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Google quits selling tablets (techcrunch.com)
398 points by lando2319 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 319 comments

Good riddance! It’s not like they have actively been developing Android to support tablets. In fact, it is the other way around. The older versions had better support for tablets. Even Nexus 9 was a half hearted attempt at best — and the rest is history. Google’s lack of interest in nowhere more evident than their own apps — many of them were just scaled versions of phone apps. And if Google is not bothering to optimise their apps for tablets, what motivation do third party developers have?

Strictly speaking, Android tablets never even competed in the same arena as the iPad. Samsung is an exception, but they don’t control the ecosystem — which makes things much harder for them — even if we ignore their atrocious software.

In a lot of cases a scaled (or just small) phone app is good enough. But... overall.. I think the tablet category is just not a very big one. I had an iPad and an old 7" nexus. When they died, I didn't replace.

Phones got bigger and better. We got better at thumb typing and comfortable holding screens close. Reading on a tablet for example, is not that different to a phone these days and a (cheap) dedicated reader is better still. Meanwhile, laptops kept getting more mobile. The space between my phone and my laptop is just not that big. I found that I only ever charged it before flights, for movies which is great on tablets. But even that.. laptops and phones work good too.

Otherwise, my tablets were often battery-dead and I most tablets i come across in friends living rooms are dead. They don't get much use. When a laptop or phone died, I need a new one tomorrow. The tablet... no urgency.

Tablets are fun and cool. People like them. I'm not sure they use them as much as they expected to. It's a less extreme version of smart watches. Fun. Likeable. Not essential for most people.

The problem is that the android and iOS monoliths (especially sofwarists) will always put the phones first. If we had a less centralised ecosystem, tablets would have their own specialists.

I guess that varies from person to person. My iPad Pro, for example, is my most used personal device. I prefer it over my phone whenever possible. In fact, I like phones small - it’s a pain to pull out a brick every time I want to talk.

It’s a matter of personal taste, I guess.

Do people stilll talk on phones?

Serious question. I think I do about 99% of my communication via text or other messaging

I see this question asked a lot on almost all tech-centric places on the 'net. I think it's a decent example of the "thought bubble" that happens in tech circles both online and off. Where is it that these people asking the question actually _go_ - in real life - that they don't see many people talking via voice on their phones? I ask because almost everywhere I go or practically have ever gone since cell phones became ubiquitous, up to and including this very morning, I come across multiple instances of people talking on their phones.

I guess it depends on the demographics.

But one thing that annoys me is that people don’t usually realize how much faster and clearer voice conversation can be.

After 4 or 5 rapid text exchanges I usually send “can I call you?”

Definitely. Text is good for “lazy” communication — so is email. By lazy, I mean, I sent you a text and you can respond whenever you like. But if the communication is real time - i.e. the sender expects a quick response and vice versa, voice call is usually better. In fact, unless I know the person very well, I usually send a text asking if it is a good time to talk.

They do when driving.

>It’s a matter of personal taste, I guess.

Of course it is, but tablet sales have been declining for years.

163.5M is still a significant number of sales per year though. I don't think it's a dying segment yet. Interestingly detachable tablet sales have increased for the past few years.

Source: https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS43549518

I’d say tablet sales are approaching their stable values.

Is it because of the lack of interest or is it because people aren't replacing them because they are still working for them? I haven't lost interest in tablets but I also haven't bought one in four years because mine suits my needs.

I never buy a tablet because none of them are competitive enough. I usually have better specs on the phone in my pocket than tablets I usually see. I never understood why Android tablets did not get more competitive.

It certainly doesn't seem so for Android. The last Android tablet I bought was the Nexus 7 in 2013. Still use it from time-to-time.

It’s more like cell phones have created unreasonable expectations for sales. People change phones once ever 12-24 months. Tablets, on the other hand, easily last 3-4 years. In that sense, tables have more in common with laptops than phones. People who need them, buy them all the time. It is just that not as many people need tablets as phones. Initially a lot of tables were sold because of the hype. But then people realised that not everyone needs a tablets — and theat tablets can be shared among the family — unlike phones. Hence the so called “decline”.

I like to think that tablet sales are reaching their stable values rahpther than just declining.

iPad sales peaked a few years ago, but they still represent a good chunk of Apple’s revenue.



I'll be honest, I look at my phone like I do an iPad these days - I find the same reasons I don't like a classic tablet is the same reasons I don't like my phone much anymore. Apps suck, I'd prefer mobile web and if I have to do anything that requires brainpower then I always reach for my MacBook or my surface pro.

Nah I love my iPad Pro 10.5

Yes. But I think the gist of the point is you're in the fringe, the minority.

