What’s Killing the Android Tablet Market

Posted on 02. Jan, 2013 by in Mobile, Opinion, Technology

When you look at the current diversity in the smart phone market, statistics show, as you would expect, that Android is at the top, followed by iOS, then BB OS, then Windows Phone. When looking at the tablet market you get quite a different picture. With tablets, unlike phones, iOS is the predominant player with over 60% of the tablet market share.

Now one could attribute this discrepancy to the fundamental difference between the beginnings of the smart phone market compared to that of the tablet market. With phones there were many manufacturers who, all around a same time, were developing smartphones, and surprisingly it was Apple who as actually behind the times getting into the market.

With tablets there is a fundamental difference in the way the market has developed, which actually will come back to be a key proponent of the current state of their market. The move to smart phones from feature phones was initially slow as the market for such devices still needed to mature in both performance and affordability before widespread adoption could take place. This differs from tablets which came about, initially as an extension of the maturing, growing smartphone market.

Apple, being the founder of the modern tablet had almost a complete product cycle head start over the rest of the competition as the release of the iPad, a product that was initially dismissed as having no use, came as a surprise to most tech companies.

This created a panic among the Android OEMs, and was the cause of the constant game of catch-up, resulting in the sporadic and uncoordinated variety, quality and frequency of the products being released.

When you go to buy an Apple tablet you walk into the apple store, choose the amount of storage you want your iPad to have, whether you want 3G/LTE, and then you pay for your device and go home. Simple. When you go to buy and Android tablet it is not quite as simple.

This complexity brings us back to the variety, quality, and quantity of the different products being released. Where apple has two non-competing lines of tablets, a small selection of different price points, up-to-date hardware, a guarantee of timely updates, Android is all over the map. If you consider that there are probably 15 well know hardware manufacturers that are currently making tablets, say 3 each, and many less common brands making many more, you end up with a staggering variety of tablets all with their own advantages and disadvantages. This creates a problem for the consumer: “which Android tablet should I buy?”. For most people this means seeking the advice of the sales rep at their local electronics store. Thus the burden of navigating the minefield of Android tablet options rests in the hands of a minimum wage sale person who knows nothing more than the most basic stats about what they are selling.

This brings us to what I would consider two fundamental problems with Android tablets: The wide selection, and bad consumer advice.

What consumers don’t realize is that unlike the iPad not all android tablets are made the same. They don’t all run the same software, they don’t all have the same processor, and they don’t all support the same type of connectivity. So when a consumer goes into a store looking to buy an Android tablet they tend to ignore the smaller, more technical details of the product, let alone the upgradeability of the software, and focus more on a price comparison while making the assumption that the devices they are comparing are essentially identical.

When it comes to sales reps guiding the consumer and dispelling misconceptions about what the product can and cant do they tend to be less than helpful, as I found out quite recently. I went into a big box store which had a consumer electronics section, with little time in the shopping day left I decided I would ask the sales rep to direct me the where I could find a Blackberry Playbook. Now I know this isn’t an Android tablet but it has been, up until quite recently, one of the most popular tablets on the market, and is still in the top 3 in Canada. Quite to my surprise the sales rep didn’t even know what a Playbook was. This incident, though not exactly related, encapsulates the issue quite well. You wouldn’t get advice on buying a car from your dry cleaner, so why should you ask some untrained department store sale rep for advice buying a tablet.

So between confusing consumers by bringing out a wide variety of similar products, and then handing them off to be sold by people who have no idea what they are talking about is a recipe for disaster. To make matters worse, when that person has a bad experience with their terrible android tablet they will not just avoid all other Android tablets in the future (their biggest mistake) , but they will pass on the story of their bad experience to their friends causing them to steer away from Android tablets.

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