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Android IOS Hardware

Figuring Out Why Android Wins On Phones, But Not Tablets 451

GMGruman writes "Android smartphones have overpowered the iPhone in market share, yet Android tablets barely register in sales versus the iPad. Android tablets are as competitive in most respects against the iPad as Android smartphones are against the iPhone. So why the difference in success? Galen Gruman examines five theories for the gap, and concludes the reason is that Android tablets' real competitor is in fact not the iPad."
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Figuring Out Why Android Wins On Phones, But Not Tablets

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  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @08:54PM (#35981472) Homepage

    Funny thing is, I would have made the opposite prediction a couple years ago - I would have bet on Android for tablets and the iPhone to continue to dominate smartphones - but I understand now why it went the way it did. I don't think that Android tablets can compare to the iPad experience, mostly due to the apps.

    I like Android on the phone and my CR-48, but the iPad is far more interesting to me than an Android tablet is. Part of it is pure diversity - there are some amazing apps and games that only run on iOs; I only need one device to play them/enjoy them, and an iPad is a lot more compelling a game interface than the iPod touch/iPhone is. I expect most productivity apps to either get ported to Android from iOs or at least have a good working equivalent, but games and creative/playful apps, which are distinct and not really replaceable by equivalents, favor iPad. So, it's iPad for reading and games, the Android phone as a PIM (remember that word?) and workhorse smart-phone.

    A lot of "fandroids" are actually really Google "fans", or at least tied to the Google eco-system (that fits me, sort of, with the usual caveats and worrying about any corporate entity controlling too much personal information, etc.) - and one can stay within the Google system in your iPad. One thing that distinguishes Google from Apple is that the latter really is about the one "right" and "best" way to do something, while the former is about having several ways (many still in beta) of skinning many cats (some of which haven't even been discovered yet.)

  • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @08:56PM (#35981480)

    apart from the nook and the Galaxy Tab I guess :)

    I think he might be right - iPads are different beasts, they're not a big smartphone, nor are they a keyboardless laptop. So I guess the iPad owners do use them for different tasks than those commonly performed by smartphones and laptops.

    In which case, the positioning for Android tablets needs to be more of a keyboardless laptop - ie like the Xoom and the N900 - one where you can dock it and turn it into a desktop machine (with bluetooth keyboard and hdmi cable to a monitor or TV) and un-dock it and it becomes a portable device that you can still use, though not as fully as when docked. I think that is probably the best place for Android to move to - it'll stop being a 'me too' copy of iPads and iPhones and start to become the future of all computing.

    But then, if they did that, Android tablets are a non-starter, you can put all that power in a phone-sized form instead, and it's more compact and portable too. Maybe people will realise this when we get full-resolution HUD spectacles and tablets will become last years fashion.

  • Improve the UI... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:01PM (#35981504)

    Android smartphones have overpowered the iPhone in market share, yet Android tablets barely register in sales versus the iPad. Android tablets are as competitive in most respects against the iPad as Android smartphones are against the iPhone. So why the difference in success?

    Having tried both iPads and Android tablets I'd say the reason is simple. Android is a mobile phone OS that was hastily adapted for tablets and it shows. If they ever manage to come up with a good purpose designed tablet version of the Android UI that assessment may change. The Android system settings are also sometimes annoyingly unintuitive. For example, when the mail client told me I needed to approve access permissions before I cold connect to Exchange 2010 it took me about half an hour of clicking about in the system settings pane before I realized thats the wrong place to look. You have to pull down the curtain on the menu bar and click the task item in the list you get there to fix this. Another thing is that while iTunes store definitely contains a whole mess of crappy apps the Android market is even worse.

  • Theory #6 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:02PM (#35981522)

    Android tablets don't have a single-minded and focused marketing (spelled h-y-p-e) machine behind them.

    Tablets are doomed to fail except in vertical markets where consuming data is more common than producing data. For personal use they're a fad, little more than an overly capable media player. The people who might want a tablet but don't want an iPad are few.

  • Numbers please (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:02PM (#35981526) Homepage

    I didn't see any actual sales figures to support the claim that Android is doing poorly on tablets. Considering that this is only the second quarter of sales, I think it's a little early. Many manufacturers haven't even released sales figures yet!

    Also, strictly from a personal perspective, I know five people with Android tablets, but only one with an iPad. Interestingly, all the Android tablets are from Archos, which is rarely mentioned in articles.

