Android tablets have failed. Plain and simple. By just about any measure you can come up with, Google (NAS: GOOG) has been unsuccessful so far in translating its Android successes in the smartphone market to the tablet market.

The clear tablet king is Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPad, which is selling like none other. While market researcher IDC thinks Android will eventually dethrone the iPad, I don't see how that can happen at this rate. The hardest part for Google to swallow is that it's not entirely its fault.

What else do you need?
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is a well-polished mobile operating system that is leagues ahead of its predecessor, 3.0 Honeycomb. Even Big G considered that version an "emergency landing" just to "get tablet support out there."


The company proliferates Android through a slew of hardware partners. Some of these inevitably produce pure junk, but other OEMs are crafting some very respectable devices with some powerful specs.

I found myself in a big-box retailer the other day playing with one of the best Android tablets out there: the Asus Transformer Prime. The tablet carries NVIDIA's (NAS: NVDA) quad-core Tegra 3 and an 8-megapixel OmniVision Technologies (NAS: OVTI) second-generation backside-illuminated image sensor -- one much better than the newest iPad's.

Less than meets the eye
The Transformer Prime is a solid offering that can give the iPad a run for its money in the spec department. It was the first time I'd handled one, and I was legitimately impressed.

An interesting tidbit that's come out of Hasbro's trademark infringement suit against Asus is that court filings show Asus had just 2,000 preorders for the device a month ago, with 80,000 more set for retail distribution around the world. Meanwhile, Apple just sold 3 million iPads in a weekend earlier this month.

So one of the best high-end Android tablets that money can buy is garnering sales on par with what amounts to a rounding error in iPad sales.

It has a competitive OS and nosebleed hardware, so why doesn't anyone want it?

Is there an app for that?
Platforms live or die by the content available on them. A TV is pretty useless if there's nothing to watch, and a high-end tablet similarly does you little good if there aren't quality apps to interact with. The problem with Android tablets is that developers haven't been optimizing their apps for the larger screens, so there's a lack of compelling content.

Apple CEO Tim Cook even discussed this during the new iPad unveiling. Most current Android tablet apps are simply smartphone apps that have been crudely scaled up to larger screen sizes but aren't designed specifically to take advantage of the extra real estate. He used the Yelp app as an example and compared it running on a Samsung Android tablet to the iPad.

anImage

Source: Apple iPad Keynote Presentation. Yelp app on Samsung Android tablet (top) vs. iPad (bottom).

Source: Apple iPad Keynote Presentation. Yelp app on Samsung Android tablet (top) vs. iPad (bottom).

PCMag even outlined this predicament in more detail recently, complete with some handy comparisons. The article notes that not all apps suffer from this fate, just that most of them do. Just having the majority of the content is enough to neuter the platform, though. Here's the eBay app comparison.

anImage

Source: PCMag. eBay app on Android (top) vs. iPad (bottom).

Source: PCMag. eBay app on Android (top) vs. iPad (bottom).

Interestingly, Apple provided additional motivation for developers to optimize tablet apps because its method of scaling up iPhone apps to fit the iPad was even cruder than Android's. The pixelated and enlarged versions looked so bad that developers would rather just make a specialized iPad version.

On the other hand, Android's resolution-independent approach let the apps look adequate enough, but it results in a disappointing experience.

More than likely, developers are just sick and tired of dealing with Android's fragmentation and don't want to put the time into optimizing apps for all the myriad of different hardware configurations that are out there, while iOS developers only have two potential iPad resolutions to work with (which are also easier to scale since the dimensions are doubled).

Two out of three ain't good enough
This is why Android tablets have underperformed. Even though the overall OS is solid and some of the hardware offerings are impressive, the native content is uninspiring. It's mostly the collective fault of developers for not sprucing up the ecosystem, but in fairness, Google didn't provide the proper incentives.

Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) is making a more coordinated approach with its upcoming Windows 8, which is why I think it will fare better. Not only does the OS look pretty slick, with hardware partners already lined up, but Mr. Softy is also aggressively courting developers. In contrast, Google provides the tools but passively sits back and hopes it happens.

It's not totally your fault, Google. But now it's Microsoft's turn to step up to the plate for a swing.

The iPad has started a revolution, but Apple is hardly the only winner. Some of the winners are hard to see because they're buried deep inside the gadgets. Check out this new special free report on "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution" that names a handful of companies that provide the crucial components that these gadgets rely on. It's free.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of OmniVision Technologies and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Hasbro, NVIDIA, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and eBay, writing puts on eBay and NVIDIA, and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Behavioral Finance

Why do investors make the decisions that they do?