I’ve owned every other generation iPad since launch. The iPad Pro 10.5 is something special. Keyboard cover, screen size, split view, effortless portability... they add up in a way that has significantly changed how I use it. I rarely use my MBP away from my desk anymore. Aside from work requiring Xcode, Smart Keyboard cover + ssh client + tmux works surprisingly well (for me) for away-from-desk dev work.

I have the same tablet and the same experience. If they stopped making the iPad Pro, or something like it, I would be very much affected, because I do a great deal of real-world work on it, in places that would be much less hospitable to even small laptops.

I, too, do ssh + tmux, as well as Textastic, Pythonista, and Working Copy (git), so much so that when I showed a colleague what I did, he exclaimed in an astonished tone that the only things he thought people used iPads for were email, browsing, and games.

That remark prompted me to make an 11 minute video (all done on the iPad using screen recording, Keynote, and iMovie) of creating a Linode, sshing into it, installing a user with SSH login, logging out and sshing in as the new user, installing the latest Docker from docker.com, and demoing some of the apps I just mentioned (to fit a 15 minute time budget). The latest iPads are not toys; they can be used for professional work.

With LTE access, I can easily work almost anywhere; working on a plane is much easier than with a laptop (for me - I'm pretty tall and it's already a squeeze).

Would you mind posting the video? That sounds great.

I meant it even more delicately than that. I think (a) more people thought they would be in his boat than were, just because tablets are fun and likeable and (b) as phones/laptops got bigger/smaller, and improved faster.... There is a little less need for tablets now than 5 years ago.

That's why (I think) they will get less investment, like this article.

I don't think that's true; tablets are everywhere among the non-tech circles. They are mostly some iteration of iPad, however.

My nephews are constantly on their iPads playing games or watching YouTube.

Lost a ton of pictures on a Nexus 7, any idea if the battery is replaceable? Charging does nothing...

Chromeos with android is a lot more useful because you have full blown desktop chrome with chrome developer tools. The new chromeos devices have convertable touch screens and basically can function as tablets. But I own the new ipad because I don't have an iphone but still want my hands on these amazing Moog ios apps for my music. Android native is terrible for music, chrome browser itself has a much more highly developed api with webmidi and webaudio than you have with native android with its java based midi library.

Anyone serious about audio on Android needs to use the NDK APIs with OpenSL or the new AAudio, everything else is just pain.

Most Android devices aren't capable of truly low-latency audio (sub-10ms round-trip). This makes the total addressable market for pro audio apps very small, which means device manufacturers have little incentive to spend the engineering resources to provide low latency, which makes the total addressable market for pro audio apps very small.

Unless Google start setting audio latency requirements, it's a lost cause.


It's a real shame for bedroom producers like me, I've got a disposable income but not a spare grand for an iPad pro (plus I'm an apple anti-fan :-D ).

If Google had sorted out the audio story earlier, you might still have had problems with commodity tablets, but it might have been worth somebody's while to make a tablet specifically for audio and midi. It wouldn't be a million miles away from Maschine or something like that. But I fear the opportunity's gone now, and Android tablets are just a write off.

I still have my Nexus 7 which I basically use as a Kindle.

Those requirements do exist, but only for Android 8 devices, which aren't that many.

Otherwise only Samsung devices are usable, with their own real time audio SDK.

I admit that I haven't paid much attention. But the whole revamp of the UI framework into Fragments was precisely to let app developers support both phones and tablets.

Why do you say older versions of Android had better support for tablets?

Fragments were way over engineered. Many people completely ignored them because you basically had to rewrite a significant portion of your app to support the type of flexibility they were supposed to give you. The lifecycle of apps is already complicated enough, and fragments added even more complexity. Like another poster mentions, completely ignoring fragments is a pretty reasonable choice.

It was around the time I started playing with fragments that I realized that the native Java android toolkit was a giant pile of crap.

Android, I think, is not even supposed to be a well-engineered system. It is not central to its purpose. Its purpose is to eat marketshare, collect data, and ensure there is an outlet for ads. It only has to work well enough to do those things :)

I get the sense that it was all slapped together as quickly as possible.

Well, yeah, that's the goal of everything commercial. Being well-engineered is a means, not an end.

iOS and UWP are both commercial and the quality of their tooling and OS frameworks runs circles around Android's.

Sadly it is hard to win over free beer.

Nah, tons of companies are incredibly passionate about quality in itself. Sometimes to a fault!

> I get the sense that it was all slapped together as quickly as possible.

It was, historically. Android was a startup that had to get to market as fast as they could. To make matters worse, once the iPhone came out they had to quickly switch from a Treo-like interface to a iOS-like one in order to stay relevant.

To Google's credit, they've been trying for years to clean it up, but there's only so much they can do…

I got the same impression, it's just filled with hacks to get proper behavior and don't get me started on the support libraries, oof how I hate those.

