By Phil Lavelle
I’ve got a problem, and no, it’s not that I keep flip-flopping between Apple and Android faster than a sandals-only 100m. It’s that nobody seems to have noticed that Android tablets are actually rubbish.
Now, bear with me. I used and reviewed the Sony Xperia Tablet Z last year and thought it was brilliant. And for me, the Nexus 7 was spot on. And the things are now more popular than iPads, with Apple’s market share rapidly declining.
But even admiration reaches a point where you wonder if it’s worth it. And I came to the conclusion that it’s not.
It’s an app-ocalypse
I was in the market for a new slate – and I was leaning heavily towards Android. I’d been using an iPad Mini for the last few months. But a combination of having to jailbreak it to do anything beyond changing the wallpaper meant I was ready for a jaunt back to the green side.
I’m a big fan of Samsung phones, something that’s led to me withstanding some serious grief on this column, and figured I’d give the Tab Pro 8.4 a whirl. I got some time with the Note 8.0 last year and liked it a lot so the beefed up tab ticket the right boxes.
I thought the Tab Pro 8.4 was amazing. I’ve never seen a display like it – so sharp it melts the eyes and makes even Retina look old hat. But the love affair was short-lived when it came to the big test: apps. Because like it or not, they’re just not good enough on Android tablets.
After playing with an Android tablet for just a few hours, I remembered why I gave my beloved Nexus 7 up for a taste of Cupertino. Because aside from Google’s offerings, most of the rest of it is just a load of old tat.
What’s the point in proclaiming hundreds of thousands of apps when most aren’t nearly good enough for one of the more expensive platforms?
Here’s the issue: so many tablets, so many screen sizes, developers just can’t keep up. Take Facebook for example.
You know – one of the biggest names in technology. The one that happily made an iPad app for its site.
It can’t even bring itself to release a dedicated Android tablet app. So if you’re looking at your mate’s updates on a 10-inch screen, what you’re getting is a stretched version of the app you’ll also find on a 4-inch screen. It sucks. And any hint of premium experience you may have evaporates straight away.
And things like magazines just don’t work as well. This is partly to do with the structure in place to sell them, but still – if Google can’t be bothered to get this right, what hope do the tablets have of being lust-worthy?
I’ve long defended Android. When people ask, I tell them you’ll get most iOS apps for Google devices these days (though I don’t tend to mention that they’ll probably be stuffed with ads!).
But the fact of the matter is that for developers, the taste of Apple is a lot sweeter. People are more likely to pay for iPad or iPhone apps – even though there are fewer iOS devices out there. There’s not much to say if even Facebook isn’t bothering with a dedicated tablet offering.
Look at how sparse the tablet section is in the Google Play store. I’m talking about good quality apps here.
For Sony, Samsung and so on who are churning out beautiful devices, it’s sad. Because their efforts will only go so far. Like it or not, ultimately, it’s the apps you use that make the experience what it is.
I want an Android tablet that not only works, but ultimately has apps that rival the iPad. Not one that I have to make excuses about because they’re still lagging behind. And I’m fed up of making excuses. At least I won’t have to with Apple, even if I do go back with a heavy heart.
I’ve reviewed dozens of phones and tablets for TechRadar over the years – each time putting them through their paces in the most unbiased, rigorous way possible.
But as well as being a professional, I have a love/hate relationship with tech, and that’s what these columns are all about: the passionate howlings of a true fanboy. Tell me why I’m right, wrong or a hopeless idiot by tweeting @techradar or @phillavelle.