It was recently revealed that only 5% of new Android activations are tablets, while daily, a staggering 1.2 million Android smartphones are activated. However that still means that 70,000 or so tablets are activated every day, which after a quick bit of calculation, means nearly two million Android tablets are activated every month.
Google has published some new tips urging developers to optimize their apps for tablets, as well as smartphones, as it forecasts that the number of Android tablet users will grow, which in turn offers developers new opportunities for monetization.
The way Apple and Google handle the differences between phones and tablets is quite stark. On one hand, Apple allows developers to build apps which run only on the iPhone, or only on the iPad or both. This has allowed developers to create “HD” versions of their apps which take advantage of the extra screen sizes. Apple itself also develops iPad specific versions of apps which use the screen differently than the iPhone versions.
Google doesn't really condone that approach, and, although there are settings which the developers can use to enforce certain or minimum screen resolutions, the whole “HD” thing isn't as big on Android as it is on iOS. That isn't to say it doesn't exist. Rovio has Angry Birds Space HD which is specifically for tablets. According to the creator of our favorite feathered friends, the “HD” version has been optimized specifically for tablets in order to give the player the best possible experience.
But Google is keen for developers to make sure that their apps run well on larger screens. With Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the OS automatically scales existing graphics so there is no need to create new sprites and icons etc just for tablets. That is great, but the truth is that the same UI layout for a smartphone isn't necessarily the best for a tablet. Google's new tips recommend that, for tablets, developers redesign parts of the UI to include multi-panes which are easier to navigate and allow for additional content.
Also developers should be careful what hardware features an app states that it requires. Many tablets don't have a SIM card and can't use a 2G, 3G or 4G network. To this end, unless it is absolutely necessary, apps shouldn't require telephony features in their manifest. The same can be said for cameras and GPS.
Now that Google is in the tablet market (with the Nexus 7) and with the holiday season approaching, it is a good time for app developers to optimize their apps for tablets. Google is also promising a new Google Play collection of great apps specifically for tablet users.