Sorry just got stuck and smiled over your first sentence "Fragments were way over engineered." and couldn't restrain myself of thinking about all Googlers that passed the whiteboard tests

True I don't think I have ever had an interview question that questioned my ability to keep simple. I think this is where experience comes in valuable, the ability to "keep things as simple as possible and no simpler".

I find the best approach to KISS is to write it as simple as possible under the assumption you'll have to throw it away. If it turns out you don't have to (after measuring), then all the better.

I host interviews for Google. A simpler design that solves a problem is definitely valued better than an unnecessarily-complicated one.

It has nothing to do with APIs.

Our app has a great tablet version, on par with iPad and we don’t use fragments at all. We just change things based on size.

It’s more that Google obviously stopped caring about tablets many major versions ago.

For what it's worth, there are Android tablet users out there like me that really appreciate the work you put into making the experience great :-)

See but that doesn't answer my question: What makes you think that they stopped caring about tablets?

Lots of Android system UI and first party apps had better tablet interfaces in ICS than they do in Nougat or Oreo.

This is a bit of a stretch. There was a lot of work done on improving tablet support in K, L and M, including work to specifically support the Nexus 9 and Pixel C. There was also the addition of multi-window, etc.

Keep in mind that Fragments happened while Rubin was still nominally in control of Android.

Once the civil war between him and Pichai had a clear winner (after all, for a while both ChromeOS and Android were poised to push into the same market), the tablet elements were depreciated rapidly as as Duarte was free to assert more control.

Maybe it is just me but Android got gradually worse over time, bloated with useless features that are the first thing that I turn off on my new devices usually. It is still impossible to find certain basic functionality in the setup, which drives my nuts every single time I have to find them. It would be worth to visualise how much effort is to turn off spell correction on different mobile devices and use change other basic parameters and compare it to iOS.

On my android phone (Nokia 3, fwiw) that example is trivial: pull down menu, settings, search "spell", "spell checker", "off".

Yup, exact same on my S7.

Spell checker setting did not appear on my S8.

I remember when settings search actually worked. Now a lot is hidden in Google Play Services settings and can't be found.

I agree. 1st table I ever owned was a Nexus 7. I bought it because I was very satisfied with Nexus 5 being my phone (price and stability).

The thing that annoyed me the most about Nexus 7 apart from lacking on basic things was its sound... I'd go in an airplane and I wouldn't be able to hear anything. After that I never bought a Nexus product again, and tbh I don't feel left out of anything.

> basic things was its sound... I'd go in an airplane and I wouldn't be able to hear anything.

Was the sound issue also present when you were using headphones?

A bit of topic: Because it inconsiderate to use speakers in a airplane. Last airline I used warn passengers to not use speakers.

Sorry, I didn't specify it. Yes that was using headphones... who would use speakers on an airplane.

You weren't using headphones on a plane? You know other people don't want to hear your movie, right?

I was using headphones, just forgot to specify it... why you so mad?

I loved my nexus-7, and the 2nd gen nexus-7 even more. Inexpensive, pure android, decent hardware spec, and a usefully larger display than a phone.

Anyone know of a current table that avoids the adware, crapware, and 3d contact managers where each card flies around in 3D? I just want android with the current security updates and 7-9" display.

Samsung Chromebook Plus satisfies my needs for a tablet: mainly media consumption (web browsing, YouTube, reading long articles, and watching movies).

1. Incredibly nice screen

2. Gets security updates (ChromeOS devices are great for this compared to the dumpster fire that is Android security)

3. Haven't had any issues with Android support (I use mainly apps like RBDigital, Instapaper, Wikipedia)

4. Works well for movies (I watch in laptop mode using stock media player)

5. No bloatware

6. Really good battery life.

It also has a stylus which works well, but I've returned to paper exercise books for note taking.

I can't recommend the device enough.

My biggest gripe is I need to carry a USBC->USBA adapter to be able to charge my phone, or connect USB drives. They're cheap, but it's a bit annoying.

>It also has a stylus which works well, but I've returned to paper exercise books for note taking.

So, I'm very curious about this. Were you taking written notes on electronic devices? What apps and devices have you tried?

I ask because a couple years ago I tried using a surface for taking notes when I got into a coding bootcamp and it was a mind blowing experience for me - finally, infinite paper space. Swapping between whatever color pen/highlighter I needed. Throwing pics into notes. I thought time and time again, "if I had this thing in college I'd have had a 4.0" (I had, like, a 3.2 lol)

For me it made taking notes so easy that I learned better. Now it's two generations old and I'm looking to upgrade, but I can't justify 2k on the new model or the surface book, so I'm wondering if you explored other options, or what your experience was with the Chromebook plus.

I've also considered switching to pen and paper but that means carrying around a fuckload of pens and highlighters, which would annoy me.

