Why Honeycomb Tablets Are Not Popular… and What Can Be Done About It

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.

Pricing

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.

motorola-xoom-2

Despite receiving good reviews, the XOOM failed to prove popular with the punters.

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.

Honeycomb Itself

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.

android-honeycomb_090258018F00884931

Android 3.1 was launched with great fanfare at the last Google I/O but failed to address some of the key issues with Honeycomb tablets.

Applications

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.

android-honeycomb-apps

Steve Jobs's stab at Honeycomb tablets was, unfortunately, true...and it hasn't really improved since then.

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