By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news about the WiFi Motorola XOOM getting a price cut to $499, but is it only because the XOOM 2 just passed the FCC? Is it because the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thinner, lighter, cheaper, and basically the same product? Is it because nobody’s buying the XOOM? Who know’s, but one thing I do know is that some things need to change in order for Android tablets to be as popular as their cell phone counterparts.
There is no reason that a tablet — which by the way is still very much a first generation pilot-product — should cost $800 and be tied to a two-year contract. That’s not how you reel in early adopters. Is Motorola trying to scare people away? I’m not even tied to my own phone for two years, why would I for a tablet that’s going to be outdated in couple of months? It has been discovered that it only costs $278 to build a XOOM tablet, and considering Android is a free operating system, how in the world did Motorola come up with this price? For $800, you can get a full-blown laptop (contract-free) with its very own keyboard, camera, all the apps you can imagine, a bigger screen, a longer lasting battery, DVD/Blu-Ray player, plenty of USB inputs, and a much more polished and reliable experience.
Sometime after the XOOM was released I went to my local Best Buy store to check it out. I went to the Mobile Phones section because that’s where the iPad and the other tablets are. There was a huge, bright colorful iPad 2 sign prominently displayed in this section of the store, with two iPads right there in front of it. It was impossible to ignore. Next to it was a couple of junk Android tablets and a Galaxy Tab (7 inch). No XOOM anywhere in sight. Huh? I asked the employee why the XOOM wasn’t out on display and he didn’t even know what the XOOM was. I asked another employee and he said lazily pointed to the other end of the store saying, “Oh, its over there somewhere”. After about 10 minutes of searching, I found it. It was hidden between a bunch of $300-$400 netbooks and printer cables. Ouch! It really made that $800 price tag stand out, when right next to it is a netbook that can do just as much (if not, more) for half the price and no 2 year commitment.
Motorola, and every other tablet manufacturer, has got to do a better job at advertising their tablet to normal people. When the XOOM and the Atrix 4G commercials would come on TV, all you would hear is a spec-sheet rundown: “blah blah dual-core gigahertz processor, gigabytes of memory, 4G”. Not once do they say what the product is or does. Instead of just throwing out the fact that it has a dual-core processor, how about explaining how a dual-core processor can benefit the user during daily use and why it’s better than the competition’s (Apple) offering.
And did you guys see that superbowl ad? Come on, for the first major ad for a pilot-product, take that time to make an impressive first impression. Describe what it does, make your audience say “Hmm, that’s pretty cool, I could probably use something like that in my life. Let me go play with it at Best Buy”. Samsung did a great job with their Galaxy Tab 7 commercial and I encourage others to take the same approach.
Google and Android manufacturers must do a better job at luring developers to make more tablet specific apps. Sure the apps already available can scale up to take better advantage of the extra screen real-estate, but if I wanted an app that looks exactly like it does on my phone, why would I need a tablet? The purpose of having the larger display is to utilize it, and developers need not be lazy in optimizing their apps for the 10.1″ screen. The F-Word (fragmentation) is a poor and overblown excuse not to code. A developer’s job is to develop and these obstacles all come in a day’s work. Everybody already knows how much better Android is than the competition, but if apps don’t start being made (and fast), then people will realize that they don’t need to spend $800 for a device that’s a little more than a web browser and email client.
WiFi Models First
Tablet makers need to focus on making wifi-only models first, 3G/4G variants later. Nobody likes contracts for novelty devices. We probably might not even use the device that much to justify having to shell out money for it each month. And even if we do, many of the people looking to buy Android tablets have Android phones, and I’m willing to bet that many of them rooted their phones. And if they rooted their phones, then it’s a good chance they have the free WiFi Tether app and intend on using the data that they already pay for to tether it to their tablet.
With Google Branding
This is a perfect opportunity to make the With Google branding really mean something. Everybody loves to cry foul at how difficult it is coding for different screen sizes, hardware components, and software versions. The With Google branding could really help the consumer make a great purchase and encourage manufacturers to stick to certain requirements. The With Google branding for tablets could work like this:
- The screen has to be a certain size, 10.1″ seems to be everybody’s favorite. This will cut down on “fragmentation” by offering a standard screen size for developers to optimize their apps for.
- The device ships with stock Android, but can easily be switched to the manufacturer’s theme (Sense, TouchWiz, etc.) if the user chooses to. This will ensure that customers are guaranteed to get OS updates as fast as Nexus devices and press manufacturers to update their UI overlays as soon as possible, instead of waiting half a year to do so.
- The tablet is guaranteed timely OS software updates for a certain period of time (atleast two years) without needing to root. Everybody hates watching the new version of Android get demoed at Google I/O in May and not being able to update until March. Since the device has stock Android, it will be updated as soon as possible for at least two years. It gives the customer a sense of security in knowing their device won’t be outdated next year.
- Instead of Google forcing manufactures to adhere to these guidelines, tablets without the With Google branding will not be guaranteed to have the optimized tablet experience. Since the manufacturer did not choose to follow the guidelines, their devices are not guaranteed timely OS updates or a uniform user experience (much like it is today). This way, manufacturers are still free to squeeze Android into different form factors and screen sizes, but the With Google branded tablets will be the standard, completely optimized, uniform tablet experience. Everything will be guaranteed to run as it was intended.
I want an Android tablet. I really do! But I’m no fool. I’m an educated consumer who chooses to vote with my wallet. I’m not an iFanboy so you can’t just hypnotize me to buy anything you put out. Tablets aren’t like phones, they’re more like computers, and you don’t replace your computer every year, so why should you need to replace your tablet every year? I want a tablet that’s future-proof, something that I feel I can get my full money’s worth out of and be satisfied for at least 2 years. I also know that competition between manufacturers will bring these prices down because consumers realize they can buy an $350 tablet that will basically be the exact same thing as the $800 tablet, just with a different shell. This competition will also bring about increased specs because manufacturers realize that they all are making the same product, so they need a way to differentiate themselves and make their tablet more appealing to the customer. They will do this by offering the consumer more bang for their buck. Man I love competition, lets all sit back and see how everybody responds to Amazon’s Kal-El tablet.