En español | It's the hottest tech product of the year for good reason: Tablets are portable, powerful and versatile computers with easy-to-use touch-screen displays. There's no waiting to boot up a tablet, and battery life is easily three to four times longer than what your laptop can muster.
Apps are highly affordable. In fact, tens of thousands of them are free to use.
If you're looking for something to download from your favorite online app store — for Apple iPad, BlackBerry PlayBook or an Android device — here are 10 must-have apps you'll want to consider.
Are you a Netflix subscriber? The free app for iPad, Android and BlackBerry PlayBook gives you access to many thousands of movies and TV shows. Look for something to watch in the search window or peruse the lists divided into New Arrivals, Genres or Recently Watched (with how many minutes you're at for each movie or TV show). You can read a synopsis of each piece of content before watching, as well as checking out Netflix user ratings for each one (and you can vote, too). While the app is free, a $7.99-a-month Netflix subscription is required. Other great video streaming apps include HBO GO, Hulu Plus and Crackle.
The Skype download lets iPad 2 users video-chat for free with friends and family anywhere in the world — as long as they're using a Skype-enabled device, such as a tablet, smartphone, computer or television. Using a Wi-Fi network or cellular connectivity (if the tablet has it), you can see who you're talking to and they can see you; you also can tap to change to the rear-facing camera for them to see what you're looking at (such as a home renovation as you walk around the house). Another great video-calling app for iPad 2 is Apple's FaceTime; Android and BlackBerry tablet owners who want free videoconferencing can use Google Talk and Video Chat, respectively.
Be prepared to be blown away with the incredible size, scope and graphics of Google Earth, a free virtual rendering of the entire planet — including the ability to zoom in down to street level using 3-D satellite imagery — that's available for Android and iPad tablets. You can also tap and flick through historical data and informative articles, find directions between two places, locate nearby businesses, see where you are via the tablet's GPS information and much more.
Whether you need a more effective way to stay organized or simply want to jot down ideas wherever life takes you, a free app like Evernote is a great tool for iPad, Android and BlackBerry PlayBook users. The app lets you create, view, organize, search and share your ideas — sort of like a digital version of yellow sticky notes, if you will — but also with the option to include voice notes, photos and videos, too, if desired. An auto-sync feature means your notes are automatically saved and accessible on other Evernote platforms, such as the Web or your personal computer.