How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

Summary: Whether it's a tablet, netbook, or cell phone, a battery powered device is useless if the battery runs out. That's why the most important feature of the perfect Android tablet will be a long-lasting battery. Or two.


With a slew of Android tablets expected to hit the market over the next several months, I thought I'd take some time to think about what features and qualities I'd like to see them have. If any tablet manufacturers are reading this, I hereby grant you permission to use any or all of these ideas for free in your tablet, as long as you give me one (just kidding on that last part). As an added benefit, many of these qualities will be the same even if your tablet runs some other operating system such as iOS, Blackberry, Windows, and Chrome OS.

Before I get started, I realize not all of you are going to agree with my list, or order them in the same way. So feel free to use the Talkback area below to share your ideas about your *own* perfect tablet.

#1: Long-lasting, hot-swappable batteries

Whether it's a tablet, laptop, netbook, or cell phone, it's not going to do me any good when it runs out of power. So the most important feature of the perfect tablet has to be a power source that lasts a long time. One of the things I like about the Apple iPad is that I can use it as much as I want, all day long, without worrying about the battery running down (assuming I can pry it away from the wife, of course). That's because it has two oversized batteries behind the display with a total rated life of about 10 hours. Therefore, the iPad has set the bar that I challenge the perfect Android tablet to meet or beat.

You what would be nice? Two batteries, with the ability to replace one of them without having to turn off the tablet. For example, I could get an extra battery and keep it in a charger. Whenever one of my onboard batteries starts to run out of juice, I could swap it with the one from the charger and keep going.

A little indicator light above each battery compartment could tell me how much power was left and which battery to replace. Smart power management software would run one battery down completely before tapping the other one, as opposed to using them both and having them both run out at the same time.

This would even work if I just have two batteries: one in the device and one in the charger. When the live one starts to run out, I'd pop in the full one (my hot spare), then take out the empty one and slip it into the charger without skipping a beat. After all, the tablet should be able to run fine for quite a while on only one battery. If it can go for 10 hours on two batteries, it should be able to manage 5 with one.

I can't tell you how many times I've been at a conference or other event with my laptop and the battery has run out right in the middle of an important presentation. I frantically look around for a power strip, but there is not one in reach. There's usually a spare battery in my bag but I'd have to turn the laptop off  in order to replace it. I'll bet this has happened to many of you too. Having two smaller battery compartments, with a total of 10 hours or more battery life and the possibility of more through hot-swapping, would eliminate this problem.

If two batteries is impractical, I could live with one big one, especially if there were some kind of built-in power source that would keep the tablet alive long enough for me to swap the old battery out and the new battery in. However, I'd really prefer the extra flexibility that two battery slots would bring.

See all the articles in the "Perfect Android Tablet" series:

  1. Long lasting battery
  2. Capacitive multi-touch
  3. Android Market and friends
  4. High resolution
  5. Low price

What would you build into *your* perfect Android tablet? Share your thoughts in the comment area below. And check back next week to find out what's second on my list.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • #2 Don't steal our ideas

    What are you doing? You came up with one idea about having a battery that you can replace, and you want everyone else to post their perfect ideas for free?

    Is your #2 going to be something posted by someone else in the talkback?
    • Purpose is to share ideas

      I already have several ideas in mind for followup articles, but if you all come up with better ones, why not?
      Ed Burnette
      • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

        @Ed Burnette

        Yeah great idea, how about an Android tablet with some wireless proxy support and an browser that allows you to bypass the proxy for a local address.

        Just a though Google...
    • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

      @x21x Hey, if you want to go make an actual product then keep your ideas secret and patent them... This could only help us all as potential customers. I don't really have the means to build my own tablet, but I know what I want.
  • Hmm in 1995

    This was the modus operendi for the Apple Newton. Everyone carried an extra battery pack (or two).

    BTW: Last month I received a 7" Android tablet. Works ok. Well worth 100 bucks.
    Roger Ramjet
    • 7" Android Tablet?! Would you care to elaborate?

      @Roger Ramjet

      Make, model, specs, Android Version?

      100 pounds / dollars is my ideal price for a tablet!
      • They're all over eBay

        @DevJonny But you have to pay $50 shipping from Hong Kong (but the tablet is only 50 bucks so the total is $100). It has an ARM processor running at around 500 Mhz. Android version is 1.6. Search for "APAD" in ebay.
        Roger Ramjet
      • I just had a look! 10" Android Tablet for ?150! Amazing! <n/t>

        @Roger Ramjet

    • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

      @Roger Ramjet You paid too much... has an apad with free shipping for 107$. Pandawill has a Gpad which is even better for 170$ with free shipping.
    • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

      @Roger Ramjet <br>Heres two decent android tablets. I have both and a few other coming to play with ,but these aren't bad and around $150 and under..<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>and here is a link to a few they sell...<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a>
  • #2 Feature : Android 2.2

    I completely agree withe hot swappable batteries! But what are they going to power?

    I'd say #2 has to be Android 2.2 (or 3.0 when it's out). As this is the perfect device I wouldn't settle for anything less.

    Then you could use Chrome To Phone for pushing pages, directions etc to your Tablet. Plus all the other features of 2.2 that are kick-arse!
    • Doesnt chrome to phone work on all os/versions that chrome supports?

      It seems like it would be a back end service based thing that would work anywhere chrome works
      Johnny Vegas
  • Like most good ideas...

    This is easier said than done. Tablets need to be ultra-light and its configuration needs to be tight, and this configuration would add more weight than it is worth and would take up a lot of room.

    No, I think we really need to concentrate on getting 10 hours out of the one battery so you can change it or charge it at the end of the day, and making a fast starting OS so that a 5 second battery swap means no more than 10 seconds downtime.
    Michael Kelly
    • Perhaps a small, lightweight secondary battery?

      @Michael Kelly

      I can agree with your concerns of the added weight, but I do like the idea of hot-swappable batteries. Perhaps a better idea than having two large swappable batteries would be that of 1 large swappable battery for the tablet's main usage, and 1 small lightweight battery for use during swapping. The backup battery could be small enough to only provide approximately 30 min. worth of power, while still providing a decent benefit to the user.
    • Already too heavy

      @Michael Kelly Personally I would take a shorter lasting battery if it means a lighter device. The 10 hour battery is still going to be too heavy. In my day to day life I don't need anywhere near 10 hours out of a tablet, so I'd rather carry a second battery for the times that I do, and have the device weigh less for daily use.
      • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

        @anakin78z I think that is better also. Just like with my phone. They sell 3000MAH batteries for the EVO, but it requires you to have a larger case on the back. Instead of making the phone even bigger, I can just carry an extra battery for days that I need the extra power.
  • Slide-out keyboard?

    I don't know what other people would think of it, but I wouldn't mind seeing a slide-out physical keyboard on some of these upcoming tablets. Though I'm sure it's less of an issue with the larger screen sizes of a tablet, some of us still don't like these onscreen virtual keyboards. As an alternative, a nice dock with keyboard would work as well, but that takes away some of the mobility of the device - if I recall correctly, there may actually be a tablet coming with this type of setup.
    • Sliding Keyboard & titling screen...

      @NetAdmin1178 ... so when the keyboard is out the screen is at the same angle, that would be very nice.

      Or as you say a dock, but docks mean another thing to carry around.
    • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 1

      @NetAdmin1178 As long as the tablet has bluetooth and a built in stand, you wouldn't necessarily need a dock or slide out keyboard, you could just use a logitech mini keyboard, one of many traveling keyboards or a regular bluetooth keyboard!
    • I think that is what a


      smart book will be for. Tablet: no keyboard. Smart book: keyboard.