Are the Latest 10”+ Android Devices DOA?

Patrick Moorhead / June 4th, 2013

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”.

 

 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • Rich

    “Asus has launched the “Transformer Book Trio”, a tri-modal physical (tablet/notebook/desktop).”

    A tablet/notebook/desktop computer? Even independently of the issue of stretching a 4″ app to 12,” it doesn’t sound like the product would be very good in any of those three modes. Didn’t Asus learn from the Microsoft Surface?

    • Moku

      The reason the Surface was a bomb was due to the fact that the RT version didn’t have legacy support, while the Pro version had horrible battery life at an expensive price. This Asus probably has a better chance, but we’ll know for sure once it’s released.

      • FalKirk

        “The reason the Surface was a bomb…” – Moku

        The reason the Surface was and is a bomb is because people don’t want to user a tablet operating system on a desktop and they don’t want to user a desktop operating system on a tablet. By trying to give their users everything, Microsoft ended up giving their users nothing of value.

      • steve_wildstrom

        Those two facts are not unrelated. A system with sufficient power to run full Windows 8 and key Windows 8 applications well requires more power than the tablet form factor can readily supply, hence the terrible battery life tradeoff.

  • I’ve already addressed this but I’ll state it again… It’s unlikely that tablet apps can even be developed for Android in such a way that they will offer a consistent user experience across tablet designs. The inconsistencies in size and resolution make Android tablets a moving target. The mechanism that Google has implemented to address this issue does not scale well past 7″.

    By now, there have to be many millions of Android tablets. So why are developers more or less refusing to create tablet specific apps? The breadth of Android tablets yet the dearth of tablet specific apps would seem to present a unique opportunity. I don’t think it is one of which Android devs can actually take advantage.

    • fandroid98

      Personally, I think the true competitor to the iPad has not come yet. But I believe it will, in the form of Windows RT tablets and Intel powered Windows tablets.

      • Idon’t Know

        They are doa. Not gonna happen.

  • Idon’t Know

    The only decent 10″ Android tablet is the Nexus 10 and it has many issues. Poor quality and control, no 3 or 4 G, washed out screen with poor contrast, cheap feel and build quality, very slow gpu, very slow charging. The iPad 4 just beats the snot out of it.

    • snake4812

      By what measure is it the only decent 10″?

      I have the Asus Transformer Infinity and I absolutely love it.

      • Idon’t Know

        it has its own issues as you know.

  • Moku

    I am actually quite impressed with the Transformer Book Trio. If it’s cheap enough (which it won’t be), then I might consider it as my next computer.

    I do agree about that Acer 21.5-incher. It looks DOA, but, knowing the current state of the market, the other tablets may actually have a chance.

  • Hampton Drywall

    So the Ipad is a better all around tablet, sound like

  • Shawn Dreelin

    I carry both a Nexus 10 and a iPad 3 and to tell you the truth, both are great. I’m not seeing the app problem other than the annoying non-landscape mode apps occasionally (which is also a phone issue). There are some no-so-popular apps that don’t scale well and you can certainly see jaggy lines, but most well known apps have tablet versions that look great on the hi res screen of the Nexus 10. I don’t play many games on it so I can’t speak on that side of things. I actually prefer the 16:9 layout of the Nexus 10 over the 4:3 layout of the iPad 3. The thing I do find to be a problem is the low res content being blown up to that resolution (low res YouTube videos or ripped DVDs), but considering the size, that’s understandable. Content is starting to catch up with larger screen resolutions, but is slowly doing so.

    • Defendor

      Scaling issues are not just about jagged/blurry items, they are also about non-optimal use of space.

      If you develop an application for a phone, the layout is not going to be optimal on a 10″ tablets.

      It is always going to be better if someone actually takes time to target specific screen sizes.

      In that way Apple tablets have the advantage, with only a few set screen sizes, that are all specifically targeted and optimized for.

      I think Microsoft may have a similar problem as they try to get Metro (Modern UI) apps that run on everything form sub 8″ tablet to 20″+ touch screen desktops.

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