I switched from a Surface Pro 3 to an iPad Pro 9.7” and found Apple’s stylus to be much more accurate. It’s not a huge deal for roughly capturing handwriting, but the Surface’s Ntrig digitizer relies a lot on smoothing out strokes, if you try to draw a slow diagonal line you can see a ton of wobble as the stroke gets pulled around by the digitizer’s grid.

You lose out on having a full desktop OS when you need it, and not having an eraser on the back of the stylus is an adjustment, but it’s a fantastic device for writing and drawing. More recently they’ve brought the stylus support down to the entry level iPad, so if you have an Apple Store nearby I’d definitely recommend stopping by to try it out.

What software do you use on the iPad?

OneNote mostly. The iOS version isn’t as full featured as the desktop one (it’s more in line with the Windows Store version), but it’s worked well for me. That’s where all my notes were when I switched so it seemed easiest to stick with it.

The built-in Notes app from Apple has also gotten more capable in iOS 11, and there are other options that I hear good things about but haven’t tried.


Procreate and Autodesk Sketchbook are both great for more powerful digital painting / drawing, I’m personally in the Procreate camp.

I've been using Good Notes and the handwriting part of it is fantastic. The notebook management part of the app is somewhat weaker though and lately I've been thinking about trying something else.

For sketching quick diagrams on meetings I love Linea.

I've had good experiences with the Samsung Note tablets with the s-pen and the third party Squid app (formerly Papyrus). But even this experience is lesser now. The former gen had the s-pen embedded into the tablet itself so you just always had it around. It doesn't do that anymore and you have to lug it separately. I haven't tried a iPad with pencil, but if I have to replace my tablet I'll buy anything that brings back that embedded stylus approach.

I've played with using Google Keep (both the Chrome app and the Android app), Squid and Kami.

I haven't played around with any other devices' styluses.

I switched back to pen and paper because I usually want to continue to use my device with full-screen content while taking notes.

> Gets security updates (ChromeOS devices are great for this compared to the dumpster fire that is Android security)

Enjoy that while it lasts. I have a chromebook that recently notified me it won't get any more updates, after four and a half years. That beats a phone, but it's pretty terrible by laptop standards. You can expect a laptop or desktop with any other OS to be good for a decade or more.

Can you run Linux on it instead?

Not to excuse Google - but there's little incentive for a company to maintain devices past a certain point when there's no financial or regulatory requirement to do so.

I'm not sure Windows 7 being supported for a decade was intentional, but we'll see what pans out with Windows 10's incremental model.

I'm planning to stick some kind of linux or alternative chrome OS on there, if possible.

> I'm not sure Windows 7 being supported for a decade was intentional, but we'll see what pans out with Windows 10's incremental model.

It definitely was. XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10LTSB all start[ed] with 10 years of support, and you can install a newer version on your same hardware to reset that counter.

Something's gone wrong with the core architecture if Google needs to actively "maintain devices" instead of just making generic security patches and shipping them out, with a little bit of testing.

Microsoft doesn’t need to constantly rebuild different kernels for every supported device, which is basically a necessity for Android/ChromeOS because of their Linux base. That’s probably a big motivator for the Fuschia project.

It has far less to do with the Linux base than the shear variety of chipsets with custom loaders needed for ARM architecture.

And anything like PCI lookup on ARM.

Damn it, MS balked at offering Windows on power efficient Atoms. This because Intel had stripped PCI from the SoC to save transistors and thus power.

I suspect that if you were to poke at the ARM chips found in the Windows RT devices, they would be special variants with PCI grafted on.

ARM SOCs are a bit like firing up an old DOS PC and fiddling with IRQ and DMA setting, only that you can't pull the cover off to see what cards are inserted and what the DIPs are set to.

To add insult to injury, it's an x86 Chromebook that doesn't require any of that custom ARM configuration to run.

I guess I’m old fashioned, but I highly recommend getting an x86 netbook and putting linux on it. They still exist, and are basically chromebooks with the crazy google bios removed.

For instance the acer 11” cloudbooks run linux well.

You can disable secure boot. However, if you want chromebook style security without google or the centralized PKI, you can purge the ms keys and enroll the bootloader of your choice without special signing from the distro.

You can also manually enroll the distribution’s keys, I think, but I don’t see any practical reason to do that.

The "crazy google bios" is CoreBoot, isn't it? Why wouldn't you want that?

Current iPad trounces the Samsung in all these categories (except Android support, of course), though, and costs less too. And has a better aspect ratio. And is much lighter.

I initially bought it only for laptop-mode (web-browsing and Google Docs). The keyboard and touchpad are pretty great. The tablet-mode has just been a convenient bonus for reading when laying down.

