The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

Summary: There's a problem with Android tablets, and oddly enough it's the exact same problem that plagued smartphones before the iPhone came along and changed things.

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There's a problem with Android tablets, and oddly enough it's the exact same problem that plagued smartphones before the iPhone came along and changed things.

The problem is that they're seen as disposable product. By this I don't mean that they're single-use or anything as environmentally unfriendly as that, but rather than manufacturers see the product as finished as soon as it has been sold and see little value in supporting it with regular software updates (at least anything beyond bug fixes). After all, why should they? They've got your money and the only way they're going to get more money is to sell you a new product.

Does this remind you of smartphones in a pre-iPhone world? I owned dozens of smartphones pre the iPhone but I never had any real expectation that the OEM or software maker would release much in the way of updates. You bought something and it was yours, bugs and all. I remember being the proud (for a very short time) owner of an Orange SPV (manufactured by HTC) that was utter junk. I don't remember any updates coming out to make that better. I also owned an E-TEN Glofiish which was also total junk. I owned a Nokia 9000i Communicators (which wasn't junk!) and I don't recall any software updates for that either.

The truth is that it was the iPhone that lead us to expect to see software updates for smartphones. Apple changed that. Now irrespective of why makes your handset, users (power users at any rate) expect to be drip-fed updates on a regular basis.

Now we're in the age of the tablet and we have the same problems. Sure, Apple has continued doing what it did with the iPhone an releasing regular updates for the iPad. It's a good idea because it keeps users engaged with the product. But what about Android tablets?

Well, I encourage you to read the latest post by my ZDNet blogging buddy Jason Perlow - Dear Google: Here's your roadmap out of Android Honeycomb hell. I agree with Perlow (why wouldn't I , he's a smart guy ... like me) that Google needs to make some big changes. A mobile hypervisor that separated the hardware from the OS would be massively advantageous and make updating the OS much easier. I also like Perlow's idea for a clear End of Life roadmap for devices too. Consumers need to have a clear idea of what to expect in terms of updates.

But all this means a change in how manufacturers look at their product. And an important part of this change will be seeing a product as having a lifespan beyond just selling it and then hoping to sell the next version.

Problem is, this isn't as easy to achieve with Android as it is with say iOS. OEMs don't have a vested interest in keeping users sweet beyond hoping that they keep hold of their product long enough so they can't take it back to the store. There's nothing that really differentiates one tablet from another, and worse still, no way for an OEM to lock consumers into their tablet. The only company that can sort thsi mess out is Google, and so far Google aren't showing any real interest in doing that.

I worry about Android. It's an OS that I think has great potential, but it is having its reputation tarnished first by the flood of cheap junk tablets flooding the market, another blow by OEMs who only care about sales in the now, and a final blow from Google for releasing Honeycomb when it is clearly not ready for primetime. The problem is, I don't think that Google has the experience in the areas necessary to keep Android. I hope the company learns fast ...

What do you think? Is all happy in the Android camp, or has Honeycomb shown that the cracks have starting to form?

Topics: Laptops, Android, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

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  • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

    the problem is Price. And ASUS is fixing that.
    tatiGmail
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @tatiGmail Acer is cheap as well but the XOOM is selling in wifi models more than 3G at $599.
      slickjim
    • Now if they could just fix Android/Honeycomb

      @tatiGmail

      Then they would have a hit on their hands!
      Bill Pharaoh
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @tatiGmail

      Making Android tablets cheaper will only worsen the problem; there will be no incentive for manufacturers to make them upgradable nor to develop upgrades. In the end, the only way for consumers to upgrade will be to buy a new device. If that really the direction that you want for Android?
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

        @ptorning <br><br>Yeah unfortunately for manufacturers, consumers won't be switching up tablets as often as they do phones (which was largely due to carrier subsidy and deals). The majority of tablets won't be sold at carrier stores. So consumers more than ever will be expecting updates for their tablets regardless of how cheap it was. They will hold on to it much longer than phones.<br><br>Not only that, making it cheaper most certainly means corners are cut somewhere. That won't fly with consumers when the iPad is already rock solid. OEMs need to go toe to toe with Apple to even see gen consumers interest.
        dave95.
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @tatiGmail your right on the money, I understand the premise, but Adrian (author of article) its not doing you any good to agree with Jason who is well known for his apple favoritism. Ultimately you make some good points but they quickly deteriorate, you couldn't have been more on with the fragmentation comment! But they you lost your way by implying Android updates are not supported. I have the original Droid and i have received 5 updates since its inception. Also there is a great developer community out there supporting rooted mods if you are adventurous. The major benefits are not represented here of Android Tablets, such as added external storage, more video and music supported formats, flash support (which via the "update" two days ago fixed all, that I can find, Flash problems) all of which the iPad cant support. So far as i can see there too much bias is entering the writing here at ZDNet...
      jerry79xx
      • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

        @jerry79xx

        Problem is, you're looking specifically at the original Droid -- a phone using stock Android and considered a "blessed" phone by Google in terms of support.

