Why I Didn’t Buy an Android Tablet Yesterday

I had a little time off yesterday. After mowing the grass for the first time this season I decided I’d do some shopping. I took care of some essentials for the house and then stopped by the local Best Buy just to take a look. (It’s always dangerous when you have money burning a hole in your pocket-digital or not). I noticed that Best Buy was now displaying an Asus Transformer Prime running Ice Cream Sandwich. Uh, oh.

So, after playing around with the Transformer Prime, I headed home to do a little research on this much ballyhooed Android Tablet. Set aside the fact that I don’t need another Tablet at the moment. My thinking was that this would be the best device to check out ICS on a Tablet. I also have a substantial amount of credit sitting with Amazon, so if I was to make the purchase I’d probably go that route. Besides, if I’m going to keep up with things in the Tablet scape I need to see what’s out there. Rationalization is so easy when gadget lust takes hold. (Remember this day when I purchased both a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a HP TouchPad?)

As I think anyone who follows the Tablet scene knows, the Transformer Prime is considered the cream of the crop when it comes to Android Tablets. That, and it’s keyboard dock/option certainly make it an intriguing device. From what I’m reading, when it comes to the 10 inch form factor, this is the current Android Tablet to beat.

Readers will know that I’ve not been a fan of Android on Tablets for quite some time. Google keeps swinging and missing when it comes to creating an experience that could challenge the iPad with any serious intent. But, I’m a gadget freak and I’m also an eternal optimist that one day Google might decide that it is worth getting things right. So, I had the Transformer Prime and the keyboard dock sitting in my shopping cart ready to hit the purchase button.

But I couldn’t do it. My gadget lust said go ahead, but my brain was saying don’t be a fool. So, after thinking about this for some time, I emptied out the shopping cart and moved on. Here’s why.

In examining this almost purchase, it is more than just the day-to-day interaction with the device that made me step back from the purchase precipice. One of the reasons is simply timing. For whatever reason Android Tablet makers haven’t figured out how to get the devices to market before they start talking about the next one. The Transformer Prime is a perfect example of this. It was considered the hot new thing before Asus announced its next model (now called the Infinity) that will be due out this summer. This was before the Transformer Prime actually started hitting the shelves here in the US.

Say what you want about Apple and its device strategies, but with few exceptions, a consumer who is willing to play in Apple’s ecosystem can do some planning about possible purchases from year to year. There’s a maturity about the release cycle that if nothing else, tends towards predictability. I just don’t think you can say that about the Android side of things. Asus isn’t the only Android Tablet maker guilty of this. Samsung is as well.

But the real fault lies with Google. We’ve seen two versions of Android (Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich) that were supposed to be big improvements for the Tablet experience. By just about all accounts the mark was missed on those promises. And the only thing predictable so far in Google’s Android Tablet plans happens. Google starts talking about the next version that will address this once and for all, called Jelly Bean, I think.The track record so far is starting to give even the boy who cried wolf some credibility. Is it me, or is this dessert/confection/sugar naming convention starting to become a metaphor for a big gooey sticky mess when it comes to Android Tablets? When I page back through the GBM archives, I notice there was a lot of excitement about the Transformer Prime as far back as October of last year. I also notice that this was when the original Transformer was first hitting the shelves. The timing just makes no sense, nor does it offer any coherence.

I continue to call this approach the “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” method. I can only imagine what developers who are interested in Android Tablets must be thinking as they follow Google’s attempts to find the right recipe for a Tablet OS. And by some accounts, developers are beginning to loose interest.

I got pretty darned excited about trying out both the Transformer Prime and Ice Cream Sandwich yesterday. But, as I thought about the potential purchase more and more, I couldn’t see myself tossing dollars at a Tablet strategy that offered no rhyme nor reason, much less rational thought behind it. As it looks at the moment, I’ll probably skip Ice Cream Sandwich on an Android Tablet and wait for Jelly Bean to see if Google is actually taking Tablets seriously. It certainly looks like Google is doing the same.