I’ll admit it, I have a love-hate relationship with Android. I love it as a phone choice, love it on 7” tablets, but think it provides a lousy experience on anything 10” display and above. I’m not alone as Android has captured 75% of the smartphone market but hasn’t had big success in the 10” and above category. Companies like Acer and Asus are now venturing into some very dangerous territory and some of their new Android products risk ending up like previous 10”+ Android devices. I’d like to begin with some Android tablet perspective.
It’s hard to believe that up until a year ago, Android had no tablet market to speak of. Android tablets had really been defined by market debacles like the Motorola Xoom. Samsung cranked out some interesting, high-res 10” tablets and Asus delivered some inspiring detachables, but none of them sold very well. Then came Google IO 2012 and the introduction of the Nexus 7, which redefined the volume tablet market. As Apple and Amazon followed with their new 7-8” offerings, the entire tablet market swung toward smaller screens and cheaper tablets. Even though there some excitement around the Nexus 10, on the whole, 10” Android tablets continued to sit, uninspired. What’s going on here?
The challenge with 10” Android tablets is all about apps, which goes all the way back to the first Android tablets. In fact, there are so few tablet apps that there isn’t even a way to segregate the app store to do a decent count of them. That’s when you know very few apps exist. This is a bit of a chicken and egg problem and Google hasn’t yet dug itself out of this hole yet. So why aren’t devs creating apps for the Android 10” platform?
Devs right now are confused about the Google large display ecosystem. I say “Google” and not “Android” because some devs see what Google and partners are doing with Chrome and need to first decide between Chrome and Android. They see Chrome notebooks selling well on Amazon but they are not seeing big optimism on 10”+ Android devices. Developers are confused and when it gets to the point of lock-up, stick with the safe bet, iPad.
In the end, it’s the consumers who suffer. You can install a 4” Android app on a 10” tablet, but many times it gets stretched to the point where the app is unusable. Imagine how that 4” app looks on that 20” display. Well, about twice as bad as the 10” display. All kidding aside, it is the consumer who feels the pain after they get home and try it out and expect an experience that just works. For users who stay in email, the browser, and a few optimized games it’s probably fine, but for those users who use many apps, the experience will be suboptimal. This brings us to the new Acer and Asus SKUs.
Acer has launched a 21.5” all-in-one with Android 4.0 (ICS) with a very slow OMAP 4430 that’s in the Kindle Fire tablet and Google Glass and 8GB of storage. Given what is under the hood, I can only imagine how anemic this system will be, regardless of the lack of apps. Asus has launched the “Transformer Book Trio”, a 12” two operating system (Android/Windows), dual architecture (Intel Haswell/Intel Clovertrail), tri-modal UI (Metro/Desktop/Android), and tri-modal physical (tablet/notebook/desktop). This is clearly not for the technology weary as bundles nearly every possible confusing variable to a general consumer. Aside from these variables, like the Acer AIO, it will stretch many 4”-designed apps to 12”, providing a less-than optimal user experience. Let me close in on answering the original question.
Are the latest Android 10”+ devices DOA? Yes, they are until Google can motivate application developers to create more Android apps that work well, and not stretched from 4” to 10” to 12” to 21”.