10 ways to get the most from your Wi-Fi-only tablet

Use these tips to download books, make phone calls, and get other vital information -- all without investing in a data plan

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3. Preload magazines and books

Tablets are the perfect travel device -- they're lightweight, they have large screens, and you don't need to take them out of your bag during a TSA search. Tablets are also great because they let you carry around tons of reading material without weighing down your bag. So the next time you head out of town (or go to the gym or hop on the train for your morning commute), try preloading some magazines and books on your Wi-Fi-only tablet so you can read at your leisure -- without an Internet connection.

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Zinio (for Android and iPad) is an excellent reading app that lets you subscribe to hundreds of magazines (in full color). Sure, you have to pay for the subscription (which isn't much cheaper than a print subscription), but you can download entire magazines before you leave your Wi-Fi zone.

The Amazon Kindle app (Android and iPad) is a great reading app -- not just because you can download and read ebooks from Amazon's online store, but because you have free access to tons of ebooks from your local library. Find out whether your library participates by searching OverDrive.

4. Use offline mapping apps

Mapping applications on smartphones and tablets have made getting lost practically obsolete (practically...), but such apps only apply to devices that have constant data connections, right? Wrong -- thanks to offline mapping apps, you can stay on track wherever you are, data connection or not.

For a couple of years now, Google Maps has had an offline-viewing option that can even offer turn-by-turn directions without connecting to a network (providing that you've already looked up the route).

If you're heading to a new city and you aren't sure when you'll be able to grab a Wi-Fi connection, try a mapping app such as City Maps 2Go (Android and iPad), which costs $1 to $2. This app lets you download thousands of maps for offline viewing (the iPad version currently has a promo for unlimited downloads, while the Android version offers five free downloads).

5. Read it later

Suppose that you like to read Web pages -- not magazines and books -- on your tablet. Instead of letting your lack of Internet connection frustrate you, try using a service such as Pocket, formerly known as Read It Later. Pocket lets you save Web pages from your computer, by email, or directly from select apps to a special Read It Later list. Once you've saved something to your list, you can open it from any of your devices, assuming that you've connected to the Internet long enough for your list to update.

Download the Pocket app for Android, iPad, or Kindle Fire, and read all of those webpages later on -- without an Internet connection.

6. Use free texting apps
Having a Wi-Fi-only tablet with no phone service or data plan doesn't mean that you can't text your friends with the best of them. Admittedly, texting on a Wi-Fi-only device doesn't make a lot sense for most people -- after all, texting is normally used for instant communication, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to have to find a Wi-Fi connection before you can check your text messages -- but some people do text casually. Plus, this approach will save you some money.

One free texting app, TextPlus (Android, iPad, Kindle Fire) lets you text any U.S. or Canadian number for free. Similarly, Pinger's Textfree (Android, iPad, Kindle Fire) lets you text to tons of countries for free, and it has the added benefit of giving you a real phone number so you can pretend that you really have a phone (and so your friends can text back to a phone number, instead of to an email address).

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