While Android tablets are still trying to find their feet in the great shadow of the iPad, 2013 has been another great year for Android tablets. In fact, 2013 was arguably the year that tablets running Google’s OS “found themselves” and figured out what they were good for and what they good at doing, at least for those under 10-inches. If 2012 was a relatively quiet year for Android slates then 2013 was practically a spring break party. This year we saw a more diverse helping of tablets from Android manufacturers than any other previous year, save for perhaps 2011 when Android 3.0 Honeycomb was unleashed unto the world. Let’s take a look back at the year that was for Android tablets, who the main players were and what were the headlining Android tablets from 2013.
The Little Prince Returns: The Nexus 7 Grows Up a Little Bit
Last year’s Nexus 7 was great (in fact, I personally still haven’t given it up) but this year’s model was altogether a better go of things from ASUS and Google. While the price rose a little, so too did the fit and finish and of course, the internals. Shipping with an incredible 1920 x 1200 7-inch display and a Snapdragon S4 Pro the 2013 model of the Nexus 7 ticked all the right boxes and then some. Improving on last year’s in pretty much every way, this was a sign that Google is serious about Android tablets, or at least they’re pretty serious about the Google Play Store. After all, the Nexus 7 was always meant to be a content consumption device and this year’s Nexus 7 is one of the best out there with a fantastic display and brilliant performance. Falling in line with the Nexus 5, design wise the 2013 Nexus 7 was one the tablets to buy this year, no matter your allegiance to Google, Android, Apple, Windows or whatever – it’s a great tablet, period.
8-inch Tablets Hit the Scene
With 7-inch tablets proving more than successful, manufacturers started to come up with larger devices that were still as portable as those 7-inchers while offering a little screen real-estate at the same time. LG’s G Pad 8.3 took that concept further than others, offering an 8.3-inch display at 1920 x 1200 along with a Snapdragon 600 and a pretty aluminum build. In fact, Google must have liked the device as they recently picked it up as another Google Play Edition device, at the same affordable price as the regular G Pad 8.3. Samsung also introduced 8-inch tablets in the form of the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 and the Galaxy Note 8.0, both offering similar designs to each other and cutting a compromise between price and performance. These 8-inchers are here to stay and throughout 2013 they were looked upon as an oddity of the tablet industry but, they certainly got people thinking a little differently about larger Android tablets.
10-inch Android Tablets Get Serious with the Specs
Throughout most of 2012, the best 10.1-inch Android tablets on offer were Google’s Nexus 10 and the original Galaxy Note 10.1 (which wasn’t all that good anyway). This year however, things were very different. We saw Sony pushing style and usability with the sleek and waterproof Xperia Tablet Z, meanwhile ASUS and Samsung were pushing the specs. With ASUS launching a much-anticipated follow-up to the Transformer Infinity, with a Tegra 4 CPU, a 10.1-inch 2560 x 1600 display and of course, that brilliant keyboard dock, it certainly ticked a lot of boxes, that’s for sure. While 10-inch tablets are still looked upon as nothing more than giant Android phones by some, Samsung and ASUS once again challenged that idea this year. With the Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition, Samsung proved that 10-inch Android tablets have their place at work and can be genuinely useful when on the road. Certainly there’s a lot that needs to be done when it comes to apps but, 2013 saw the bar raised for specs when it comes to these slates.
The S-Pen Graduates to 8-inches and 10-inches
The Galaxy Note line has already proven itself remarkably popular when it comes to smartphones but this year, Samsung decided to expand the lineup a little more, once again. With the Galaxy Note 8.0, Samsung finally offered a device with true pen-input for those looking for a tablet that’s both portable and powerful, as well as those that don’t want a phone as large as a Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 8.0 however, didn’t bring the specs like its bigger brother the Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition, instead packing the same internals as the Galaxy Note II in what looked like a giant Galaxy S4 shell. It is however, competitively priced compared to the G Pad 8.3 and Nexus 7. The Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition was a much better display of what the S-Pen can really do, utilizing advanced features such as Air Command that debuted with the Galaxy Note 3 and featuring a stunning 2560 x 1600 display. Samsung has been pretty happy to push the S-Pen ever since the original Galaxy Note enjoyed some success but, this year they really pushed the little stylus that could into new territory.
Something Different from Lenovo
These days, it’s pretty difficult to design something genuinely different when it comes to smartphones and tablets. After all, there’s only so much you can do with a big piece of glass. Lenovo however, managed to do just that with their two Yoga tablets that debuted towards the end of the year. With a decent build featuring metal construction and an innovative “hump” that provided battery life no other tablet can rival, the Yogas have a lot going for them. They might not have the best specs in the world but, Lenovo has managed to price them well, considering their quality build and long-lasting battery life. They share a name with the company’s Windows laptop/hybrid thanks to the flip out stand housed in that hump. You can use the tablet stood up on a tablet to watch a film completely hands free, it’s easy to hold on to when reading and works well when propped up on a desk to provide better typing support. Overall, Lenovo genuinely did something different with their tablet designs this year and Lenovo have been a sleeping giant throughout most of the year.