You know I’m a gadget junkie. I’ve been optimistic about Android for several years now. I own an Android-based phone and am thrilled with it. I’ve carried various Windows-based tablets for most of the last seven years. You’d think, therefore, that I’d be the first person to get one of the new Android-based tablets coming to market, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. But no, I haven’t bought one nor have I added one to a holiday wish list.
The Samsung device has several fatal flaws which rule out any portable electronic device for me, which is also why I’ve never carried an iPod or iPhone.
- Replaceable battery. I will never, ever, EVER carry a portable electronic device — at least what I’d call a mission-critical one — that doesn’t have a replaceable battery. If I can’t replace the battery, there are so many potential negative outcomes to that, I’m not interested in your device. We’ve all seen it. People sitting in conferences around the perimeter…because that’s where the plugs are. Picking and choosing what you do with the device as the day goes on as you attempt to conserve electrical power. I carry a replacement battery for my Droid so that I never have to worry about this. I’m free to do whatever I want to do with my device — what I bought the device for in the first place!! — because power isn’t an issue. If you don’t have a replaceable battery, power is going to be an issue. Period.
- Non-standard power chargers. Is there anything more consumer-unfriendly than a proprietary charging plug? I haven’t asked an engineer but nor have I heard any good reason why you can’t use a mini- or micro-USB plug. I carry two or three cords like this and a variety of electrical sources (car and wall chargers; USB hubs) that power that plug. If you’ve got a proprietary plug, I’m not always going to have it with me and I’m not always going to be able to find one when I need one. Show stopper. I won’t buy a camera, MP3 player or phone with a proprietary power plug. I certainly won’t buy a tablet with one.
The bigger issue for Android-based tablets is that the fit-and-finish of the platform is just not prepared for the tablet form factor. Virtually all applications were not only designed for a smaller screen form factor, they don’t scale up well on bigger screens. By optimizing for the small screen, they’ve actually sub-0ptimized for larger screens and you’re left with an experience that just feels wrong at best and doesn’t work well, or at all, at worst.
This, ultimately, is the challenge, and opportunity, for Android. Apple tightly controls the experience, for better in this instance and worse in others. For Android to make a virtue of its diversity, it has to deliver great experiences across a diversity of platforms, not just enable them. The learning curve for supporting these multiple experiences isn’t large but to maintain competitiveness with the Apple iOS platform requires great speed. The early experiences of Android tablets is disappointing. If I’m not eager to buy one, you’ve got a problem. And I’m not eager to buy one. Right now, I’m content to stick with my Droid, my laptop and my netbook. (OK, my daughter’s netbook. But she didn’t take it to college with her.)
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