Wednesday , June 28 2017

Opinion: Does Android as a tablet platform have a future?

Over the last 12 months my concerns for the long term viability of Android as a tablet operating system have grown, now with Microsoft entering the Tablet war my fears for Android in this form factor have boiled over. For those of us who are Android enthusiasts the theory of an Android tablet is an exciting thing. But when it comes to the crunch, there are many people (like myself) who are Android enthusiasts that don’t have an Android tablet but in preference to the Android offerings use an iPad as their daily driver tablet: why?

There are any number of reasons that this could be happening — there’s the fact Android Tablets are so disparate in the experience they offer.

You can spend under $150.00 with one of the low-end Korean manufacturers that import into Australia and get a tablet that’s really only good for email and a bit of web surfing. You’ll only get a single core processor, it’s extremely unlikely to support 3G services in any way which may restrict your use if you’re tied to WiFi connectivity only. I strongly suggest you don’t bother with games, you’ll only be disappointed. Although this is not going to be suitable for some users, for many users this will be quite acceptable performance for their needs.

You can spend around the $500.00 – $650.00 range and get a decent dual core tablet that’s 10.1″, 16 or 32GB with options for 3G or WiFi only and a hardware generation old. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t disappointing for the expectation of reasonable performance but: They’re essentially a generation old and very few of them have official updates to the current version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

You can move into the $700.00 – $900.00 range and get the current flagship devices for the Android Tablet platform, including accessories like the Keyboard Dock if you purchase the Asus Transformer Prime. They’re really nice devices with 3G, 16, 32 and in some cases 64GB options, good battery life and dual core hardware. Still making them a generation old with most of them yet to offer an Official ICS update.

What’s the problem?

Directly, most users will probably find a tablet that will suit their needs and probably inside their budget. But let’s look at the numbers in very basic form: Having been charged with the task of researching current offerings on tablets recently for my paid employer the final decision basically came down to this – for around the $400.00 mark you’ll get an iPad 2, 16GB with WiFi which essentially matches the offerings in the Android $500.00 – $600 range and is comparative in specs and are both 1 generation old, therefore the “mainstream” options for each platform.

Where’s the consistency?

For the same dollars you can get 3 different tablets that will give you 3 totally different user experiences. Some of these are great experiences, some are disastrous experiences. There’s no doubt that “First impressions last” and many of the users who have bad experiences don’t have the knowledge or experience to distinguish between hardware and software issues, and as a by-product of this, blame “Android” for their poor experience.

Who do the hardware manufacturers answer to for the performance of their device using the Android Operating System?
Why are devices that are considered current, not running the current version of the OS?

This is a talking point for the fanboys and has spawned literally hundreds, if not more Android bashing posts. The premise that recently released hardware has generation old software on it which doesn’t necessarily offer the best user experience is horrid. There’s some really nice tablets out there that simply get lost in the seemingly endless piles of dual core, 16/32GB Honeycomb Tablets and until the release of the Galaxy Tab 2 none have differentiated themselves by releasing the device armed with Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box.

Here we are again, back at that nasty “F” word that has plagued Android as a platform for quite some time: Fragmentation.

What can Google do?

Despite the start of this article, there are heaps of positives to come out of the Android tablet market that makes me very positive for the future.

I’m genuinely hopeful and very optimistic that the “Nexus Tablet” will pull this into shape.

The Nexus platform is not Android’s salvation, more a starting point. Google have made it public that they’re not just riding the wave and hoping that Tablets are successful because of the mobile platform success. This is most evident with the recent session list for the upcoming Google I/O that has a strong focus on dual interface design.

One of the most positive factors of owning an Android Tablet is that you’re not locked into using iTunes — possibly the worst piece of software ever installed onto a Windows PC. Adding to the iOS vs Android ammunition: I love my widgets! I’d love to see iOS 6 have widgets because in my opinion, and that of many other Android users, after following suit on better notifications, the day iOS adds widgets is the day we can say Android is right up there — if not better in some aspects — with iOS.

Ignoring the obvious flaws in the hardware, there is a huge market for cheap tablets. Look at the success of the recent Aldi tablets, the previous success of the HP Touchpads and the buzz that has been created around the upcoming Kogan Agora and Nexus tablets which are both expected to launch under $200.00 at a retail level. In this cheap tablet buying market, a large majority of users are first time buyers whose expectations vary greatly but don’t necessarily include the requirement for playing games or higher end requirements, they want to surf the web and do their email on the couch rather than have to fire up their PC or have their laptop with them all the time.

Call me a traitor, call me a fanboy, call me what you like (within reason)…

Until a time where Android as a platform offers consistency, cost effectiveness, integrated experience and the out of box experience you can find on the iPad I’ll be sticking with my iPad as a daily driver. If things continue the way they are currently, I might be shopping for a new tablet soon!

Image thanks to Adam Ricket

 

Phil Tann   Senior Associate

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26 Comments on "Opinion: Does Android as a tablet platform have a future?"

