Tread Carefully in Shopping for Early Android Tablets

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 07, 2011

If you caught the Super Bowl over the weekend, and paid attention to the advertisements--which always go for a pretty penny--you no doubt saw Motorola's ad for its Android tablet, and other ads featuring the open source Android mobile OS. Aside from the notable fact that a Linux-based operating system was right there in between ads for cars and colas, it was also clear that big companies mean business in competing with Apple's iPad tablet with Android-based offerings. That doesn't mean the first-generation Android tablets are necessarily competitive, though. In fact, there are criticisms of them rolling in.

Many of the Android tablets are being offered at prices below the $500 minimum that it takes to get a hold of an iPad, but what compromises are they making? has been testing the early Android tablets, and reports:

"With scores of hardware manufacturers aiming to snag a slice of the big, fat Apple pie, the Android tablet army is growing fast. Too fast, in fact: The truth is, a lot of these tablets just aren't very good. In some of the tablets we've tested, we've encountered flimsy hardware, low-quality resistive touch screens, serious display resolution issues, and poorly skinned or old Android versions with limited or non-existent access to apps. None of this makes for a very enjoyable tablet experience."

I've used both the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab (based on Android), and they strike me as the tablets to beat. PCMag's testers agree on Samsung's tablet:

"Take the Samsung Galaxy Tab, for example, it's fast, well-designed, and comes with a decent Android implementation. Overall, the Tab is a solid tablet, but for the price ($250 to $550, depending on the carrier you choose), it should do more than an Android smartphone can. One of the reasons the iPad has been so successful is that it provides a rich tablet-specific experience that you just can't get on an iPhone."

Exactly.  The key point here, which we've made before, is that Android tablets will need an application ecosystem that can compete with the one for the iPad and iPhone. With the iPad, Apple leveraged excellent product design and the very healthy App Store ecosystem of applications to succeed with a new hardware platform. People forget that applications define the success of most hardware platforms. They did with the iPhone, and they did with the personal computer. Applications will define competition for tablets too. 

If you are looking for an Android tablet, you can get them for price points lower than the iPad's, but take a look at PCMag's hands-on tests before you buy.  They give the Samsung Galaxy Tab the best marks among Android tablets, and that lines up with a lot of other hands-on reviews.