Google’s foray into the tablet market has, up till now, not been a very successful one, especially when you compare it to the success of Android on smartphones. Figures released a few days ago show that the Motorola XOOM, the first device to run Honeycomb, has sold 440,000 units since its release back in February. A handsome number, you may think, but when you think that in the same period the iPad 2 sold over 9 million units, Motorola’s figure seems puny in comparison.
Who is to blame for this? Well, it seems that both Google and the manufacturers are at fault, in my opinion, for the poor sales of Honeycomb tablets. They have both made fatal errors in many different areas which may have spelt out the early death of Honeycomb (it is due to be replaced by Ice Cream Sandwich in Q4 of this year). Let’s take a look at these errors in a bit more detail.
Honeycomb tablets are simply too expensive for what they are and are not priced competitively enough. Any businessman will tell you that if you want people to gain interest in your product, you price it below its immediate competitors. However, Motorola really shot themselves in the foot when it came to pricing up the XOOM. Initial retail prices were around the $800 mark which was, in a word, ludicrous.
Eventually, Motorola dropped the price to match that of the iPad 2 but, judging by the sales figures, this hasn’t really helped. Samsung’s Honeycomb tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, is also priced the same as the equivalent iPad 2 (32GB model – $599).
A word to Samsung and Motorola: you aren’t Apple. Apple have managed to create a brand awareness meaning that people will gladly pay above-the-norm prices for their products (sad to say, I am one of said people) which other manufacturers try to replicate but crash and burn each time. Stop being greedy and slash the price.
Perhaps the main reason for the failure of Honeycomb tablets, though, is the operating system. I was quite impressed with Honeycomb when it first came out. It had a great interface, a new notifications system that was simple yet effective (and gave Honeycomb one up over iOS on the iPad) and multi-tasking was handled efficiently and properly.
But as you delved deeper and played around with Honeycomb, problems started to emerge. Despite being a final release, the whole operating system had a decidedly “beta” feel to it. This may have been due to the fact that the development of Honeycomb was rushed to coincide with the release of the Motorola XOOM back in February but Google, quite rightly, shouldn’t have allowed a half-finished product to hit the market.
Honeycomb is very clunky and unstable and even the much-touted 3.1 update did little to iron out the niggling creases in the operating system. I have experienced several force closes, even with stock applications such as the browser and despite the fact Honeycomb supports Adobe Flash, any Flash plug-ins on a web page slow the tablet right down and sometimes cause the browser to crash all together.
One of the major gripes about Honeycomb is the lack of tablet-optimized applications available for it. Despite the fact Honeycomb has been around since February of this year, there are only about 350 tablet-optimized applications available for it, compared to the iPad’s 90,000 or so.
Most standard Android applications (i.e. those designed for phones) will, of course, work pretty much problem-free on Honeycomb tablets but they are simply stretched to fill the bigger screen. In my opinion, if you are splashing out your hard-earned cash on an Android tablet, surely you’d want to see some applications that actually make proper use of the larger screen, instead of simply being stretched to fill it?
The Market on Honeycomb tablets also does not have a dedicated tablet applications section, meaning that you have to either trawl through forums to find applications that are optimized for Honeycomb devices or search for “tablet” or “Honeycomb”, which can be quite a pain-staking task.
What Can Be Done?
Honeycomb is Android’s Vista – a operating system which was well-expected but simply failed to deliver. It seems like Honeycomb’s early death warrant has already been signed, seeing as Android 3.2, the most current release of Honeycomb, is now going to be the last one before the eagerly-awaited Ice Cream Sandwich is released sometime in Q4 of this year.
Honeycomb could do with an entire overhaul: the stability of the operating system needs to be worked on and it needs to be simpler to use to appeal to the mass market. Google also needs to make this release open-source (isn’t that what Android’s supposed to be in the first place?) so that developers can work on their applications and optimize them for Android tablets.
I am very impressed with Android as an operating system but Honeycomb was a major letdown, so much so that I am trading in my Xoom for an iPad 2. For the price I paid for it, £479 (around $785), I shouldn’t have to put up with so many inconveniences and faults.
If a product isn’t good enough, then don’t release it – it’s as simple as that. I can only hope that Google learns from the mistakes it has made with Honeycomb and delivers a new incarnation of Android that is sophisticated, innovative, stable and above all, fully completed.