Android Technology Explained

Why Android Tablets Suck (And What to Buy Instead)

Ben Stegner 28-12-2018

While tablets have fallen out of favor since their initial popularity spike, you’ll still find some tablets on the market. And if you’re an Android phone user interested in a tablet, you might naturally gravitate towards a tablet that runs Android.


But we recommend against that. Here’s why.

1. Poor Selection of Tablets

Android Tablet Choices

One of the great strengths of using an Android phone is that you can find a device that matches your needs. Whether you like a small or large screen, prefer stock Android or tons of extra features, or want a headphone jack or waterproofing, you can find a phone for you.

The Android tablet market isn’t like that, though. Google’s official Android Tablets page lists a whopping three devices:

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, which is the newest tablet. It released in August 2018.
  • Nvidia Shield Tablet K1, which arrived in November 2015. Nvidia lists this on its website as no longer available.
  • The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, which launched in March 2015.

Of course, these aren’t the only Android tablets available. But it’s pretty pathetic that this is Google’s best showing. Even Google itself has dropped out of the tablet market. The company killed off the high-end Pixel C in December 2017 and hasn’t offered a replacement yet.


2. Awful Android Update Support

Android’s fragmentation problem is one of its biggest drawbacks. Unless you buy a Pixel device, it’s unlikely that you’ll see the latest version of Android on your phone for months after it releases, if ever.

The issue is even worse with tablets. Of the tablets mentioned earlier, the Xperia Z4 and Shield Tablet K1 both have Android 7 Nougat as their latest available Android version. That means if you bought either tablet today, you’d be stuck with an OS that released two years ago, with no hope of upgrading.

Even the Galaxy Tab S4 comes with Android 8 Oreo. Samsung revealed the tablet just days before Android 9 Pie released, but Pie still hasn’t made it to the device even though it’s a premium tablet.

And you can forget about Android updates altogether if you buy a cheap device. Those will likely come with an old version of Android, and rarely see any upgrades past what ships on it.


3. iOS Is Better for Gaming

Assuming you already have an Android phone, you’re probably looking to get a tablet for secondary use. A common purpose for a tablet is playing mobile games. But if this is why you want a tablet, you’re much better off getting an iPad.

We’ve looked at why iOS is better for mobile games iPad and iPhone vs. Android: What's Best for Mobile Games? Android and iOS offer two different experiences in every facet. But is an iPhone better than a Pixel for mobile gaming? Let's find out. Read More before. Games often launch first (and sometimes only) on iOS, sometimes months before they see an Android release. Because Apple only makes a few phones and tablets, compared to the thousands of Android devices available, game developers tend to focus on iOS due to easier development.

The Play Store is also home to some fake games, making it more dangerous for children. Often, game performance is better on an iPhone or iPad as well. This is especially true when you compare a modern iPad to most of the cheap or outdated Android tablets available now.

The Cost Isn’t Worth It: Better Tablet Alternatives

Consider what you want to buy a tablet for, and you’ll likely find a device that does it better for the same (or cheaper) cost.


Cheap Tablet: Amazon Fire Tablet

Fire HD 8 Tablet (8" HD Display, 16 GB) - Black (Previous Generation - 8th) Fire HD 8 Tablet (8" HD Display, 16 GB) - Black (Previous Generation - 8th) Buy Now On Amazon

If you want to get the cheapest tablet possible for your kids or as a throwaway device, the Amazon Fire Tablet is a great choice. It integrates with your Amazon Prime account for all kinds of goodies, comes in multiple sizes, and often goes on sale for a steep discount.

It runs Amazon’s Fire OS, which means it’s technically still an Android tablet. But for the price, you won’t find a better value.

Premium Tablet: 2018 iPad or 2018 iPad Pro

Let’s say you decide that you do want an Android tablet. You want to get the newest one available to get the best features and latest OS, so you opt for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 mentioned earlier.


At the time of writing, the sticker price of the device is $650 for a 64GB model, or $750 for 256GB of storage. In comparison, the 2018 iPad is $329 for 32GB or $429 for the 128GB model.

While you do get less storage with the iPad, it’s still a significant savings for a casual tablet user. And given the points discussed above, it doesn’t make much sense to pay more for the Android device. If you only want a tablet for casual browsing, playing some games, and watching videos, the basic iPad does it all for less.

What if you’re interested in a tablet for professional use? For a bit more money, you could upgrade to the new 11-inch iPad Pro. This starts at $799 for 64GB of storage. Of course, this isn’t cheap, but if you want the best tablet experience, it’s probably worth the extra cost.

With an iPad, you know you’ll receive iOS updates for years to come. Plus, Apple has made advancements in iOS specifically for the iPad 11 Ways iOS 11 Makes Your iPad Even Better iOS 11 is the first version of iOS in history that's mostly iPad-centric. Better still, the new features work across most iPads both old and new! Read More . Android hasn’t really gotten any tablet-specific upgrades in recent years.

For Playing Games: Nintendo Switch or Nintendo 2DS XL

It doesn’t make much sense to spend hundreds of dollars on any tablet if you’re only looking to play games on it. The majority of mobile games are nothing special, and are filled with in-app purchases that grind gameplay to a halt. You can play most of them on your phone anyway.

