Thanksgiving means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it's one of the few times of the year multiple generations of family get together. For others, it's that food coma right before you go pick a fight over the last BB-8 by Sphero at the local electronics shop. It's a time to try new recipes, kick back and watch some TV, and capture memories that you'll share online and in those family calendars that will probably go on sale at your local photo shop next week. Maybe take in a little football. There's a lot going on, and whether you're an active part of the Thanksgiving experience at your house or just someone along for the ride your phone or tablet can help you get through a lot of it with easy.
To help you with every part of the Thanksgiving experience, we've assembled lists for every kind part of the holiday experience. Pick the category that best applies to you and have fun!
1. Showing off your Thanksgiving spirit
Sharing your Thanksgiving experience with everyone around you isn't just a fun way to express yourself anymore. When Christmas decorations hit shelves the day after Halloween and Black Friday sales in many places starting the day before Thanksgiving, some folks view sharing Thanksgiving with the world around them as a must. If it's important to show off your Thanksgiving spirit, or you just want something fun to do while waiting for the dinner bell on Thanksgiving Day, these are your apps.
Thanksgiving Watch Face
If you are one of the Android Wear folks who plan to use their wrist computer to keep an eye on your digital life after you're scolded to put your phone away at the table this year, a holiday-themed watch face will go a long way towards making it clear you're focused on the holiday. It's simple, clean, and free, a combination that can't be overlooked when showing off your love for the holiday.
While not explicitly Thanksgiving related, not everyone has an actual fireplace and everyone gets a kick out of walking into a room and seeing someone pretending to warm their hands by the warm glow of the 5-inch display. If nothing else, it's a fun way to break up any quiet moments or conversations with family you'd rather avoid with some levity.
IF by IFTTT
You can use IFTTT to do just about anything, but there's a couple of clever Thanksgiving recipes ready to activate as soon as you log in that might be of use. You can have photos upload to a special Facebook folder when you tag an Instagram post with #thanksgiving, get your Jawbone Up to guilt trip you about how much food you just ate, or go the other way and have IF post Happy Thanksgiving for you while you're deep in food coma land. With a little creativity, you could come up with your own recipes as well.
2. Getting down to business in the kitchen
Your smartphone or tablet should be considered just as vital in the kitchen nowadays as your favorite cutting board or your stock pot. It's a tool to help novices grow, an excellent resource to glance at every recipe ever, and the most convenient way to set multiple timers while you're kitchen is a food-based war zone in preparation for the holiday. There are dozens of ways your phone can be helpful in the kitchen, and here's a few of our favorites.
If you have an Android phone, you have Google Now. If you have Google Now, you have a voice-activated timer system that will make every part of the kitchen experience easier. Hollering "OK Google, set a timer for [duration]" is one of many things you can do with this app, and with some phones the screen doesn't even need to be awake to activate the feature. Since this is the kitchen and there are dangers, your best bet is to plug your phone in away from liquids and leave your screen on so you can use Google Now whenever you need it.
If you're going to try something new, or if you have to follow along with a recipe EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Allthecooks has a sizable recipe library, and it even has Android Wear support while following along. Because no one wants to keep swiping up and down on a tablet while they cook. — Ara Wagoner
Recipe apps are great for every other time of the year, but for some folks Thanksgiving recipes are passed down from generation to generation, usually in some king of tin that gets tucked away until this special time of the year. Instead of looking at old strips of paper for your recipes, maybe consider going digital this year? My CookBook is a simple, Material Design cookbook app for storing your personal recipes. That way you'll have them wherever you are and never have to worry about what happens when you accidentally drop a card in the gravy.
3. Streaming everything. Watch everything. Enjoy everything!
If you're one of those people who get stuck in a side room while the big screen in the living room is dedicated to Football, or you decided to bring a Chromecast with you to this year so you can bring your entire streaming library to the family, video apps are probably a big part of this holiday. Fortunately, that's one of those things Android does really well nowadays.
This one is kind of obvious, but it's got to be said. If you need something to watch, Netflix is probably your best bet. For the sake of variety, or if you suddenly find yourself needing something child friendly, this is the best place to look. All you need is a Netflix subscription and an Internet connection, neither of which are usually hard to find with so much family around.
