The bumpy road ahead for Android tablets in 2014

The bumpy road ahead for Android tablets in 2014

Summary: The year 2013 has seen the introduction of many Android tablets. Things might not be very rosy in 2014.

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Yoga 8 and Yoga 10 (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Tablets have been hot commodoties since the iPad's success, and there have been no shortage of Android models to entice shoppers. Last year saw the introduction of many models from the major players in the mobile space. These companies debuted tablets right and left, and they may not have left much in the tank for 2014.

Just as they have with smartphones, Samsung has dominated the Android tablet space for a year or so. They have both Galaxy Tab and Note models in a range of sizes to cover what they believe is the majority of buyers.

Lenovo has been a big player in Android tablets too, with a line of budget tablets. It capped off 2013 by getting Ashton Kutcher to pitch two new Android tablets with an innovative design.

While these two are the major players, Google's been around with the Nexus line of tablets, although those are made by others in the space. Then there's Acer and Asus making devices, along with scores of no-name Asian companies churning out cheap tablets by the truck full.

With all of this activity in the Android tablet world in 2013, it leaves one to wonder what can possibly be coming in 2014? There's not a lot of room for innovative designs given what's already available, so it's not clear how the OEMs can produce something new this year.

We may see a race to the bottom with pricing, as a lack of innovation makes it hard to differentiate otherwise.

When you look at existing Android tablets, they are all basically the same with the exception of Lenovo's Yoga 8 and 10. They are thin, light slates with roughly equivalent processors and memory. They have memory slots to augment system storage, and the typical audio/video ports.

Speaking of the Yoga tablets, the unique design by Lenovo hasn't seemed to be enough to shoot them ahead of the pack. We haven't heard much else about them since the flashy launch event. I've never seen one in the wild, either.

How to differentiate their new tablets must be keeping the design teams at the OEMs up nights. They need something new to catch the eye of prospective buyers, and it needs to be hardware. All Android tablets run the same OS with minor differences, and that's not going to do the trick.

While it's not clear what can be done to push the Android tablet forward, I won't be surprised if we see Samsung or Lenovo introduce a 10-inch tablet with a Surface-style keyboard cover. No one's done that with Android and since Microsoft has been making a lot of noise with the Touch and Type Covers, it makes sense to capitalize on the "real work" advertising. This won't be new, rather playing catchup to Microsoft.

Other than that, 2014 may be like 2013 when it comes to Android tablets. More sizes, refreshed models, and more of the same. We may see a race to the bottom with pricing, as a lack of innovation makes it hard to differentiate otherwise. Cheap pricing may be the only way.

Tablet competition is heating up with alternatives to Android that may start chewing into the platform's strong position.

While it's not clear how successful Microsoft has been with Windows tablet sales, its ads are everywhere in the US. A lot of buyers find the ability to run Office to be a good thing, something Android tablet makers can't offer.

There's also that pesky Amazon with its line of Kindle Fire tablets. While technically Android, the Kindle Fires are set apart from the pack in three areas: great hardware, unique user-friendly UI, and highly competitive pricing.

In 2014 iPads will continue to give Android tablet makers fits. There's no telling what Apple has in store for the new year's model.

There's a bumpy road ahead for Android tablets, and OEMs better find a way to make their offerings unique and attractive to prospective buyers.

Related stories:

Topics: Mobility, Android, Tablets

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  • The Google lemmings

    "There's a bumpy road ahead for Android tablets, and OEMs better find a way to make their offerings unique and attractive to prospective buyers."

    How can they? They are in the ecosystem where software and hardware has next to no value. At least in the Windows ecosystem, you can differentiate with software / services, and even hardware, as MS is doing with Surface. The Android ecosystem is the ecosystem of virtually no profits, because that is the way Google set it up. Google systematically tries to devalue software in the computer industry, by giving it away for free - which incidentally is a gross antitrust violation on its part in the mobile space. And Google sells tablets and smartphones at cost, which along with other factors, makes opportunities for making money from hardware very slim. Google has set up an environment in which only it, and to some extent Samsung, can make money from tablets, on account of Google's gigantic advertising scale. Many players are going to be like lemmings, who after it is too late, realize there in a situation in which they cannot win.
    P. Douglas
    • Well said. Google selling nexus devices at cost is hurting android OEMs

      Everyone knows that OEMs cannot undercut nexus 7 and 10.
      Only android OEM that is doing well Samsung that too only sales wise. They are selling cheap 7 inch tablets which sells for $150.

