Shocking, I know. Despite being what can only be described as an ‘early adopter’, I’ve never ever touched an Android device for more than 3 minutes. This could be attributed to the ‘it just works’ fanboyishness in me, or just to a love of good, clean, minimal design. In reality I’d like to think that its been due to the fact that my professional judgement of Android (as a long time mobile device user stretching back to Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and even Nintendo Game & Watch devices), has been that its a mish-mash.
It’s hard to respect a platform that seems to exist to either A. sell adds, or B. help Google harvest information to use in selling adds, or one that started out as a Blackberry ripoff before magically morphing into a full touch screen device following the iPhone’s release. Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s overstaying of his welcome on Apple’s board around the same time has also always seemed a little dubious. Add to this the so called ‘open’ nature of Android that still allows phone companies and even Google themselves (see Android 3.0) to not release the source code when it suits them, the prevalence of malware, and the fragmented release of updates and its hard to think of a term better than ‘mish-mash’ to describe Android.
The fact remains however that as an alternative mobile platform, it has proved very popular, taking upwards of 50 percent of the smartphone market in many countries. Sure this has taken dozens of companies and hundreds of models, but prior to the iPhone this was actually normal for most industries.
One area where Android hasn’t had much success though is in the realm of tablets. This market, since being reinvented by the iPad, has carved out a large space in the homes of consumers for whom the static experience of just watching TV has now either been augmented, or simply replaced by the world of apps. If you own an iPad in a household of more than one, you’ll no doubt know that even though the bigger screen is great for sharing some things, ultimately you do end up wanting your own. So there is for many space to have at least a couple of tablet devices around.
I for instance have three iPads. Yes this is exuberant, but with one setup for the kids, one used as an AppleTV and ABC iView remote (and backup for me when I’m presenting) and one thats my main work/play device, they all get well used. Thing is, it is possible that I don’t need 9.7 inch size devices to do all these tasks. So what might I do if a device came along that’s between an iPhone and iPad in size, and is priced at a very reasonable $249? Previously, if perhaps the 7 inch WebOS Touchpad had been released I might have bitten, but up until now, there have been three things that have always kept me from choosing an Android device thats in this ‘mini’ category:
- Price – the first 7 inch tablets were often priced the same as the iPad, or required an expensive contract. Even the more recent models that are cheaper have worse performance and specs. Why pay the same or more for a lesser device?
- Cheap build quality – plastic the flexes is not my idea of a durable device.
- Smoothness – review after review of Android devices has called out the stuttering interface as something that just undermines the touch screen experience.
According to the information that is available, and from reviews like this one at the Verge, the Nexus 7 tablet from Google (via Asus) addresses these faults fairly well – enough that yes, I’ve ordered my first Android device. Its price of $249 is a reasonable risk even if it does prove disappointing; though it is still made of plastic, it’s “impressively built and styled,” and the smoothness of the interface seems to have been finally solved.
So to recap, though I’ve never ever considered an Android device to become my primary mobile computer, the space in between phone and iPad has intrigued me enough to at least now purchase the Nexus 7 as a learning experience. The first hand experience gained will be useful in my work, but I’m also keen to see if the size works better for the ‘secondary home tablet’ role.
There is one other area however that has always kept me from Android – and thats the world of apps. The though other areas mentioned above appeared to have been solved, the reports of malware, the lack of equivalent apps for Garageband and iMovie, and the lack of many Android tablet apps at all may turn out to be a deal breaker. If it does, there’s always eBay – especially if the real contender for the 7-inch tablet space in our home does arrive as Apple’s September ‘one more thing’.