Dear Google: Don’t Make Me Buy a New Phone or Wait for Ice Cream Sandwich to Enjoy an Android Experience

I want to like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with Honeycomb 3.1 on it. I really, really do. But in its current form it can only be described as an expense piece of Beta Hardware. Yeah, yeah, I know, many folks are really enjoying Android Tablets. But, you know what, there are many folks who for whatever reason are on diets and enjoy pretending that they aren’t missing out on some good old fashioned artery busting foodstuffs as they watch their friends woof down platefuls of the yummy stuff.

It’s almost unfair of me to compare the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to the iPad 2, because in my view at this point they are just too far apart. So much so that I would think that the International Trade Commission (ITC) would have a hard time substantiating Apple’s claims that Samsung is copying what Apple does and vice when it comes to this device. I’m sure there are underlying IP issues, but from a User Experience issue it’s like comparing a luxury vehicle to a clunker.

Before I get to some specifics, let me say what prompted the headline of this post. I’ve been asking folks who enjoy their Android phones quite a few questions. Some of them have tried Android Tablets but most haven’t. Those I’ve let play around with the Galaxy Tab walk away decidedly unimpressed. I’ve toyed a bit with a few Android phones, but not enough to draw any real conclusions. That said, the consensus in my decidedly unscientific research is that Android (pick your flavor) on a phone is a completely different experience than Android (Honeycomb 3.1) on a Tablet. Let’s see, night and day, black and white, male and female, hot and cold, wet and dry, north and south, you name your opposite and that’s what I’m sensing.

I don’t want to buy an Android phone. Nothing against Android or Android phones, but I have a phone I like very much thank you. I’m not filled with enough gadget lust or OS curiosity to carry multiple contracts at the same time. And besides whatever I buy today will be surpassed tomorrow by something newer in the let’s intro a new Android phone every month game. I note with a wry smile that lots of folks were jumping up and down with glee lately when AT&T announced that any Android phones bought in 2011 would receive the 2.3 (Gingerbread) update. Gee, right about the time everyone will be talking Ice Cream Sandwich. All phones have their issues and benefits, detractors and advocates, but at least with the iPhone I know I won’t be looking at something newer for at least a year. It ain’t much, but it is something.

So, anyway, on to a few specifics.

Form Factor: The widescreen format may be great for watching movies, but it doesn’t fit my style. I like to spend most of my time in portrait mode, and the narrow feel in that orientation just doesn’t work for me. It apparently doesn’t work for Google either because the Android Market Place will only work in landscape mode. And I’m sorry but viewing a webpage in landscape mode on that narrow screen is just not appealing to me.

Apps: No, we won’t get into the numbers game here, even though at launch the HP TouchPad had more Tablet ready Apps available than there were in the Android Marketplace. Even with the promise of better usage of the screen coming down the road with Ice Cream Sandwich, at the moment many Apps that are not Tablet ready (optimized?) look just awful on the Android screen. The wasted screen real estate is just awful. It’s like moving into a new subdivision with large piles of dirt and construction debris just beyond your backyard. No matter how much your grass grows it still looks ugly. An excellent example of this is Evernote. Evernote recently made an update to its Android App and now it looks like a Tablet App. Before, you could get a better visual experience using the web version. Kudos to Evernote by the way, the new Android version looks great.

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Even Google’s own new and shiny Google+ App wastes screen real estate horrendously. And, in fact, you can’t do the usual pull down to refresh in new updates in the App the way you can using the HTML version on the iPad or the iPhone. Even the iPhone App version does that. I’m not sure if this behavior is different on Android phones or not. And folks are making noise about wanting an iPad friendly version of Google+. Good luck on that one since Google can’t make one for its own Tablets. Another example is Google Reader. I bet it looks just fine on a phone but on a Tablet, the text heavy approach makes you think that the App designers are afraid of anything visual.

Screen capture: OK, I know not everyone needs a screen capture utility built into the OS, but isn’t that di rigeuer for Tablets and phones these days? The fact that the Galaxy Tab lacks that is just silly. (this is why the pictures for this post look so poor.)

