Monday , October 23 2017

The Android Tablet: A Sad State of Affairs

google-nexus-7

At the end of each year here at Ausdroid we do a few posts with our favourite products in each categories for the year. Today the question was posed : What was the best tablet in 2016? Guess what the answer was:

Correct. Nothing. My answer was: “was there even a half decent tablet released in 2016?” (technically the Pixel C was released last year, it just didn’t make it to our shores until this year)
There wasn’t even a decent answer to that. My nomination was for my son’s Nexus 7 2013 tablet now running CyanogenMod 14.1 (and running it very well I must say). It is a sad state of affairs if my thoughts were that a tablet that is now over three years old is still atop the Android tablet heap.

It is such a sorry state of affairs that I did something the other day that I am not proud of. I must confess my sins to you.

I bought my daughter an iPad Mini.

Yep. The first ever Apple device I have ever purchased. I never saw the need to previously, as Android could match and better Apple’s products in all senses. Not any more. It doesn’t matter that the school has said that she MUST have either an iPad or a Windows laptop. I thought about fighting that directive but unfortunately reality set in. What would I get her instead? Her Nexus 7 2013 (thank you Nestle for both of these) is good, but the touch screen issues (phantom touches) would make it difficult for her to use at school. There is no decent Android tablet out there that I could get her and be comfortable she would not either burst into tears or throw it against the wall in a fit of mind-bending rage while attempting to use it.

Samsung have tried … but come on Samsung, home buttons are such a bad idea on a tablet. Their offerings that we see here in Australia are often the slow, low end tablets that make you feel like you should have bought the $89 Onix tablet from Aldi instead.

Huawei had great promise. Their Mediapad 2 had great hardware but unfortunately they continue to gimp their product with a software interface that may work for some regions in the world but has been shown to not be popular in the Western world time and time again — find me a review of a Huawei product where the reviewer loved their UI. It is getting better though (especially on the P9) — I will give them that — but it seems they learnt very little from their Nexus 6P experience.

Who else has released decent hardware on a tablet in recent times? The HTC-manufactured Nexus 9? As my main tablet I feel like throwing it in the blender each and every time I use it, and it is fully stock (unusual for me) — well, it was until last night. After such an improvement on my son’s Nexus 7 2013 running a custom ROM, I gave up on Google or HTC being able to get the software right for it and went to a custom ROM. Whether it survives is another thing. It sure as hell could not make it any worse — I only use my Nexus 9 to read books, magazines and occasionally Reddit. Last night while trying to read a magazine it was so painful I gave up before reading a single page. And don’t get me started on trying to surf the web using Chrome or any other browser. I am not alone in this experience. One of our editors has the same issue and I swear he now uses it to stop his table with the one short leg from constantly rocking.

So why are we so bereft of choices for a decent Android tablet?

I keep hearing that the Android app experience on a tablet is sub-par but am yet to experience it. I like the way Plume looks. Relay for Reddit the same. Moon Reader is great too as is Magzter. NFL Gamepass is great as is the AFL app. Where is this bad experience? I just don’t see it. What I see is some decent apps trying to run on buggy software and sub-par hardware. Are manufacturers listening to the FUD about the poor experience and deciding there is no money there? You know what? If someone makes a decent Android tablet they will make a killing, there is currently no competition.

If you build it, they will come!

There is such a void in the Android tablet world just waiting to be filled by a decent tablet that the company to do so could sell a bazillion of these. The Android fans out there are dying for a decent Android tablet, much in the way the Nexus 7 2013 made a killing. It was decent hardware, great software at an awesome price. Seems a fairly simple recipe doesn’t it?

Did you hear the rumour about the Huawei-made Nexus tablet? It now seems far-fetched from where I sit. At this stage it is still vapourware. In my opinion, Huawei sit at or are very close to the pinnacle of quality hardware manufacturers in the Android space. Imagine that paired with Google’s pure Android again. Until the Pixels were released, the Nexus 6P was — in my opinion — the best Android phone ever. Imagine that partnership teaming up again. Stick a Huawei logo on the back and they may just go for that. I still have my fingers crossed on that one, but the rumour mill has been awfully quiet regarding this for a while now.

