Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

Summary: I have a bad feeling about what the proliferation of cheap and nasty Android tablets will do to the public's perception of the Android OS.

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I have a bad feeling about what the proliferation of cheap and nasty Android tablets will do to the public's perception of the Android OS as a whole.

Take a look at this PC Pro review of the $160 Next 7-inch media tablet. If you're short of time with Thanksgiving coming and all that, I'll just cut straight to the verdict:

The worst tablet PC we’ve yet seen, it's frustrating to use and symptomatic of the droves of Android hardware being produced on the cheap.

So what's wrong with this tablet? Well, basically the 300MHz processor and 128MB of RAM just scream that it's a cellphone with a large screen. It's cheap junk produced with one goal in mind - suckering people into buying something that vaguely looks like an iPad, only built so cheap as to be utterly useless.

If this were the only cheap and nasty Android tablet out there, I wouldn't be worried. But it's not. In fact, we're already hip-deep in mass-produced misery. Our very own Jason Perlow got burned by a $99 Android tablet that he picked up from Walgreens. And this abomination had a 533MHz CPU and 256MB of RAM, double what the Next tablet has, and Perlow still branded this device as an "awful piece of junk."

Maylong M-150 $99 Android Tablet from Walgreens from Off The Broiler on Vimeo.

Cheap junk is still junk.

I'd really hate for these tablets to be the first contact that the public has with the Android OS. Sure, Android has failings (what OS doesn't ...) but there failings here aren't related to the OS but to the implementation of the OS. It's down to companies relying on there being an ample supply of suckers out there who will be blinded by the price and put the failings of the device down to their incompetence or ineptitude, rather than that of the manufacturer.

Not only is there a risk that the proliferation of cheap tat will harm Android, there's a real risk that it will harm the tablet market as a whole. Don't believe me? Look at how Windows Vista was trashed based on issues that were mostly fixed by the time Service Pack 1 was released.

I worry about Android. I worry because the 'open' nature of the platform (and 'open source' being only one facet of that) is being used and abused by unscrupulous manufacturers. The Android name is being trashed by association.

Is there a solution? I don't know. Google could fork Android in the way that Chrome and Chromium are separate entities, allowing for a Google-approved Android and a separate codebase for those wanting to tinker (as suggested by Paul Ockenden in the comments in the PC Pro review). If nothing else, this would protect the Android brand.

Thoughts?

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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53 comments
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  • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

    "Is there a solution? I don?t know. Google could fork Android in the way that Chrome and Chromium are separate entities, allowing for a Google-approved Android"

    There are Google-approved devices already which are branded "with Google" and i assume all those super cheap devices don't have any "with Google" branding.

    It's mostly the same thing microsoft does
    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/winlogo/about_win7.mspx
    sovok_
    • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

      @sovok_

      The mass market doesn't pay any more attention to the MS stamp of approval any more than they would to a Google stamp of approval. The mass market is educated enough on PC hardware to determine a quality product versus a shoddy product, and OEM makers have enough experience to meet those needs. That's just not the case with tablets. And those OEMs are competing against a product that came out to the market in pretty decent shape.
      Michael Kelly
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @Michael Kelly
        I just meant there is no need the change the basics of the current compatibility and approval system of Android. The current one is sufficient and it's still good that it's possible to put Android into a TV, ATM or car without asking for approval or permission.
        sovok_
    • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

      @sovok_
      A couple of big differences.
      1. MS already had a monopoly on PCs by the time the OEMs started releasing cheaper and cheaper junk. There was/is no competition for desktop PCs.
      2. MS still got its license fee no matter how cheap the PCs were/are, so they were happy to let the OEMs beat each others brains out while they collected fees from their "open" OS.
      3. Android isn't operating from a postion of strength in the slate market and is already having trouble unifying it's cell phone OS. Now we're gonna add tablets of all shapes and sizes and Chrome to the mix?

      Google needs to narrow its OS focus and somehow help/bribe/cajole/motivate the OEMs/telcos to stick with the latest Android builds. Of course the OEMs have a different agenda and the telcos live in a different universe where common sense was lost years ago.
      Synthmeister
  • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

    I respectively disagree with your premise, Adrian. With the iPad owning the vast majority of the market (95% in Q3 according to one analyst), I think any low-end tablet will be seen as a lousy iPad knock off, not a lousy Android device.<br><br>The new and improved tablet market is far to young for average consumers to start identifying devices by their operating system. Perhaps two or three generations from now, but certainly not in the age of the iPad.<br><br>BTW, I used to dig those Kingsley-Hughes-led CNET Online Courses!
    JamisonD
    • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

      @JamisonD
      You are missing the next step in the reasoning chain, namely that Android will be seen as a cheap knock-off of iOS. In the end, the result is the same. Guilt by association, just in this instance, once removed.
      DeusXMachina
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @DeusXMachina True. Just like the majority of Chinese mp3 players are just seen as cheap ipod knock offs.
        Jimster480
    • agree also, and add

      @Adrian,
      "Not only is there a risk that the proliferation of cheap tat will harm Android, there?s a real risk that it will harm the tablet market as a whole."
      While Apple makes sure that its products stand apart and above,,, Android is a crap shoot. Some are good some crap. but people tend to associate with the lowest common factor.

      Just a thought,
      en
      eldernorm
  • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

    This is not good news for the fans of Droid OS devices. Compare it to this aarticle regarding the iPad: http://techcrunch.com/?s=Oprah&submit=Search

    As they say, you get what you pay for. Perception is everything.
    gtdworak
  • Adrian, Please stop it ......

    Adrian, do you really think the public is so stupid they don't know the difference between junk and quality stuff?

    Do you think when they go to Wally World and see the line of DVD players starting from cheap to expensive that they don't know the cheap one is not as good as the expensive one. Or how about they go to buy a car, and one is $10,000 and the one next to it is $25,000, that they don't know which one is the better car?

    Please. Oh, and by the way, Jason realized too late that the WiFi was not connected when he and the wife made their little video on the Walgreens special. Not that it makes much difference, but it would have at least gone to a website or two if it had been on.

    You know, some people just want a toy to play with. Are you telling me you have never bought a low end item of some type just for fun, knowing it wasn't as good as the high end item? There are also a LOT of people who just can't afford the high end items, and they are just as proud of their cheap little tablet, DVD player, car, or whatever as your high and mighty ass is with your iPad and iPhone.

    And please, stop bitching about resistive screens. If the mfgs could install a capacitive screen for $100-150 dollars they would. Any idiot can figure out that using a finger nail or stylus on the screen works just as well as a fingertip on a capacitive screen. Oh, wait, I guess those millions of Nintendo DS game players that have been sold are all junk too, they have resistive screens and come with a stylus ... and even have SPECIAL accessory packs with 4 or 5 multi-colored styli so you can be fashionable while you play Mario Brothers.

    These cheap tablets don't reflect negatively on Android any more than a Coby mp3 player reflects on mp3 audio. Get over it.

    Oh, and I guess you have enough money to buy that Turkey now. I'm sure that was the reason for this ridiculous post in the first place.
    babyboomer57
    • ... they don't know the difference between junk and quality stuff?

      @babyboomer57 :
      * Yes

      <i>Do you think when they go to Wally World and see the line of DVD players starting from cheap to expensive that they don't know the cheap one is not as good as the expensive one.</i>
      * They're still buying them, aren't they?

      <i>"There are also a LOT of people who just can't afford the high end items, and they are just as proud of their cheap little tablet, DVD player, car, or whatever as your high and mighty ass is with your iPad and iPhone."</i>
      * Which is exactly why it will get a bad rep. There's far more of this type of customer than you can imagine, apparently, since these people do buy them and wonder why they don't work as well as the more expensive ones. My own father used to say, "Why spend more when they do the same thing?" Of course, he tended to buy cars every 8 to 12 months, too. For him, "A car is nothing but basic transportation." He'd have done better getting a horse!

      <i>"And please, stop bitching about resistive screens. If the mfgs could install a capacitive screen for $100-150 dollars they would. Any idiot can figure out that using a finger nail or stylus on the screen works just as well as a fingertip on a capacitive screen."</i>
      * Actually, no. You also have the issue that the screen pretty quickly gets damaged if you use too much pressure, and making a cheap tablet device almost guarantees the unit itself will probably break within months because it's not hard enough to provide a firm writing surface. Yes, it may be more accurate, but it puts all that pressure on one tiny point.

