With Honeycomb tablets hitting the stores now, and many more to come, finding the best apps for your shiny new Android 3.0 device is going to be a challenge. Unlike the iPad, Android Market won’t just serve you up a platter of Honeycomb ready apps and we've already found that apps that really work on Honeycomb aren't as abundant as they should be.
Some apps don’t work well, some scale nicely, some are superbly optimised for Honeycomb. So what we’re starting here is a growing list of the best Honeycomb apps we’ve dug out, tried, tested and found to be worth getting excited about.
Of course, we’re open to suggestions, so if you’ve found an app that works really well on your tablet then feel free to leave us a comment and we’ll check it out.
Yes, it’s Pulse again. We’ve told you about Pulse already as it was our App Of The Day recently and it’s one of our top Honeycomb apps. Coming from the guys at Alphonso Labs, Pulse is basically a news aggregator that you can easily customise to bring you the news from the sources you like the most.
It works really well on a large screen because you have the space to browse the different news tiles and read the story on the same page. You can change the size of the tiles the info is presented in, as well as the font, and whether you want a white or grey background when reading.
It’s easy to skip over plenty of sources, the images it pulls in adding interest to the headlines. The app will let you pick from Pulse’s featured sites, or search for your own and with plenty of categories to browse, you can have a full range of content set-up and being delivered within a couple of minutes.
It looks good, it works well on the large screen and it’s definitely one of our favourite Honeycomb apps so far. If we have one criticism, it’s that it doesn’t properly use Honeycomb’s menus in the Action Bar at the top of the page.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.alphonso.pulse
Weatherbug for Honeycomb
Obsessed with weather? Sure, if you’re eyeing up an HTC Flyer when it lands, you can guarantee that HTC will serve you up some glorious weather action. But fear not Honeycomb fans, as Weatherbug has given their app a good polish to make it fit for your tablet.
Weatherbug for Honeycomb makes use of all the space available offering tiles for individual locations and offering to automatically locate you. There is a wealth of additional information that you can click through from the graphical summary, moving in to see a brief forecast for each day. You can even delve deeper and pull up a satellite map.
Weatherbug has been optimised for Honeycomb so takes advantage of the Action Bar for the menus and the result is a slick app that will offer you more weather information than you probably need, but doesn’t go as far as giving you fullscreen animations.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.aws.android.squall
Movies by Flixter
If you’ve even been to the Android Market or even Facebook, you’ve probably heard of Flixter. The Movies application provides all sorts of movie details, from what’s in the box office, to what’s playing at your local theatre.
Movies by Flixter makes use of a two column system, with everything well presented for a large landscape view on your Honeycomb tablet. You can head over to movies to read the synopsis or view the trailer, which, although only presented at a medium resolution gets playing pretty fast when connected to Wi-Fi.
You can explore the cast list and pick out details on particular actors, including viewing their filmography and photos. It isn’t as detailed as IMDb, but overall Movies by Flixter feels as though it offers you more than its rival currently does.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=net.flixster.android
If Amazon is your e-bookstore of choice, then you’ll already know that they support a wide range of platforms outside of their own Kindle hardware.
The advantage that the Kindle ecosystem offers over some others is that you can sync your device, including where you’ve read to, so if you find yourself stuck in a hotel without your Kindle ebook and you want to read a little more, then you’ll be able to dive right in on your tablet.
It’s not perfect and we’ve found that thanks to the glossy nature of most LCD tablets that in daylight conditions you can’t really see much on the screen to make out the words - but the text is sharp and clear, despite the step-up in size. It has now been optimised for Honeycomb, so gets action bar menus, but we're disappointed that the Kindle Store is accessed through the browser, rather than in the app itself.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.amazon.kindle
Ok, so we’re playing the system. SwiftKey isn’t available yet for tablets, but we’re big fans of the keyboard app so we got our hands on the beta. Our complaint with the native Honeycomb keyboard was that we kept closing it down with our left palm when bashing out messages.
SwiftKey offers you two things on Honeycomb. Firstly you can have a conventional on-screen keyboard that applies SwiftKey’s intelligent (and often hilarious) predictive suggestions so you can bash out messages without actually having to write every word.
Secondly, and this is where we get really excited, you can have a split keyboard that means you can easily use it with two thumbs (there are alternative thumb keyboards, but we rate SwiftKey's predictive system). The stock keyboard on Android is just too big on devices like the Motorola Xoom to reach the keys with your thumbs when gripping it from the sides so splitting the keyboard makes it much easier to bash out messages along with SwiftKey’s predictions.
Unfortunately for you, dear reader, you can’t get your hands on this version of the keyboard just yet, but trust us when we say it’s excellent.
Android Market: Not yet, sorry
Score: We’ll score it once it launches
Evernote has recently become Honeycomb optimised, making it a much better application on a tablet, doing away with all that empty space with small icons, and giving you a much more logical and useful layout. For those not familiar with Evernote, it is essentially a note-taking application, but wide platform support means that you can likely sign-in to your account on whatever mobile or desktop system you use.