View Course »

Goal Setting

Want to succeed? Then you need goals!

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

49 Comments

Filter by:
Andy Mac

@ FalKirk

The Google reference had nothing to do with statistics and more to do with finding the device that best suits your needs. eg: Google search: "Best 8" Tablet" .... If you happen to have wanted an 8" sized tablet etc, you could then use Google or any other search to find it locally or online to purchase. With that said if a search finds you 100 different Android tablets I would presume that the manufacturers of these Tablet do indeed actually sell a number of units otherwise they would cease production.

As for me personally if Apple had made a 7" Tablet with flash support and expandable memory I would have most likely gone with it.. fact is they dont and

April 03 2012 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andy Mac

Flash Support & Expandable memory.

Whats the point of 1080 p or higher video resolution playback if you can only store 3-4 movies on your device before filling up the internal non expandable. It's also AMAZING to me that the lack of "REAL" flash support is seen as as only a trivial setback. Both of these things are MAJOR reasons why as a neutral non opinionated consumer the Ipad was immediately dismissed from the equation.

April 03 2012 at 11:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alex C

The last time I saw any concrete numbers, they put the iPad around 55% market share, with Android just under 40% ( http://androidandme.com/2012/03/tablets-2/android-tablet-market-share-to-eclipse-ios-by-2015/ ) and notably growing, so while it's fair to say that no single Android has approached the iPad in terms of sales, it's not fair to say that they Android on tablets has failed altogether.

Admittedly, the data is on shipments, 23% of the Android share is in the low-end devices, and this is worldwide rather than just the US, where Apple would be stronger.

Many of the low-end units are built on Android 2.1 - 2.3, and as such they are a very different animal from the 3.0-4.0 devices.

April 01 2012 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alex C's comment
FalKirk

While it may be true that Apple has 58% of tablet sales and Android has 39% of tablet shipments (sales are unconfirmed) that does not bode well for Android at all. Sales of traditional Android units actually shrank to 23% with the Amazon Fire and Nook taking up the other 16% of Android sales. In the span of 90 days, 40% of the Android market was captured by money-losing products specifically designed to promote Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's content ecosystems.

In other words, the gains for Android tablets in the second half of 2011 were secured at a cost of 41 percent decline in the average street price for Android tablets. Apple, on the other hand, retained 74 percent of the revenue share of the tablet market even as its unit share declined to 57 percent.

Android's progress in taking tablet market share has come almost entirely as a result of cheap pricing rather than superior user experience or other serious, profit-generating advantages.

Source: Why the Google Android Tablet Market Is Far Weaker Than It Seems

April 01 2012 at 9:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andy Mac

I never post on these kinds of things but I feel the need to here.

Firstly I was of the opinion that all Tablets period were gimmicky wastes of money and personally was of the opinion that it seemed illogical to spend $500 on a tablet that can do half of what a $400 netbook can do, and if buying a 10 inch tablet not really gaining much of an edge in portability.

With that said my wife talked me into using my next upgrade into getting here a new smartphone (galaxy s2), and I was left with my old one so I started considering a tablet. I have a 17" laptop and the tablet started to make sense for quick checking emails and web surfing etc. Now my biggest thing with Tablets and to a certain extent still is, is that for me a tablet must be something different to a netbook or micro thin notebook. After much research my decision was the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 plus. I did consider the Transformer Prime, Galaxy tab 10.1, and the Ipad 2 (Apple dont even give you the option of sizes) but for me they just didn't seem portable enough. I wanted something portable not something that is theoretically portable and for me the 10" size is to big to be truly portable and "Take anywhere" size.

I must say that after around 6 months of owning the 7 plus (The galaxy 7 plus is the fastest of all 7 inch tablets) I love it. As far as android is concerned I have NEVER not found an app to do something I wanted it to do, and as of today most if not all the best games available on Ipad are now on Android. I understand that Apple has more apps but true comparison of apps is more like Direct TV VS Dish Network rather then paid tv vs free tv.

Basically my point is that I love my Android tablet and feel like stories like this are EXTREMELY misleading. A simple google search of all the available Android tablets and multiple manufacturers making them shows how popular they are. Side by side reviews of the Ipad over tablet like the Transformer prime are widely available also showing that the Ipad is not in any way better then whats available with Android. There are so many reasons to choose android over apple its not even funny.. for example for me the ability to expand the memory via micro sd is a complete and utter deal breaker and reason enough in itself to choose an android device.. the list truly does go on.