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Max Hobbs
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Max Hobbs

I’m a very happy TPRIME owner for numerous reasons: battery life, connection options (USB, HDMI, etc), battery life, integrated keyboard and battery life to name just a few.

One recurring issue, however, is quality and availability of content creation Applications in a business setting.
Without a reliable Excel equivalent, reduced Exchange integration and no Sharepoint support, I’m finding a HEAVY reliance on TSClients and Citrix.

drchandra
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drchandra

I use both platforms daily (top end 3G android and iPad2) and all I can say this is very true article. Widgets, quick customisation and notifications are great on Android but iPad still wins on many levels and if I need to choose one, iPad would be my choice (at this stage).

David Anderton
Valued Guest

Great Article

Richard
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Richard
I find our Android 4.0.3 tablets to have a great user experience, admittedly they are on the mid range spec wise with Tegra 2 with the oldest almost 12 months old now. They recently received the OEM update to ICS which is really nice. There are plenty of games and apps for what we need plus we can stream music, videos and photos to all of our devices from our media server. Mind you no tablet replaces a desktop or laptop to me and I can’t see that day anytime soon personally. I have used iPad’s and I really dislike… Read more »
vince
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vince

Next week’s Google I/O should be exciting for android tablets. I still believe, android tablet has better specs than Ipad..There is HDMI, full USB, micro SD, removable batteries, and variety of screen sizes that suits every users.
Also, integrating Chrome OS into Android will be an added bonus.

ok
Valued Guest

im still waiting for ics on my gtab… WHEN WILL IT!!!

Drowser
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Drowser

good read. I’ve been checking out Android tablet offerings for a few months now. If I was going to buy a tablet right now for around $500 I’d grab the Asus TF300T or Acer A510… Both have ICS & tegra 3. I’m keen to see what Google announces at the I/O conference too.
I reckon the next month or two will show us whether the Android tablet platform is going places or not (or maybe if it can go to the next level – which it needs to).

Matthew McNutt
Valued Guest
I think that Android has something to fear in Microsoft’s arrival in the tablet game. MS Surface or similar from Dell, Asus etc has the potential to be the one device that arcs across multiple device categories. Tablet, Desktop/Notebook and Ultrabook in one. On the desktop it could very well replace many people’s day to day if they do everything except gaming. Do your web browsing, word processing at the desk, Undock it and go to the couch / bedroom to do your usual tablet thing. The fact that having the full windows experience available will be a big plus.… Read more »
Member

I picked up an HP Touchpad during the fire sale, and am running Ice Cream Sandwich on it now. I don’t think anything can beat that value. That said, the digitiser on the Touchpad is truly awful. I’m going to hold out for the Galaxy Note 10.1. I think the Wacom stylus on that is a game changer, quite able to steal a hefty segment of Apple’s core Mac market share. Artists, designers, anyone who traditionally carried a sketch book with them should be looking forward to the Note 10.1

Warren
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Warren

All we really need is for the manufacturers to push the updates quicker than what they are. For me once you’ve spent your $$ they don’t care !! Thank goodness for the developer community over at XDA. Turned my Xoom from a buggy frustration into an iPad killer

gb
Valued Guest
The big problem with android tablets imo 1. display models in stores get messed around with too much and end up running absolutely horribly as people stuff up all the settings. They need a store display setting where it will not allow people to change settings (brightness) and open 10 billion aps in the background. 2. need more apps designed for tablets. most are just scaled up phone apps which end up being hard to use or looking horrible. 3. accessories 4. bundled accessories (ie. the keyboard with the transformer) so many people get stung on this its actually pretty… Read more »
Max Hobbs
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Max Hobbs

.. to answer number 5… Battery Life when consuming (not necessarily creating) content. TPRIME is effectively Sydney to Frankfurt on one charge with some sleep.

PuGZoR
Valued Guest
PuGZoR

Android is the only way you should go if you want a cheap tablet (far below Apple entry prices), but for a lot of enthusiasts these are pretty bad ideas. For tablets with iPad-like specs, they can’t charge iPad-like prices. The experience isn’t anywhere near as good and there’s no significant feature/function that you’d choose Android over iPad (unless it was Google compatibility).

Ben
Valued Guest
The problem is Google let (sort of) manufacturers release Android tablets before Google was ready. The very first ones were based off Android 2.x which was smartphone only. The second wave were with version 3 (Honeycomb) and Google have openly admitted that was a quick fix. We are yet to see a Nexus tablet because there hasn’t been a version of Android which has been built for tablets to their satisfaction. I’m sure this will change with Jelly Bean (even Ice Cream Sandwich) but until then you are speaking about a platform which doesn’t really exist yet. Once it does… Read more »
Jason
Valued Guest

I loved my SGS2 and HOX but the Acer android tablet was an average experience, I ended up ditching it for $180 and bought an iPad 3 and I love it.