Essentially navigation runs down the left-hand edge, with plenty of space to see your notes and change the views to find what you're looking for. Honeycomb optimisation isn't complete, as you still get the "dirty" menu button at the bottom of the page on the System Bar. Other settings are handled via a settings icon, but that's about our only complaint.
You can easily create notes, including snapping photos and recording voice notes, which then automatically sync through your Evernote account. This makes it really easy stay organised, be it leaving yourself reminders, working up ideas, or taking notes from a meeting. Being able to add and edit those notes on the move with your phone or tablet and easily access them on your desktop, makes Evernote a great option for those on the move.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.evernote
Price: Free (up to a point)
Samurai II: Vengeance
If you’re looking for a slick game to show off the potential of your new tablet, then Samurai II: Vengeance is a good place to start. We’ll be honest, we haven’t got that far into the game itself because we’ve been marvelling at the visuals too much.
The comic book-style intros and the quality of the graphics in the game almost justify the price, but you are paying for this sort of gloss. The controls seem easy enough and getting to grips with battling enemies has been easy enough for us so far - plus you don't have to worry about obscuring all the action with your thumbs as you would with a smaller device.
Price may be a deterrent on this one, but it is only €3.49 (at the time of writing) and it is a good showcase of how fantastic gaming can look on Honeycomb. Yes, you could always grab a free copy of Angry Birds, which also looks great, but Samurai II: Vengeance is a little more original and there’s a good chance you haven’t already completed it on your mobile phone
Dolphin Browser HD
The default Honeycomb browser is pretty good, but when it comes to dealing with Flash video it seems to bite off a little more than it can chew. As a result, we’ve found ourselves using Dolphin Brower HD instead.
Dolphin Browser HD comes with a couple of really handy features, like being able to swipe from the side to up it your browser history and bookmarks, or offering up Add-ons (if you feel you want them).
But the thing we like the most about Dolphin Browser is the control that you get. You can opt to have the browser identify itself as a desktop browser (or iPad browser) rather than an Android browser. For those living in the UK, you’ll find that the BBC iPlayer website doesn’t like all Android browsers. No problem with Dolphin Browser HD, you’ll be able to head over and catch up on Eastenders on iPlayer without a problem. If you're in the UK, don't quibble, just download it.
We also found that it is generally more stable when it comes to dealing with Flash video playback and Flash heavy sites, so it handled 4OD better than the native Honeycomb browser does. It can be a little unstable, but generally speaking we’ve been able to catch-up on TV online without too many problems.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=mobi.mgeek.TunnyBrowser
We'd been keeping our eyes on Google Earth and now it is Honeycomb optimised, we've decided that it earns its place in our favourite Honeycomb apps.
The addition of 3D buildings in the regular satellite view (for those cities that have been rendered so far) brings something to Google Earth that Google Maps lacks. The buildings aren't just bland boxes, they are textured so they are frighteningly realistic in some cases.
Control in the Honeycomb style using the action bar on the top makes things simple, with easy searching and plenty of information on businesses and places, Panoramio photos and Wikipedia information. It doesn't integrate your contacts like Google Maps does, but if you want to read reviews on your local Nando's then Google Earth is read, waiting and free.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.google.earth
Plume for Twitter
Plume for Twitter is not only a great Twitter app for your tablet, but a good example of how the same app can be used on both large and small devices effectively. We’re only interested in the result on Honeycomb here, which does a much better job than the (currently) non-optimised Twitter for Android.
Plume gives you three columns in the main view, so you can view your Timeline, Mentions, Direct Messages or Favorites all on the screen at the same time. From the drop-down box you can select what you want to be shown, and a nice addition is that when you save a search, this too can be added, so you can keep track of a particular topic if you like.
All the lists are scrollable, tapping on a Tweet opens it up so you can click links, view image thumbnails (depending on the picture service used) or action the normal Twitter responses - retweet, reply, etc.
What we really like is the abundance of information. You can get to profiles, you can search Twitter or usernames, you can get to trends, you can easily follow, unfollow and block. It even has an in-built browser so you can view links without leaving the app. Some might find it a bit too busy visually, but given the space on offer, we really like it. The free version is ad supported, or a premium version is available.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.levelup.touiteur
We've always liked IMDb for the sheer ease with which you can find out who that person on TV is, and where you know them from. We already have Flixter's Movies in this Honeycomb list, but IMDb has updated its app to be Honeycomb optimised and done a great job, so it's worth having, and a big step over the phone version that was previously available.
Navigation of the giant movie database is based around icons running across the top of the screen offering you search, movies, TV, celebrities and showtimes. The settings menu will let you set your preferred location and the regional site it draws info from. We couldn't get the regional info to stick, so it reverted back to the US and the login with Facebook option failed for us, but the general information it presents is still very useful.
As "showtimes" is location-based, it will give you movie listings for your local cinema, letting you drill down to watch trailers, which are impressive quality - non of that blocky low-res stuff here. There is trivia, pictures of your favourite star, user reviews and so on to explore, all lovingly laid out for your tablet, so it now earns its place in our list.
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.imdb.mobile
Have you seen any Honeycomb apps you'd recommend? Feel free to add a comment below and we'll check it out and continue to expand our list of Honeycomb apps.