Android Marketplace: Fix the damn thing so you can search for Tablet optimized Apps. For a company built on search you’d think this would be a no-brainer. I bet Google has spent more money processing my returns of Apps once I discover how badly they look on the Galaxy Tab than it has made from the few I’ve kept. No easy discovery of Tablet Apps vs Phone Apps is just laziness.

Screen rotation: I’ve worked with a lot of devices with screen rotation. None have been as sensitive to moving around and thus switching orientation as the Galaxy Tab. It’s enough to make me sea sick. Sure I can lock it down, but then hey, some Apps just want to go only one way. And by the way, why does it take two taps to get to the auto lock for screen rotation? Picking up the Tablet with screen rotation turned on and attempting to do the slide to unlock function is an exercise akin to chasing a fly around a room with a fly-swatter.

Inconsistency in the UI: Although I think this is improving I still find it maddening that controls aren’t the same App to App. If this is what open is, I’m not in favor of it.

WiFi radio: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 WiFi radio does not seem to have the range around my house or office that other devices do. I lose connections frequently. I don’t see this with other devices.

Screen Brightness Control: I like to leave the control for setting screen brightness on Auto and not fiddle with it. The problem with the sensor in the Galaxy Tab is that the screen is constantly dimming and then brightening again at too rapid a pace. I’ve had to turn this feature off and I don’t like that.

Voice Control: One of the reasons I’ve always been envious of Android is the supposed better use of Voice control or commands. Maybe it is a better experience on a phone but on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 I find it woefully lacking.

The Dark on Dark Color Scheme: I know you can customize Android to your heart’s content and for many that’s a turn on. Frankly I stopped playing with screen customization on devices quite some time ago. So to each his/her own here. But something that makes me want to do some customization is the dark on dark color scheme for the control buttons and notifications at the bottom of the screen. The same holds true for the settings screens. Sure in decent light I can read the Home, Back, and Multi-tasking buttons, but notification icons even in good light are almost impossible to discern. In low light it is tough to read anything. I find the same is true of when I am trying to change settings. Who thought this was a good idea?

I’m going to continue to keep working with the Galaxy Tab as my Android experience. Google can’t be proud of what it has here. It’s a mess comparatively speaking. If they are, then woe be unto us. Rating the current crop of Tablets I’m using the iPad 2 is still number 1, the HP TouchPad is number 2. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 with Honeycomb 3.1 is, well, let’s just say I’m surprised it made it to the starting blocks. I know Google is doing some reorganizing. Great, somebody tell Mr. Page that he needs to put some focus on his Android Tablets. Otherwise, quit foisting this kind of poorly done product on us.

  

Comments

    • Anonymous says

      Good for you. If you like the device I’m all for it. I just wish Google had given more thought to what a Tablet experience should be.

  1. Winshwrtz says

    i own the ipad and the samsung 10.1 and do not agree with you at all.  sure the ipad has a more robust app section but that is it.  horrible review! completely one sided biased review.

    • Anonymous says

      We all have our preferences. Mine is for devices that work well. I can’t help it if the iPad set a standard for Tablet UI and UX, but it did.

  2. DNel says

    Warner, Thanks for sharing your views on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. I own one
    and my views are different from yours. I normally would put this in a
    forum but….  You say:

    whatever I buy today will be surpassed tomorrow by something newer in
    the let’s intro a new Android phone every month game. I note with a wry
    smile that lots of folks were jumping up and down with glee lately when AT&T announced
    that any Android phones bought in 2011 would receive the 2.3
    (Gingerbread) update. Gee, right about the time everyone will be talking
    Ice Cream Sandwich

    If you wait for the next great thing on the horizon, you’ll never
    purchase anything as you will be always waiting. I purchased a Samsung
    Galaxy Epic 4G phone with android 2.1. I bought it because it did what I
    wanted. I did not buy it because it would be upgraded to froyo,
    gingerbread, or ice cream sandwich. Most phone owners don’t upgrade
    their phones (as oppose to operating system) until their contract is up
    (2 years usually). Only gadgeteers keep buying the newest phone, they
    are not the norm. When the OS gets updated on my phone, I am happy (and I
    bet you are happy when your iPhone gets its OS updated)

    • DNel says

      SCREEN ROTATION: Yes I’ve noticed that it wakes in whatever orientation
      you put it to sleep and will take a couple of rotations to match the new
      orientation you return from sleep. It takes less than 2 seconds to make
      the switches. Take a short breath than swipe and go. When you compare
      it to my Tablet PC returning from sleep, it is just plain silly to
      complain about not waiting a second for the Tab to recognize the change
      to its orientation.

