Thoughts About Android And Tablets

Editorial: I Used The Pixel C, And It Seems Like A Pretty Bad Idea

You see, when the Nexus 9 was released last year, I reviewed it. It was pretty bad. It’s still not great — the Nexus 9 lacks a good deal of the tablet content of iOS, still isn’t as powerful as a Chromebook for things like basic text composition and editing or even web browsing, and doesn’t even get very good battery life. But most of the problem with Android tablets as a whole is software-related: the OS doesn’t feel designed for a large-screen tablet and the content that is available simply isn’t as wide-ranging as what you find on iOS or, if you want to look at Windows and the Surface’s ability to run full Windows applications (no small feature), even on Microsoft’s platform.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

There’s more …

And:

More often than not, a mobile OS like Android or iOS simply encumbers your workflow, making simple tasks take longer with more steps, or preventing you from doing certain things entirely, like running specific applications.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And, BAM! —

Android isn’t a very good tablet OS to start with (I’m not saying iOS is a gleaming beacon of wonder, either), and attempting to cram it into a more laptop-like workflow seems almost sadistic on Google’s part.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And this one really hurts:

Who exactly needs a $500 tablet to read their favorite magazine or a book on Kindle? Even as the owner of an iPad Air 2, I regularly look at the thing and wonder what exactly it does aside from being pretty and running smoothly that is all that interesting or useful. I’ll tell you this: it gets a hell of a lot less use since I picked up a new Chromebook.

I keep wondering about that US$249 Asus Chromebook Flip. It’s very nice. But the biggest detriment is that horrible eye-scraping screen at just 1280 x 800. That’s just no good for tablet-form reading. See my post — Asus Chromebook Flip — for my own test.

Hold that last thought as I switch to incorporating thoughts from a Draft post that I’m marrying to this one because they’re related (OK, ignore that inadvertent incest allusion… ugh).

Stagnation situation: Apple’s new line-up reflects Android’s dominance

As far as Android is concerned, it need not worry about Apple at all anymore. Aside from any possible lawsuits that might spring up, Google is basically set as the current king of the mobile space. Until Apple can create a major boom again, the chances of a major decrease in market share is unlikely. This is all the more relevant now that super-affordable mobile phones like those from Huawei, Meizu, Xiaomi, and Micromax have begun to hit some of the largest countries on the planet: it’s not iOS they are buying into, it’s Google.

It’s rather hilarious that they mentioned four manufacturers that heavily modify the Android UI.

Moving from one phone to another is not a smooth experience with Android, like it is with an iPhone.

And while Android does indeed dominate with phones, I think its place as a tablet is plummeting faster than iPad sales.

I think both Asus and Samsung won’t release any tablets after this year’s models if they don’t sell. What’s the incentive to try one more time? Both have mimicked the iPad with 4:3 (so did Xiaomi with the MiPad and Google with the Nexus 9) — and if that doesn’t do it for sales (and it didn’t for both the MiPad and the Nexus 9), why waste more time and money when the market isn’t there?

In China, manufacturers have resorted to selling dual-OS tablets, with Android and Windows on them. That’s like tying two half-dead people together and passing them off as one healthy person! None of these companies have bleated about great sales, either. And the prospects of any of these dual-OS tablets moving to markets that really matter for brand-name longevity — America and Europe — are what’s called a rounding error in math. Having wasted their reputations at home, none of them can attract the capital needed for such market expansion.

Of the few China companies that have a chance to break out of their local market, two have already done so: Huawei and ZTE. Xiaomi is just beginning. Meizu too. The rest will eventually wither and die.

And those China phone makers?

They want to eliminate Samsung and Sony and HTC and other large brand names.

Google understands the endgame. This is why they’re perfectly fine with being evil inside China by introducing a version of the Play Store. If they don’t get solid relationships going with the future giants of phones, it’ll be too late. Especially with Cyanogen out there.

As for tablets, Google just doesn’t care.

If they did, there’d be more tablet version of apps in the Play Store.

What’s the reality of the situation?

Remix OS, which kludges the shortage of tablet apps by running phone-scaled apps as “windows”!

TeclastX98Air3GRemixOSVB006

Which brings us back to the beginning of this post: What the hell is the market for the Pixel C tablet?

It’s not me, that’s for sure.

And what that guy wrote …

Who exactly needs a $500 tablet to read their favorite magazine or a book on Kindle?

… really made me question how much sense there is for me to spend US$399 for a tablet for Google Books.

If it was an iPad Mini, I could justify it. But there are three things I still can’t get past with iOS:

1) No filesystem
2) No microSD (or other sensible mass storage)
3) No download status indicator

An iPad Mini that had those three roadblocks removed would be a perfect tablet for me. The smooth UI, splitscreen incorporated at the OS level, the CPU and iBooks finally doing Google Books PDFs well, and all of the apps add up to US$399 as it is.

But I want a filesystem, microSD expansion, and a damn download status indicator (as frustratingly-variable as it seems to be from tablet to tablet!).

So, I’m thinking of going cheap with a tablet: The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 “Basic,” for just US$199.

It’s on par with most China tablets in terms of AnTuTu score:

20150709_194737

I played with it again last night. I need to rerun some tests because of prior Best Buy WiFi problems.

The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 “Pro” model would be good too — I re-tested the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet last night as a proxy. It has the same AnTuTu score range as the Asus. This time I used SmartQ Reader and the iOS version of The American Magazine and Surface Japan and it worked well. (Unlike the first tine, when I used Foxit Mobile PDF.) But Best Buy isn’t carrying this model and I’m not yet convinced to spend the US$100 more.

So, I’m thinking of the cheap Asus. But this is still not my final decision. Just my thinking at the moment.

