The Not-So-Surprising Use For A Tablet

The Tablet Story Isn’t Over — But It’s Changing

Android Tablet Land

Flurry’s data regarding Android tablets reaffirms the many Android tablet observations myself and others have been making based on our research of the segment. Consistently, we find tablet usage and engagement is weak in Android land. Android tablet sales, going back to the beginning of 2013, have an estimated total of 340 million units. Tracking that against my Android installed base estimates, it puts active Android tablets via Flurry’s data at roughly 120 million units if we just focus on the past few years worth of sales. Meaning that approximately 220 million Android tablets are no longer in use or not accessing the Internet via apps.

The latter is not surprising. We know that low-end Android tablets do not drive heavy app or Internet engagement and are mostly used, globally, for entertainment media like video. What is surprising to me from this estimate is what appears to be a very short life for Android tablets. If my estimates are correct, or even in the ballpark, it suggests a much shorter average life cycle for Android tablets versus iPads. Perhaps chalk that up to the fact that the bulk of Android tablets being sold cost less than $150 and are relatively poor quality, or that there is little value found from the end users, therefore they are bought for cheap and then discarded when value was not captured or the hardware failed.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.


When people walk into a Best Buy and see the cheap craptabs that can be had for a minimum wage salary, it gives off the wrong impression.

They’re cheap because they’re crap.

But what people wind up thinking is that anything priced higher is price-gouging.

Which is very strange.

Because when I observe people with cellphones, I have yet to see any crap-phones out there in real-world land, even among minimum-wage workers.

People predominantly have an iPhone or a phone from Samsung (the Note 4 is very popular). And that’s basically it!

What hit home for me yesterday was a trip on the ferry. Sitting across from me, I heard this exchange:

Daughter: My phone needs charging. Let me see your iPad.

Mother: Here. You don’t need to get an iPad because you have a phone.


(The mother, by the way, was carrying a full-size iPad, not a Mini!)

With cellphones outpacing most tablets in terms of sheer horsepower — see the AnTuTu score for the Mi Note Pro — in many instances a tablet is a step down.

The only advantage a tablet brings is a large screen — which isn’t really necessary for most people. When I watch people on their phones in the wild, 90% of their activity is personal messaging. They’re either checking Facebook or using a chat app. That’s not something anyone needs a tablet to do.

The remaining ten percent of phone use I see is playing games or reading. With most games designed for phones, no one needs a tablet to play. As for reading, I’ve done full books on my Palm LifeDrive, with a lo-res generic font.

At the post Are you in the market to buy a 12.9 inch iPad Pro?, the first Comment really says it all:

I know several musicians anxiously waiting for the larger iPad. iPad Air screen size is too small for PDF sheet music. I use the ForScore app which would be vastly more useful on a larger screen.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Yeah. So all this time, I’ve been out there on the fringe with my Google Books PDF tests. But it seems that’s the key thing for tablet use after all: PDFs.

Any company that doesn’t pay attention to PDF rendering on their tablet isn’t paying attention at all.

And Microsoft should especially be ashamed of the PDF performance of their new Surface 3.



Filed under Android, Google Books PDFs, iOS, Windows Tablets

5 responses to “The Not-So-Surprising Use For A Tablet

  1. Bryce

    Personally, the reason I bought a cheap Chinese Android tablet (a Pipo M1 that’s still used frequently) nearly two years ago was for electronic document review. I’m a lawyer and it’s much easier for me to carry my tablet to depositions and mediations than one, two, or sometimes even three accordion folders full of paper. My documents are primarily pdf files that are not as large as Google Books. I’m still amazed that more lawyers don’t do the same. That’s also the reason that I’m happy to see Samsung finally go to a 4:3 tablet, as that aspect ratio works much better for reading documents in portrait orientation.

    • “Regular” PDFs are fine on most tablets. Google Books PDFs are like some radioactive mutant giant monster from the Nevada Proving Grounds.

  2. ThomasM

    Sorry for writing in these thread but were is the “Fuck cancer” picture?

  3. Jay

    It is indeed PDF reading that has driven me to larger and larger tablets, even to buying a Lenovo Yoga 2 pro. I read mostly academic books that are published in PDF rather than epub, and need a 10 inch screen to be read easily as full pages in portrait mode. My original Nexus 7, while a nice tablet, simply did not have the screen real estate for reading.

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