      UI INCONSISTENCY: I haven’t noticed this and not sure what you’re
      talking about. The back, home, running app buttons are always in the
      same location and the menu is always in the upper right (some apps do
      put it next to the app button) The menu button is app specific as anyone
      would expect. How does the iPad use its home button that makes it
      easier with only one quick touch? (I really don’t get it)

      WIFI: As I stated in another post, I have no problem with my reception everywhere I use my Tab.

      SCREEN BRIGHTNESS: Definitely agree with you. This was extremely
      annoying, but a quick change from Auto to Medium brightness made a huge
      difference. No complaints now and it made no noticeable difference in
      battery life

      VOICE CONTROL: Don’t use it on my phone or tablet.

      DARK ON DARK: Yes the control buttons are Blue-Grey on black, but are
      easily seen in indoor lighting to pitch black. The darker the better as
      they are lit. In bright sunlight the screen gets washed out and the
      buttons are then difficult to see.

      I am very pleased with the Tab and it is easily superior to the iPad2
      from my perspective. Its only draw back is the limited apps which are
      improving in number and quality. I have a friend who owns a iPad
      (original) and she was so impressed with the Galaxy Tab that she is
      considering switching to the Tab. I told her if she is very much
      invested in the iPad apps, that she should carefully consider upgrading
      to the Galaxy Tab over the iPad2.

      • Anonymous says

        DNel,

        It’s not the the device wakes in whatever rotation it goes to sleep in, it’s that the accelerometer is so sensitive that the screen is constantly turning the way I use a Tablet in my hands. If there was an easier way to lock rotation (not as many key presses) this wouldn’t be an issue.

        • DNel says

          Warner, now that TouchWiz out for the galaxy tab, it has screen capture built in. I just installed it and like it over the vanilla Honeycomb. What’s your take on your tab now that you may have installed TouchWiz.?

        • Anonymous says

          Actually, I’m replying to DNel here, I haven’t had the opportunity to install TouchWiz yet. I’m looking forward to checking it out soon.

    • Joe says

      I think Warner is saying that with Apple, you can be pretty sure you are going to get OS upgrades for 2 years. Android users really gamble on future OS support.

    • Anonymous says

      DNel,

      I’m with you on waiting for the next great thing part. It’s not that I’m waiting, its more that the OS is still so much in flux, as admitted by Google, and that the phones seem to drop on us like baby rabbits in a fertility clinic, that I’m just not interested in playing that game.

  3. Anonymous says

    “Let’s see, night and day, black and white, male and female, hot and cold, wet and dry, north and south, you name your opposite and that’s what I’m sensing.”

    Whoa, whoa, hold up right there. Male and female (and I think you probably meant to reference gender, but I’ll let that slide) are not opposites. What is it about gender that creates an opposition? It is this dangerous and insidious polarization of gender that has in part created the patriarchy we see today.

    • Anonymous says

      Ever here the phrase, opposites attract? I think that started with the Greeks, or maybe the Chinese, when it comes to gender and describing differences. Insidious?

  4. Mark Roddis says

    You say you don’t like the narrow screen (and I admit I do like the look of 4:3 vs 16:9) but at 1200×800 is the screen in portrait mode not wider than the iPad anyway?

    In which case, if you don’t like the Tab in portrait mode, the iPad must really frustrate you!

    • Anonymous says

      Nope, I much prefer the iPad and the HP TouchPad in portrait mode. That’s a preference on my part. As are all of these statements. To each his/her own.

  5. Anonymous says

    I definitely disagree with this review. I completely *love* my Galaxy Tab 10.1. I may be biased because I do, in fact, dislike Macs and most of Apple’s products (ok yes I own an iPod, but that’s about it).

    I find the Android Market to have more than enough apps to satisfy me, I get great wi-fi reception everywhere I take my tab (and I do take it everywhere).  I personally prefer landscape orientation, and I like the responsiveness of the screen orientation.

