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Will Android Tablets Ever Take Off?

May 13, 2019

In light of Samsung's recent Galaxy Fold debacle, we thought it would be fitting to sit down with a couple of our developers/tech enthusiasts to get their take on the future of this technology. We also wanted to find out why Android Tablets are failing to thrive, how a lack of support could be a factor in their roadblock, how Android tablets stack up against the iPad, and the price/model that we think may actually give them a fighting chance.

Q: Why does no one care about android tablets? How does this affect dev support available for this platform?

Over the last 6 or 7 years (the time I've been paying attention to mobile), it seems to fall into the "no one really cares about android tablets" category.

Tablet sales overall have continued to decline. This is not just specific to Android tablets. Apple continues to be the market leader in this category of device. I believe apple continues to lead because of app support of this form factor on iOS. The experience of using android apps on tablets is inferior, since many developers do not optimize for tablet screen resolutions. Because sales are so small, developers don’t have much incentive to adopt tablets.

Q: How will support increase with device popularity? How does device support directly affect popularity?

As foldable devices like the Galaxy Fold become more popular (I actually think it's pretty cool), tablet support will probably improve since the phone IS the tablet.

There are many factors that cause a platform to catch on with consumers. You can have a really nice device, but if software is terrible or if you don’t have apps, then hardware doesn’t matter (Windows Phone). So yes, better software should result in more adoption. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with an iPhone user who has been tempted by Android devices only to stay with iOS because their favorite app or experience was on iOS. They stay with the “boring” platform (their words) because of software. If Google wants Android tablet adoption to improve, then they need to make it trivial (or even automatic) for apps to support a tablet experience.

Q: How will these devices compete with iPads? What route should Samsung take to stay competitive?

The real problem with tablets (in the Android world) is the existence of the iPad. It is a FAR superior tablet, so it gets all the love. If Samsung can start a trend of foldable devices, then I think the apps will follow as demand increases.

Samsung is pushing the bleeding/sci-fi edge with the fold. The mobile market has been so stagnant for the last few years with no one truly innovating. Now that there’s very little incentive for customers to upgrade year over year, companies need to innovate. It’s no longer acceptable to do a minor spec bump and expect customers to upgrade their $1,000 device. There needs to be REAL innovation and not just notches and headphone jack removals. At least Samsung is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Q: How will price affect popularity, and what are the advantages to a device that’s both a phone AND a tablet?

It takes more time & money to make sure that your app works on all form factors and screen densities. If a lot of consumers have devices that are larger, then the apps  should follow. HOWEVER, the problem with the Galaxy fold is the price. It's a 1% device. $2,000 for a phone, even if it is also a tablet, is a lot to ask consumers to buy.

For consumers (and not just well-endowed early adopters) to latch on to an idea, there needs to be support, software, durability, and longevity for such an expensive device.

Support: I would not feel comfortable spending this much money on a Samsung device. Android Q is embracing folding display devices, so the OS is there. However, Samsung has a spotty record of device support. Would anyone buy a laptop expecting to only get software updates for 2 years? That’s crazy. Samsung (all Android OEMs… and Google) needs to make this more of a priority.

Software: The OS supports the display, but will developers? Only if the form factor catches on. There’s very little incentive for an Android developer to specifically support a device that is used by 0.001% of their users. Because of this, Google needs to make developing for tablets/folding displays a no-brainer.

Durability: Early device recall and obvious fragility on an extremely expensive device. -10 out of 10 on a durability scale.

Longevity: With terrible durability, shoddy support record, and terrible ecosystem support for tablet form factors… the fold (and android tablets) remain a terrible choice. You have to really want to be an early adopter and beta tester to buy this device right now.

Q: What price and model will do well in this market and why?

For this device to actually catch on, it needs to be a no-brainer to purchase. I think a company will have to embrace some of the risk initially by being willing to make less profit. At $2,000 this is a hard “no” from me. For $1,200 or even $1,500, I think they would capture a lot more people with this device since that's about what you would expect to pay for both a tablet and a flagship phone.

Maybe the price is an indicator of how hard they are to produce and their confidence in being able to produce them.