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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7. Load up on tablet-optimized offline games
Mobile games are hot these days, but the hottest ones always seem to require a constant data connection. You can't play social games such as Zynga's FarmVille or Words With Friends unless you're connected to the Internet, which is fine unless you happen to have a Wi-Fi-only tablet and you're in a Wi-Fi-less area.

To deal with that situation, try some tablet-optimized games that don't require an Internet connection -- many games in the action/adventure, hidden-object, and puzzle genres don't. Titles worth checking out include the gorgeous puzzle game Osmos HD (Android, $3; iPad, $5); Shadowgun THD (Android, $5; iPad, $5), a third-person outer-space shooter; Dead Space (Android, $7, iPad, $10), a first-person horror survival game; and Empress of the Deep (Android, $4; iPad, $5), a hidden-object game.

8. Share files between devices wirelessly
Sending files between your Wi-Fi-only tablet and your computer can be extremely easy if you use an app such as WiFi Files (iPad) or WiFi File Explorer Pro (Android/Kindle Fire, $1). These apps let you wirelessly transfer files between your tablet and your computer via a Wi-Fi connection. Note: Such transfers are faster and less complicated than (for example) emailing a file to yourself.

You can also check out syncing apps, such as SugarSync (Android and iPad) and Dropbox (Android and iPad), which automatically sync your selected files with all of your devices whenever you're connected to the Internet.

9. Find a Wi-Fi connection
Finding a Wi-Fi connection usually isn't very difficult, but many popular dedicated apps such as Wi-Fi Finder require an Internet connection in order to search for a Wi-Fi hotspot. Obviously, if you're working with a Wi-Fi-only tablet, that prerequisite won't fly.

Instead, check out apps such as Wi-Fi Analyzer (Android) and WiFi Scanner (Android) to see nearby networks and their signal strengths. (iPad users have a harder time of it because Apple pulls Wi-Fi scanning apps from the App Store; consequently, the only alternative is to jailbreak your phone.)

Want to know whether a "free" Wi-Fi network actually requires a browser log-in? Check out WiFi Browser Login (Android), which notifies you if the Wi-Fi network that you just connected to is about to shut you down when you open a browser window.

10. Use Wi-Fi to make phone calls
Assuming that you never make calls on the road, maybe you can get rid of your pesky cellphone plan altogether -- and use your Wi-Fi-only tablet to make phone calls through a service such as WiCall (Android), which lets you call over your wireless connection.

These calls aren't free -- they cost $0.009 per minute for U.S. calls -- but that's a pretty negligible charge. If you'd prefer to pay up front, you can sign up for a service such as GrooVe IP (Android, $5), which lets you use your Google Voice account to make free phone calls. iPad users can check out the free MagicJack, which allows you to make free phone calls to any U.S. or Canadian phone number.

Data plans -- who needs 'em?
Considering all of the things that a tablet can do without a data connection, it's no wonder that people are overwhelmingly choosing to purchase Wi-Fi-only models. 3G/4G tablets cost more, they require an extra data plan, and they will incur an extra charge on the new shared data plans. In contrast, you can do just about everything you need to do (except, perhaps, answer emails on the fly or make phone calls on the road) with a Wi-Fi-only tablet. And if you ever do need an Internet connection, you can tether your tablet to your phone or sniff out a wireless hotspot.

Sorry, wireless carriers: it looks like Wi-Fi-only tablets are here to stay.

This story, "10 ways to get the most from your Wi-Fi-only tablet" was originally published by PCWorld.

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