio Mobile Ltd
If there’s one app that shows off your new Honeycomb tablet’s potential, it’s CNN’s news app. The categories are displayed down the side to allow easy switching between them and articles are listed in a handy grid style, allowing easy browsing and selection.
Once on an article, you can either read it (the obvious choice), watch any video linked with the article, or save it for offline reading (handy if you’re heading out and won’t have a Wi-Fi connection). CNN is one of the best ways to keep up to date on your Honeycomb tablet and the interface and design of the program really work well with a larger screen — remember, this app was written specifically for tablets. It’s an app I’m sure you’ll use several times a day.
Market Link: CNN for Tablets
GoAruna is one of many cloud-based storage solutions, like Dropbox, popping up around the ‘net. A free account provides you with 2GB of storage space, and extra features include a PDF viewer and a local file explorer for your tablet. There are also versions for Windows, Mac, Linux, and most smartphones (including iOS, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and, yes, Android), allowing you to upload files quickly from whatever device you are using.
Although not as integrated as Dropbox (with regards to other programs), it is the first cloud-based storage system with an optimized Honeycomb interface, and its in-built file browser removes the need to instal an additional file manager app. If 2GB isn’t enough for you, extra storage space is available from $5 per month. All in all, it’s an essential app which saves you the hassle of digging around for that USB cable.
Price: Free for the first 2GB of storage; $5/month or more thereafter
Market Link: GoAruna for Tablets
Amazon’s best-selling eBook reader application has finally been optimized for Honeycomb and features an interface redesigned for tablets. Although it won’t match the reading experience of an actual Kindle, it will catalogue all your purchased books in a new grid layout allowing easy selection. It also features Amazon’s Whispersync technology, which automatically updates the position you are on in your book across all your devices (whether it’d be on your PC, phone, or actual Kindle itself), avoiding the need for paper bookmarks and mental notes on where you left off.
The Kindle app unfortunately doesn’t support any books that were not purchased from the Kindle store (Laputa Book Reader is the best Honeycomb app for this), so be warned. If you’ve got a Kindle, or just fancy reading some books on your tablet, then this is a definite necessity, and with just under a million books to choose from on the Kindle store you’ll never be short of something to read.
Market Link: Amazon Kindle
TweetComb, by independent Android developer Chris Stewart, is the first Twitter client actually written specifically for Honeycomb. Your tweets, mentions, and direct messages are listed in columns (much like in TweetDeck on the PC) in a tablet-friendly format, and the interface is crisp and uncluttered.
As the app has only been around for a few weeks, it’s not as feature-rich as some of the other Twitter clients, but Chris is open to all comments, feedback and feature requests. TweetComb is a clean and functional app, easily the best Twitter client out there for Honeycomb, and is well worth the small price tag.
Market Link: TweetComb
Developer: Chris Stewart
Ever been out or watching a commercial and wondered, “What’s that song playing right there?”. SoundHound records a sample of the music playing and matches it to its huge database of samples, identifying the album and artist. We were very impressed with its mobile version, and covered it along with Shazam in this article.
Although SoundHound has struggled on some occasions, it recognized most of the songs I tested it with, even with a lot of background noise or poor music quality. You can even hum or sing songs to it and it’ll (attempt to) match them up as well. The free, ad-supported version supports unlimited queries as well as the ability to look up lyrics and a history of all identified songs. That’s if you want to take your tablet to every bar and club you go to…
Price: Free (ad-supported); otherwise $4.99
Market Link: SoundHound
Android does not have a built-in weather application and there are several different applications on the Market at the moment (thoughonly a few are optimized for Honeycomb). WeatherBug features a scrollable “Cover Flow” style interface and supports multiple locations, allowing you to flick through them easily and quickly. Tapping on the location gives detailed weather information and lets you view satellite and radar images superimposed onto Google Maps.
WeatherBug also places a handy, discreet icon in your notification bar, allowing you to quickly check the current weather conditions and temperature and alerts you of any extreme weather coming your way (although since I live in the UK, this isn’t really necessary!). The app integrates nicely with Honeycomb, and with a perceptive, sharp interface it certainly looks the business.
Market Link: WeatherBug
Developer: Earth Networks
Imagine you were the boss at a game development company and someone walked straight into your office and said, “Hey! I’ve got a great idea for a game! How about one where you slice fruit in half like a ninja?”. Well, presumably after you’d stopped sniggering, you’d probably fire the guy on the spot for being completely ridiculous. Well, it seems that said guy obviously didn’t get fired because this marvelous game was born.
Fruit Ninja THD (the THD stands for Tablet High-Definition by the way) is not only highly addictive but also really draws on the enhanced processing power of a tablet. The graphics are sharp and clean and even with mangos, coconuts and apples galore filling up the screen, there is no compromise on the frame rate. I can’t think of many more fun ways to spend $3, so don’t be a banana and get it! (I can hear you groaning already…)
Price: AU$2.99 (around US$3.20)
Market Link: Fruit Ninja THD
Although not strictly optimized for Honeycomb, MoboPlayer still looks great on a large screen and is one of the most useful utilities available for your tablet. It supports almost all video and subtitle formats, which avoids the need to convert all your videos to play on your tablet — simply drag and drop your movie files onto your tablet’s storage and MoboPlayer will categorise them using an iTunes-style “Cover Flow” interface.
If you stop watching your video to do something else then the app will handily remember where you were (useful for people who’ve got several different TV series on the go, like me). MoboPlayer could almost be dubbed as “the missing movie player for Android” and it’s by all means not confined to a tablet (it’s compatible with all Android phones from version 1.6 upwards), so why not give your video collection the treatment it deserves?
Market Link: MoboPlayer