CES 2012: An Android Letdown

CES 2012

The Consumer Electronics Show isn’t an Android specific event, but Android has been one of the stars of the show of late. Last year there was a load of Android product announcements, and sadly quite a few of those products flopped (looking at you Dell) before this CES even began. Still, it was a great year to be an Android fan at CES.

This year, there are some amazing tablets and phones that have been announced by the Android OEM’s. There are some great new phones, tablets and phoneblets this year from all of the usual suspects like Acer, Samsung, Asus and Lenovo among others. We have Tegra 3 quad core processors, Gorilla Glass 2 and OLED screens. The hardware is just amazing, and quite a lot of it will be running Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. It’s another great year to be an Android fan at CES. Or so you’d think.

Of all the tablet and phone announcements to come out of CES 2012, I’m most intrigued by what Lenovo is going to be offering later this year. The S2 tablet won’t be sporting the latest and greatest Tegra 3 quad core chip, but I’m still willing to look at it. There’s also the K2 from Lenovo that caught my eye. That one has the Tegra 3 quad core processor so maybe I’ll pick that one.

If neither of the Lenovo tablets really does it for me, I could always fall back and have a look at the Transformer Prime. That one seems to be the new ICS hotness and it’s got that chip in it. Is that the one? Well, it could be, but given that it’s been out for a few weeks it’s getting a little long in the tooth by Android device standards. But it’s a great device. Or so I’ve heard. Should I get that one?

How about the Toshiba Excite X10? That looks to be a smoking hot tablet, and even though I can’t remember much about it, it has to be worth the $529 price tag. Right?

Let’s back up for a minute and take a little quiz here. Which tablet belongs to these specs:

  • Tegra 3 quad core chip
  • 1GB RAM
  • 32/64 storage
  • 1280×800 screen
  • 10+ hour battery life
  • microSD card slot

Is it:

  1. Asus Transformer Prime
  2. Lenovo K2
  3. Toshiba Excite X10
  4. Acer Iconia A700

Wrong! Those specs belong to all of those tablets, and THAT is the letdown for me.

If you aren’t looking for a fingerprint scanner or keyboard dock when you skip in to the store to shop for your new tablet, the Android section is going to be a hot mess of confusing hardware designs and brand names. There just isn’t much in the way of substance that sets these devices apart. Minor differences in specs and somewhat unique hardware designs are really the only way that you can tell these tablets apart. Well, I guess these custom UI overlays also differentiate the devices, but I see manufacturer skins as a pain point, not a selling feature.

Android tablets have become what Android phones have almost always been: a confusing mess of too many devices with too few unique features that will all be replaced in a few months with the newest shiny. Oh, and the manufacturer will likely abandon your new device and it’s OS version before your warranty even runs out.

Motorola seems to have gotten the message that device overload is a negative for not only Android, but also for the OEM’s. They’ve announced that they will release fewer devices focusing on making better products, with CEO Sanjay Jha saying:

“Over-choice hasn’t helped drive the marketplace,” he said, but he added that his decision wasn’t a reaction to the flood of phones coming to the market.

Along with fewer, better devices I hope that Motorola plans to do a better job of supporting the devices that they sell. They have a much better track record than Samsung when it comes to OS updates, but there is still a lot of room for improvement from Moto.

And hopefully the other Android devices makers are paying attention to what Motorola is doing.