Piers Porter
Valued Guest
Interesting article and I agree with most of the points. I own two Android tablets, an Acer A500 and a Samsung GT 7.7. Both get regular use, though the Acer has been relegated to kids use only. I didn’t buy Apple for a number of reasons, mainly: * Form factor (7.7″ is the sweet spot for me) * Existing app purchases with Android * Preference for open architecture / hackability * Contempt for iTunes and wasted hours dealing with its quirks There’s little doubt though that a simple comparison of price-performance-software puts Apple ahead of the Android competition. It does… Read more »
chris
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chris

I love my GT 7.7 the build, size screen etc is perfect. Why oh why will not Samsung release ICS for it, HC lags badly and stops at times. I would be happy to wait another month or two for 4.1 on the 7.7 and skip 4.0x altogether
Samsung made an amazing product but screwed us yet again with the OS and lack of support.
They should stop releasing new devices and refine what they have now.

BDG
Valued Guest

I have the 7.7 3g, and I love it. It was too expensive and have never been able to recommend it to anyone else when the comparable (16gb) iPad is cheaper. I got it mainly for the form factor. I use it as a replacement for my Kindle 3 keyboard as it is exactly the same size, it just does so much more than the Kindle.

nathsgames
Valued Guest
nathsgames
Look I think there is enough innovation in Android land that the platform will survive. The Transformer Prime platform is testament to this. Also the Galaxy Tab 8.9 with true Aussie 4G. The Apps need to some work though. The iPad2 and new iPad are lovely experiences more because the software is so well sorted (and it is quite gorgeous hardware too), but Transformer Prime is awesome hardware, perhaps just needs slightly better software. The Galaxy SIII and Touchwiz UX are proof that Android is heading in the right direction, The hardware is just beautiful to hold and use, the… Read more »
Phil Tann
Valued Guest
Phil Tann

I think your last line sums it up!
I totally agree and am waiting for the Quad Core Jellybeans to arrive before I bite the bullet and get another tablet.

Kryzzay
Valued Guest
Kryzzay
At the end of the day it really comes down to what you need. I’ve got the older generation Transformer TF101 with the dock and I bought it not long ago for under $500. It’s Tegra 2, Officially updated to ICS and it works flawlessly. With the battery in the dock I get a combined time of 14-16 hours of usage which is the key reason I purchased it. So to summarise your major points, Does it have a future? Absolutely What’s the problem? It cost only $100 more than the iPad2, has a keyboard and way better battery life.… Read more »
Arthur
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Arthur

Great Article. I want to buy Android but I will not pay more for an Android tablet than the comparable IPAD. Asus Australia’s idiot decision to offer only one $900 configuration was hugely disappointing when I can pick up the configuration I want from Apple for $600. The ACER A700 looks promissing but will need to be considerably cheaper than the IPAD based on a comparisson of screen and build. I am getting fed up with waiting for a comparable Android tablet and will likely give up soon and just buy the IPAD.

Bevan Coleman
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Bevan Coleman
The problem with Android tablets is the low end is really bad and the high end is too expensive for what you get. I’m not going to even talk about the low end…. 5 mins playing with them and you will see why they are not worth even looking at. Mid range isn’t too bad, I’ve got a Sony Tablet S and it’s a nice bit of mid range gear. Price wise the $300-400 market seems to be fairly good. The high end is where the real issue is. Compared to Apple’s offerings Android tablets lag in CPU, GPU and… Read more »
Dara Ing
Valued Guest
Google needs to refresh the tablet platform, it needs to seperate itself more from the phone devices, as they can not do what apple has done with there cross device software with ios. I think they need to introduce more swipe gestures, and keep the home screens more clean and consistant.. i also have great hopes for jelly bean, but my last and IMO the most important factor of all is the HARDWARE needs to be amazing, android OEMs have not been good enough, the reason why people actually care about the new windows surface tablet is coz the hardware… Read more »
Jason Murray
Valued Guest
It’s an interesting time to see this kind of article posted. I’m considering ditching my iPad for an Android tablet because I’m fed up of arguing with iOS. I find the tablet market low end (Kogan, etc) seems to be like the Netbook market of a few years ago. People are buying them, but they’re going to collect dust and sour them on the whole experience. Eventually people will get bored with low-end shitty tablets and the market will evolve as the PC market has, from Netbooks into Ultrabooks where the specs are better and the price is higher. The… Read more »
Craig Harvey
Valued Guest
Here’s another point to consider – and it’s not just a problem with tablets, but Android as a whole. iOS has a lot of momentum in the enterprise in terms of officially supported for connectivity to corporate networks for things like email. While Android of course supports the capability to connect to corporate email servers and the like, a lot of this BYOD trend still relies on official endorsement from corporate IT. I see these corporate IT policies of course supporting iOS and in some limited cases Windows – more likely to be Windows Mobile 6.5 though! There is lag… Read more »
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