A wave of Android tablets will hit Australia in late 2010/early 2011 but many buyers are unaware that these initial Android tablets are jumping the gun using 2.1 Eclair or 2.2 Froyo Android versions which are meant for phones not tablets.
Frustrated by the success of the Apple iPad, rival manufacturers seem to have decided that it’s worth launching tablet devices now with a hacked phone Android version instead of waiting for the forthcoming Honeycomb/Gingerbread Android versions which will add true tablet support to Android including a special user interface and official support for applications and screens bigger than 800×480.
Google’s Opinion About Initial Android Tablets
When asked what they thought of newly launched Android Tablets and the suitability of Android 2.1/2.2 for use in tablet devices a Google Australia spokesperson told me:
“We’re pleased to see more Android-powered devices coming to market. As the world’s first open mobile platform, we believe Android will help spur greater innovation, which will benefit mobile users everywhere”.
“Android is a free, open source mobile platform. This means that anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device or even upward to a netbook-style device without restrictions. We look forward to seeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spurs innovation, but we have nothing to announce at this time.”
However Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google had a slightly different spin, telling the Techradar blog:
“Android is an open platform. We saw at IFA 2010 all sorts of devices running Android, so it already running on tablets but the way Android Market works is it’s not going to be available on devices that don’t allow applications to run correctly.
“Which devices do, and which don’t will be unit specific, but Froyo is not optimised for use on tablets. If you want Android market on that platform, the apps just wouldn’t run, [Froyo] is just not designed for that form factor. We want to make sure that we’re going to create a application distribution mechanism for the Android market, to ensure our users have right experience.”
Are These Initial Android Tablets Worth Buying?
Just because they’re using Android versions which aren’t designed for tablets doesn’t mean this initial wave of Android tablets are bad, just keep in mind that if you buy them you’ll suffer from the bleeding edge early adopter problem of paying a price premium for a new type of gadget and these tablets may be out of date by early 2011.
Also keep in mind that you get what you pay for eg: the Millennius SmartQ 7 can run Android apps, lets you output HDMI video and play DIVX files but it’s cheap because it has a screen that requires a stylus or fingernails to press buttons.
At 5″ inches the Dell Streak splits people who can’t decide whether it’s a huge phone or a small tablet. At the moment it’s also running a quite old version of Android 1.6, though Dell promises to update this “soon” to Android 2.2. Once it has 2.2 the Streak would be a good choice for commuters who want to use it to surf the web and watch videos.
The 7″ inch Samsung Galaxy S Tab with a video optimised 16:9 screen running at 1024×600, front/back cameras, standard 3G SIM support, has a lot of nifty hardware and software tricks but the very high price in Australia of $999 may scare off buyers in favour of Apple’s iPad which has a 10″ screen with 64Gb storage for $879.00.