Poor quality tablets could harm Android's reputation

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.

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.