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
This app doesn't offer a live video stream of the parade, but it's got tons of behind the action stuff. If you want to see more about preparations for the event, or a minigame letting you create your own balloon, this is a fun addition to the parade. The app also includes a short about the history of the parade, which is fun. — Jen Karner
NFL Mobile or WatchESPN
Maybe you aren't the one in control of the TV this year, but you still want your Football fix. If you're on Verizon Wireless, the NFL Mobile app is without compare and will get you all the information you want on the game. If you're not a Verizon subscriber, the WatchESPN app will get you the next best thing. It's a quick and mostly painless way to get some Football in while getting the house together or standing in line at the store long after the Thanksgiving meal has ended.
Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go.... The data is down, no Netflix is found, and the boredom starts to show...
In all honesty, if you're traveling and don't have a sufficient collection of Google Play Movies & TV you can pin for offline playback, you can't go wrong with MX Player for your locally stored video files (or for that flash-drive of movies you plugged in with an OTG cable). Simple UI, easy controls, including a lock button so that the tiny hands holding the phone/tablet can't accidentally pause it/turn it off. — Ara Wagoner
4. Games everyone can play
If there's one thing smartphones have gotten really good at, it's killing time doing things that aren't talking to other human beings. It doesn't have to be this way! Your Android phone has a ton of games that play nice with other people, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to bust them out and demonstrate your gaming dominance over the rest of your clan.
Smart Dots & Boxes
Sit next to someone you want to play a game with and bust this out. It's a simple strategy game that will provide hours of enjoyment as you pass the phone back and forth to see who is the best at navigating the board and earning the highest score. If you find a family member who is just as skilled as you, the points earned in the game can be bet in the next round to earn an even higher score. It's either a quick round of silly fun or an entire day of passing the phone around and defeating everyone. Your call.
Beach Buggy Racing
You need a Chromecast and $4.99 to unlock the special multiplayer mode, but Beach Buggy Racing is a great way to get up to four people playing a game on the TV without lugging a console around. It's Mario Kart-esque racing at its finest, and as long as everyone has a phone and the ability to download the free version of the game you can race all day long. — Jen Karner
This is multiplayer gaming in a less traditional sense, in that two phones are required for it to work as intended. The end result, however, is a wickedly fun multiplayer Pong-esque game that can be played just about anywhere. If you have two people with Android phones or tablets and access to the Google Play Store, this is well worth your time.
Cardcast is a Chromecast game that plays like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity. Everyone connects to the Chromecast, your decks are selected (you can import your own decks or use ones from the Cardcast website), cards are dealt, and hands play as they would with the real-life version. Except no one's hassling with real decks and players and come/go as they please. Not the most useful game while stuck in the car or in line for Black Friday, but it should produce some good laughs while you wait for Aunt Audrey to burn the bird, again. — Ara Wagoner
5. Photography apps for capturing the moment
Every smartphone has a camera, and if this year has taught us anything it's that a lot of those cameras are really good now. If you're going to be relying on your smartphone to capture memories for this year's holiday, there's a few apps you can lean on to either help you get the shot or make the picture even better after you've tapped the shutter button.
The camera app that came with your phone is great for most things, but if you'd like to up your game a little and make sure the memories you capture on Thanksgiving are of the highest possible quality your phone can generate, Manual Camera is something you should consider looking into. If your phone supports this app, Manual Camera gives you a significant amount of control over the photo you are capturing and even export the photos in RAW format for you to edit even further. It's a solid option, the only caveat is it doesn't work with every Android phone out there.
Google's photo editing app is downright magic in the hands of a skilled photo editor, but the rest of us can get some decent editing done as well. It's a powerful app with a simple interface that will take photos you've captured — even those captured in RAW mode — and improve them dramatically. Or, if you prefer, you can toss some filters on there and have some fun with it instead. Either way, this is a free app that belongs in your toolkit.
Plenty of you are already using Google Photos on a regular basis, but what you may not have used yet are the wonderful sharing features of the platform. As soon as pictures from the family get-together start up, you should instantly create and share out that album to your family members. Whether they have Google Photos or not they'll always have an up-to-date album that you can keep adding photos to, and if they do have the app they can add and make changes themselves.
Whether the whole family is in the same place or spread out, Google Photos will be the best way to simply share photos to everyone, and let the photographers in the family all add to one place. When Thanksgiving is wrapped up, each person can download or take away the pictures they like the most — no more sending out emails or uploading to Facebook required! — Andrew Martonik
If you'd rather have fun than pretend to capture the next great family photo, Dubsmash lets you play like you're the voice of everything from popular songs to old commercials. It's something that, generally speaking, winds up being more fun when there's a group of people around who are down with having fun with it, and if you wind up recording something you really like the file can be shared to your preferred social network with little effort. It's a fun app for anyone vaguely musically inclined and everyone who refuses to take themselves too seriously.