    My tab has replaced my laptop as my take-everywhere computer as I can easily do all the thing I did with my laptop on it (browse, email, game, etc.).

    You couldn’t pay me to trade my Tab for an iPad!

    • Anonymous says

      I’m not intending for anyone to pay you to make a trade. And good for you if you’ve found the Tablet of your dreams. As to bias, my personal view is really simple. I’ll choose the device that works best for me, regardless of maker. Disliking a maker or a brand or whatever is an excluding act, not one that fosters discovery of potential.

      You and several folks mention the WiFi. Maybe I’ve got a bum unit, but I’ve experienced the dropouts I”m talking about, in comparison to other devices in three different locations where I am currently spending time. Glad yours seems to be consistent.

      • Anonymous says

        I also have the 7″ Galaxy Tab and it’s wi-fi receiver is extremely shoddy, to say the least. The 10.1″ has been a pleasant surprise over that experience.

        I do believe I admitted that my dislike of Apple makes me biased – so not sure you needed to beat that dead horse.

    • TheBlogPopo says

      gabiendress

      I wish I could like your comment a thousand times over. If the iPad is so great why doesn’t it have a dual core processor. Or a decent camera it may have a lot of apps but in time android will have more. Apple fanboys think they know everything but really have you jumped out of your iprison and explored Other devices.

  6. Robert O Brien says

    This guy was having a comment section E-debate on this subject a few days ago with a guy who owns both an Ipad 2 and tab 10.1. Sounds like this post was meant to be the final word in that childish banter.

    • Anonymous says

      “this guy” (that would be me), never intends what he has to say as the last word on anything. THAT would be childish, much less presumptuous.

  7. Duqjag says

    I have both an iPad 2 and a Gtab 10.1. Here is how I see the key dfferences:

    Gtab wins:
    - keyboard – the keyboard on the iPad is pretty awful. I love the way that SwiftKey keyboard is able to predict my dictionary for easy typing.
    - widgets – I love being able to just glance at the screen and know the weather, email status, etc.
    - ability of flexibility. For instance, I can answer a text on my cell phone using my tablet. Like the control given -ie I can get an application to turn wifi and bluetooth off at night automatically.
    - the 16:9 form is better for watching movies, and BUT is also much better when placed in a keyboard hardware dock. Much better feel.

    IPad wins:
    - application selection.
    - better organized marketplace.
    - better Os legacy support.
    - excellent battery life.

    • Anonymous says

      What kind of battery life are you getting on the iPad? I get about 8-9 hours of continuous use on the Galaxy Tab before it needs juice (that includes heavy video usage).

  8. Sumocat says

    “…there are many folks who for whatever reason are on diets and enjoy
    pretending that they aren’t missing out on some good old fashioned
    artery busting foodstuffs as they watch their friends woof down
    platefuls of the yummy stuff.” — I am so not one of those people. Been steadily stripping different types of food out of my diet for years and have yet to kick one craving. I can withstand others eating tasty treats in front of me, but don’t pretend I don’t miss it.

  9. Alain Chappaz says

    After investing a lot of time in the 7-inch Galaxy tab, I have been watching the 10-inch devices surface and mostly been unimpressed. Apart from web surfing, some email and a few other basic things, my most basic requirement is for a pleasant ereading experience. The 7-inch Galaxy tab delivers it, the others do not, primarily because there is no 2-page landscape layout on the Honeycomb Kindle app, and even if there were, the “squished” look is counterintuitive. Both the iPad and the HP tablet sport a 4:3 aspect ratio, and if I choose to go to a larger tablet, it will be to something like that. Unfortunately, it looks like there won’t be a pile of 4:3 Android tablets….

    • Anonymous says

      I agree the 7″ tab fits my needs just fine. I went to Best Buy with the intention of getting an Ipad but it doesn’t do what I need and the size really isn’t that portable.

      People kill me with that intuitive mess. If u use anything long enough its intuitive to the user.

      • Anonymous says

        If an interface is less intuitive, users are more likely to give up in frustration than continue until they have learned it (unless there are no other alternatives).

        • Anonymous says

          But I’m saying what defines intuitive? My 7 year old could navigate thru the Galaxy tab when it launched last year. Perhaps because she has used my android phone before. I pick up iPhones and they don’t feel intuitive at all, at least not to me.