      <i>"These cheap tablets don't reflect negatively on Android any more than a Coby mp3 player reflects on mp3 audio."</i>
      * True, as far as it goes. But Coby is a <i>known</i> junk electronics producer; Android is a <i>known</i> tablet platform. The fact that it says <i>Android</i> somewhere on the device is likely to be far more damaging than if it only had <i>Coby.</i>

      Now think about how many of these cheap toy tablets are going to be given as gifts this holiday season. If the recipients get the impression that all Android devices are junk, where are they going to go for their next one?
      Vulpinemac
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @vulpine@... My ENTIRE point was, people DO know the difference, but they buy anyway because that is what they can AFFORD, or they are just plain too cheap to spend the big bucks on anything. It does not reflect on Android in any way, just the manufacturers of the devices. Walmart has iPad displays now, and will be getting the Augen 7" soon (if not already). People will see the [i]at least[/i] $500 iPad, and not being able to afford it will buy the $160 Augen just so they can tell their friends they have a tablet. Trust me, I live in the country in NC, I know how these people think.

        And you are incorrect about one thing. Android IS NOT a known or approved (by Google) tablet platform. All the mfgs that are producing them now know that, as well. When Android 3.0 (Honeycomb, the Google approved version) is released early next year you will see the real iPad contenders stepping up to the plate. Right now, mfgs are trying to get a foot in the door and some Christmas money in their pockets.

        Oh, and I have never heard of any reliability problems with resistive screens. They are designed to be 'pushed' on, unlike capacitive screens with a hard glass surface. I have heard way more people complain about cracked capacitive screens than I would expect, and have never heard of anything but pixel problems on resistive screens. I don't know where you are getting your info on this subject.

        But let's get to the REAL reason I wrote a response to Adrian in the first place. Adrian has nothing to say anymore unless it involves bad news or slamming something just to get page hits. I don't know what happened to him, but I used to enjoy reading his articles, now I can count on them being flame bait at least 3 out of every 4 posts. Very disappointing. I guess it makes him money, though.