Have Google abandoned the tablet space? They made a splash with the Pixel C, with everyone expecting it to run Chrome before too long. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Are they putting all their eggs in Andromeda basket and it is just not ready yet? Google, if you are listening, I want a decent tablet. Show the way. Lead the manufacturers into the light. You did it with phones and now look at all the decent phones out there — but where are the tablets?

Phil wrote a piece extremley similar to this one years ago (he pointed me at it after I had written this piece) and guess what? Things haven’t changed.  Google it’s time to do something about it.  Tablets were meant to make laptops obsolete not too long ago. Google, pick up the ball you have dropped since you leant on Asus to make the Nexus 7 2013 and make Android tablets great again. We have nothing.

So what do I do in the meantime? Flit from one custom ROM to another on my Nexus 9? Dust off the Nexus 7 2013 and stick CM14.1 on it? Buy myself an iPad? *shudders*

So what is the best Android tablet of 2016? Is there one?

 

Scott Plowman   Associate Editor

Scott is our modding guru - he has his finger on the pulse of all things ‘moddable’, pointing us towards all the cutting edge mods hacks that are available. When he’s not gymming it up, or scanning the heck out of Nexus devices, you'll find him on the Ausdroid Podcast.

Outside of Ausdroid, Scott's a health care professional and lecturer at a well known Victorian university.

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59 Comments on "The Android Tablet: A Sad State of Affairs"

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Michael Moran
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Michael Moran

I hear ya. I had a Nexus 7 2013 but I’ve been using an Xperia Z3 Compact Tablet for a couple of years now. Its a fantastic tablet, only hampered by its lack of main ram (it support micro SD cards, but we all know that main ram is better). Unfortunately Sony dont seem to be making android tablets any more either.

James
Valued Guest
James
Add my voice to the chorus that’s just dying for a decent Android tablet. As a big reader I really want something that will work as a newspaper/magazine replacement (I have a Kobo for reading books and it is just perfect). Surely it’s not too much to ask that a newspaper app doesn’t bring your tablet to its knees? My N7 (2013) is still great but was was always a little small. Just like the author, I feel like tossing my N9 against the wall as it hangs just about every day. Recent updates have made it painfully slow on… Read more »
Robert Christopulos
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Robert Christopulos
You know, I’d been looking around for a newer tablet in 2015 and finally bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1(2014), only to have it destroyed within three months. I was so impressed with it’s superior capabilities that I bought another even though it wasn’t due for any new OS upgrades after Android 5.1.1. My latest tablet has the added feature of 4G LTE compatibility. Frankly, even though my Samsung is three years old and doesn’t have the latest hardware, overall, it is still the greatest performer out there, easily able to put Apple’s IPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4… Read more »
Jacky Law
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Jacky Law

I have the Nvidia shield tablet K1. I find it to have pretty decent performance for the relatively low price even if imported from the us via Amazon. Nvidia have been very active with software update too!

Johnmacg
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Johnmacg

I have an 8 inch Asus Zenpad with 64Gb of shortage and an expansion SD card. Best tablet I’ve ever owned – FAR better than my Nexus 7 2013 and its successor, Samsung Tab S.