        • Anonymous says

          Well intuitive is different for different people. This is why for some Windows is more intuitive, and for others Macs are.

  10. The Dark Lord says

    I have been disappointed in apple not only once and left them in the backroom forever. I will not buy another shitty apple product again. They drop calls, break early even though they cost so much more money (And Apple cares a shit about you) and some of the stuff I used on it doesn’t work, like flash on the browser … I use my tablet a lot for browsing.

    So I switched to Android and have an Android tablet too, but actually tried the iPad 2. Now frankly the way the iPad is described here as so much better is bullshit … but, the moderator has a point … Lots of things are neglected by Google and go to shit, like no sign of what is an tablet application and what is a phone application in the market, so few application for tablets that actually work … Yeah, and it feels like a rough and good beta version from a UI perspective compared to the iPad 2. I have to admit that and I hope Google is working on that fast or even Windows tablets will take their business. There are tons of things where Android is so much better then the iStuff, but again, the moderator has a point here … I do understand why people buy the iPad 2 because it does work nice from a UI perspective and there are tons of application for it in their app store and they are even marked to be an iPad2 app. Google needs to step up to the plate here or the Android tablets will never really sell … rightfully so …

  11. ethibault says

    as to android phone you don’t want so far I understand, the samsung galaxy s2 is not in USA yet, I have one I am really impressed by it !

    what I have seen demonstrated on the new galaxy tab have not really impressed me, because may be, it’s not mature,not yet as comprehensive applicationwise etc.

    though the galaxy tab has a microSD slot

    I would more bank on an asus eepad transformer with 3G, because of usb slots on top of microSD and SD.
    or may be the coming asus slider if it has usb slots too

    but no way I would accept to have to systematically use Itune to put something in a IPAD, I am a geek, but a geek that does not geek just for the sake of geeking but only when it has a use of or a meaning, so the “close” aspect of the ipad is a deal breaker for me.

  12. ethibault says

    as to android phone you don’t want so far I understand, the samsung galaxy s2 is not in USA yet, I have one I am really impressed by it !

    what I have seen demonstrated on the new galaxy tab have not really impressed me, because may be, it’s not mature,not yet as comprehensive applicationwise etc.

    though the galaxy tab has a microSD slot

    I would more bank on an asus eepad transformer with 3G, because of usb slots on top of microSD and SD.
    or may be the coming asus slider if it has usb slots too

    but no way I would accept to have to systematically use Itune to put something in a IPAD, I am a geek, but a geek that does not geek just for the sake of geeking but only when it has a use of or a meaning, so the “close” aspect of the ipad is a deal breaker for me.

  13. ethibault says

    as to android phone you don’t want so far I understand, the samsung galaxy s2 is not in USA yet, I have one I am really impressed by it !

    what I have seen demonstrated on the new galaxy tab have not really impressed me, because may be, it’s not mature,not yet as comprehensive applicationwise etc.

    though the galaxy tab has a microSD slot

    I would more bank on an asus eepad transformer with 3G, because of usb slots on top of microSD and SD.
    or may be the coming asus slider if it has usb slots too

    but no way I would accept to have to systematically use Itune to put something in a IPAD, I am a geek, but a geek that does not geek just for the sake of geeking but only when it has a use of or a meaning, so the “close” aspect of the ipad is a deal breaker for me.

  14. KK says

    If you are going to buy an Android tablet, I suggest that you get one with a changeable battery. Battery problems are common, and if you are the unfortunate one with the problem, you will be at the mercy of technicians subcontracted by the manufacturer, who may be poorly trained or simply not paid enough to care. I have a first-hand experience with GalaxyTab, which has a sealed battery, and you have to jump hoops to get the problem acknowledged. My unit lasts 2 hours on web-browsing (airplane mode with only wifi on), and Samsung’s repair company certified it twice as working normally. The problem remains unsolved. With Apple products, you have a clear provision for taking the unit back and can have the battery changed for a fee. Would you know where to go if your Galaxy has problems?

  15. Petrut says

    just out of curiosity… do you get any incentives from Apple ? I own a Ipad 2 and a Motorola Xoom and by far the Xoom is better than the ipad2 – why ??  3 words … full experience browser….. !

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