        Also, since most of the people around here have never seen an iPad except behind the protective plastic shell over the Walmart display, they have no idea the difference in the screen operation. Unless they have a new smartphone with a capacitive screen, they still won't know that the resistive screen is not as good when they buy the cheap device, or even care for that matter.
        babyboomer57
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @babyboomer57... <br><br>I think we will see lots or returns of these cheap iPad knockoffs, which will stain not only the manufacturer but the Android brand, imo. And it's becoming more and more difficult not to have heard about the iPad by now. Oprah who just launched her own iPad app just deemed the iPad her: "number one favorite thing ever". <br><br>I see this playing out the same way the iPod/mp3 player market played-out. There will be the popular iPad device that everyone must have on their list and then there will be all these other competitors lumped in the "other" category. Notice like the iPod Apple is trying to push it to as many retail channels as possible. Like the iPod, they already have a whole host of partners making exclusive accessories for the iPad (Best Buy may need 3 Isle just for the iDevices now). Like the iPod, Apple gets free iPad advertising every time a manufacturer advertises their iPad accessory (print/TV/Billboards etc). They're countless giveaways going on right now involving the iPad. Schools, enterprises, Airline, field-workers are all adopting the iPad. And Apple will continue to dominate with marketing. It will be tough for competition.
        dave95.
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @Dave95 it will take time to get the iPad off of the known best tablet pedestal, even if it doesn't do that much. Just like it took a while for the iPhone to be knocked from its pedestal. The EVO 4G took its spot, its the most wanted phone, and most people now perceive it to be better than the iPhone. But it has been done. Maybe apple might steal it back with the iPhone 5. But who knows.
        Jimster480
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @babyboomer57:<br>Ok, you're right, Android is not a known <i>tablet</i> platform, but it is a known platform and it's being put on tablets; the end is the same, even if the means is different. Google clearly stated more than once that Android was never intended for the tablet format (I believe they intended for Chrome to be the tablet OS) and as you said, Android wouldn't be tablet-ready until 3.0 at the earliest--if then. 3.0 was originally announced to be Android's first 'marketable' version--stable and reliable compared to previous versions. Making it tablet-ready as well is more of an afterthought there.<br><br>I also don't argue the way you say people think--my in-laws are rural farmers in PA and they always buy the Walmart Special computers at Christmas because that's just about the only kind they can afford. It falls on me or my wife then to keep them running for at least one year until they buy the next cut-price machine. They've seen our iPads and think they're 'neat' and 'cool', but considering the cellular coverage where they live, there's not one tablet that could offer them all they really use their machine for--reading news and playing games. 3G is impossible and the internet is dial-up at 33K. They won't be buying a tablet any time soon.<br><br>As for the resistive screens, I'll grant you've probably not heard of any reliability problems, but have you looked at your UPS driver's screen when you use that stylus? Have you looked at that credit-card machine's display at the store? Would you really want to try to look through that all day as you're trying to write, draw, manipulate or otherwise use your tablet's data? People complain so loudly about glossy screens getting marred up with fingerprints, just look at the mess you'd have there!<br><br>I won't offer any comment to your conclusions about Adrian; as you say, it makes him money. As for the average individual that reads these forums, the majority are techies in one way or another and seem to have no concept that the average consumer is ignorant to tech by comparison. What these guys think should be mandatory, the average consumer would care less about. Apple markets to the average person, no matter if they're a snot-nosed kid in grade school or the CEO of the biggest company in the world. If that person just happens to have some influence in a corporate environment, then maybe Apple gets a toe in the door. Either way, that consumer, whoever he may be, chooses the devices he wants to use for himself. If he can't afford the best, he'll look at the rest. (I'm using a truism here, not making any statement per se about Apple.)
        Vulpinemac
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        babyboomer57@... While I agree with some of your statements to a certain degree I also have to say that you are taking a very narrow view of what you think the perception will be. Sure, there will be people that realize they are getting a cheap knockoff product and expect it to perform as one but you also have to realize there will be a lot of people that will have a perceived expectation of what it will do even at the cheap price. These are primarily going to be the people that start trash talking Android tablets to their friends which will spread. Will this kill the reputation of Android tablets? Of course it won't but to think it will have no effect at all is just plain delusional.
        non-biased
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        Jimster480@... Since when is the EVO 4G the most wanted phone and most people perceive it as better than the iPhone? If it was the most wanted phone then it would be selling more units than the iPhone by itself, not when lumped with all Android phones. I would also bet that a LARGE majority of the average consumer does not perceive it as better than the iPhone because even a year after the surge of Android based phone pretty much everything is still compared against the iPhone. Sure, the EVO 4G may have a better spec sheet and be a better fit for you and others but that does not by any means reflect the perception of the majority of people.
        non-biased
    • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

      @babyboomer57

      yes. The majority of them (at lest in the US) don't know the difference.

      Quality has NEVER sold in the US in the face of price.
      jeffpk
      • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

        @jeffpk - Exactly my point. Thanks for shortening my point.

        @Dave95 - I feel like Deitrich does. Cheap laptops with Windows on them did not reflect on MS, it gave people the impression that the machine brand was crap.

        As an aside, I don't think Google cares too much in the first place. As long as the OS is being loaded and they are making ad revenue, they are happy. Even if Google search is not loaded by default, they still get revenue from the flashing ads in the free apps. They are NOT stupid.
        babyboomer57
  • RE: Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

    The first Android phones weren't exactly stellar either. The G1 lacked a headphone jack and video playback (required a third party app). And there were a lot of cheap and crappy Android phones circulating the news around the time.

    Anyone remember the Sciphone?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sciphone

    or the Kogan Agora?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kogan_Agora

    Probably not... people have a tendency not to dwell on problems or crappy products once they've been fixed/replaced. How often do people complain about Windows Vista nowadays? Do they still care?

    The best way for Google to wash away the bad taste of the Walgreens $99 tablet is to get together with Motorola, HTC or any of their higher-end hardware partners and create the tablet equivalent of the HTC Evo, or the Droid X. People will forget this $99 tablet just as quickly as they forgot the Qigi i6.
    Theli