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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
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 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
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.