Do you suffer from tablet malaise? That's how I describe the condition that results from buying a tablet, then discovering you don't use it for much.
In my experience, many tablet owners aren't fully aware of their devices' capabilities. There's more to the slate life than just checking your e-mail, surfing the Web, and lobbing the occasional angry bird. Below I've rounded up five surprising and practical ways to put your Android tablet or iPad to good use.
1. Read E-Books from Any Bookstore
When you buy a Kindle, you're stuck with Amazon's Kindle bookstore. Ditto buying a Nook from Barnes & Noble. But with Android and iPad tablets, you're not locked into a single brand; you can run e-reader apps from any and all e-bookstores: Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and so on.
The apps themselves are free. Once installed, you just sign into your account and download the books you've purchased. Why settle for one e-book source when you can have them all?
2. Control your TiVo
If you own a TiVo, it's almost worth buying a tablet just to get the TiVo app (Android and iOS). Seriously, it's that good. The app not only doubles as a remote (handy if yours goes missing), but also gives you features not otherwise available.
For example, you can browse the program guide or get show information without shoehorning the currently playing program into a corner. You can set up recordings and Season Passes even when you're not home. And you can search for shows and the like using your tablet's keyboard, which is a million times easier than the TiVo's remote-powered onscreen keyboard.
Alas, you can't stream recorded shows to your tablet, but the TiVo app is still an excellent companion for TiVo owners.
3. Replace Your Recipe Books
Android Market and Apple's App Store are brimming with incredible cooking apps: Epicurious, Food Network in the Kitchen, Martha Stewart's Every Food, Punchfork, and so on. (Note that not all these apps are available for both platforms; the iPad appears to have a wider selection of cooking and recipe choices.)
Two best bets: Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook (free for Android and iOS), home to more than 2,500 recipes; and How to Cook Everything (iOS), which is based on the bestselling book of the same name. The latter costs $9.99, making it one of the pricier apps you'll ever buy—but it's worth it.
4. Monitor Your Home
There are plenty of apps that can show video feeds from cameras deployed in and around your home, but D-Link's mydlink+ for Android and iOS leverages tablets like no other. With it you can view up to four video streams at the same time (provided they're linked to mydlink-enabled cameras, of course). That's a great way to keep an eye on your home when you're vacationing, check in on the kids when they're home with a babysitter, keep tabs on an elderly relative, and so on.
5. Stock up (and Save) on Children's Books
Tablets are the single best thing to happen to children (and children's books) since Dr. Seuss. Speaking of which, a hardcover copy of "The Lorax" has a list price of $14.95. True, Amazon sells it for $8.97, but the app version from Oceanhouse Media costs just $3.99. And unlike a print copy, the app can actually read to your kids when you've got other things on your plate. (No judging—it happens.)
What's more, you can pack an airplane trip's worth of reading material into one slim tablet—a fine alternative to a stuffing heavy, easily lost library books into a backpack. And although there are obviously a lot more print books for kids than there are app books, there's a larger selection of the latter than you might think. In addition to Dr. Seuss, you'll find series like Little Critter, the Berenstain Bears, and more.
The only downside? My kids are now too old to enjoy all this great stuff.