While I think it has the perfect form-factor for a laptop (thin, light and great battery life), it's not the perfect general-use laptop as it can't run arbitrary x86 applications natively, nor has high specs. (I hope Project Crostini will make it a suitable for some light dev work though). Its touchpad is great, and so is the Chromebook-style keyboard (small tweak I'd make would be a double-width backspace key, but I for sure prefer no Super key and no F1 to F12 row).

It may not the perfect tablet because as you say, iPad is lighter, and the ergonomics of a hinged hybrid will always be slightly worse with a keyboard on the back. But it does a really good job.

While arguably imperfect in isolation, together as a single unibody aluminum device, it is the best device I have ever used. For what it is, it's very very cheap, you're right it may be slightly more expensive than an iPad (and the price hasn't really fell since it came out a while ago).

> is much lighter

presumably because of (lack of) keyboard.

It's lighter even if you include Apple's (very nice) keyboard. And has a higher build quality.

Its $100+ keyboard? And that is still missing the $100 pencil. And you get a smaller screen.

If you want a 12 inch screen with keyboard and pen this starts at $850. Suprise, double the price gives you something marginally nicer.

> double the price gives you something marginally nicer.

But then you have use an iOS walled garden.

It's doesn't cost less once you add the pencil and a keyboard unless I'm missing something.

Samsung also has W10 tablets, and for my use cases, iPad surely doesn't trounces those.

> Samsung Chromebook Plus satisfies my needs for a tablet: mainly media consumption (web browsing, YouTube, reading long articles, and watching movies).

I have a Samsung Chromebook Plus, and I absolutely despise it as a tablet. Compared to my Nexus 9 (which is still kicking), it's a far inferior device. My primary uses for my tablet are watching video and reading comics. It manages to fail at both of those two things.

1. No system-wide support for red-tint (aka "night mode", Flux, Twilight, etc.)[0]

2. Buggy rotation lock - this works very inconsistently across apps.

3. Heavy (compared to keyboard-less tablets)

4. Buggy soft keyboard (sometimes the soft keyboard just straight-up doesn't work in certain apps, so I have to unfold the device from tablet mode just to use the hardware keyboard to type).

I still use my Nexus 9 over the Chromebook Plus every time I can. When my Nexus 9 dies, I'll probably end up getting a Surface to replace it.

[0] There is finally support for it on a per-user basis, but it took years for them to introduce this. And even now, if you close your tablet and have to unlock it again, you'll be blinded by the unlock screen.

I almost only use my Nexus 9 for Netflix/Plex in bed and a few ebooks now and then. Not sure I want to replace it with something that does more than that, buy some expensive replacement and still only end up doing the Netflix in bed thing would suck. I hope there still are some cheap (Xiaomi maybe?) tablets out there when that day comes.

If all you want is Netflix/Plex and books then Amazon’s Fire tablets are great. I have one I mainly keep in the kitchen so I can watch TV while cooking and it’s been great, although I’m tempted to get one of the newer models for Alexa support.

Good response. Sorry to hear your experiences. Given I use tablet-mode mainly for Android reading apps (media consumption) and the native Chrome browser (all in portrait-mode), I don't think I've had those issues, at least anytime recently.

I've definitely had the soft keyboard issues on a lot of Android devices in the past a lot however.

with a Chromebook, you're buying hardware with pre-installed spyware, until you remove all Google services from the OS

2-5 seems surpring. Samsung rarely supports their products and constantly shits all over them with custom crapware.

Chromebooks have no room for manufacturer involvement with the software. Afaik, assuming based on public references, if you want to make a Chromebook, you use Google's reference design for the motherboard, pick a compatible CPU, design your own keyboard (but use a Google approved controller instead of a normal one), design your own case and pick a display, put everything together, use Google's firmware and use Google's ChromeOS build. OS updates come automatically from Google.

Perhaps it's slightly less rigid than it seems, but I've seen several Chromebooks and they all seem exactly the same. There's not even a manufacturer logo on boot.

Sounds like they learned their lesson from Android.

Can you point me towards some information on the google approved keyboard controller, I couldn't find anything except the layout differences on google.

A lot of the Chromebooks have an i2c keyboard controller instead of a standard USB/PS2 controller. I assume you have to put something in that has drivers in ChromeOS. I don't know if there's specific info on that (other than what goes into the other os drivers)

That's one of the benefits of Chromebooks: there isn't really any way to install the custom crapware. On Android they are obviously not limited there and (ab)use it to a great extent. It's really too bad, because I love their hardware. Can't stand the software tho, so I buy elsewhere.

I love their hardware but I will never buy it again. It's disappointing that Google won't be making tables anymore. i really liked my Nexus 7. But Samsung is junk software wise in my opinion.

I totally agree. There was a rumor a couple years ago that Samsung was going to make a "pure Android" phone and I got pretty excited for that, but alas the "pure" experience shipped with crapware and their custom launcher D-:

I do actually know someone that loves Samsung software, but it's rare. I think they'd get really far if they would make it light and easy to remove. I really don't see any disadvantages to that approach, unless they're being paid to include things (which is entirely possible).

