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The best Samsung Galaxy Tab apps

Since Samsung and Google seem to have trouble explaining what a tablet-optimized Android app is, much less showing you the best, we’ve taken the guesswork out of the mystery by rounding up our favorites. Sure, most of these choices are admittedly quite frivolous, but if you find yourself with a shiny new Android tablet, here are the apps to show it off with.

Galaxy Choice (tGrape)

Supposedly, Galaxy Choice organizes all of Galaxy Tab’s optimized apps. It doesn’t. Many of the 400 or so free apps listed are regular old non-optimized Android apps, including ones the Tab will never use, such as phone-call-recording apps. But Choice is actually a better-organized app store than Google Marketplace. The app operates in landscape mode, with a scrollable list of apps always present in the left third of the screen, and the description of a highlighted app in the remaining two-thirds on the right. Text is crisper and cleaner than in the Marketplace, you get more and better screen shots, 50 top “What’s Hot” apps, categories, Search by any keyword, and you can even browse by “Apps 4 U” after filling out a short profile with your age and topic likes. Since it’s a new app, there aren’t many app review comments, so it’ll be hit-or-miss for a while.

Fun Towers (Blatter.com)

We actually hate this app, largely because some of us have an addictive personalities and this solitaire game is ridiculously addictive. Like Galaxy Choice, you play in landscape mode. There are three interconnected, four-line playing card pyramids, or towers (bottom row has four cards, second row has three cards, etc.), with only the bottom row of cards face-up. The remaining 23 cards are exposed one at a time. You tap an exposed card on the pyramids if it is within one pip of the exposed deck card (i.e. if the exposed deck card is a Jack, tap a Q or a 10 on the pyramid) to move it to the exposed deck pile. The more cards your move from the pyramids to the exposed deck pile, the more pyramid cards are exposed. You win a round when you eliminate all the pyramid cards, and you get a new set of pyramids on the next level. The whole thing is timed, so you have to move fast and not miss that new seven that pops up when the exposed deck card is a six. You can move an ace on a king, and vice versa. Even if you lose, you want to start all over. And over. And over. We haven’t eaten or slept in days. Sell the car, sell the kids, we’re never coming back. Must. Tap. Cards.

Police Radio Lite (MoMojo)

Just what it says – it’s a police and fire scanner on the Tab. How cool is that? The lite version includes just the LAPD, the NYFD and the Washington, D.C., police, fire and EMS departments. For just a $1.49 upgrade, you get what seems to be every police, fire and emergency department in the country, and departments in cities in 10 countries outside the U.S. (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and Germany). You can even keep listening after you close the app – while you’re shooting up on Fun Towers, for instance. You have to go to the menu to end the sometimes static-filled but compelling stream. Perfect for ambulance chasers everywhere.

The New York Times (The New York Times Company)

Still the best source for top-notch, old-fashioned, objective journalism, even on the Tab. While the “optimized” app is simply a larger version of the regular Android app, it is larger and easier to read without changing the font size, and the text is large enough to tap without accidentally hitting an adjacent item – all of which is the whole point of optimization.

SparkChess HD Lite (Media Division SRL)

We’re bad chess players (poker is more our game) so we won’t claim to be a great expert on virtual chess games. But even to a novice like us, this chess app was easy to figure out and play – tap a piece and the eligible squares it can be moved to light up in green. You get a three-quarter view of the board as if you’re sitting over the white side, which sort of obscures the front row of pawns when you start, and we still haven’t figured out how to castle (even though the programmed opponent has no trouble doing so). There are two levels of difficulty in this free version: Cody (easy) and Claire (a little harder). We actually beat Cody – accidently. We meant to tap on our queen and hit our Bishop instead, which produced a checkmate move we didn’t even see. Sort of like hitting a two-outer on the river in the game we do know something about. You need the full version to get better opponents, but oddly the “Get the Full Version” button takes you to Windows and Mac versions($8.99) Web page. We haven’t been able to find the full Tab version.

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