If you’re interested in playing better games, why not pick up a Nintendo Switch? For the cost of a tablet (or less), you get access to the vast Switch library of excellent first-party Nintendo games and indie titles alike. The system is both portable and a home console, so you can take it on the go just like a tablet.

Nintendo Switch – Neon Red and Neon Blue Joy-Con - HAC 001 (Discontinued by Manufacturer) Nintendo Switch – Neon Red and Neon Blue Joy-Con - HAC 001 (Discontinued by Manufacturer) Buy Now On Amazon $399.95

Can’t afford a Switch? The Nintendo 3DS family has been around for a while, but it’s still a fantastic platform. For most people, we recommend the New Nintendo 2DS XL. For half the price of the Switch, you get access to an excellent portable console with a vast library of titles.

Nintendo New 2DS XL - Black + Turquoise Nintendo New 2DS XL - Black + Turquoise Buy Now On Amazon $126.96

For General Productivity: Chromebook

It’s tough to get real work done on a tablet. If you want a secondary device you can take with you on trips or use on the couch, consider a Chromebook. It has a physical keyboard compared to the virtual one on a tablet, and they come in a variety of sizes and forms.

Some Chromebooks, like the Acer R11, even offer 2-in-1 functionality, so you can fold them down like a tablet. Getting two devices for the price of one is a better value than an Android tablet, as modern Chromebooks can run Android apps too.

Acer R11 11.6 Acer R11 11.6 Buy Now On Amazon $429.00

Tablets Aren’t That Great Anyway

We’ve looked at the reasons that Android tablets really aren’t worth buying.

The market is mostly stagnant, with old devices and legacy versions of Android dominating it. The best modern Android tablet is way more expensive than an iPad, which makes it a waste for casual users. In every case, another device beats the Android tablet offering.

All of the reasons you don’t really need a tablet anymore 7 Reasons Why You Don't Need a Tablet Anymore Has the era of tablets come to an end? Now that smartphones, laptops, and e-readers are sufficiently advanced, the tablet is on the verge of being obsolete. Read More apply here. Bigger phone screens mean small tablets are pointless, and e-readers like the Kindle are far better for reading books. Unless you have a specific reason for getting a tablet, don’t bother.

Related topics: Android, Android Tablet, Buying Tips, Chromebook, iPad, Mobile Gaming.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Howard
    January 31, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Don't think this was the best article on the subject but does offer some good points. However we should remember that when tablets were first introduced the "pundits" touted them as the laptop killer. Yes the iPad was/is powerful but it or just about any other tablet cannot perform in the same way a laptop does. I can't work on correspondence when half the screen is a keyboard. Can't manage spreadsheets or presentations. Tablets have their niche. They are smaller and lighter than most laptops so are a good substitute when travelling and need access to the net, email, watch a video or read/ listen to a book. While phones are getting to be mini computers in processor speed and memory to me it is still a phone first and I need it to be small enough to fit in my hand. That does not give the screen size I need where a tablet gives me the ability to clearly see what's on the screen without generally having to stretch and move it around.

  2. Steven Cooke
    January 31, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Well... yes, IF you have the particular needs you mention. The Tablet always fell into a narrow niche between laptop and smartphone. You don't say why the SYSTEM is horrible. I DO have a need for a limited-use computer for short trips where connectivity and some document use as well as email needs to be done, but for which I don't want to haul along my laptop. TRYING to do MORE than a device is really designed for usually ends in frustration. KNOWING the right hardware/software for the desired job is the important part. My Android-OS Nextbook Tablet runs just FINE for my usage. I have different apps and programs on my Smartphone and laptop, respectively and intentionally.

  3. rod
    October 11, 2019 at 3:24 am

    My Sony Xperia Z4 tablet work like New, my Ipad mini 2 is low as hell!

  4. bill
    July 28, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    why is this even an article....

  5. Timeraider
    December 31, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Meanwhile i purchased an nvidia android tablet 2 years for 200 dollars (official retail price) ago and it still blows any Apple tablet out of the water.

  6. infmom
    December 29, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    I have a 10" Galaxy Tab A that I bought on eBay. Also a 10" Galaxy Tab 4 that is a perfect toy for my 5yo granddaughter with the addition of a good bumper case.

    And my daughter's going to give me her second gen iPad. So I think I got the tablet biz pretty well covered. :)

  7. SteveB
    December 29, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Each time one visits the site there is a request to allow a readers info to be passed to all and sundry via cookies and at the same time MUO articles are getting worse offering only click bait, contentious articles, slanted reviews and inaccuracies. This latest is the last straw, MUO is off the subscription list - a quick visit to Amazon will show there are more than 3 manufacturers / devices available and even on this site there are articles such as "The 5 Best (Android) Gaming Tablets Under $200, $100, and More".

  8. D Turner
    December 29, 2018 at 3:13 am

    Regarding the 1st point: A quick visit to the Samsung website shows they currently produce 4 different screen sizes. You may be able to still find the largest one they manufactured; it's 18.4 inches.

    • KevinpatrickRyan
      December 29, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      So the shop bought screen Procter is replaced when and again

    • KevinpatrickRyan
      December 29, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      When to replace the original screen