  • by kwiqsilver ( 585008 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:21PM (#35981634)

    People might be looking at the problem backwards. It's not what Android is doing poorly that's hurting it in the tablet market, as much as what Apple is doing poorly that's hurting it in the phone market. The answer is carrier exclusivity. iOS gained on Android [] in the US phone market for the first time in a long time recently, because they started selling Verizon phones. Perhaps as iPhones begin to support more carriers (assuming Apple can scale manufacturing enough), Apple will start to take bigger chunks.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:25PM (#35981646)

    Own a htc inspire and an iPad 2. Used to have an iPhone 3GS.

    My inspire cost me $20 at Costco and is faster than an iPhone 4 in some ways. An iPhone costs $300 for the cheap one with activation and tax.

    There is no subsidy on wifi tablets and the 3G ones cost more due to the chipsets and licensing which eats away the subsidy some carriers give.

    iOS is more polished, battery life is better, app store is better unless all you want is widgets and live wallpaper, security is better and you don't have to check permissions for each app, and iOS multitasking is better and more efficient. And there is no crazy system of moving some apps to sd card, killing processes manually and some of the other nonsense I see on android. The other day I downloaded an app from the market that says you have to root your phone for it to work. Another one says you need something called launcher pro and other apps. Ridiculous.

    There are thousands of iPad apps in the app store. The android market has less than 100. My 3 year old uses the iPad for educational apps which the app store rules. The other tablets are being sold based on specs and the inclusion of flash for pr0n

    Demographically we are in a baby boom. In NYC a lot of schools are overcrowded due to all the kids. Apple figured this out and is marketing the right way. Everyone else is fighting for the single guy surfing porn market.

    The into iPad is $499. It's a dual core arm a9 CPU, very good gpu, excellent screen, etc. Just as good or better specs as everyone else and better dev support. Choice is easy.

  • by Crazy Taco ( 1083423 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:40PM (#35981740)

    The Xoom was half-baked and lacklustre, and no other tablet has been widely available for a reasonable amount of time. That's all there is to it.

    I absolutely disagree with that statement. Yes, it may have been half-baked and lacklustre, but that's not all there is to it. I think he makes a very good point in the article that the attitude of a lot of non-Apple fanboys is "why use one of these tablets, which are glorified smartphones with a big screen, when I could use a real computer?" He's right that while those users really like their Android phones, that an Android tablet may not be adopted due to laptops and, to some extent, netbooks, out-competing them.

    This is of course anecdotal, but I firmly fall into that category. I have no desire to pay 600 or more dollars for a keyboardless toy. Because that really is what these tablets are. They do lightweight web surfing, lightweight games, and that's pretty much it. I'm not going to sit and write reports, code, play real games, etc, using one of those. I am open to tablet sized devices, but only if they do something really different than what my laptop can do. For example, I own a kindle because the e-ink screen is dramatically better for reading than any LCD based option. Everything about it is purpose built to excel at reading, and it does. But an iPad? Other than booting quickly it does nothing my laptop can't do, and there is much my laptop can do that it can't (and for quick booting and light web surfing in a pinch, I have my Android phone).

    The other comment I'll add is this: He says in the article that there are a few Windows tablet fanboys. I guess count me as one of them, because I do love a Windows 7 convertible tablet (with a keyboard). It eats the iPad for lunch. It runs real, full featured programs... any Windows program I want. In college, I can fold it flat, hold the stylus and write on the screen just like I would a piece of paper. Microsoft OneNote's handwriting search is just about perfect... I can find any note I ever took, even in my own handwriting, in less than a second. And I can take engineering notes... just try doing that with any other device, whether the iPad or normal laptop... there are so many special symbols you'll never be able to. And the screen is multitouch (and this tablet is a few years old). Yes, the iPhone is cheaper (but much less powerful), lighter, and can boot faster, and I don't deny that. But that's what my Android smartphone is for, and when I want a real tablet to do real things with, I pick Windows 7.

  • by johncandale ( 1430587 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:46PM (#35981776)
    they said the same thing the first few years of android on cells. Give it awhile.
  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @10:01PM (#35981864)

    Tablets, including the iPad, compete with netbooks. Apple fanboys would buy an iNetbook in a heartbeat, but Apple won't make them because a cheap one would not uphold their reputation and would compete with their pricey laptops. But an iPad, now there's a deal, cheaper than an Apple laptop. Not as cheap as an old netbook, but those are Windows or Linux and thus not desirable by Apple fanboys.

    Whereas those who will stoop to buy a cheap netbook aren't interested in a more expensive tablet which has no keyboard. Lack of a cover to protect the screen may even be a consideration.

  • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @10:46PM (#35982048)

    The GPU is used for the UI. Well, not in Android, but it is in iOS. Google hasn't gotten around to fixing that yet. The reality is, a lot of your speed perceptions are based on UI responsiveness and the iPad kicks the shit out of the xoom and all those other piece of shit tablets.