Member
N7 2013 still rocks! Use it every day as my e-reader but it does suffer from some touch issues occasionally but a re-boot fixes it. Have had CM on it before and considering it again given it won’t get stock Nougat – will take your advise Scott and get on it installing. Obviously the Galaxy TAB S2 was not a 2016 release… but I have a 9.7′ one and have nothing but praise for it. – PLENTY quick enough – absolutely gorgeous design – IMO better than iPads ( we have 3 in the house – iPad 2, Mini 2,… Read more »
DroidBot
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DroidBot
I used to have an Acer A500 until the NAND chip failed and got stuck into a boot loop, do miss the full sized USB port rather then fiddling with OTG cables. Might try fiddle with it one day but since it is a Tegra device hard to get into the system. I now have a Lenovo A10 not a powerhouse and might not sadly receive Marshmallow, however it runs well enough for general tasks and the battery can get about 18 hours using moderate brightness. Maybe the ship has sailed for Android in the tablet space that the Surface… Read more »
montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

Possibly. I have a surface pro 4 i7 variant and absolutely love it

Jesus Machine
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Jesus Machine
After Android N beta bricked my 20 month old Nexus 9 I haven’t had an interest in tablets. I was never that happy with the Nexus 9 really. Turns out the brick was fortunate as Google gave me a full refund even though the tablet was 8 months out of warranty. Used the money to buy a gtx 1070. I have no interest in tablets now of any type (Apple or Android). I bought a cheap Asus 11 inch laptop that weighs about a kilo and has 8 to 10 hours of web browsing battery. It’s perfect and my partner… Read more »
Square eyed
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Square eyed
I am going to add to the chorus here. I loved the Nexus 7 and my kids are still running them now. It’s a pretty that Google hasn’t taken on tablets more seriously. They need to make a dedicated tablet Play Store. They need to fix there notification synchronisation and messaging sync. I’d have bought a pixel c for myself if it had 128gb and LTE. They also need to make tablets more productive, adding more desktop like features, maybe team with Adobe and release software relevant to design and editing. They need to ID that tablets aren’t just big… Read more »
Member

What productivity / desktop features do you need?

Android TABS are far better than iPads as they have a mouse bluetooth stack ( ipads dont ) … and running office apps with keyboard and mouse is not dissimilar to on a PC -screen size excepted fo course.

Apps mostly support universal copy / paste.

The big one is split screen, but even on desktop, unless you are running 25′ and above screens, most people only run full screen programmes anyway and tab through.

RickO
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RickO
I am new to Tablets but you guys must have very high expectations of what a tablet is used for. I just bought (3 weeks ago) – a new Samsung Tab A (6) 10.1 WiFi. 1920 x 1200 TFT LCD screen. 2Gb and 16Gb running Marshmallow 6.0.1. Loaded it up with a 64Gb memory card. It has got a basic MS Office Suite included that works OK. My First Samsung product (and tablet) I have ever owned – not blindingly fast, but for a sub $400 tablet (add extra for the memory card) it works great. I wanted something more… Read more »
Daniel Narbett
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Daniel Narbett

I agree some low- and midrange android tablets are ok – if you set your expectations right. But where are the non-midrange options? With specs as good or better than flagship phones – 4k display, 4-6 gig of RAM, freakin’ lasers, that sort of thing? Apple put better processors in their tablets than their phones (they used to, don’t know if they still do) and that makes sense to me. Surely the large form means a manufacturer could make any number of interesting innovations.

Member
Luke Vesty

The future is hybrids and Microsoft is leading the way here. Watch Apple and Google copy them over the next couple of years.

Michelle Notherday
Valued Guest
Michelle Notherday

Until Apple does what Apple does well. Let others open the field and then improve / polish the product, sell a ton and move on.

Member
The tablet drought isn’t an Android issue – it’s tablets across the board. I have a Samsung Tab S2 9.7 and my wife has a 2015 iPad Air, and there’s really not much between them. They both have middling battery life (doze actually makes my Tab last longer than her iPad), a home button of questionable use and the Tab AMOLED screen is actually far better than the iPad LCD. How exactly is the iPad Mini you bought your daughter better than this? I guess I’m not the typical tablet user this article is speaking to, as I also have… Read more »
Member

7′ tablet is the BEST size for reading. The N7 2013 is perfect size for that… not even a 6′ screen can really be read for for long periods.

apart form this though, agree 7′ tablets are kinda too small to do anything really serious on and for most things a large phone will be better

Member

I have an old Nexus 7 (2012) which was nearly dead. I flashed it with a custom ROM and brought it live. I also bought a Tab S2 9.7 for my wife early this year. I was surprised that it is so smooth and fast (no lagging at all). The hardware is good and feels very light.