      Only other OEM thats doing reasonably well is ASUS because of nexus 7. The moment google moves nexus 7 to other OEM they will be irrelevant like HTC.
      sri_tech
      • Are you serious?

        ASUS, LG, Samsung, and Sony are all doing fairly well with Android.

        HTC has taken Apple's approach to one or two devices and they're not doing well but, I suspect a higher MP camera would have had more people looking at that phone as well.

        Truth is, Apple is getting Meh response in China and India (according to recent reports) and those are the two most populous regions on the planet. Android is king there and still growing so, OEMs will do just fine.

        Unfortunately though, not everyone can do well when competition thrives and that's really what you're seeing. This fact does not mean you won't have high end and low end segments of that market and just because Apple competes for the high end and not really in the low end doesn't guarantee their success either.
        slickjim
        • Tablets

          I am talking about tablets, not smartphones.

          LG and Sony tablets are disasters. Samsung is the only one thats doing well. ASUS android tablets will be dead once Google ditches them and moves to someone else.
          sri_tech
          • What are you talking about?

            Asus tablets were just updated and far from dead. Google ditching them will not stop them from releasing a Google Play edition.

            LG released its first tablet that I know of recently and it is getting some pretty good reviews, especially the Google Play Edition!

            Sony's tablet was widely considered the best Android tablet on the market until the recently released versions and it is the only tablet that is waterproof as well. It doesn't have to be the #1 tablet to sell well. Either way, it is far from a disaster so, I think you should stop making stuff up.

            Also, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 aren't significantly hurting sales of other devices because, there are now several more devices running Stock Android and neither the Nexus 7 nor the Nexus 10 are the highest spec tablets in the group.

            Play dot google dot com slash devices shows the following devices running stock Android.

            Nexus 5
            Nexus 7
            Nexus 10

            LG GPad 8.3
            Samsung S4
            HTC One
            Sony Z Ultra

            Seeing that these phone providers wanted their phones in the program, how long will it be before they follow suit with the Tablets?

            So far we have the:

            LG GPad 8.3 tablet
            Samsung Nexus 10 tablet
            Asus Nexus 7 Tablet

            HTC doesn't even make a tablet of their own but to me, this whole Google Play Edition is the right way to go!
            slickjim
          • Let's look at Amazon's Christmas figures

            TOP 10 during Christmas: All Linux. Best non-Linux tablets 11. and 12. Just after the Christmas best iPad up to 10.

            http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Electronics-Computer-Tablets/zgbs/electronics/1232597011/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=fnh-20

            http://www.itworld.com/open-source/398063/linux-dominates-amazons-christmas-tablet-sales
            Napoleon XIV
          • Linux got 65% of tablet markets after spring 2013...

            ...and it's just the beginning.

            It's cheaper, it's good enough and it's not overhyped like iPad. World will not adopt 500-600 dollars iPads and Windows-tablets.
            Napoleon XIV
          • WTH?

            "World will not adopt 500-600 dollars iPads and Windows-tablets."

            Really? Cause it kinda seems to be the case. Every rep that comes to my store seems to have a company iPad. And no I'm not an Apple fan. Its just the way it is for now though.
            JP Deveau
          • 55 million sold

            now only 7 billion 150 million to go until every user has one
            mswift@...
        • Will nexus 10 be updated in 2014?

          I'm getting ready to upgrade from a nexus 7 and am seriously considering an ipad air. I got one for my wife and it is a fantastic device..albeit overpriced. The light weight and excellent display push it ahead of all other tablets.

          I tried a kindle fire hdx, but the bastardized android OS and interface were turn offs...a shame because the hardware was nice and so was the price.
          otaddy
          • Why not try a Windows tablet

            Either a full one like the Dell Venue Pro 11 or an RT one like the Surface 2 or Nokia 2520. As the Surface 2 as an example, most people who have gotten this device love it.

            It has a full browser that can render any web page including ones like Hulu, Nexflix, Facebook, etc. You can even play Facebook games with it. The Metro store is now at 140K apps, all tablet optimized. Comes with full Office w/Outlook.

            The snap panes allows running more than one window at a time and if you connect an external monitor either via Miracast or HDMI you can pin more panes.

