Android Tablet PCs – The Open Operating System With Lots of Choice

Android Tablet PC Overview

Android 3.0 Tablet PCs

What are the pros and cons of the Android operating system for tablets and how should you choose if it’s the best tablet PC operating system for you?

Android is Google’s operating system. It was originally designed for smartphones but in 2011 Android 3.0 was released. This version, also known as Android Honeycomb, was specifically designed for tablets. This means, if you get a tablet that’s running variants of the Android 2 or Android 1 operating systems then you’re effectively getting a smartphone operating system with it’s limitations.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb moved forward to Android 3.2 but the revisions were more optimisations of what is essentially the Android 3.0 operating system.

In early 2012, Android 4.0 arrived on tablets, this bought together the features of the operating system so that smartphones and tablets are effectively running the same operating system – although there are differences in how the features are presented to ensure Android is optimised for the format of device. This means developers are now creating apps that can easily run on both smartphones and tablets but with tweaks to the presentation to optimise the user interface based on the size of the screen.

Android 4.0 is also known as Android Ice Cream Sandwich – carrying on the confectionery theme. It has a number of new features, adds a lot of usability improvements and general polish to Android. This means it’s slicker than previous versions.

Android is an ‘Open’ operating system which means any manufacturer, developer or even user can customise the code that it’s written in. This gives great flexibility and a huge range of hardware devices to choose from, but does mean that there are many versions of Android.

With lots of variants, not all Android software will run on all Android devices. As a rule of thumb, if you get the latest version of Android on a tablet, you’ll be able to use pretty much any Android app that’s available, the older the version of Android, the more restricted it will be.

Android has it’s own app, gaming, eBook and film store called the Android Market. The latest tablets have direct access to Android Market from the tablet user interface. Not all Android tablets have access to the Android Market and if yours doesn’t, getting apps on and off the device can be tricky. Direct access to the Android Market means you won’t have to hack apps on to your tablet or manually load them from a desktop PC. Check the individual tablet reviews to understand which tablets have Android Market installed.

Similarly Adobe Flash support can be inconsistent with only newer versions of Android running Flash content effectively on the web (videos, games and animations). Remember to check the individual device reviews for details of what you get.

Often manufacturers will give users the opportunity to upgrade their tablet to the latest version of Android if the tablet has a decent enough processor to handle the upgrade. However, you are dependent on the manufacturer to release the upgrade and so often these are provided months after the new version of Android has launched.

Android is a work in progress and set to grow and grow in coming years with lots more tablet PCs. There is a large developer community who will expand the range of Android apps already available and build many more tablet PC optimised apps. Android will be a key player in the future of slate operating systems, and if you’re already using an Android smartphone, it’s likely to be a natural choice for you to continue with Android on a tablet.

At a glance…

Android Tablet PC Pros

  • Lots of choice of hardware devices that suit a range of budgets
  • Lots of apps and games to choose from
  • Open platform so lots of flexibility to use the slate for exactly what you want
  • Big developer community designing apps specifically for Android tablets

Android Tablet PC Cons

  • Versions of Android before version 3.0 were build for smartphones and so not optimised for larger tablets
  • Similarly most current Android apps are built for smartphones and there are currently limited apps specifically for tablets
  • The operating system is constantly evolving so feels like a work in progress rather than the finished experience of the iOS (Apple iPad) operating system
  • Not all Android tablets have access to the Android Market
  • Android fragmentation – there are lots of versions of Android and manufacturers have also adapted software layers on top. This has led to a confusing approach where it’s not clear what you’ll get with each tablet. In some cases it also leads to bloated software where manufacturers bundle pre-installed extras that you don’t really need and take up valuable memory space.

Check out the Tablet PC comparison table to see which tablets are running each operating system. We’ve also got lots of reviews to help you choose the best tablet for you.

Image Source: android developers


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  1. I was all excited about the Android Honeycomb but after reading some negative reviews I’ve become a bit skeptical. It is said that Android is a great platform with tremendous potential, but Honeycomb falls short in too many areas. This post certainly was an eye opener.

    • Hi Mathy, thanks for your thoughts. Android Honeycomb isn’t a bad operating system, it’s just not a polished and user-friendly as iOS on the iPad. It does however allow you to configure a lot more than iOS. Really depends what you’re looking for in a tablet.

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