The Invasion of the Android-Based Tablet

03/30/2011 02:15 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2011
  • Gil Laroya Award-winning Silicon Valley product designer

If you're like me, you've heard all the hoopla about the iPad I/II, and how great they make peoples lives. As an engineer, I understood the limitations that came with a tablet device, including lack of major computing power, as well as the missing mouse and real keyboard. But when I got the opportunity to use an Android-based device, in the form of my HTC smartphone, I was astounded by how well the Google gadget OS actually addressed so many of the common gripes held by tech-freaks like myself. Now that Android 2.2 Froyo has crossed the beach-heads of the cellphone market, it is now making its way into cheap me-too tablets in a big way. These tablets have long since abandoned the useless, AWOL Windows tablet OS, and have latched onto Android as their savior. The pad war is starting to pique the interest of once discriminating device converts, ready to test the tablet waters. Brace yourself for the wave of Android tablets, because they're here, and they're taking names.

One day, on a whim, I decided to surf the net for Android-based tablets. While I wasn't very surprised that most of the tablets I found were China-based devices, I was taken aback by the actual specs offered by these devices. They now offer Capacitive touch screens, 7"-10" screen sizes, 3G, cameras, HDMI, Bluetooth, wi-fi, great battery life, and of course an Android OS. What I saw was a plethora of devices which could be had for as little as $120. Though no-name tablet PCs have come and gone, they have finally found traction with the addition of Android.

But with anything "made in China, these devices come with an air of skepticism, and so I updated my search to look for reviews and news about these devices. As an example, I selected a device called a "Dropad A8" which employs a Samsung S5PV210, 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor -- a big name plus in my book. The reviews I found amazed me. This device could be had for as little as $200, yet the specs it offered were phenomenal. Not three years ago, you would have had to spend well over $500 for the same device, if such a device even existed that is.

Now the Dropad is known by many other names; Haipad, Heropad, and Vpad, to name a few. This seems to be common with Chinese devices; they are known for manufacturing methods which leverage multiple vendors, in an effort to distribute projects and lower costs. This works well price-wise, but has the side effect of creating multiple sources for the same product, with each source wanting to market their own version and get a piece of the action. But with the manufacturing prowess that China possesses, they could never really find a real market in the US. They could make devices, but didn't have the user interface that would make such devices interesting to consumers.

And then came Android.

The evolution of Android, from an easy-to-use smartphone OS into a premier tablet operating foundation, would be the ticket for Asian device makers to find their way into the US market. In effect, Android is creating the non-iPad tablet market, in the same way that Android created the non-iPhone smartphone market. Believe it or not, Chinese made gadgets are slowly becoming a real threat to Apple, as well as their Japanese manufacturing neighbors.

So, if you're like me, you're steadily becoming more interested in these new-fangled tablet devices, especially the ones which employ an OS that's familiar to many smartphone users. With prices coming down and specs coming up, the coming of Android for tablets was a perfect storm in the making. The tablet field is ripe with cheaper-yet-better gadgets, and it's got my mouth watering.

In the ever-growing pad war, this is one invasion where people on both sides of the front line will benefit.