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?