April 01 2012 at 10:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Andy Mac's comment
FalKirk

"A simple google search of all the available Android tablets and multiple manufacturers making them shows how popular they are."- Andy Mac

I was with you word for word, right up until this point. You found a tablet you loved and that gave you great value. Good for you.

But suggesting that a Google search correlates with popularity? Please.

"Side by side reviews of the Ipad over tablet like the Transformer prime are widely available also showing that the Ipad is not in any way better then whats available with Android."-Andy Mac

Tim Bajarin wrote the perfect response to this, so I'll simply quote him:

While (Android manufacturers) think that they can compete with Apple when it comes to hardware, and maybe even software, what they all pretty much know is that the secret to Apple success is that they have built their hardware and software around an integrated ecosystem based on a very powerful platform.

(W) hen Apple engineers start designing a product, the center of its design is the platform. For most of Apple competitors, it is the reverse; the center of their design is the device itself, and then they look for apps and services that work with their device in hopes that this combination will attract new customers. In the end, this is Apple major advantage over their competitors and they can ride this platform in all kinds of directions."

Source: How Apple is Cornering the Market in Mobile Devices | TechPinions

April 01 2012 at 9:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Clarence

As a owner of the main flagship tablet running Android 4.0 ICS, the ASUS Transformer Prime having used it for close to 4 months now I can tell you that Android 4.0 is not ready for mainstream yet. It's littered with bugs, I feel that ASUS has used early adopters as beta testers.

If you want to experience lag, load stalls, force close, and lots of not responding warnings, pick up a Android tablet running Ice Cream Sandwhich.
This happens so often through routine use of the Prime I forget that this is a bug that I as a consumer should never have to experience frequently.

There's also the occasional random reboot that usually occurs after a native app (preinstalled app) stops responding.

I read that if you pick up an iphone or iPad that you can get it to surf the web and launch apps out of the box without running to these issues.

Come to the XDA Developers TFP (Transformer Prime) forum. it's where most of us Prime users post our shared experienced problems.

I put blame on both ASUS and Google for not properly quality testing this before green lighting these products. I surely won't go Android or ASUS on my next hardware purchase. It will likely be Microsoft or Apple.

April 01 2012 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
William Jaffa

Wow... This dude is on the "Apple Sauce". My Xoom tablet ROCKS!

April 01 2012 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to William Jaffa's comment
jessedegenerate

one could just say your on the google sauce.

As someone who owns a Transformer prime, a100, and touchpad, iPads to destroy android tabs, and it is all in the apps.

Deal.

April 01 2012 at 8:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FalKirk

"My Xoom tablet ROCKS!"-William Jaffa

I'm glad you like your Xoom, William, but that does not change the fact that there were only 1 million Xoom units sold in all of 2011 and that the Xoom and all other competing tablets badly trail the iPad in customers satisfaction ratings. To put that in perspective, last quarter Apple sold 1 million iPads every five days.

Source: Motorola tablet news: Xoom sales at 1 million, Jan 27, 2012

Source: Apple’s iPad Leads In Customer Ratings

Source: Apple January Earnings Teleconference

Now does that mean that I am criticizing the Xoom or saying that the iPad is for everyone? Absolutely not. I don't always buy the best selling product and I'm glad that I have the freedom to purchase the product that best suits my needs.

However, pretending that reality isn't real helps no one. The question isn't which tablet sells the most or which tablet is most popular or which tablet makes the most money. That's known. What's unknown is what Google and the other Android tablet manufacturers are going to do to change that reality.

April 01 2012 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Denny Craneftw

"Android fragmentation", Boy, those iPeople love that talking point.
...but then again, try updating the original iPhone or iPhone 3g to iOS 5. Not happening. And the next iOS version is staging and they're saying it won't work on the iPhone 4 or the original iPad. And iOS 5 on the original iPad broke the multitouch functionality.
Windows is no better. There's lots of WinMo 6.1 and 6.5 phones out there that cannot run WP7. And many WP7 phones that won't be able to run Win8 Metro.
In fact, Android is the only company out there that's UNfragmenting. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) will be used as a single OS for tablets and phones. My Android phone is scheduled to receive ICS this Wednesday and my Android tablet scheduled a couple weeks later.
Sound like the author is of the simple mindset that if she likes something, she has to show it by trashing the companies that compete with her beloved iPad. It's OK, Evan... the rest of us liking our Android products doesn't take away from your Apple ownership experience. I promise!