Paul Walker
Valued Guest
Paul Walker

I’m in the same boat. I have a N9 and hate it. It’s a laggy piece of junk. A custom ROM gave some improvement but only for so long and then back to being slow again. I can’t believe I sold my 2013 N7 (which I loved, other than being to small) for this!

I hate to say it but unless there is some substantial change in the marketplace, my next tablet will probably be an iPad. I’m happy to keep buying Android phones but tablets are sadly lacking.

Daniel Narbett
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Daniel Narbett

I ran android-phone-but-iPad-tablet for 6 years (from iPad 1 day 1 sadly, with a second iPad half-way through) until last year when I got an android tablet. Yep, laggy as hell (Lenovo yoga pro 2). But I don’t care about the lagginess. I just couldn’t stand iOS any longer. And I’m an attempted-fanboi – I want to like, or even be able to tolerate, iOS because it’s pretty and fast and stable. But I find it intolerable in the end, for all the reasons that I love android.

Member

Galaxy TAB s2….

Russell Cook
Valued Guest
Russell Cook
I have an 18month old Samsung Tab S2 9.7. Overall it’s a great QHD tablet with reasonable but not blinding speed. I use SmartLauncher Pro3 and disable a lot of the Samsung apps. However a tablet needs to run a lot of apps, and 32GB is not enough any more – so that’s a pain. Also as an (by today’s standards) older Exynos chipset, with a big screen it is not very battery efficient. My Huawei Honor Note 8 is much better on battery. As a true LTE phone device I would consider using this tablet (with bluetooth headset) and… Read more »
montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott
Talked yourself out of that mate. Huawei are VERY agressive with their battery management- i missed so many emails and messages when I was reviewing the Mate 8. Had to use “Performance” mode I think it was called. even then the battery life was still pretty damn good. As for a tablet it is ok to be aggressive for most people. I dont use my tablet much for that sort of thing, but maybe that is because the N9 is so slow and laggy. EMUI at least gives the option to change the way it looks- see my post recently… Read more »
Russell Cook
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Russell Cook
I am quite happy with Huawei so far. I have set the apps I want running in the background to on. Told it to ignore notifications re: power intensive apps and it’s running well. FB is set to do nothing in the background so doesn’t chew power. All up phone has used 22% battery in 13h:50min. Estimates 45hr remaining. I’m on smart power mode. This works well for me. Yes I’ve also loaded icon themes and changed default apps to suit me. Mainly Google ones for phone/dialler, contacts and SMS messages (well MySMS now so I can use from desktop)… Read more »
Member

I got a MediaPad M2 and had to extensively tweak the power management to actually allow apps to run reasonably in the background. The tablet hardware is decent but oh how I wish there was an AOSP ROM out there.

In many ways I wish I had kept my N7 2013 but I needed LTE on the tablet. Rest assured as soon as somebody somewhere releases a decent tablet, there’s a very good chance I’ll jump on it.

Daniel Narbett
Valued Guest
Daniel Narbett
There’s gold in this article, a great read thanks (will it blend!?) There are even fewer new LARGE tablets (comparatively I mean). My tablet this year has been the Yoga Pro 2 released in October 2014 because it’s a large tablet – 13″ which I like. And while I love consuming media on it, that’s only because I’ve long since learned to adopt the sanity-saving (and device-defenestration-saving) method of “press, pause, press, pause, breath, breath, press” due to the low-spec processor and minimal RAM that are bizarrely put in all large Android tablets. ps. evidence for the shortage of large… Read more »
Member
I have a Huawei MediaPad M2 8.0. It is superb hardware. It has an Optus data sim and works very well. I runs Action Launcer 3 on top of the stock system. BUT, it is stuck on Android 5.1.1. There are rumours of a marshmallow update being released “real soon now”. Without at least security fix updates I cannot see me buying another. The security patch level section does not even exist in the sysinfo (because it is 5.1.1). Huawei are not alone in this but that is no excuse. It is only nine months since I purchased it as… Read more »
montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

this is certainly an issue with some of these manufacturers. Their skins are so extensive that updates are very difficult to do and often wind up in the too-hard basket.