        The issue is more the majority of manufacturers and devices. Even HTC tends to drop support after a year, and Samsung is notorious for giving you one update four months late and abandoning the device entirely after that. You can't work that way in tablets; there's just too much that needs updating. It might not necessarily make an initial impact on Android tablet sales, but it could lead to a lot of dissatisfied tablet buyers.

        I'd add that the ones first to cry "biased!" in comments are just unhappy the writer didn't rubber stamp their point of view.
        jonfingas
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @tatiGmail

      How can the problem be price, when most Android tablets are somewhat cheaper than the iPad, but the iPad sells like hotcakes?

      Windows Mobile had this problem way back in the PDA days. You bought the device and it rarely if ever got updated on that device despite Microsoft putting out an update that will work on the device.

      Phone carriers have a reason to keep users happy, but tablet manufacturers may not feel that they do. Which tells me that there may be another difference between Apple and the rest. Apple may look at a sale as the start of a relationship with that customer, while others may be focused merely on the transaction. Phone carriers are cognisent of the relationship, but Samsung may be thinking about transactions.

      Microsoft is working around this, by giving OEMs/carriers a limited Window before they must push the latest update out to phones. It worked pretty well with the first major update. We will see how that works with Mango.
      AudeKhatru
    • hello my tablet screen has been broken

      hello yes i have an android tablet and i was asking if u knew anywhere i could find another screen to replace it and it would be help ful if i could have the number to the manufactuer
      MaKenna Swanson
  • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

    @Peter Perry
    You had an iPad once. The iOS 4.2 and 4.3 upgrades enhanced the original iPad significantly beyond it's initial state.

    Because I simply could, I upgraded to the iPad 2 for the increased hardware capabilities. But, in reality, the iPad1 with the latest iOS version still compares favorably with the XOOM, a hardware second generation tablet design. (I only stated the above rough generalization to make the following point)

    The iPad1 was enhanced significantly greater through it's OS upgrades than the Galaxy Tab has been through it's OS upgrades via Samsung.

    Which is the point AKH is trying to make. Samsung, IMO, views the Galaxy Tab 1 as a "finished product". Apple never appeared to view the iPad1 in the same way.
    kenosha77a
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @kenosha7777 Yeah but the modern crop of Android Tablets are well equipped for future updates and that is not an issue.
      slickjim
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @kenosha7777 Oh yeah and the original iPhone never got the 4.x updates... The 3GS has people complaining about the 4.x upgrades slowing down their phones and the 3G didn't even get all the features.2

      As for the iPad, it got features that were mostly present in Android 2.2 so if you already have something in place then is it really fair to say they're not supported after x months when the end result is the same?
      slickjim
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @kenosha7777

      I Agree,

      The OEMs use an army principle "fire and forget" the sold a device and then they left it to the poor customer. Galaxy Tab I is a good device, maybe not the as good as the Ipad , but at least has a good potential, but it needs continues upgrades and attention. The problem is that Samsung (as the other) is a mobile seller, it have to sold as much device as possible, than it could not play attention to patching and tuning.

      Maybe with Hp WebOs we will see something different.
      ungradued_magister
  • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

    @Peter Perry Yes I do think the ipad 1 and 2 are disposable. Large fragile screens....
    CallieO
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @CallieO Fragile? Are you kidding? Have you seen the latest tensile strength tests?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4vvQq7BpiE&feature=player_embedded#at=15
      jperlow
  • The iPad is still getting updates.

    @Peter Perry

    Most Android devices are abandoned within 8-10 months after release.

    Expect the Xoom to be abandoned by Moto by October.
    Bruizer
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @Bruizer You would need some hard facts to back that up but regardless, a Google Experience Device is always using Generic Androis and thus will have a longer life than those with a custom UI.
      slickjim
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @Bruizer
      Not sure what Android phones you are talking about but I have read that EVO 4G will get 2.3
      Solid Water
    • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

      @Bruizer <br><br>Tell me about it! - I paid as much for my Viewsonic ViewPad 10" as I could've got an iPad for.<br> It shipped with Android 1.6/Win 7 dual-boot, and even now there are no official Android updates for it, and the home brew ones don't offer the full functionality of the the ViewPad.<br> I feel thoroughly ripped off and wish I hadn't been tempted by it.
      Colin.L
  • RE: The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable

    @Peter Perry

    What makes the iPad disposable in your eyes? Apple fully supports the iPad 1 as much as the iPad 2 and all iOS versions for the iPad support both models which is exactly what AKH is talking about. Heck even after the iPad 2 hit shelves (and subsequently sold out), the then discounted iPad 1 also sold out everywhere.

    Is Motorola gonna push out any new updates for the original Droid, no. They are going to want you to buy the Droid 2. That makes the original Droid disposable.
    jmiller1978