The downfall of Android tablets and how great UX can revive them | by Shaunak Bhanarkar | Aug, 2021

The concept of tablets became popular when Apple released the first iPad in 2010. And the iPad lineup has grown since then, and has attracted numerous consumers across the globe. Following the initial success of the iPad, Android OEMs also tried to enter this segment. However, Android tablets couldn’t compete with their Apple counterparts, and soon witnessed a downfall.

It is evident that tablets do not pose the same use cases for all consumers. In fact, tablets as personal devices are meant only for specific people. That’s because smartphones satisfy most of the general requirements. And with phones getting bigger every year, general public doesn’t necessarily need tablets. Further, for any specific advanced tasks, there are laptops and PCs. Thus, tablets need to provide something truly compelling.

iPad is a great device for artists because it provides the features they want (Source: DigitalArts)

One might then question — how did the iPad find its path to success? The answer is “by focusing on certain segments of users”. There’s no doubt that the iPad lineup rose to fame due to its great overall design and ease of use. Though the iPad has gradually evolved to fit a wider set of use cases, the primary reason behind its success is that Apple delivered specific features useful for certain people. For example, modern professional artists and content creators see a huge value in using an iPad because it helps them get the stuff done more easily than a laptop or a phone. Today, iPad has become more of a general device which can be used by anyone. For instance, an iPad can be used for recreational and entertainment purposes. Even for such a simple and generic use case, Apple has particularly implemented features in the software in order to provide an amazing experience. The optimisation of apps for the iPad makes it a great device.

Google Nexus 7 without tablet optimised UI (Source: Wired)

On the contrary, Android tablets didn’t do this. OEMs simply built large screen devices running on Android, which wasn’t enough to stand a chance in front of the superior iPad. Consistently poor designs and lack of support from the developer community further made Android tablets almost unusable. As a matter of fact, Google did put in its fair share of efforts by rolling out Android Honeycomb (which was dedicated for large screen devices, particularly tablets) and launching the Nexus tablets. But the vast variety of devices in the Android ecosystem made it difficult for Google to optimise the OS. Samsung was one of the key players in producing good Android tablets, but the company indirectly killed its tablet segment by introducing the Galaxy Note series (which was referred to as “phablet” at the time). It can be assumed that Google didn’t support the tablets either, as the focus naturally shifted to Pixel Slate and Chromebooks. Today, there are companies which still make Android tablets, but they have a very small market share because these devices are nowhere near to the iPad.

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