I’ve had some interesting feedback recently regarding Android tablets and their future no doubt sparked my recent opinion piece asking Does Android as a tablet platform have a future?. Specifically since the release of the Nexus 7 Tablet, this has intensified notably. Comments ranging from “you really made me think and wonder” to “The Nexus 7 has proven you wrong, Android does have a future on tablets”. I’d like to clarify a couple of things
- I never said that it didn’t, I said that control would need to be exercised by Google for it to work.
- I wasn’t doubting the Nexus 7 at all, in fact I was the lucky recipient of one of the first retail purchases in SA and haven’t looked back, in fact I’ve barely touched my iPad since the Nexus came into my life on that happy, happy day.
What has the Nexus 7 done for Android as a tablet platform?
One of the things it has done is reinforced several things that the Ausdroid team as a whole have been saying for some time
- There’s a huge market for smaller tablets
- There’s a big call for budget tablets that offer good bang for your buck
- While the launchers that various manufacturers skin on the device, vanilla is still the best!
- When hardware is controlled by Google offering a user-friendly out of box experience, they will sell
- Nerds love new toys!
Overall I think that the Nexus 7 has answered a lot of critics (myself included) with regards to the future of the tablet side of the Android platform, pulled the future into shape for the manufacturers and shown them the way. To have a successful device you need to
1. Have good hardware
2. Sell at an appropriate price
3. Offer Android as it was intended to users; the current version and not a hacked and skinned version that’s 2 generations old before you unbox it.
But is the Nexus 7 the savior of Android’s tablet platform?
No, there’s no way it can be! It’s the first stepping stones on what is sure to be a very long road ahead. While the Nexus 7 is certainly an ace in the hold for Android in the tablet market it’s not going to hit the mark for all users as it’s just a little bit too small for some uses. So where to for the 10” tablets? Personally: I’d love to see a 10” Nexus Tablet that’s as well designed, controlled and implemented as the Nexus 7 has been. I don’t see this on the horizon anytime soon, so call we can hope for is for manufacturers to take note of the success of the Nexus 7 and go through the right process to offer us, the users… what we want.
There’s so many positives in the Android ecosystem as a whole right now that it genuinely excites me!
The Nexus platform is certainly the most “pure” form of Android that you’ll find on any device and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. They (Google) have a stranglehold on this platform and ensure that Android is given to users in a raw or “vanilla” form. This means several things for the users the most important one being that you’re always going to have the best chance of being the first to get updates! There’s no fiddling with OEM skins such as Touchwiz, Motoblur or Sense before the update gets pushed out to your device from a carrier who has undoubtedly had their finger in the update pie also, further slowing updates down. As long as there is an option there, I certainly won’t stray far from Nexus phones and tablets for my future device choices because it’s always been a positive experience.
Currently there’s both HTC and Samsung making genuinely jaw dropping phones in their performance, looks and screen quality which are previously the major claims that Apple had over Android with the iPhone. While I don’t specifically like comparing any Android side by side with the iPhone it happens daily in tech circles and personally I consider it quite a compliment to Android as a whole for people to be doing this because it means that Android is kicking goals and deserves to be sitting side by side with what was arguably the best phone on the market, now I’m not sure that Apple have maintained that mantle.
While Jellybean has made some great steps forward in delivering user experience, consistency and a clean “out of box” experience that has until now been lacking from the tablet platform for Android, there’s nothing revolutionary here… It’s all evolutionary and consolidates the foundations that are in place for the Android tablet platform.
Google now is certainly a notable difference from a user perspective
I would argue that this is not doing anything you couldn’t already achieved by using the calendar and search functions anyway. This really is (despite my joke on the podcast about wanting to wear a tinfoil hat) a very cool function, it’s concerning some people with regards to how much information Google knows about them. They already had this information if you use an Android phone with tracking services turned on, use Gmail, use Google calendar, use Google Chrome for web surfing (even more so if you sign into Chrome) or use any other sign in based Google service.
This is just the first time that Google have jumped up and smacked people in the face with information that says “We know where you are, we know where you’re going and how long it’s going to take you to get there! By the way your NRL team is playing on Tuesday, click here to buy tickets”.
With so many positives, where’s the negatives?
Here it comes… that “F” word that will plague Android for quite some time to come until there is more control and options offered no only to users, but to app developers and carriers with regards to support channels, updates and applications.
Even though it’s 2 generations old, Gingerbread still rules the Android world with install base and it would take a very brave (or stupid) developer to stop supporting their paid apps under Gingerbread. Likewise, it would be a stupid carrier who would stop carrying and selling phones of this era as they would lose a huge number of device sales.
Can this be fixed?
There are phones out there that don’t deserve and probably won’t run Ice Cream Sandwich and certainly won’t run Jellybean for any number of reasons. The hardware might simply not be capable of running the higher end operating system and from a pure reputation point of view a quick and positive user experience on an outdated operating system is probably better than slow buggy and frustrating experience with the newer version. Screen technology has come a long way even in the last 18 months to 2 years and the screen possibly won’t do the new OS justice but the users of these devices are still contracted to their carrier and stuck with the device. This is one of the major advantages of the Android platform, the choice of phone ranging from sub $200.00 outright up to the goliaths of the world in the $600.00 – $850.00 range (outright purchase prices) but also one of the biggest negatives. With the lower price point comes a lower specced phone, manufacturers lower expectation of future development for the phone and much lower chance for the user in getting Operating System updates in the future.
Over time this is why I’ve personally come to the opinion that we will never be rid of the version fragmentation inside the Android world, we just need to understand it and deal with it as best we can. If that means that 12 – 18 months into a contract you’re forced to root and flash a new ROM to your phone, do it or deal with what you’ve got.
What about the future for Android?
Of course there’s a future for Android and it’s big, REALLY BIG!
Already commanding over 50% of the smartphone install market, it’s safe to say that Android is here to stay and keeping Apple on their toes. It’s forced a number of changes in Apple’s operating system and the recent release of Android phones has converted many previous iPhone users to Android. The smartphone market will only continue to grow and as long as Android is there, the consumers will continue to have choice in their operating system and the hardware they choose to use.