News Analysis: When it comes to Android tablets, there are lots of choices, no two of which are the same.
The problem of which tablet to choose has grown significantly beyond the
once default choice-the Apple iPad. Now there are a number of Android tablets
on the market, and there are more tablet choices coming. Viewsonic is starting
to offer a tablet that works with either Android or Microsoft Windows 7.
Research In Motion has announced (but not shipped) its BlackBerry PlayBook
. And, of course the wireless carriers are hoping you'll pick one of
But even with the carriers, the complexity grows. You can get a Samsung
Galaxy Tab from all four of the major U.S. carriers at a wide range of prices
for what's essentially the same device
. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are
selling the iPad, although Verizon ships it with a WiFi hot spot and AT&T
with 3G support. Archos, meanwhile, sells an Android tablet without 3G, but it
has Bluetooth that should let you tether it to your smartphone so that you can
There are also a bunch of Android tablets that I've never heard of, which
would make me pause before I plunked down money for one of them. And then there
are the e-readers, which aren't exactly tablets, even though the two primary
products, the Kindle and the Nook, run versions of the Android OS.
So the question is, if I
were to buy a tablet, which one would I choose?
How would I choose?
This is an important question because an Android tablet has appeared on the
Christmas list of one of my children. This particular family member works for
one of those three-letter government agencies that keeps him on the road a lot,
so he wants something that will let him watch movies and read books. He doesn't
want 3G necessarily, but he'd like to be able to tether it to his BlackBerry
when he can't find WiFi.
If this quandary sounds familiar, it's because I went through a similar
process when I was looking for an e-reader prior to a trip overseas. My
thinking at the time was that it would be nice to have several books to read
without having to actually carry those several books. As is the case in such
decisions, I chose the product I did for reasons that had nothing to do with my
a look at what tablets are dominating the 2010 holiday shopping season, please
And I'll admit (despite the flak I'm sure to catch) that I bought an iPad.
But the reason is one that will not come to mind for most people. The reason in
this case is because I can get the complete
set of Jeppesen aviation and airport charts
only for the iPad. They're not
available for any of the various Android platforms. And if you've ever carried
a set of Jeppesen charts around in a briefcase, you'd understand immediately.
Those things are heavy.
But my requirements are a little more esoteric than those of some people. My
son, for example, isn't a pilot. He manages navigation just fine using his
BlackBerry. So we're back to the beginning of the question. What to choose?
He wants to watch movies, so the Amazon
and Barnes & Noble readers are out
. That leaves the Android tablets or
an iPad. The iPad costs too much and, besides, he wants an HDMI port. So we're
now considering an Android tablet. The Archos 70 has the required port, but it
seems to have limited memory, and from what I'm told (assuming I'm being told
correctly) it won't support Android beyond Version 2.2. But Android 2.3 is the
one optimized for tablets.
All of the Galaxy Tabs will reportedly support the new version of Android
when it's available for that platform. But those tablets are expensive-at least
as expensive as the iPad-and they all have a 3G radio that requires some sort
of data service. That means more cost.
So if cost is a major factor, then the best choice seems to be the Archos
and then hope that it will find a way to support Android 2.3. But, of course,
that tablet is perpetually out of stock at Amazon, so maybe I can't buy that
Now that I've pondered the Android tablet choices by looking at them as
potential gifts, I've found that I'm running across the same set of issues that
I'd run across when choosing a tablet for business. It's always critical to
balance cost against functionality, and features against requirements. If you
need that HDMI port, then there's no point considering tablets without it. If
you need to be able to upgrade to Android 2.3, then it's a waste of time to
consider tablets that can't be upgraded.
In a way, the tablet market is kind of like the very earliest days of PCs,
when it was common to find a wide variety of mutually incompatible devices,
each of which did one or two things well, but none of which did everything
well. We've moved to the point where PCs are fairly standardized, and that
makes life easier when it comes to integration. Perhaps with tablets, Android
and otherwise, the best course of action is to wait until the market settles
down a little unless you absolutely, positively have to have a tablet right now.