> custom launcher

Speaking of this, this is another thing Google seriously screwed up lately. Used to be you could install Google Now launcher on any device and avoid OEM crap launchers. Now there is "pixel launcher" which is tied to the device. You can get the APK but this is non supported.

It is so weird to me that they would create a platform where you can swap out launchers and not leave a reasonable first party default in place. Bad for the Android brand and bad for users.

Here is another one.

I can't stand the plain bland stock Android UI.

To see where I came from, Enlightenment was one of my favourite window managers on my Linux days.

Enlightenment always seemed cool in videos but very bland when I actually tried it. Ugly even compared to what I had seen.

Samsung fund{ed,s?} Enlightenment/EFL development for Tizen, so they are linked in a way.

I find lineage os runs pretty well on my Samsung tablet. Be sure to double check model numbers on that though.

I still use my Nexus 7 (2nd gen) as my main tablet. That thing is a trooper. It's my book reader, Chromecast runner, Sonos controller, etc. It's big enough to comfortably watch Twitch on. It fits in my back jeans pocket so I can easily bring it with me, which lots of tablets including the ipad mini don't. I'd love to find a modern replacement for it, ideally just a little bit bigger.

Xiaomi Mi Max 2

It's not as big, but you can carry it everywhere. And it's only $200.


I would do the same, but as of this year battery recharge times of my Nexus 7 tablet got longer and longer until it died by running out of battery while charging. Hardware doesn't last forever. It will be missed.

The article is correct that tablet replacement rates are low. But that's not zero. And there is a lack of modern replacements.

I've been looking around but I expected there to be a "this years model" with a new-ish processor, high-res screen, USB-C and a recent build of Android.

Not disagreeing with your main point but battery replacement on the Nexus 7 2013 is super easy - I did it in under 10 minutes.

I still use my Nexus 10 when traveling to watch movies. The screen looks amazing and even after ~5 years I can watch 6+ hours of video on it without a recharge.

Same here. N10 is the perfect travel tablet. I even have a POGO charging cable which soon enough could be worth more than the N10. :)

My one's gone yellow and the battery lasts about 30 minutes.

Same here. It's perfect for my use. Only thing missing is an sd card slot, even micro one, but with otg I can manage even that. If battery dies, you can buy a replacement kit on ebay.

Still have a Nexus 10, but it's gotten so slow it's ready for the bin :(

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus seems reasonable, and it is one inch bigger.

go over to https://download.lineageos.org/ and find a supported tablet.

pros: no crapware (nearly stock android), weekly updates

cons: needs unlocked bootloader, not the newest and greatest (manufacturers take their sweet time to release kernel sources), weekly rolling release

It would be nice if there was a law forcing manufacturers to unlock your bootloader if you request it for a device that you own 100%... it's getting harder and harder to find unlockable devices (without having to resort to bugs in the system).

https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/ lets you easily ctrl-f for tablet

Nexus 7 2013 is still a great tablet.

While the Nexus7 gen 2 was, and to some extent still is, a great tablet. I don't think i would recommend anyone to buy it today. It's stuck on Android 6.0 with known security vulnerabilities and the performance is starting to fall a bit behind the software "development".

True, but you can get a refurb unit for about $100 and put LineageOS on it. We've had five of them through this house (the kids use them) and I haven't seen anything they want to do that it can't.

Slightly below the range, you find e.g. Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro, on which i yo date don't remember encountering crapware (of any kind). I can comfortably run an 80-column terminal on it (wireless even), and it still (barely) fits in my front pocket.

> don't remember encountering crapware (of any kind)

Lenovo Motorola, Huawei and others have plenty of spyware on them. Years ago there was Superfish, later Adups Technology spyware and Allwinner's root backdoor.

Not the kinds of devices you want to be doing your banking on.

Yes. Probably. Which is why I only said that I don't remember encountering any, not that one should presume there is none.

I got a Samsung Galaxy Tab A from Costco for $220...10" (9.7?) screen, decent processor...not totally vanilla Android but close. I've been very pleased with it.

The mid level tablet market died in a race to the bottom.

Looking on aliexpress or taobao, you'll find dozens upon dozens of cheap tablets with CPU's from allwinner or rockchip, a few gigs of ram/flash and a not that great 8-10" screen for <$100. At higher price points you can get a chromebook with a keyboard and arguable more functionality.

Completing against these are a few Samsung models that have their highly customized variant of Android, and Apple holding the premium ground with iOS/HW quality/price/performance, and MS selling the Surface with Windows for similar prices.

The best we can hope for is for low end tablets to improve over the next few years.

Apple's newest full form-factor iPad is only $300, and often is available on sale for ~$270. I think that's made a big difference.

