Should I get an Android iPad Clone

November 23, 2010

It seems that every man and his dog are trying to create an iPad clone and most are doing a poor job of it.

The problem is that Apple created a fantastic device to solve a problem that perceptually wasn’t there in the first place. Their genius was to produce a product that people would love to pick up and be able to use instantly. They had a pedigree blueprint in the form of the iPhone and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that the designs are similar – after all people joked that it was just a giant iPhone. But that’s the foundation of its meteoric rise.

Much of the functionality on the iPhone has been around in other devices for sometime in one guise or another; after all it was blackberry that revolutionised mobile email. But Apple made it beautiful. Apple made it desirable. Apple made it simple!

In the past companies have tried in the past the make a tablet but all failed to penetrate the market and it’s easy to see why. The interface was clinical; using a pen with Windows just didn’t feel right – it was close but not quite there; certainly not as sexy as swiping your finger over a glossy screen. And Windows also took and age to start.

Android to the rescue

Given that iOS is closed and wholly operated by Apple, how could hardware manufacturers compete without huge investment? Easy, use the Google Android OS.

The problem is that the clone market is in its infancy. It’s taken a few years for mobile manufacturers like HTC and Samsung to get anywhere near the sexy look and feel of an iPhone. But none of that’s translated into a decent iPad clone yet.

The Problem

The biggest problem is user perception. If we look at the rest of the slate market they all seem to look identical. And from a consumer point of view they expect them to act the same…but they don’t.

Starting with the budget end of the market, a device that sells for £99 must have had to cut corners somewhere along the line. And they have. The three most notable areas are:

  • Battery Life – the cheaper batteries in these devices are just going to die quicker. Plus the multitasking in Android, or rather its background services, will always have a bigger impact on battery life than Apple’s iOS.
  • Touch Screen – Apple use a capacitive screen while the budget clones use a cheaper resistive screen as the production costs are lower. The resistive screen does offer greater accuracy but loses the fluid tactility of a more sensitive capacitive screen that people associate with quality. However, accuracy is less of an issue on slate devices when the interface has been designed to work with fat fingers.
  • OS – the operating system lies at the heart of an interactive device given the unique input method. The gotcha for the budget Android slates is the version. Many of the lower end market are using version 1.6 of Android. The latest version 2.2 has been honed to be leaner and faster.

All these factors lead to consumer disappointment.

Gun loaded, foot ready…fire!

It seems that many of these manufacturers have set themselves up for failure.

The Toshiba Folio 100 tablet was recently pulled from Currys and PC World because its poor build quality and buggy software. But worst still, it didn’t allow users to access the Android Market place, Googles version of Apples App store, and given that Market Place has over 70,000 apps of which 57% are free who would want it!

It seems that in the race to overthrow Apple, everyone’s loses sight of what they are trying to achieve.

The Android devices could dominate the market because they can easily compete on price but better still they can enhance the experience as the user interface is customisable – and there’s no better evidence of this in the shape of HTCs Sense UI. Just look at the HTC Wild Fire, an example of a budget phone that can push its way to the front of the queue.

There’s no doubt that the budget slate is set to be popular this Christmas. I just hope they don’t end up in the cupboard with the sandwich toaster.