11 Comments

Filed under Android, iOS

11 responses to “Thoughts About Android And Tablets

  1. Am I looking at this wrong or are you now into year 5 of the search for a tablet? I’ve seen people window shop and debate with themselves over a purchase… but this has to be some kind of Guinness record. :)

    Anyway, a couple thoughts:

    1. Apple needs a “boom” in iOS. They’ve made minor efforts here and there (share sheets and notification center) but it all feels disjointed and not really well thought out. Siri is another example where they could do so much more with predictive analytics but they don’t and Siri’s capabilities next to Cortana or Google Now continues to fall behind. Hell look at Google Now on Tap for Marshmallow and compare that to Siri.

    2. Pixel C – This has to be something Google was playing with and determining what they could do to consolidate Chrome OS / Android OS to rival Windows Continuum. It’s an Alpha project that someone decided to ship. It has no market, not purpose for existence. It’s a biolab project that escaped like Resident Evil.

    3. Moving from one phone to another is not a smooth experience with Android. You missed some words here. Let me fix it:

    Moving from one phone to another is shit on Android.

    I just last night moved from an S6 to a Note5. Using Samsung’s SmartSwitch software – I got my photos, my texts and all that. But my application data (saved games, configuration settings in apps) was missing. It pulled down the apps, but they were all back to square one. Some settings came over (like alarms) but other like Do Not Disturb or screen prefs, nope. Wallpaper didn’t even shift over. So it remains the same as it has always been… unless you buy a backup app (and even better root and buy a backup app) the move from one device to another is like starting from scratch.

    • >>>Moving from one phone to another is shit on Android.

      Hahahaha.

      And yes, it’s only been *this year* that tablets can handle Google Books PDFs well. I’ve been testing this since frikkin iPhone 1.0! You think I’ve liked this waiting? I could have been reading!

  2. Robert Jasiek

    Each time I think about Android I come to the same conclusion: insecure. My iOS conclusion: no local file system. Windows is delightful (after several days of proper configuration). My current tablet considerations:

    – The Samsung Tab A loses to the iPad Mini 4.
    – The iPad Mini 4 has good enough hardware to serve as an emergency purchase providing 1/3 of my planned usage.
    – The iPad Air 3 will have good enough hardware (A9(X), Mini 4 display quality) but will be too expensive as an emergency purchase. Maybe it will have a stylus but EUR 100 extra, missing OCR for handwriting and the missing local file system do not justify the total price, although I prefer 10″ to 8″.
    – The Surface 3 I could have bought for EUR 390 but Monday devices, short battery life and mirroring display have discouraged me.
    – The Surface Pro 3 is too expensive for its unreplacable battery, noise and the too strong display mirroring.
    – The HP Pro Tablet 608 has nice specifications on the paper and I might have paid the high price but it is still unavailable in Germany, recent videos suggest ordinary display mirroring and replacement batteries or exchange serves are unavailable. There is no way that I pay a high price for a tablet if it becomes dead because of missing batteries. Either HP offers battery services for 5+ years or must halve the price from ca. EUR 600 (for a useful configuration) to 300.
    – There is a tiny possibility that Microsoft invents a Mini on October 6.
    – Other manufacturers of reliable Windows tablets offer only unusable 16:9 or 16:10. Such as Wacom with a matte, capacitive display for astronomic prices.

    All this hints at the emergency solution iPad Mini 4 to survive the next 5 years, during which of course still no company will offer the first iPad Air 2 / Mini 4 – like Windows tablet. They have been too stupid to offer one during the previous 5 years so there is no reason to expect them to be wiser during the following 5 years. However, there is one chance: at some time, Microsoft must acknowledge the outdoor usefulness of displays with greatly reduced mirroring. They want to sell throw-away products so I still do not expect a replacable battery. However, when the “Surface N” will have an outdoor-friendly display (and be sufficiently refined to avoid Monday crap), there will also come the time when it will be offered at a reduced price, so that I can buy it nevertheless.

    For you, the situation is even worse because you do not want to be confronted with the trouble of having to configure a Windows device carefully and so far silent Windows are too slow for your purposes, so Android is your only choice, is it?

  3. George

    This is madness. How can you maintain friendships or find a spouse while being so picky and perfectionist?

    Any sane person with your use case would have bought an iPad 2 or 3 and later upgraded to an iPad Air or Air 2.
    At this rate, you’re going to die before you manage to find your “perfect” tablet.

    • Wrong. And how can you compare people to devices? Is your wife a Cuisinart?

    • Perfection doesn’t exist, but its pursuit can leave much beauty behind. Mike is one authority on Chinese tabs at this point, and many of us got to know him as such.

      That he’s a cranky intellectual is a big bonus.

      • Hell, not even I would call myself an “authority” on Chinese tablets — especially since I ignore all the ones that aren’t 4:3. And even now the latest batch bore me. TECHTablets has all the hands-on experience I lack. And good luck to him. I can’t imagine spending all that time and money.

  4. Ravi

    FYI, the big weakness of the basic ZenPad S model is the WiFi: 802.11bgn only (no 802.11ac and no 5 GHz support). Given the increasing congestion on the 2.4 GHz band and the decreasing cost / increasing availability of 802.11ac, the extra $100 for the pro model is probably worth it for that alone (the extra RAM, faster processor, larger internal storage, etc. are just a bonus).

  5. E.T.

    1. If you go for the Asus ZenPad you may be able to get the Pro at a reduced price (perhaps even the price of the Basic?) around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The same may hold for the Samsung tablets.
    2. Even if manufacturers may offer reasonable transitions between their own devices – it’s a real mess switching between different OEMs.

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