I picked up one of those iPads at ~$270 with an academic discount, and it's a solid machine. Great battery life, good screen, enough space for a couple Netflix movies on flights. It doesn't feel cheap or compromised at all.

I just bought one for my five year old, it's a pretty damned impressive device - she loves drawing on my 12.9" iPad Pro and having Apple Pencil support across the whole product line means she can do so on a less expensive device (the 12.9" Pro is already beastly enough, I cannot bear to put a case on it). With some fairly large games loaded up we've still got roughly 40% of the storage free, and with app offloading in iOS 11 I don't really have to worry about space like I do on her now defunct Fire HD 7.

With that being said, I couldn't downgrade to the 9.7" iPad from the Pro models, I didn't think the non-laminated screen would be too much of a deal but it really does make a huge difference.

The 12.9"iPad Pro is one of the few pricey electronic devices I've found myself buying and then not really using. I had a lot of ambitions for using it for instructional-type drawing but I didn't really get that going. And it's just too big and heavy to use generally. And I say this as someone who really likes its smaller sibling, especially when I'm traveling.

But the big iPad now just sits on a stand in the kitchen where I use it for recipes and the odd video. It's pretty underutilized.

The 12.9” is rather large, I certainly use it less than I anticipated because of it since it’s not particularly friendly to hold for expected periods. When I eventually upgrade I might consider getting the 10.5” model as a result - though I enjoy the larger screen still for certain activities like reading replica newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

I like the 10.5" more for most purposes although, as you say, every now and then the larger screen is useful. If it's just flowing text I'm reading, I actually prefer the Kindle Paperwhite but the iPad is sufficiently more versatile that that's what I almost always bring when traveling.

This, plus the effect the second hand market has. You can pick up older-gen iPad Air's for $180.

The top brand tablets (e.g. Apple) will keep their performance really well. They don't struggle from laptop's getting filled with crap and slowing down, which used to happen for most computer users, or struggled to keep battery life as much as many laptops. And they never struggled with the phone upgrade path of 2 years due to a better camera, new battery and fashion.

The second hand market allows you to pick up pretty cheap tablets which are useful for all intents and purposes of most people owning a tablet. (bigger-than-phone consumption device of netflix, news, magazines, books and a spotify remote).

Adding the keyboard and pen this adds up to $500 but you are still stuck with a 10 inch screen and the lowest storage config.

The price is fair but not great.

When you say full form factor, do you mean something other than the 13”? That model is $800 at the cheapest.

I mean non-mini. The traditional 9.7 inch screen.

> At higher price points you can get a chromebook with a keyboard and arguable more functionality.

Alternatively at the <$200 price point you get dual-booting Windows 10/Android tablets with magnetically attachable keyboard like the Onda Obook or Teclast Tbook. They're not amazing, but I got an Obook to replace my last Chromebook, and it's decent enough that I haven't used my previous tablet since - it meets both needs well enough.

(note that I would consider any of these usable as a replacement for a proper laptop - I use mine as a "I can't bother carrying my big and heavy 17" laptop to this meeting" option)

I have an RCA tablet that's Windows-only, with a detachable keyboard (although one of dubious value) that I got at Wal-mart for $80. Wrote this post on it, in fact. It is a shitty computer, but it's an incredible amount of computer for $80.

To be fair, I bought a cheap shitty tablet to act as a display for my wifi camera to monitor the baby. Works well for a single purpose, and I don't use it for anything else.

I sold my Nexus 7 some time ago because it was gathering dust.

> At higher price points you can get a chromebook

What if I actually want the Android OS and/or if I actually want a tablet rather than a laptop and the price is not the reason why?

> Cheap Kindle tablets from Amazon have proliferated somewhat, presumably as distractions for kids who would otherwise get fingerprints all over mom’s new phone, or for ultra-compact time-wasting on airplanes.

Why does everybody think of only consumer-electronics uses for a $40 tablet? I think it would be quite obvious what the real use for these is: IoT control surfaces (the “smart fridge” upgrade), POS systems, inventory kiosks, etc. Embedded systems, in other words.

And, heck, for $40 apiece, you can embed them into every desk in your office as a personalizeable dashboard. Or hand them out with preloaded maps on them to every participant in a missing-persons search.

In fact, for $40, you could just set the display to a single colour and call it a cheaper alternative to a smart lightbulb. :P

I agree completely! I've been thinking about why the rise of the ultra-cheap Fire tablets haven't created a new maker revolution so to speak. They can be had for cheaper than the RPi for Black Friday with a built in screen!

Well it’s not as if Amazon lets you hack around around on them or side load apps - you’re stuck with the Amazon store unless you try a dodgy exploit based unlocking method - which leaves you with a questionable tablet.

