4 Reasons Why Android Tablets Continue To Trail The iPad [Opinion]

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android tabletsWhen the iPad was released, tech journalists were quick to worship it. Wired went so far as to write a front-page article claiming that tablets would change the world. While it was not about the iPad only, it was obviously inspired by the upcoming release of Apple’s device.

Now, a year and a half later, it appears the revolution has been one-sided. Recent figures show that only 6 million Android tablets have been sold, a slender figure compared to Apple’s sales of 40 million iPads. Let’s have a look at why Android has yet to catch on.

Lackluster Hardware Quality

android tablets

Old ideas don’t die easily, even when they’re outdated. It’s still not hard to find people who are under the belief that Android tablets are quicker than what is inside the iPad 2. In truth, however, the iPad 2 often proves quicker than Android tablets powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2. Even Tegra 3, as it turns out, fails to outmatch the iPad 2 in raw graphical potential.

The iPad 2 is also among the thinnest and lightest ten-inch tablets on the market, with only the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime giving it competition in these areas. Display quality is well above average, besting every Android tablet except the Prime, which has been reviewed but not released.

While the later points in this post are a bit more complex, this one is quite simple. The iPad 2 sells well because the hardware is better. If you’d like evidence, just find a retailer near you that stocks tablets and compare for yourself. The Android designs are almost universally lackluster in comparison to the iPad 2, and those few that do come close have similar price tags.

Confusing Operating System Support

ipad vs android tablet

Honeycomb was confusing from its inception. In the early days it wasn’t exactly clear if Honeycomb was supposed to be for tablets only. Once that became evident, it introduced a yet more fragmentation into an already confusing platform. Suddenly, there were two versions of Android with different features and different app stores.

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Worse, some tablets continue to use old versions of Android. Given the choice between buying an iPad and researching the differences between Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, most will just buy the iPad. They don’t have the time nor inclination to do the legwork.

This is something that Amazon is doing right. The Kindle Fire runs Gingerbread, but many consumers will never know it. The Kindle Fire’s product page mentions the word “Android” only twice and never mentions the version. You’re not buying an Android tablet – you’re buying a Kindle Fire. And that’s a good thing.

Poor App Availability & Quality

ipad vs android tablet

It’s long been apparent that quality is an issue in Android’s app store. Allowing developers to upload apps with no quality controls certainly allows for volume, but it doesn’t help people find what they want.

This is causing a number of headaches for Android, not least being lower developer revenue. This, in turn, leads to lower quality – at least in my opinion. Quality is subjective, but as an Android owner who has used iOS devices on many occasions, I am desperately jealous of the selection provided by Apple’s App Store.

Perhaps the strangest app-related headache for Android, however, is the poor quality of search. Navigating the store is difficult and finding what you’d like can be an issue if you don’t know the exact name of an app.

All of this translates into a poor experience for consumers who buy an Android tablet. The long-running dominance of the Apple App Store has created an impression among consumers that they can find just about anything they’d like on an iOS device and, just as importantly, trust it to be reasonably good. Android is failing to foster the same environment.

The Low Price & Lack Of The “Apple Tax”

android tablets

Another traditional complaint targeted at Apple products is that they’re more expensive. This, like accusations that Apple hardware is not on par with the Android competition, is obviously false when applied to iOS devices.

The Apple iPad 2 starts at $500. For that, you receive the 16GB model. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is only $50 cheaper (as purchased from Amazon). The upcoming ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime will offer 32GB of storage for the same price, which is nice. But early reviews also indicate the Prime’s battery lasts several hours less and that its GPU performance is inferior.

Like the iPhone before it, the iPad doesn’t present consumers with any significant “Apple tax”. Yes, it’s more expensive than many competitors, but there’s tangible reasons why it’s more expensive, as was discussed already. That’s hardly an “Apple Tax”. That’s paying more for a high-quality product.

But the final nail in many an Android tablet’s coffin is the fact that even though the iPad is among the most expensive tablets on the market today, it’s still only $500. That’s a nice chunk of change, but for the kind of person who is going to buy a tablet, it’s affordable.

Will Android Ever Get It Right?

Apple’s advantages in the tablet market are numerous, but it’s possible this is a temporary situation. Markets change. Yet there are indications that this could be a lasting conundrum. Computer manufactures have been trying, and failing, to replicate Apple’s hardware design in the consumer laptop market for years. Only Amazon, with the Kindle Fire, has shown any sign that it might sell in iPad-like volumes. Yet the Kindle Fire has arguably sold well precisely because it has distanced itself as far from mainstream Android as possible, so it’s hard to count that as a victory for the Android camp.

As always, only time will tell, but it’s clear that the iPad will remain the champion for the near future.  What do you think?

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Comments (52)
  • besttabletsdiscount

    I am no longer sure the place you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or figuring out more. Thanks for excellent info I was in search of this information for my mission.

  • Blanca Perez

    So joining a cult and having them control every aspect of your tablet life is the better choice?

