Since Google launched its Android Honeycomb operating system for tablets, many pundits have been predicting that Apple’s lead in the market will soon come to an end in favor of Android. It was clear to them that the popularity of Android smartphones will be replicated in the tablet market. However so far this is not come to pass and Apple is still leading in tablet market share by many many orders of magnitude over any other competing tablet platform.
To some people this is a huge surprise. How can a closed ecosystem like iOS win out over an open the ecosystem like Google’s Android? Why would anyone pay for an Apple device when the are alternatives out there? Why are people being brainwashed by Apple marketing to not buy Google’s devices?
In reality, anyone who’s actually used Honeycomb would realize quite quickly why it’s just not winning in the tablet market. I have had the opportunity to use both the Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy tab. The Samsung is actually quite a pretty device with a good screen and is reasonably well made. Not on par with Apple by far, but acceptable. The Motorola is big and clunky, but it’s faster than the Samsung.
In my mind, there are two standout reasons why Honeycomb is not competitive with the iPad.
The first reason is really the overall use of the operating system. On both devices, actually using them feels jerky and labored. Moving around the OS, changing screens, just feels slow. There is always a lag and it feels like it takes effort. In contrast, the iPad is quick and responsive.
Secondly, Honeycomb is complex. There are three differ places where you can launch an application: from the home screen, the ‘apps’ grid and from a dock. On the iPad, there’s just one place. The different screens for entering data are complicated and feel unclear and there is the ever present toolbar with its three command buttons that always make you ask which one you should use.
Complexity, dear Google, is not a competitive advantage in the eyes of consumers.
So then the question is, will the next version of Android for tablets, Ice Cream Sandwich remedy any of these issues? From the screen shots I’ve seen, it doesn’t appear that there will be any great improvement, so Android fans will have to remain disappointed throughout 2012 as Apple maintains their significant market share advantage.