    I don't own a tablet, but will probably buy one in the next 12 months. I've watched the video reviews on Engadget and the like, and even there it's obvious you're right.

    When the reviewer has to do the page-flip several times to get the tablet to respond; when the reviewer has to click some icons more than once to get them to launch - that's a big red flag. I really want to like Android, but there's no way I'd buy a current generation Android tablet. I think Gruber is right - these review sites must be grading on a curve.

  • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @12:47AM (#35982552)

    But 2-3 years from now, when there are 50 different Android Tablets on the Market, it is hard to see how the iPad will compete.

    Here's how: once somebody puts a so-called 'retina' display in a good-quality tablet with a fast GPU, it's all over for everybody else. I don't think people understand just what a big deal that is going to be. It's going to be Armageddon, Ragnarok, and the Fourth of fucking July all rolled up into one.

    The only hope anyone else had of beating Apple to the punch would have been to buy up the LCD industry's entire capacity, and to do it before the processes are market-ready or the yields are known. Given the way they've been running their business, do you think Apple hasn't already done that?

    Assuming that Apple will be the first to ship an ultra-high res tablet in mass-market volume, there really won't be any competition in the first round of the fight. Not for a couple of years, anyway, when more 'retina'-grade LCD capacity comes on line.

    Even if someone does build a clearly superior tablet, they won't be able to manufacture it in volume until Apple's had a solid year's head start.

    That's why Apple is getting destroyed by Android in cell-phone sales.

    First, Apple is not getting 'destroyed' by Android or anyone else. It takes two dozen Android SKUs to outsell one iPhone model, and most of them are subsidized so heavily compared to the iPhone that they might as well be given away in exchange for signing the contract.

    Second, Android users don't buy apps, so nobody much cares about them.

    Not advocating for one side or the other (I own a couple of both platforms), just laying out the facts.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @12:57AM (#35982598)

    *snort* No one considers the Air a netbook. If netbooks are famous for anything, it's cheap and small. The Air is certainly thin, and minimal on storage and connections, but it's not small or cheap. It's only competitors are regular Macs with gold plated hinges and a rose colored filter for the camera.

  • by Salvo ( 8037 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:13AM (#35982642)

    Phones are (in our current society) a Commodity; everyone "needs" a phone. For most people, they are the Primary Computing Device and Primary conduit in a connected world. The cheapest phone, or the most available phone will do. Android phones are a cheap and available alternative to the iPhone, so appeal to consumers as well as the Technorati.

    The role of a Tablet is not as a Primary computing devices, but as a satellite computing device, Tablets are a Luxury. The only people who would purchase a Tablet other than an iPad are Technologists with a Political point of view. Any consumer who does any research whatsoever into Alternatives to the iPad will turn back to the iPad; the benefits of an Android Tablet (better Camera, Card Reader, USB Host, Legacy applet support, etc) pale into insignificance compared to the convenience of the iPad. A cheaper legacy device like a netbook is also significantly better than a Android Tablet in most of these regards too.

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @03:25AM (#35982988)
    Last time I compared the 11" Air to Dell's popular 10" netbooks (a few months ago), it was actually lighter and smaller in most dimensions (just a bit wider, significantly thinner, and a bit less deep), plus it was more powerful, had better battery life, a full-size keyboard, and a larger screen. Yes, the Air cost 2.5x as much, but you do get a lot out of it, including the same small size and ultraportability of a netbook (at least compared to the 10" variety that seem most popular now).
  • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <> on Saturday April 30, 2011 @05:19AM (#35983296)

    Sure, click and download for free applications. But are you really going to sit there with a tablet on your lap and enter credit card details every time you want to buy a non-free App?

    What about updates? you then have to navigate to every web site you have an app for and check for an update.

  • by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @07:06AM (#35983558)

    The explanation is simple : there were a lot of crap merchants already selling phones that decided to ship them with Android instead of their homegrown OS. There were no companies already shipping tablets for them to slap Android on and ship. It was a relatively small investment on the phone side (and they had to make it to remain even remotely relevant) but there's a large investment to be made on the tablet side and that's to compete for second place until someone gets it right, which will require an even greater investment.

  • by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @08:06AM (#35983742)

    "In its quarterly filing [], Microsoft indicated that the consumer PC market was the primary culprit for the decline — pointing in particular to a 40 percent decline in netbook sales in the consumer market. That’s more evidence of the iPad’s impact on the market. Many consumers are opting for the Apple slate rather than Windows-based netbooks to fill the gap between the PC and the phone."

    Stick a fork in the netbook, it is done. It's niche has been largely taken over by a combination of the smartphone and the tablet. To blame "fanboys" for 40% market moves is ridiculous to the extreme and not a little trollish.

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder