Wednesday 9 January 2013

How to Trick out your New Google Nexus 7 with the Best Android Apps

Okay, first off, let's see if the Google Nexus is actually the right tablet for you. My reasons for getting a Google Nexus 7 were twofold: the ridiculously low price (starting at $200 for a direct order but I paid $260 locally in case of returns, etc.), and the fact that it fit perfectly in my hands, pockets, and had awesome graphics and sound. The ipad mini just didn't feel 'right'.

Here are some reasons you might not want it. The things not advertised on the box: No HDMI port so you can't easily hook it up to your T.V., no SD card slot so your storage is set at whatever you start with, the older model I have also doesn't have a slot for a cellular carrier so I'm stuck with wi-fi.

Assuming you're still going for the Google Nexus 7 and/or you already have one, congratulations! Below are some of the things I did with mine (apart from the apps which I'll list below).

1. I bought a wireless aircard hotspot so I can take the internet anywhere I want and use it with all my devices. This means not only do I not need a separate card for each device, but if it breaks/goes out of date I can just use the hotspot with other devices. I can also share the internet with tablets and other people's devices if I choose. The price you're supposed to pay monthly for these things is ridiculous, but I got a very reasonable deal from my carrier. If a ridiculously good deal isn't an option for you, you might as well get a tablet with a slot for a cellular carrier because the whole point is internet on the go. There are some workarounds, like tethering to your cell phone, but meh.

Edit: My internet provider was overcharging me random fees for tethering so I chucked this thing. Just a heads up before anyone gets too excited!

2. I bought a Sony Iphone dock because the guy's at the store said it was the 'best'. It set me back around $50 but the speakers are the nicest I've ever had and I use a standard in-line phone jack to bypass the iphone part and play my music.
3. Apple is currently the 'king' of the media and mobile market. They have way more apps and devices on the market, so it's a strong choice as well.

3. I recently found out you can get a female USB to micro USB cable fairly cheap and then connect keyboards, mice, and suchlike to the Google Nexus 7. I figured this was pretty cool, and successfully hooked up my Nexus to a keyboard. However, I find the screen is a bit too small to write effectively. Still, can save you $200 bucks for a wireless keyboard if you were going to get it anyway.

The Apps

The below may not be the best apps because: A. I suck at technology, and B. I'm paranoid when it comes to giving away permissions (even to legitimate apps). I suppose it's only a matter of time before my devices are pirated anyways, but I hate spam.
Okay, now on to the fun stuff. You've got a brand new Google Nexus 7 and you're wondering what to do with the darn thing? Well, I categorized the main things I want to do with a device, first:

SongzaTuneIn Radio ProGoogle Play Music

1. Play Music: I put Itunes on my PC and I port the files to a folder and then to the Music folder on my Nexus. It's more annoying than having an Apple device, but it gets the job done and gives you access to Itunes music. For radio I installed Tune In Pro with 70,000 radio stations and the neat ability to record things off the radio. I hear Pandora and Songza are also supposed to be pretty good but I'm paranoid and the permissions scared me off.
KindleMoon+ Reader ProFree Books & Stories - Wattpad

2. Read Books: I put Kindle on my device. I also like Wattpad for the free works by indie authors, and moon reader is okay, but had some features which annoyed me such as the option to pirate pretty much any book you want with one-click (at the time). It also reads and aggregates all e-books and formats on your device.

 3. Read Magazines: Not many options here. Zinio seemed okay, but the selection is severely limited.

NetflixCrackle - Movies & TV

4. Watch Movies: Since I live in Canada, Netflix, Hulu, and the rest aren't really an option. You could use Utorrent to pirate stuff, but I don't like to do that either. The prices on Google Play Movies seemed a bit ridiculous to me. Also, the amount of storage used by movies on the Nexus is ridiculous especially when you don't have removable SD cards. All in all, I don't find the Nexus as a great movie device. The screen is so small and everything so expensive, I think I'd just watch it at home in my DVD player, etc. Youtube is pre-installed and it's a fine app.
ChromeFirefox Browser for Android

5. Access the Internet: Really, this is the whole point of the device. A lack of anything but Wi-fi originally seriously bummed me out. Get something which can hold a chip if you can. For browsers, Chrome seems to be the fastest but Firefox is easily the sweetest. You can nerf ads and pretend your browser is a PC to get rid of annoying mobile sites on Twitter and the like.

6. Writing: I installed Swift-key but it didn't seem all that good. All in all, I kind of hate writing on the tablet. I write novels, so the only means to effectively write is on a laptop/PC and I just wait to get home to do so. It's not really worth it with a smaller device.

Granny SmithThe Bard's Tale

7 Games: I don't really buy devices for the games (probably why I went with the nexus instead of Ipad mini). However, given that there's so many, here are the ones I found cool (which didn't want outrageous permissions): Granny Smith (very funny), The Bard's Tale (old school RPG which is way too easy to cheat, but funny), and that's about it. By the way, Need for Speed Most Wanted wants you to agree to a license which says they can give all your personal information to anyone they want. It's currently the top game on the app market. Huh.

8. Do sweet stuff I hadn't thought of yet: Another thing I like to have with new devices is the option to do sweet stuff I otherwise couldn't have. There are a number of things which fall under this category:
FoxFi (WiFi Tether w/o Root)

A. Steal Internet (now unnecessary for me): Foxfi and some other app in combo seemed to do the trick. Pain in the arse, if you ask me.