Member

Picked up a Tab A 9.7 for cheap on Gumtree to replace my Note 8. It’s not bad for a cheap device, but is going to the kids if that Samsung Chromebook Pro ever comes out.
ChromeOS is much better suited to tablets than straight Android now that it can use Android apps

montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

plus about 50 from us Ausdroiders re the Samsung Chromebook Pro…

Member

I loved my N7. My kids still use theirs daily. And I was really excited to see rumours of another one, but alas it never materialised.

The N9 absolutely flies when you first flash something onto it, then it just slows down again after 3 weeks. It’s sad because it has so much potential. Not sure what’s wrong with it.

As for Android tablets, I think they might be dead. Why buy one when you can buy a Chromebook tablet instead, now that they can run Android apps?

montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

I feel the same. It is a good idea the N9 but for some reason is just buggy and laggy. Someone hasn’t optimised the drivers properly?

Andrew Bayliss
Valued Guest
Andrew Bayliss

After my 2012 Nexus 7 died, I looked for a decent 7 inch tablet and finally settled on the Huawei Mediapad T2 7 pro (how’s that for a model name) and must agree with you, the software it absolutely horrible. I have replaced the launcher with the Google launcher and it’s a bit better. For $275, it’ll do me for now.

montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

decent price mate. That’s the thing we are all doing a “for now” scenario. Is anything better coming?

Member
Dean Rosolen

I like the Pixel C. That said, it doesn’t get as much use as I would like (probably because I have a Nexus 5X as well).

BrainBeat
Valued Guest
BrainBeat

It would seem there is a good market potential for a new Nexus 7.

BrainBeat
Valued Guest
BrainBeat

There are some decent Chinese brands selling online that seem to still be making some decent low to middle end tablets too. True they may not be super fast or totally specked out but they are much better value than the brand name ones. I was going to suggest the XIAOMI Mi Pad 2 for example but now that I have looked it up it seems to have also been released late last year.

Member

Screen replacements for Nexus 7 (2013) dont cost a lot from Aliexpress between $30 & $40 AUD depending if you want the frame or not.

montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

does this fix the issue with ghost touches etc the digitiser registers?

Member
it can. but this can also be the cable where the digitiser plugs into the usb daughterboard i find turning it off and just pressing on this area can resolve some ghost touching, even just popping off the back and replugging in these cables can help. but if you have deep scratches within the screen or a small chip somewhere then it might be wise to replace the screen. if you dont do this a lot get the frame replacement its much easier you only have to heat up (oven) the old frame to get the power buttons off if… Read more »
Member

Did the phantom touches start happening after installing CM and only when the battery is low? I’ve noticed this on a few devices.

BrainBeat
Valued Guest
BrainBeat

If you want the proper one however I think it cost my brother ~$150.

Member

someone making good profit from your brother

Joshua Hill
Valued Guest
Joshua Hill

You mention the N9 (NVIDIA chipset inside) but neglected to mention the NVIDIA shield tablet. There’s the Sony Z4 which is supposed to be a very good tablet too. These are N9 era devices and superior choices but not mentioned in the article.

Jamie S
Valued Guest
Jamie S

Hey Joshua, I have a Nvidia Shield tablet and a Nexus 7 2013 and my Shield tablet lags and stutters some times but my N7 never misses a beat. I know the Shield tablet is supposed to be for gaming but I use it as a media player mainly because it has the dual front facing speakers. I haven’t really done much research about why it lags and stutters but O have heard others say they have experienced similar problems with theirs. Do you know much about it?