  • MassDivide

    Android Enthusiast here. Your points are all valid, except about the primes inferior graphics over an iPad2. However because they are superior, the iPad2 Annihilates it in terms of a notch down in graphics, but nearly double the battery life. Making it a better “on the go” entertainment device.. Asus is the only competition Apple has. Even then Apple has a 85% marketshare within the iStore apps. If android wants to be a better contender. They need slow down with the updates and focus on hardware standards. Seeing these 512 MB tablets is a joke. I can get a kindle fire for 200bucks.

  • Scott

    Every Apple phone sold creates a potential Apple tablet buyer. Not a potential Android tablet buyer. Every Android phone sold creates a potential Android tablet buyer. Not a potential Apple tablet buyer. Apple phones are now out-sold by Android phones in all world markets. The rate at which Apple phone sales are outstripped by Android phones is increasing. Not decreasing.

    Apple is well aware of this. It is fighting hugely expensive legal battles in various countries to stop the rising sales of Android phones as much to protect its own cellphone market share as because it wants to slow the sale of Android tablets to Android smartphone users.

    But Apple knows, because it isn’t stupid, that it’s playing Canute against a tide that’s rolling in with unstoppable momentum. It also knows, because it isn’t stupid, that geeks who buy tablets and smartphones are like geeks who once rushed to be first with plasma or LCD TV screens (or, before them, hi-fi.) They were the ones who agonised about 100Hz rates and audio bass response and absolute blacks. Many still do. But the overwhelming majority of TV sales are not to geeks but to users who couldn’t care less about fractional percentage variations in technical parameters they’ve no inclination to even begin to understand.

    They want a TV to watch. And if what they watch suits them, then that’s it. Ends.

    It was the same with hi-fi. And it will be the same with mobile phones and tablets.  The products with mass audience appeal will not be decided by geeks with spec sheet obsessions but by people who just want something to use.

    They haven’t the slightest interest if it’s ginger biscuit or gingerbread. Couldn’t care less about the graphics performance rate. What they will take note of are friends, relatives, and, perhaps, work colleagues.

    My wife and I currently have HTC Desire HD Android smartphones and an Asus Eepad Transformer Android tablet apiece. Friends and relatives have bought one or other on the basis of seeing ours in use. They don’t actually care that the Asus out-points the Apple iPad in every respect — the detachable keyboard, the expandable memory, the number of ports. What they care about is something that’s useable and flexible and pleasurable.

    As more and more people are using Android smartphones, and more and more people are moving up to Android tablets as a result, and word-of-mouth Android sales then increasing in consequence of that, it’s clear that Apple is destined to be a niche manufacturer with a niche audience.

    • M.S. Smith

      That’s a double-edged sword, Scott. Every Android product potentially creates and Android customer – if the experience is good. But because it’s not tightly controlled, it may not be. In a recent Tech Report podcast, the site’s editor (also named Scott) said that he believes every Kindle Fire sold is going to create an Apple customer in the future. Why? Because the experience can be really frustrating at times, in a way that the iPad isn’t. 

      So Android well only create Android buyers if they’re happy. And there’s a fairly large gap between iOS and Android in that regard. http://www.phonearena.com/news/Apples-iOS-tops-the-customer-satisfaction-charts-Android-holds-third-place_id20512

      Also, I don’t think Android’s cross-device support is really that strong or important. Apple at least has iCloud…but what cross-device functionality are you obtaining when you buy another Android device? That’s a sincere question. I just can’t think of anything right now.

    • Guest

      Indisputable, and well written.
      To the point, clear, and no need to validate any facts you quote as the author of the article and media have stated the Android sales for you.

      I concur that seeing the usage of Android has encouraged new buyers to Android. When people see me using my Android HTC Legend over the past 12 months they have been interested and 3 colleagues from work, 4 friends, 2 family members, and my partner all recently purchased Android Phones, and 1 a Acer Tab.
      I work in IT and just knowing that I prefer it was enough for them to go buy one. Over the years i learnt not to ‘sell’ things i like to people in my life, for one they don’t care about technical specifics like i do, or about the customisation possibilities, they just want to use a device everyone else is using so if they need help they can ask someone they know who uses the same thing to help them.

      The reason Android sales continue to increase is both because the product satisfies geeks, and because the devices are owned by many others people feel comfortable buying one also and this trend wont stop, once the consumers start they wont stop until something entirely new comes on the market and the cycle restarts.

    • M.S. Smith

      Android doesn’t sell a lot of phone because it satisfies geeks. It sells a lot of phones because it is cheap and it is plentiful. Period.

      There are only three iPhones that you can buy today. There are tens, maybe hundreds of Android phones. 

      When folks think Android, they think about the big ones, like my Thunderbolt. But if you cut out all Android sales except the big flagship phones, you’d lose a lot of market share. A lot people instead end up like my friend, who picked up some crappy Android 2.1 phone from Sanyo because it was free. They count as part of market share.

      Which is, of course, why Apple rakes in massive profits while selling fewer devices.

  • zeevb

    Valid points but these where also valid for the iPhone vs. android-phones a couple of years ago. Seeing how Android overtook iPhone the tablet landscape may be changing in the upcoming year or two.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.