April 01 2012 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim C.

Oh.
Wow.
Jeese, where do I start?

1. You state that they have failed, but they keep on making them and people keep on buying them. Please clarify what you mean by failed because I don't see it.
2. Apple always comes out strong and then looses in the long run due to closed standards and draconian policies and ticked off tech savvy customers. I don't see where this has changed so I don't see how the outcome will change either. They will loose their edge in the tablet market unless they fundamentally change their ideology. Note that they could actually do that without Darth Jobs. Unless they do, though, the iPad will dethrone itself eventually just like the iPod.
3. Chinese slave workers. 'nuff said. That won't last.
4. I can buy an Android device and get a familiar interface on the vary latest hardware. Apple's hardware eventually gets stale and then there is a hardware technological gap between the old product and the brand new shiny one. Android experiences no such gap.
5. Cost. iPad = iOuch.

Lastly, these markets are in so much turmoil due to rapid innovation, changing international circumstances and economies. The one thing a person can be certain of is change. For example, the various Linux distros are hard at work making each version of Linux mobile device compatible. Ubuntu will run on your phone or tablet someday soon. That will definitely change the market. Apple may be leading the way but Android and Linux are in it for the long haul and as always "free" is a pretty tough price to beat.

March 31 2012 at 11:39 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Jim C.'s comment
FalKirk

"1. You state that (Android Tablets) have failed, but they keep on making them and people keep on buying them."-Jim C.

Source please. No Android maker - not one - is releasing sales figures. Why do you suppose that is?

"2. Apple always comes out strong and then looses in the long run..."

Would you call being bigger than Microsoft and Google combined "losing in the long run"?

Source: Apple is now bigger than Microsoft and Google combined

3. Chinese slave workers...

...whose biggest complaint is that they don't get enough overtime.

"The biggest gripe, which surprised us somewhat, is that they don’t get enough overtime. They wanted to work more, to get more money."

Source: Now Can We Start Talking About the Real Foxconn? - Bloomberg

"4. I can buy an Android device and get a familiar interface on the vary latest hardware."

But you can't get the very latest Ice Cream Software on 98.4% of your Android hardware.

Source: Android Fragmentation Growing Worse With ICS

Source: iOS 5.1 Reaches 61% Adoption in Just 15 Days | MacTrast

"5. Cost. iPad = iOuch"

You're right. Apple's low iPad price is putting a hurting on Android sales.

Source: 'Apple Tax' Reversed; Why Few Can Compete with the iPad on Price ...

April 01 2012 at 1:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to FalKirk's comment
jessedegenerate

Failed: 2000 preorders for transformer prime. They wouldn't release the numbers till they were sued by the transformers toy maker bandai.

2. I'm far more tech savy than you, and I use apple products:)

3. Who do you think makes your gadgets your massive hypocrite?

Cost = to prime and other comparable tablets.

Have fun with your prime. (FYI, I own more android devices than you, I work it for the 3rd largest marketing company in the world:)

April 01 2012 at 8:30 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Shao

If you want to compare total amount of "apples" with total amount of "pears" sold, then make sure you count all baskets, not just Asus.

March 31 2012 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Missing Xtension

Ok this is ediotic.
Everyone knows that ios is a smartphone mickey mouse operating system.
Then to go and say that android is a smartphone mickey mouse operating system is just stupid.
The pot calling the kettle black, or The apple calling the orange fruity.
Apple has brought a lot of lazy developers that dont want to deal with resolutions or hardware scaling.
Come one, the only limit on pc applications now a days is if you go too low, then it wont fit on screen.
I thought resolution issues were from the windows 98 days.
Either way I agree with the underlying message, what i dont agree with is that apple has a tablet operating system.
They are both smart phone operating systems, every other smartphone operating system has been more capable that android and ios. If I had a windoze ce device with the specs of todays phone there is no reason it wouldnt work as good(symbian, winmo, palm os, bb).

March 31 2012 at 11:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Missing Xtension's comment
Missing Xtension

Ok i have to admit that once ios and android have been cracked you can install busybox, but otherwise.....

March 31 2012 at 11:19 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jessedegenerate

First, spell idiotic right, second, you have no clue about ios and you confuse simplicity for power. No one on this thread uses tablets as actual computers more the me.

I own 3 apple tabs, and 2 android ones.

Until your streaming your entire library, Piggy backing vpns to get into computers for support via rdp/vnc, and watching your sick cat through it PTZ cams, then your using the toy

April 01 2012 at 8:18 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply