Open thread: in search of the perfect tablet

May 1, 2014

The tablet market is huge business these days, with 61.42 million of them shipping out around the globe in the second quarter of this year alone. Shipments are up 4.9 percent on the previous quarter, 30.9 percent higher than the previous year, and there’s a huge array of models with varying sizes, materials, and hardware specs. So what, if anything, constitutes the perfect tablet? What’s driving all this demand?

Turning to who’s buying what, the situation looks surprisingly similar to the smartphone market, with Apple and Samsung both leading the pack by quite a margin. In the second quarter, Apple is looking to ship 13.5 million tablets, Samsung will ship around 12.2 million, followed by Asus and Lenovo moving approximately 3.8 million each.

High-end hardware vs cheap Android imports

While brand recognition is sure to play a huge part here, data collected by DigiTimes Research suggests that consumers are mostly interested in premium, high-spec products, rather than basing their decision on price alone. Budget oriented manufacturers still make up a notable portion of the market, which certainly makes Android a more attractive platform across a wide range of markets. When it comes to unit shipments, high-end products are still dominated by the two big name brands, Samsung and Apple, followed by Asus, which builds the popular Nexus tablet.

Tablet Shipments Q2 2014

The premium iPad and Galaxy Tab names account for the vast majority of sales, with the Nexus range and cheaper brands making up the smaller portion of the market.

Looking at the market leaders, the iPad and Galaxy Tab series may share similar aesthetic designs, but they’re also very comparable in terms of hardware.  The new Tab Pro range features an impressive 2560 x 1600 display, which is slightly superior to the iPad’s 2048 x1536 resolution. They also both feature high performance processors, with build quality being top notch on both sides.

Read: Samsung Galaxy TabPro 8.4 Review

Best Android Tablet Samsung Galaxy TabPro 8.4 CES 2014 Android Authority-3

The Galaxy TabPro 8.4 won our Best Android Tablet award at this year’s CES.

Of course there are many other manufacturers making high-end tablets, such as Sony’s Xperia Tablet range. But despite the range of 1080p high performance tablets on the market, the little extra touches offered by Apple and Samsung seem to be keeping them one step ahead, at least for now.

Cast your mind back to the start of the tablet revolution; Apple had a massive head start and was the only manufacturer in the premium tablet game. These days, the situation looks quite different.

Tablet OS Market Share Q2 2014

Android doesn’t have any real competition in the budget price bracket and the OS’ market share in this category is as stable as ever, which suggests that the recent market swing in favour of Android is being led by something else. The only conclusion I can draw is that consumers are starting to take high-end Android tablets seriously, which is cutting into Apple’s biggest unique selling proposition. The Nexus range has done wonders for Android in the high/mid-tier category, too.

The desire for high performance tablets isn’t so surprising when we consider the huge market shift from laptops and PCs over to tablets that has taken place over the last few years. With tablets replacing home computers as people’s primary method for accessing online content, it’s not surprising that we’re looking for tablets capable of storing and playing back high quality movies and blazing through the web.

Software remains a divisive issue

Hardware is just half of the experience, there’s also the software side to consider. Android has struggled with dedicated tablet apps in the past, but things have been steadily improving. Google has been keen to push developers to use the master/detail flow interface type for new apps, and the Play Store allows users to filter out apps which are not designed for proper use with tablets.

Nexus 7

Nexus tablets are unbeatable for the price, but do they fulfill the premium experience that many consumers demand from their tablets?

We recently took at a look at some of the differences between Android and iOS apps, and credit where it’s due, iOS certainly provides a compelling and cohesive user experience. On the Android side of things, Google Play’s media and productivity apps have helped to build a solid feature base, and KitKat is a much more feature rich OS platform than the old Honeycomb fragment.

Then there are OEM variations on the formula. Samsung seems to be trying to address some of Android’s shortcomings with its own apps and widgets found in its own products, see Magazine UX. Although not perfect, Samsung’s latest tablet software is a more dedicated tablet experience than cheaper stock Android devices. LG also has its own software features on its G Pad tablet, Slide Aside gestures give the product an edge over stock Android when it comes to multitasking.

Latest tablet videos

Given the range of software options, it’s much harder to define software perfection, but consumers are clearly being won over by more dedicated tablet experiences than Android is capable on its own. That being said, preference really boils down to platform specific ecosystems and features, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Size matters

Even if you’ve found a tablet which suits all your software and hardware needs, the final big question remains – what size tablet do I want?

Looking at the shipment data for Q2 2014, there’s still a wide range of popular tablet sizes, with a slight preference towards tablets around 7 to 8 inches. The upper limit is around 10 inches, with only a tiny market share given to 11 inch or greater tablets. Personally, I’d say a screen size of around 8 inches is the sweet spot for portability vs viewing experience, which mostly conforms to the data, but there’s a large group of consumers which have a preference for larger displays.

Tablet Sizes Q2 2014

For the media centric consumer, bigger displays certainly have their appeal. If you take portability out of the equation, say if a user was only going to use the tablet at home as their main device, then a larger display would make a lot of sense for browsing, watching, and reading content.

Going back to the big two – Samsung and Apple -and both seem to have noticed this trend, as each company has its own range of high-end products spanning the most popular sizes. Perhaps this is one of the biggest factors of their success.

With this data in mind, the rumored HTC Nexus 8 tablet, which is supposed to completely replace the 7 inch Nexus line-up, seems to fit the bill for the “perfect” tablet. Powered by the most popular tablet OS, with HTC’s premium build quality, and hitting the sweet spot in terms of size, an 8 inch Nexus tablet might just be the tablet that everyone is after.

But enough from me, how about yourselves? Does the broader market reflect your own preferences, and how would you describe your perfect tablet?

What is your ideal tablet size?

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What do you make of Android software for tablets?

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Price or Performance?

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Also, for all you lovers of the most advanced tech out there, JDI has a 10 inch 4k (3840×2160 pixel) display intended for use in 10 inch tablets coming out, and it’s likely that 4K will be the next game changer, if processors and batteries are up to the task. Regardless, it seems that the onus is now on Google to further optimize Android’s UI for improved functioning on the tablet form factor itself.

Comments

  • http://www.thedroideffect.com/ Damir Franc

    my ideal tablet for now, 8.3-8.5″@ at least 1920×1200, 3GB RAM, Snapdragon 801, good quality and well rounded corners with a grippy back like the faux leather of the TabPro, front facing stereo speakers,of course good battery life and stock android. I´d wish it to be a Nexus for great developer support

  • Shark Bait

    For me 8 inches, no side bezels, great speakers, and cheap!

    Don’t think I need 4k or data, sd 801 is nice but not critical.

    I do think android needs some more work for tablets, both from Google and devs

    • Rex

      Totally agreed Shark Bait. I still love the G Pad for this reason alone. Those new bezel-less tablets from Sharp are nice, but they’ll never see the light of day out of Japan. Pity.

    • Shark Bait

      Not really on topic but just thinking gabout how integration between phone and tablet could be better. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just tap them together , and NFC set up WiFi tethering??? Yeah I could make that app!

      Looks on play store

      Already exists!!! This always happems with my ‘good’ ideas !!!!

    • K2

      For me an enough amount of side bezels should be there. Not as much as the original samsung 8 inch tab, but not as less as the 8.4 pro.

  • _X_

    NEVER BUY A GALAXY TAB 3 10.1

    To me it was a good looking Tab and surfing the net and watching movies are awesome especially with the speaker sound BUT is does not support screen mirroring with my normal Led TV via MHL AND cannot link it to my TV via USB because Android on Tablets cannot be used as mass storage. Now I need to transfer stuff to my S2 to do the above!

    Just sad to see that the 10.1 which is more expensive is Less premium than the Tab 7.0!

    Why cant a Tab be used as mass storage on the TV but on the PC it is okay? Android Tablets are far from Apple!

  • Guest123

    I’ll take a phablet, thank you very much — it’s always with me and can do everything a tablet can, and at 5.5″ to 6″ the screen is big enough to get the job done. . . yeah, she said the same thing. Phablets have made tablet irrelevant for me :)

    • Rex

      Phablets are phantastic, but one handed operation on them suuuuuucks. Sometimes a tablet is needed, and is nice to have. They just end up being ignored though, if you have a good laptop and a good smartphone.

      • Guest123

        depends on the UI and how you use it. I can get a lot done hands free ;)
        a good assistant apps helps. . .

        And with a good swipe keyboard one handed isn’t that hard either — yeah, she can get it there with one hand as well ;)

        However, most people, if you watch them, regardless of the size of the device they will almost always use two hands — well, she has to use two with me ;) ;)

        And finally, it really depends on the size of your hands. Someone with large hands will find a 6″ phone to be small. Many people I know hate 5″ devices because they are much too small for their hands and would prefer a phablet about 7″ or 8″ in size.

    • wezi427

      I agree. I have a Note 2 and I do everything with it. Most of the guys I work with have an iPhone and make fun of my phone calling it a tablet, but on slow days they love my phone for watching Netflix.

      My first and only tablet is a Motorola Xoom. I loved it, but it’s so slow now that I use my phone instead. The kids use it now. I want to get another tablet. I’m waiting to see if they are going to make another Nexus 10.

      • Guest123

        I’m betting Google scrapped the Nexus 10 once they made all their agreements with Samsung, but we will see in June, if at all.

        • wezi427

          I’m trying to be optimistic. If Nexus does come to an end next year, I hope they go out with a bang.

  • Dylan Azari

    I have a Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 64GB and it’s just amazing. 12″+ is the ideal size of a tablet for me.

    • Greg Cardall

      Totally agree. It’s all personal preference, but using my old Nexus 10 (that I gave my wife) drives me nuts, due to it being too small now. :D

      • Dylan Azari

        I used to have a Galaxy Note 8.0 and now it feels like a phone in my hand!

        • K2

          Are you guys serious or just bragging? thinking that its cool to say you like yours screens bigger?

          • Dylan Azari

            I’m serious. I was just saying that the Note Pro 12.2 is an awesome tablet.

    • MasterMuffin

      With tablets, the bigger the better!

      • K2

        Wrong.

        • MasterMuffin

          :no:

          • K2

            yes

          • MasterMuffin

            No plz noh

          • K2

            Some people find 7 inch tabs the perfect size, some people find 8 or 9 inch tabs perfect and some like 10 inch tabs.

          • MasterMuffin

            Of course, it’s a matter of opinion :)

          • K2

            Yep. Thats why your statement ‘With tablets, the bigger the better!’ is wrong.

          • MasterMuffin

            Orly? Y u no understanz jokez

          • K2

            I no understand orly. what is orly?

    • AndroidErik

      Same her :-)

    • Otto Andersson

      I’m jealous of you. I think a tablet should be the size of an 8. 5×11 piece of paper for business use. Does the note 12 have those dimensions?

      • Dylan Azari

        The Note 12 is 11.64″ X 8.03″ It actually feels not that big but it is. I just love it. Not a lot of people bought it because of the steep price, but it is worth every penny.

  • Kile

    My note 3 does it all. It’s a shame every larger tablet release is never as well speced as this flagship. I would strongly consider having a 7inch tablet as my only device if it had all the note 3 features. If I was having a tablet just for the sake of it the note pros with the stylus and multi window look really good, they’re actually features that have turned me off from the nexus 7. So a larger note 3 with no hardware drops would be the ideal tablet for me. Man I laugh at the ipads in comparison. My girlfriend works for a big sales company where it’s all about image so they dish out ipads every month to competition winners. She finally won one and we sold it for nearly twice as much as a nexus 7 costs! One thing that annoys me is a lot of apps still need a desktop counterpart for full functionality so you can’t have a tablet, but instead need a windows device (for example helium backup, Dropbox to have access to real world folders).

  • nik1988

    Just waiting on samsung releasing a 2014 note 8.4 s pen is a great USP on a medium sized tablet

  • AvalancheRyder

    Personally, I’d like to see more 4:3 tablets and tablet versions of more apps. While I do prefer Android as an operating system over iOS, I have an iPad Mini Retina and the size, aspect ratio, and user experience are perfect.

    I just picked up a Nexus 7 on sale because I couldn’t resist and may return it. I already have a Galaxy Note 3 so 7 inches isn’t that much of a bump in screen size. Not to mention most of the apps are just blown up phone apps that look awful on a large screen.

    16:9 is nice for a phone so that it’s narrow and easier to hold, but with a tablet I’d prefer the extra space that a 4:3 aspect ratio would provide.

    • filaos

      Exactly. Appl got it right for the 4:3 ratio, thus differentiating full-blown tablets from sole media consuming devices (that are better in 16:10 format).

      • AvalancheRyder

        What’s funny too is that people complain about the black bars when watching 16:9 video on a screen with a 4:3 ratio. If you look at the actual screen area used by the video, a 7.9 inch tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio actually gives you a larger viewing area than a 7 inch tablet with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

        • Bambang Hermanto

          The complain is reasonable. The black area gives an illusion of the view area shrinking. The mind plays its tricks, you know.

          I have to agree that 4:3 gives the best user experience with the exception of video plays. Maybe in the future we will see a device with adjustable physical screen size (if it’ll ever be feasible)

  • Tjaldid

    Stylus support as standard period.

  • supremekizzle

    I have a Note 10.1-14 and a LG GPad 8.3. I honestly use my 10.1 daily and haven’t touched my 8 inches in weeks. I just don’t like the scale and screen on the G Pad.

  • Tiah Oon Tjoe

    Checking out Budget Tablets?

    Onda V795m. You guys should do a review. Amazing price for performance =)

  • Trysta

    Ok. The separation between 9-9.9 and 10-10.9 is ridiculous. The only mainstream tablets in the 9-9.9 category is the ipad and most of the android tablets of comparable size are 10.1inches or around that size. I would argue that based on knowledge of the market these two size segments should be grouped together so you take OS choice out of the equation.

    • filaos

      So obvious

  • abazigal

    I am finding it a little disconcerting (and ironic) that it is an Pro-Android blog which is giving me the opportunity to reflect upon how I use my various Apple devices, but here goes.

    I still use my Macs (a 27″ iMac and 11″ MBA) for daily productivity-related tasks involving files and multiple windows. However, they come with their own share of inconveniences, complexities and quirks which may not exist on a mobile device, and so I often find myself reaching for my iPhone or iPad for simple tasks like posting on a blog.

    People initially laughed at the iPad for simply being a larger iPod touch (or iPhone), but the reality is that was precisely what people wanted (or needed). A larger screen running iOS (which many people already knew how to use, or could easily figure out within minutes) and touch-optimised tablet apps. IMO, there’s absolutely a place for a device that has a high-res screen larger than a phone, is lighter and less bulky than a laptop, with 10 hours battery life, built-in cellular, and custom tablet apps. And I continue to believe that even if smartphones get bigger, and laptops get smaller, there will still be a place for a tablet as a mobile computing device.

    I use my iPad (the retina iPad mini) for many things, from work (yes, meaningful content creation) to leisure and I feel my iPad offers the best compromise between portability, ease of use and productivity. However, right now, I feel the biggest problem plaguing the iPad is its software. iOS is clearly optimised for the iPhone, and many parts of it simply don’t scale well on the iPad (notifications is an awful waste of space). iOS still lacks many basic features like creating groups from contacts (I have to download an app for that, or make the groups from my mac, then sync via iCloud), attaching files from the mail app, upload / download files from mobile Safari, nor can I transfer a file from one app to another without littering my device with multiple copies (just to list a few). Doesn’t feel very post-PC to me.

    In addition to this, I would also like to see app developers spend more time to properly reimagine and optimise apps for the tablet (admitably, more and more tablet apps seem to feel like blown up iPhone apps with an extra menu or sidebar made visible).

    So I don’t know – what do you all feel about the software for Android tablets? Perfect? Needs more work? How much more?

  • http://twitter.com/qngml KONG!

    I’d rather a tablet bellow 8 inch.
    Currently using Nexus 7 2nd gen. It’s light, thin and got a good performance

  • Otto Andersson

    Tablets are awesome for my playing needs. But I’m trying to utilize the better for productivity. There just doesn’t seem to be much in this regard. Especially, they need to solve the multitasking problem

  • TAIMAT

    Galaxy TAB 3 8.0 (T310) here … its my first tablet & my purpose was reading comix & watching movies .. im satisfied in general … wishing for note 8 pro wifi

  • samavb6

    Personally I own Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 3g+WIFI and it is amazing Tablet. 8 inch 2GB RAM with Stylus 1.6 GHZ Quad Core processor. Not just in Specs but in performance too my tablet gives me Screen on time of 11 hours in 4 to 5 days.. I am extremely happy with the performance of my tablet. But when you look at the emerging tablets day to day .. it is hard not to get tempted. I thought Samsung will release Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 2014 but they didn’t. Then came kitkat where SD Card issue, Samsung Knox issue. Samsung Galaxy Tab pro 8.4 was perfect size but Stylus is missing. Personally, I wish the tablet is between 8 and 9inches with stylus 4G+WIF 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 3GB RAM or more.. 2.5 GHZ snapdragon 805 Adreno 330 ..front 5MP and back 13 or 16MP ..32GB inbuilt memory with Micro SD card slot upto 128GB with battery 6000-7000 mah Li-polymer battery and boom sound with speakers well placed in landscape mode…. price tag 600$ unlocked. :) hope these specs become reality..