            You can plug thousands of USB devices into the USB3 port including DVD burners, cameras, etc. You can even charge your iPhone of the tablet. This without the need of dongles. You can print directly to USB or via the network.

            It can act as a laptop when needed and if you use something like TeamViewer or other remoting apps, you can remote into a full Windows or Mac computer to use those apps as well.

            And that i just RT. A full Windows tablet can do everything a PC can do. With iOS, you can..... run an app.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • why not windows tablet?

            are you insane? you want to ruin his life?
            deathtoms
          • How?

            Love mine and its only RT. I have iPads, various Android tablets (I'm the MDM admin at my company so have all these for testing) and Windows tablet is the best tablet UI IMHO.

            Not a WP8 fan, but like Windows 8.1 on a touch tablet.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • Windows tablets

            I think because they are heavy, have poor screens, and don't have many apps. It's good they exist though; everyone has different needs and I can see Surface Pros being a factor. The fact is that Office is not a killer feature for most people, and few people notice the USB features. I mean, plugging in a DVD drive? I confidently predict this will not be a killer feature either. More and more laptops don't come with them.
            The RT devices are dead men walking. It's great that you can browse the internet on them, but there are a few other tablets which do that quite well, and have other advantages like apps, accessories, better screens, lighter weight and cheaper prices.
            However, Microsoft should keep trying to find points of difference. Everyone laughed at Samsung's big screen phones, until they took off. My big question is not how Microsoft will find a way to get some tablet sales, but how it plans to make money from it.
            timrichardson
          • @timrichardson

            you apparently have not tried the ASUS T100. Light, great screen. Not as many apps as some alternatives, but do you really need 1000 ways to make a fart noise in your device? And it does run x86 programs, which the alternatives won't do natively. With the price dropping on windows 8.1 devices, RT looks like a poor bet, but Windows 8.1 on a tablet is working out very well for me.
            john-whorfin
          • More than just apps

            I would not disagree with Surface RT, I got mine at a discount, just using that as an example. Because I am a MDM admin at my company, I have a few iPads, various Android devices, a Surface RT, among other devices. I also support Windows and Mac clients and have a few of those as well. I have gone from iOS to Android, and now to Windows as far as tablets (still prefer Android for phone).

            As far as screen, weight, etc, not sure if you are just referring to the S-RT as Windows tablets come in all flavors and sizes. And as far as the USB DVD burner, that is just an example of an obscure device that actually works. Who knows what you might need to get files off of or need to do. I do demos over the web with a downward facing webcam to showcase devices and I can plug that in as well. In other words, why would you want to limit your options? Got an RF mouse, plug in the dongle and go.

            Office 2013 is unarguably the most powerful office suite on the market. Millions of customers outside the enterprise are paying MS a yearly subscription fee of ~$100. Maybe you have no use for Office but somebody does. With many Win tablets, you can get it from free for the life of the device.

            An example of a currently great Windows tablet is the Dell Venue 11 Pro. This can function as a full PCs using a docking station with multiple monitors, keyboard, and mouse. You can pop that out of the dock and take it with you as a tablet using the Metro UI and apps on the go. You can even get a full keyboard and it now becomes a laptop. Comes with Office for free.

            Want more mobile apps than the 140K+ in the Metro store, then install Bluestacks and run all million Android apps. Heck, install Chrome and run the thousands of Chrome apps. Then there are the millions of full Windows apps.

            And these are just home uses, I have not even detailed the corporate uses of either RT or a full Windows tablet.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • ????

            the latest RT same weight as ipad, 1920x1080 res, excellent screen, full size usb 3 port and $250 less than the comparable Air
            mswift@...
          • Best Windows tablet

            is the Asus Transformer Book T100, less than 400$ with keyboard dock included and Office Home and Student (no Outlook though). Micro SD, micro HDMI and USB 3.0 port on the keyboard dock.

            Since I've got mine my Nexus 7 is accumulating dust!
            lepoete73
          • And it's the real Windows 8.1

            not RT.

            The T100 runs on Intel Atom Bay Trail.
            lepoete73
          • my main development platform is windows pc slate

            although my samsung 7 slate is optimized for windows 8, i choose to use windows 7. I am using the 8 finger simultaneous touch interface in c# .net applications. I do MUCH hardware interface external programming, configuration and control applications.
            rharding64