Home' LAPTOP Magazine : February 2012 Contents The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime (p. 24)
is the first of what will likely be many Android
tablets that sport Nvidia’s new Tegra 3 quad-core
processor. This chiphasaton ofpower under thehood,
and each core has theability to run at1.3GHz. On our
testing, this beast of a slate outperformed its dual-core
predecessor by a wide margin in most benchmarks.
There’s just one problem: Users don’t care.
What tablet buyers do care about is what they
can do with all this extra power. And the answer so
Based on our Transformer Prime tests and some
early reviews, the lag that has dogged Android
Honeycomb tablets isn’t as bad as it once was.
But it’s still there. The software just doesn’t feel as
fluid as iOS. Worse, the Android Market still stocks
a sad number of tablet-optimized apps compared
to Apple’s App Store.
If you go to the Android Market right now, you’ll
see 188 apps (as of press time) listed in the Featured
Tablet section. If you search, you’ll find there are at
least 5,000 apps available in the Market that sup-
port Android 3.0 or higher, but most Android tablet
owners wouldn’t know how to find them. The iPad
has more than 140,000 apps that were designed
for Apple’s tablet.
So what about quality? The
Android Market is finally starting
to stock some apps optimized
for bigger screens, but there
are still plenty of them that are
just stretched-out smartphone
apps. In the good pile, you
have options such as the news
reader Pulse, which has an
attractive tile-style interface.
The recently revamped Netflix app is
another big-screen winner, with large
box art you can easily swipe through
beneath your recently played options.
In fact, right now, Netflix looks better
on Android than it does on iOS, which
uses a lot of wasted white space. The
iPad update is coming soon.
The game selection on Android tablets
has also improved. Titles such as Riptide
and Shadowgun are immersive and are
chock-full of even more eye candy when
played on a Tegra 3 tablet.
But then there are Android apps—lots
and lots of them—that just don’t translate
well to the bigger screen. Take Pandora.
On the iPad version, there’s an elegant
two-column layout that displays your stations on the
left side and the music that’s currently playing in the
middle. On the Android app, your list of stations is on
a different screen. Facebook created a dynamic iPad
app with a slide-out panel for quickly jumping to your
favorites and apps. The Android version is just the
phone app, which looks crude on an HD display. It’s
the same deal with the Twitter app.
It’s not necessarily Google’s fault that developers
are dragging their heels. Or is it? Back in October,
Android head Andy Rubin told a crowd at the AsiaD
show that “I don’t think there should be apps specific
to a tablet.” Rubin was referring to the fact that Android
4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, will unify Google’s
mobile operating systems, so making the distinction
between phones and tablets for developers might
I beg to differ.
Just because a smartphone has an HD display,
that doesn’t mean the user experience should be
the same on a handset as it is on a slate. It will be
critical for Google to push developers toward making
their tablet apps truly optimized for tablets. Heck,
pull a Microsoft and pay them if you have to.
Do I blame developers for taking their sweet
time? Not necessarily. According to the market
research company NPD, HP actually beat out
Samsung to be the No. 1 maker of tablets outside
of the iPad through October. Granted, a lot of the
credit goes to HP’s $99 TouchPad
fire sale, but the bottom line is that
consumers just haven’t been that
excited about Android slates.
Ironically, Amazon’s smaller
Android Appstore could be the
one to help Google close the app
gap with iOS. Given that millions of
customers have already snapped
up the Kindle Fire between now
and the end of the year, I expect a
lot more developers to pay attention
to Android in general. But for now,
stretched phone apps look fine on
that tablet’s 7-inch 1024 x 600 screen.
It will likely take Amazon debuting a
larger tablet to force developers to
deliver experiences tailor-made for
bigger and higher-res screens.
So does quad-core matter? Of course.
But shoppers won’t bite until Google and
its partners stock the Android Market
with at least quadruple the number of
compelling tablet apps.
Editor in Chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content. He has been covering mobile and wireless technology for more than a decade.
Read his weekly SpoonFed column at www.laptopmag.com/spoonfed, and follow @mspoonauer on Twitter.
by Mark Spoonauer
Laptop | February 2012
News & TreNds
Adding more cores to slates
won’t fix Google’s problem.
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