Let’s face it. Until Google’s Nexus 7, Android tablets weren’t doing so well. In fact, the one to really boost “Android tablets” significantly before the Nexus 7 was the Amazon Kindle Fire – an “outsider” of the Android ecosystem, because the Fire had its own ecosystem, and was effectively a fork of Android.
Fortunately, Nexus 7 took the spotlight away from it as soon as it launched, and it managed to not only sell pretty well on its own (over 7 million units), but also improve the image of Android tablets in general, which helped Android tablets take almost 50 percent of the tablet market in recent quarters.
But even the Nexus 7 was a little hindered by one fact: few Android apps that were optimized for tablets. On one hand, all normal Android apps work on tablets, but on the other hand, only some look and work great on them, UI-wise. This has changed a lot over the past year or so, since the first Nexus 7 launched, but there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made, and Google needs to convince developers to actually make apps on Android first, be that for phones or tablets.
Hugo Barra, says over 60 percent of the Android apps have an UI that can work well on tablets, but that’s till pretty far from 100 percent. Granted, Apple only has about half the total apps as tablet apps, too, but I guess people don’t notice that because all tablet apps are in their own category, so people don’t even think about questioning why some iPhone app doesn’t have a tablet version for iPad, because all they see in the tablet app category is tablet apps. On Android, at least so far, Android tablet apps have been mixed together with the phone apps, because they are really one and the same – the same codebase.
Another right call for Google that they’ve made recently was to start pushing games with the Google Play Games app and with the native support for OpenGL ES 3.0 in Android 4.3, which should significantly improve graphics in 3D games on Android going forward.
“If you look at the top 20 highest grossing game developers on iOS and Android, 19 of them are on Android with the majority of, if not all of, their titles,” Hugo Barra said.
Hugo also had something to say about the quality of Android tablet hardware:
“I really do think that the Android ecosystem hasn’t yet put its best foot forward, when it comes to tablets”. If you look at the execution that HTC did on [the One smartphone], it’s pristine. Why hasn’t someone done that on the tablet? Or on like ten tablets? I think we are perhaps coming close to it, but this is a $200 device. If you were to price it at $300 or $400 you could do something a little bit more in that territory in terms of polish and finish and materials and so on. Why hasn’t that happened yet?”
I like that Google is finally starting to have this sort of attitude about these things – an attitude towards high quality devices, and it makes me hopeful that the upcoming Nexus 10 with KLP will be really great.