Android Tablet Ecosystem:
What would be a mobile operating system without a strong ecosystem? Just ask Microsoft and BlackBerry what they’d do get the most popular apps onto their respective platforms. You can implement as many features as you want in the OS, but at the end of the day, it’s the health of the ecosystem that will determine units sold.
Android for smartphones has over a million apps on the Google Play Store. Android for tablets however is a different story altogether. Two years ago when Honeycomb was unveiled, Google boasted about how there is no need for developers to develop separate apps for Android tablets as phone apps can simply scale up. This was in contrast to the iPad where iPhone apps would run in a small square in the middle of the screen and developers would have to create new apps for the bigger screen. Though, there are several reasons for Android’s weak tablet ecosystem, but I feel this mentality from Google is what really hampered growth.
Fortunately though Google seems to have realized the errors of its ways and are working diligently to deliver a first class tablet experience. In the previous part we listed all the Google apps that come bundled with the Nexus 7. They have all been updated for tablets and they all look quite beautiful. It’s clear that Google has spent a considerable amount of time insuring no pixel on the screen goes to waste and the user experience remains high class.
Google though cannot alone salvage the ecosystem. At the end of the day, third party developers will need to step up and create apps for the tablet. This is where the Play Store is a bit of a let down. Judging from the interface of the Play Store itself it becomes clear that Google is confused about how to deliver an optimum tablet experience. There is simply no way to browse through tablet only apps. There are tabs that list the most popular or the best rated apps for tablets but the selection is paltry, showing 10 apps at the most. What’s worse is that the ‘designed for tablets’ tab listed apps that were in fact not designed for tablets. While browsing through a list of apps there is no way to tell whether it’s designed for tablets or not. The only way is to view the screenshots.
Some of the most popular apps are yet to be updated for the big screen. The most glaring omission is the official Facebook and Twitter apps, both of which look hideous on the tablet. 80% of tablets shipped last quarter ran Android, why don’t the two biggest social networks on the planet have apps for this platform? It is quite puzzling to say the least, especially after knowing that Facebook is developing an app for Windows 8.
On the flip side, though the apps that are optimized for the big screen are actually quite splendid. You do get a few big named apps such as Flipboard and Pulse. There are quite a few others on the Play Store if you look hard enough. The Reddit app Baconit for example, looks stunning and is one of the best Reddit clients I’ve used.
At the end of the day though the tablet ecosystem for Android is still quite weak. Compared to the iPad’s 350,000+ apps you get less than 100,000. Suffice to say if you’re switching to a Nexus 7 or buying it as your first tablet, make sure your most used apps have been updated for the big screen.