The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 is a budget Android tablet available in 8” and 10” sizes. I bought my Yoga Tab 3 8 (Lenovo YT3-850F) for $150 during a Best Buy sale. The integrated spring-loaded kickstand, massive, 6200-mAh battery, and budget price suckered me in despite the mediocre performance.
By way of background, I should explain that I use an iMac and a MacBook Pro for my computers. I use Android for my mobile devices because I love Google services like Gmail, Google Maps, and Hangouts. I use Microsoft for my productivity apps and primary cloud storage. My employer uses MS Office which also works on Android. When I go into the office building to work, I use a Windows 7 computer. I love having my Word and Excel files available on every platform. I like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote but they’re a hassle when I’m on my Android tablet because I’m stuck with a web interface.
When I’m physically in my office, I set my tablet off to the side to display the time and weather. I’ll talk a bit more about how I use my tablet on a daily basis, but first let’s look at how I configured it.
It is easy to get going on an Android tablet. Just follow the prompts after you power it up and sign into your Google accounts. After running through the setup wizard on my tablet, it immediately updated to Android Lollipop (version 5.1.1). The Trebuchet launcher that comes stock with the YT3 is minimal but does not support the feature of recognizing “OK Google” from any screen. For that reason, I put the same launcher on my tablet as I have on my phone – the Google Now Launcher. Now I get Google Now when I swipe left of the home screen and “OK Google” works from any home screen or even with the tablet sleeping.
The biggest problem with the Google Now launcher (or any launcher) on this tablet is that, every time you reboot, it resets to the original Trebuchet. This will be a deal breaker for a lot of people. My temporary workaround for this was to put the icon for the Google Now Launcher front on center on my Trebuchet homepage so that I can easily switch back to it when Lenovo hijacks my settings. I read that if one does a factory reset this bug goes away. I tried that and it didn’t work for me. (Fixed in this past Sunday’s, February 7, 2016, system update.)
So, the first thing I do is install the Google Now Launcher. Then, to ease setting up a new Android device, the next thing I do is install the LastPass password manager to help me log into my new apps and Google Authenticator because I use double authentication to log into LastPass. Be sure to set LastPass (under Settings>App Fill) to allow it to fill logins in other apps.
You’ll need another device, preferably a computer to add your YT3 Google Authenticator to LastPass. It is pretty painless. Open the My LastPass Vault in your browser. Choose Account settings in the sidebar.
Under Multifactor Options>Google Authenticator click the pencil edit icon.
Next click the text ‘View your barcode’. Then click Yes in the dialog box to add your new device.
Click on ‘Begin Setup’ and on the next page ‘Scan a barcode’. Simply aim your camera at the barcode displayed on your computer’s display and code generation will start automatically.
The next step is to Google-fy my apps. I disable the Lenovo Browser, and Email apps (Settings>Apps>Select the app>Disable). Sadly, their Gallery app cannot be disabled. I then install Chrome, Photos, and Gmail. Assuming you used your Google ID during the initial setup of your YT3, I find it easiest to use my computer to go to the Google Play Store and install apps from there. An example of how this streamlines things for me, is that I can search on a Google app, say Google Hangouts, and then click on the words “Google Inc.” underneath the Hangouts card.
That pulls up a page with links to all of the Google apps.
Let’s see. I’ll take Photos, YT Music, Chromecast, Chrome, YouTube, Maps, Calendar, Play Music, and Keep. I open each app page in a new tab and install them to my tablet. I just close each tab after clicking install. When they’re all installed, I’m back at my original browser tab.
Next I repeat this process for my Microsoft apps. I search for MS Word which brings up this screen.
Next I click on the words “Microsoft Corporation” on the Microsoft Word card, which brings up this page.
In a new tab, I open each card of an app I want. Then I install the apps to my tablet. I want OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Office Lens.
With its Snapdragon 212 processor and 1GB of RAM, the YT3 is too laggy for much more than board games like Chess and Words with Friends, but I put Pitfall on there for nostalgia’s sake as well.
I don’t like my screen to wake up whenever there is a new notification so go to Settings>Display>Ambient Display and turn that default feature to off. It can be annoying if you have your tablet charging near your bed to have it light up in the night.
If Android has an advantage over iOS it is widgets on homepages. The first home page, I reserve for a very special widget. I use the Dashclock widget, and add the Weather, Gmail, Calendar, alarm, and music Dashclock extensions. Below that widget I install the hourly weather widget from Yahoo weather. On my phone I set the Dashclock weather as a shortcut to the Yahoo Weather app. However, that app only works in portrait mode so it isn’t suited for a tablet. That is why I opted to use 1Weather Pro ($2).