Joshua Hill
Valued Guest
Joshua Hill

I researched it a fair bit at its release and on a number of occasions after. Looked like good hardware specs and from what I’d heard fast and close to stock in UI. Also had quick updates supposedly. I ended up getting a Sony Z3 tablet compact which I still enjoy using.

montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

I didn’t forget about the Shield.. just didn’t mention it because it wasnt released here. Pity, I liked the look of it.

But they are both old. where are the new tablets?

Joshua Hill
Valued Guest
Joshua Hill

I forgot it wasn’t released here. I don’t like the hassle of importing but from memory it seemed pretty cost effective and easy to get here. Apart from the Lenovo’s some others have mentioned and of course the Samsung’s you mention there really isn’t a lot. Personally I’m waiting for something like Samsung’s new 13″ Chromebook as a dual productivity laptop/tablet. However given the state of affairs with Chromebooks in Australia importing may be he only way to get one.

Fred
Valued Guest
Fred

There is ample scope for a killer tablet that would find many buyers – with some novel use cases that technology has made credible in the interim. However, if they were to revive the market, the manufacturers would need to rediscover keen pricing. Part of the reason Nexus 7s did well is that a price ~$300 was acceptable; $700 for the PixelC is laughable.

However, google seem to have taken leave of their senses, and have been removing ‘tabletness’ from the OS – so it would probably need a different, better, OS.

Member
I have an 8 inch Galaxy Tab S2. Surprisingly it performs really well, has an awesome display, a slim and light quality metal construction and a decent fingerprint reader. Because it’s so slim the battery life isn’t the best, it’s not awful but it could be better. As with all of Samsung’s Android devices there are extra apps and features that probably don’t need to be there but I’ve managed just to ignore or disable the stuff that I don’t need. I’d probably buy an 8 inch Nexus or Pixel tablet but as you say it doesn’t exist. To just… Read more »
Member

I still use my Xperia Z4 daily for reading and the odd game. Great screen for watching media, it’s light enough to chuck in my bag for the travel to work and Sony’s interface isn’t too painful (can always chuck another launcher on it anyway). It was a bit expensive but for me I’m happy with it even if it’s now over 12 months old.

Greg Blackshaw
Valued Guest
Greg Blackshaw
I’m typing this on my ever faithful Z4 Tablet. I’m still happy with the purchase. Although I wish I could get a decent shock proof case for it. Sadly overpriced due to its exclusivity to Telstra and Sony not even bothering to release the WiFi model in Australia. I still think it holds it’s own against any other tablet released in the past 12 months. The matching keyboard I got for free, wile cheap feeling, is nice to type on and allows me to almost replace my aging desktop. I’ve paired it with a logitec ultrathin touch mouse for working… Read more »
Member

I still have and love my Nexus 7 (2013) but its getting older.
I really think my next Android Tablet will actually be ChromeBook that flips to be a tablet! I really think, with ChromeOS running android apps now, that is the best solution with the best of both worlds!

EspadaV8
Valued Guest
I really miss my Nexus 7. Dropped it one to many times and it never recovered from it. It was a great size for carrying around anywhere and could even fit in the back pocket of my jeans. Wasn’t too big or heavy to hold one handed. My partner still uses hers regularly and my daughter is happy using an original Nexus 7 although that is getting a bit slow (to be fait, she just watches videos on it). I was tempted by the Pixel C but mixed reviews and a much larger size put me off and hoped there’d… Read more »
Stephen Reeves
Valued Guest
Stephen Reeves

I much prefer my Air2 to my TabA. The TabA was just a “backup device” for the iPad anyway.

Sammy
Valued Guest
Sammy

So u are comparing a Highend iPad with a low end tab?

Stephen Reeves
Valued Guest
Stephen Reeves

yep, and it sounds incredibly unfair, but I couldn’t find any Android Tab that matched the Air2.

Member

Galaxy Tab S2

montalbert_scott
Valued Guest
montalbert_scott

exactly

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