Camera Launcher for Nexus 7

B. Camera: Camera Launcher for Nexus. 


C. Maps: Google Maps with a cached local area (pre-insalled with built in automatic GPS. Very cool).
Kaiten EmailAqua Mail - new email app

D. E-mails: Didn't install, but look functional enough. There's an app that aggregates them all called Kaiten. This sounds cool as I have about 15 e-mail addresses. Aqua-mail is new, but highly reviewed.
Press (Google Reader)Google CurrentsBBC NewsJustReader News Key - RSSGoogle ReaderPulse NewsPocket

E. News: Google Currents came pre-installed and functions as both an RSS reader and a news feed. It uses a ridiculous amount of ram and internet, but I have plenty anyway so I haven't bothered to switch to something better. I hear Google Reader is good and Pulse for news. There's also JustNews which is supposed to be good. For storing websites offline, Pocket is pure awesomeness. Get it. BBC is also a sweet news app.
SketchBook Pro for TabletsBig Fat Canvas

F. Art: My sister loves to do art. I don't bother, or if I do it's with real paper. I put on Big Fat Canvas. She said it was rubbish and made me install Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for Tablets. I admit, she can do some cool stuff with the later.
Flipboard: Your News Magazine
StumbleUponTwitterFacebookGoogle+BaconReader for Reddit

G. Social Networking: I was thinking of installing Plume and Twitter/Facebook but they all wanted whacko permissions. Ditto on Flipboard, Pinterest, and some other ones. If you're not as paranoid as I am, they might be worth a look. G+ is preinstalled and I already use that so it's pretty cool.
WeatherBug EliteThe Weather Network

H. Weather: I put on Weatherbug, but I hear that The Weather Network for free is better anyway. 

Skype - free IM & video callstextPlus Free Text + Calls

I. Phone: Why would I want phone on my tablet? I already have a phone! Some people say TextPlus is good as is Skype, but I haven't installed either.
MovieTube Ad-FreeYouTube

J. Movies: Youtube, Movietube (list of movies on youtube), and MVplayer. I haven't actually used any of these but youtube, so I can't really say if they're any good.
QR DroidDropboxEvernote
K. Apps which could have been cool but I didn't install/installed but didn't use: Social networking, movies, uTorrent, Moonreader pro, Zite, Evernote Flipboard, Reddit Bacon, Google Reader, Android's free barcode scanner for QR codes, Need for Speed (don't), Dead Trigger (didn't bother), and HD Widgets (I found them useless). Also: Dropbox, Google Drive, Stumpleupon, and a few others.

All of the above either wanted permissions I didn't want to give, duplicated what I already have, were never used, or were otherwise ignored by me for no good reason. 
My Data Manager

L. Installed My Data Manager to watch my wi-fi and mobile use. I think a similar program is pretty much a must on these kinds of devices.


M. Put Challenger RPG on Google Currents which I felt was pretty awesome. Only problem is I need 200 subscribers before they make it official. Oh, well.

News Canada

N. Tweak preferences to let the screen auto-rotate to any position.
Google Earth

O. Anything cool I missed? Feel free to let me know.

P. Nes.Emu could presumably be used to play Galaga.
Anti-Virus Pro - Tabletavast! Mobile Security

Q. Anti-virus: I installed AVG out of habit. I've heard Avast! Mobile Security is the one to go with, but I can't personally vouch for it. That said, I think it's only a matter of time before mobile devices are hacked, wiped, pirated, or what have you. That's why I only have a small limit on the credit card I use online and I still haven't hooked up my e-mail accounts and social networks to automatically sign in on my Nexus. Yes, I'm paranoid. Yes, I may change my mind later on.

R. Peripherals: Okay, you've got your Nexus and you've got your apps. What about screen protectors, bags, keyboards, and other things like that? Well, mostly I ignored them. I use a bit of thin foam to protect my tablet and I stuff it in my pocket or a work bag. Yes, I could pay $70 for a nice pouch for it, but I think that's just silly. Probably why I went for one of the more affordable tablets instead of an Ipad mini. The keyboard also seems a bit weird, considering I could just buy a laptop and get a better effect with less bulk anyway.

S. Toughness: I like to rate all my devices on toughness. I have an old Dell computer which is supposedly almost indestructible and can be thrown out moving trucks without severe damage. I know a friend who had a screen crack on an Acer and couldn't get a replacement or anything.
I'm not really sure how tough the Nexus 7 is. I don't think it's meant to be tough.
Why should it be? That said, I've dropped it three times so far and it's still in one piece. The glass probably scratches over time, but I'm going to use it regardless (and without a screen protector). The Ipads are supposed to be tougher and have gorilla glass, but you have to pay an extra $600 for it, and who chucks their tablets at cement trucks anyway?

Minecraft - Pocket EditionWikipedia

T. I recently added Minecraft Pocket Edition to my tablet because I'd already bought it for my phone and found it useless. The game play is significantly more awesome on the tablet and with the new updates. I'm not one much for games on my devices, but if you are, this is one to check out for sure.

I also added Wikipedia as an app to save myself a couple of clicks but haven't used it much yet. 

All other images courtesy of

...GM Advice

...Essential Nexus 7 Tweaks on Another Site 

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