As a hobby photographer, I like to have my own pictures as a background. I was using the Wallpaper Changer app to cycle through my pictures. But, SB Wallpaper Changer adds a nice little twist. It can draw from a folder of portrait images when the tablet is in portrait mode or a folder of landscape images when the tablet is in tablet mode. So, I switched to that one.
Another app for which I was willing to shell out money was Dock Clock Plus ($3). This is an information center that, like Dashclock, can be tweaked to oblivion. My settings allow the wallpaper to show through. One of the features the Plus version provides over the free version is that it supports live wallpapers like SB Wallpaper Changer. Another, Plus feature is ‘Pages’. I can swipe the screen to get a calendar view with my agenda on one side and the month on the other (making great use of tablet versus phone real estate). Another swipe gives me weather information for my current location and up to two more that I specified in the settings. I turn off the World Clock page in the settings, change the font color for additional information to white, and reduce the size of the clock 40 percent. Overall, using this app removes all of the visual clutter seen with desktop widgets (the notification bar, navigation menu, and app dock). The only feature it lacks is that the icon that tells you your unread emails is not a shortcut to Gmail and the weather summary isn’t a shortcut to a weather app of your choosing. In that regard, the Dashclock widget is more powerful. Update: the weather feature has been dysfunctional for a few weeks. I can no longer add or change a location. The developer is aware of the issue and a fix is promised.
So, my first home page has the Dashclock widget. I get all my information at a glance with easy shortcuts to Gmail, Google Calendar, 1Weather, and Clock built right into the widget. I can drill down to whatever detailed information I’m in the mood for. When it is time to park my tablet at my desk or bedside, I open Dock Clock Plus. Dock Clock Plus even lets me set a window of time as ‘night’ during which my notification sounds are muted and the screen is dimmed. With my tablet standing to the side of my monitors at work, I have a nice information display including time, day, date, weather, and emails.
Finally I install the apps I want for other activities. On my second homepage, I create a folder for games, music apps, social apps, productivity apps, news and sports, Google apps, utilities, shopping, reading, viewing, and photography.
Above those I place my calendar widget on the left and my Google Keep widget (with my do-list) on the right. I use Keep for my do-list because it automatically sorts the unchecked items to the top of the list. Other notetaking apps I use include Evernote and OneNote. Sadly, neither of those automatically sorts checked versus unchecked items in a list.
I haven’t been as impressed with the Yoga 3 speakers as some reviewers, but I do like to use it to listen to music. I actually prefer iTunes for music management on my computer. Since I am on a Mac, I can’t use MediaMonkey (Windows only). Even if I were on a Windows machine, my wife’s iPad is most easily synchronized with iTunes, so that is what I use. Using iTunes means I need an app to interpret my songs and playlists for Android. iTunes only works to sync iOS and tvOS devices directly. So, for my iTunes-to-Android interpreter, I have iSyncr on my Mac and the iSyncr for iTunes app on my Yoga Tab 3. The Mac app and the Android app work together to keep my music, playlists, rankings, and play count synchronized. Sure, you could drag your music files onto the YT3’s SD card, but what about playlists? I heavily rely on my Neglected Faves smart playlist to keep my music fresh. On whatever device I listen to a song, the playlist removes the ones I’ve listened to in the last month and replaces it with a ranked song I haven’t heard in the last month. Yes, the app is expensive at $5, but I pay that much every month for Pandora One.
The associated music player, Rocket Player, works great and lets me rank songs as I listen to them and have the ranking sync back to iTunes as well as the play count. iSyncr and Rocket Player are all it takes for Mac people to happily coexist with their Android mobile device.
To transfer non-music files between Android and a Mac or vice versa one also needs to install Android File Transfer to their Mac computer. When the tablet is connected to the computer, be sure the radio button for Media Device (MTP) is checked on the tablet. If the window on the tablet doesn’t just pop up, drag down the notifications and touch the notification that describes the mode of USB connection the tablet has.
The Android File Transfer app should open a Finder-like window on your Mac. From there you can drag files back and forth between your tablet and your Mac.
Having tweaked the living daylights out of my cheap little tablet, I’m pretty pleased with the results. Before work, I listen to a Bible reading with the Bible app and watch a podcast on Pocket Casts. At work, I have this third display (my work computer has two displays) with the time, weather, calendar, art, and personal notifications. After work, during an evening at home, I browse social media and Gmail, enjoy some entertainment, and search until bedtime. Then I let YouTube teach me a little something or let some music soothe me as I fall asleep. The YT3 goes back on the charger until it is time to start all over again.
If you’re tablet needs are as simple as mine, this cheap little guy might be just the ticket. Let me know how it turns out.