The over-sized turkey is in the oven and the floor is covered in shredded wrapping paper. Everything that can go ‘ping’ has been opened, charged, and many of you are looking at a new Android tablet wondering what to do next.

In this festive edition of Android Circuit (wedged between the Michael Bublé Christmas Special and another repeat of Den and Angie in Eastenders) you’ll find discussion points and suggestions to get the most out of your new tablet.

(You can read our festive digest of hints and tips for Android smartphone users here on Forbes).

Get On Google’s Cloud

No tablet is designed to run without a connection to the cloud, and the vast majority of Android tablets are tied to a Google account. While it is possible to run an Android device without logging on to Mountain View’s services, the assumption from the first-party apps (and many third-party apps) is that using Android means you are using Google.

Setting up your Google account gives you immediate access to your Gmail, Contacts, and Calendar appointments on your tablet with no more setting up required. You’ll also be able to back up your tablet to the Google Account, and photos can be set to back up to your Google account as they are taken.

Your Google Account is also used to identify yourself to the Google Play App store for downloading and purchasing applications and games. This will also be set up with your details, so opening Google Play is the easiest way to extend your tablet’s capabilities.

Google Is Not The Only Cloud

Unlike Apple’s iPad, your Android tablet is not as flexible in using other cloud service providers. The graceful on-boarding process for Google account users is simply not there for other providers, requiring you to perform manual set-ups for alternative calendars, email, and the PIM suites. It’s worthwhile doing a quick search in the Google Play store for your cloud service to see if there are any apps to improve the process (Microsoft provides an Outlook client, for example, alongside a OneDrive client).

This is a natural result of Google’s focus with Android – to monetize the user base – which limits the initial setup options for alternative clouds. The increased focus on applications means that these cloud providers will find it easier to provide an app to bring their users on board via Android.

Be Patient For The Lollipop OS Update

Although Google has released the latest version of Android to manufacturers, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to install Android 5.0 (codename ‘Lollipop’) onto your tablet over the festive break. The release of the new OS by Google still needs to be tweaked by each manufacturer (in many cases for each device), before it becomes available. If you have a cellular enabled tablet, the carrier will want to pass the hardware through certification as well.

That means for all the talk of Lollipop, it’s unlikely that you’ll see the latest vision of Android on your Christmas smartphone unless you have a Nexus device, or Samsung brings the update to the Note 4 as quickly as is has to the Galaxy S5 family in Europe.

OS updates on Android are a bit hit and miss, but because of the wide range of configurations, Android apps are far more forgiving in terms of what OS you need. A new Christmas Android tablet should be able to run the vast majority of titles.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (image: Ewan Spence)

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (image: Ewan Spence)

Open Your Cards

One of Android’s great strengths is in the cards of Google Now. These give you access to information that is important to you right now, all determined by information that Google has received from your smartphone such as your location, time of day, details in your calendar, emails arriving into your inbox, and other connected services.

Hold down the home key on your tablet, and slide your finger up to the ‘G’ icon to open up your current Google cards. The first time you do this you can set up some suggestions on information and what you enjoy, but over time the items you read, discard, or share, will all be noted by the app and the cards presented will become more relevant to your own life.

Google Now can also send cards into the notification system of Android to remind you there is something to look at – given the quiet nature of the rest of this system I’d switch this on so you never forget to see what is being recommended.

Watch Out For Data

If you have a tablet with cellular data, be aware that Android can rapidly eat through your data allowance if you are not careful. While it’s fine to let the data run free on wi-fi, you’ll want to restrict your data usage when out and about.

Short of switching off mobile data (which defeats the purpose of a tablet with 3G or 4G capability), look under the options in the Data Usage part of the settings. Here you’ll find my wallet’s favourite Android setting of ‘restrict background data’. Now when using cellular data, apps will only pull down data when they are in the foreground and you can see them doing so. If a tablet is all about getting work done while you are on the move, this is the option that gives you confidence.

It’s All About The Apps

Android is primarily focused on downloading and running extra software. The open nature of the OS means that applications can be more tightly integrated to the system, but there is a more lax attitude to consistent UIs over the apps.

Depending on the manufacturer, your tablet may have some social networks already installed. In any case, I would recommend that you install the main social networks of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn to your tablet, and configure their notifications so you never miss anything from your circles.

I’ve already mentioned the Outlook application to give you access to Microsoft’s cloud services, so users of services such as Dropbox, OneDrive and Box, should set up the Android clients for their own data.

Tablets are great for creating content on. Out of the box you should have Google Drive and the three office based apps (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides), but there are third-party alternatives. For a long time, users have chosen Documents To Go for their office apps, and DataViz continues to support it.

Not forgetting the beast of them all in Microsoft Office, which allows you to access, view, and edit, your office documents.

…And A Few Games

The large screens on Android tablets have some wonderful gaming titles that really show off the size and complexity a tablet can offer games. Monument Valley looks amazing, and while the gameplay is shorter than some games, this mix of MC Escher graphics and point-and-click adventure has charmed reviewers and gamers throughout the year.

I thoroughly recommend Infinite Flight as one of the best flight simulators around. With a bias to airlines and navigation in a multi-player world, it’s slow, methodical, and very rewarding. Real Racing 3 might be a freemium game at heart, but it’s one of the smoothest 3D racing games you can download and experience.

Supercell’s Boom Beach is a far better experience on a tablet when compared to the smaller smartphone screens it can run on. Build up your army in this incredibly well-balanced freemium title, attack other islands, and generally cause a little bit of mayhem while creating an unstoppable army.

Finally, the recently released Android version of Blizzard’s free-to-play card game Hearthstone is just stunning. Sharing data with the PC and Mac based versions, you can continue to fight opponents, complete the solo quests, and craft your new card decks wherever you are.

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