Exactly. And they sneakily auto update before you realize it. My older one apparently can’t be rooted now and because they pump new ones out there’s no one really caring about the old ones. Hard to complain for the price but ya know still sucks. They make great gifts at least.

If you find the risk of hacking your tablets unacceptable to then use for banking/shopping etc can't you just use them (as intended) for youtube, browsing etc? Worst case scenario - you have to create a few new logins for sites such as this. It's not a compelling reason to avoid at £35 tablet if you ask me.

I've got a cheap Amazon fire tablet. To install software you download the apk and click on it, and it asks if you want to allow the installation of untrusted apps. No hacking required.

* looks at nexus 7 with play store on it *

Seemed fairly easy and - importantly reversable.

Okay, google mail doesn't work - but I can almost forgive that.

I thought those things were defective-by-design, and nobody had really succeeded in fixing them?

Likely a lack of physical IO.

These things have a single micro-USB port, and it will be dedicated to charging more often than not.

an RPi by comparison have ethernet, multiple A style USB ports, and dedicated video out (never mind the pin array).

I bought a Kindle tablet, and I wouldn’t even use it as an IOT control surface.

I would use it if it had a good way of writing software for it, meaning a SDK. It would be absolutely awesome wall-mounted with some dashboard, but the built-in web-browser can't even be put to full screen properly and can't be set to auto-start.

The "hand-out" case seems to be particularily promising. Are there radios that could complement a few miles of range, be it only with simple chat / send-coordinates? Come to think of it, opus doesn't take much either. A sub-100$ kit with voice+tablet should be feasible.

There are lots of interesting radios that can give you a few miles of low-bandwidth coverage - gotenna linked above, lorawan, or even borrowing a temporary tower from your local cell provider, but the challenge is that $40 tablets don't support any of those frequencies. The best you're going to get is to deploy a mesh of ubiquiti nanostations or similar (which actually works pretty well)

LoRaWAN is weird, but it might be useful. This does remind me to consider playing around with a couple units, and maybe set up something mesh-like or so. Considering one of those only needs an ESP32 and an 18650 to reach similar properties to the gotenna, it might be feasible (if the software turns out to be usable) to get a handful/caseful from Shenzen.

The goTenna is approximately what you're looking for, albeit at a higher price point.


Yes, this is about what I meant. The price at about 80$ (with bulk discount), possibly slightly less is still a little high, but thanks for the info.

FRS/GMRS handhelds are like $50.

Thanks, though they seem to be US-only, from quick research. Also LoRaWAN does not require a license and can handle lower-power applications with the same network. I will check it out in detail later.

Spectrum allocation for personal radio service is almost always country specific.

Somewhat. But some are larger areas. I might need to take a look at lower bandwidth applications based on spread-spectrum coding. That should enable reasonable sub-unity SNR transmissions, enabling higher frequency bands with much wider bands.

Microsoft seems like the only company that understands tablets right now. They should be more like computers, not more like phones.

There's also a pretty great argument that given all of our phones are absolute powerhouses nowadays, phones should also be less like phones and more like computers. I'm hopeful Microsoft can also move to spur on this change; maybe soon the market will be ready for the return of Windows Phone.

The problem with Microsoft's attempt at convergence is that they're making Windows computers worse to make tablets better. And the other half of their convergence play - windows phone - failed completely. Making tablets more like computers is cool, but let's not turn real computers into tablets while we're at it.

I concur. Windows vs. Android/iOS on tablets is one of the better examples of tools vs. toys.

I'm writing this comment on a cheap Windows 10 laptop/tablet I bought second-hand for $120. It's an order of magnitude more useful than my brother's $500 Samsung Android tablet. Having proper OS on a tablet turns it from a consumption tool into a productivity one.

The sad part is that Android could have been a tool, and the first gen of tablets were just that to many, but then Google fumbled, badly.

The major fumble was that they restructured the storage permissions, making it that much harder to write to external storage from Android. Oddly this coincided with the introduction of movies and music to the Android Marketplace (later renamed Google Play).

Ting is that much as with many Windows tablets right now, early Android tablets came with type-A USB ports. Thus allowing various devices, storage included, to be plugged in and utilized.

But this quickly vanished on later generations once the storage changes came to be.

Never mind that the UI of the tablet variant of Android was more suited for landscape use, clearly indicating that it was aimed at 2-in-1s as well as tablets.

But then ChromeOS happened, and the focus shifted to it for courting corporate use (they even had Citrix on stage to demo logging into Windows remotely from a Chrome tab).

Only recently have we seen renewed focus on Android for work. But this involves an "enclave" on phones for work apps, and getting Android apps to run on ChromeOS.

Then again, Android was an acquisition. ChromeOS spawned from within Google's 20% scheme of "personal projects". I guess it has always been an ill fit within the Google corporate structure, and should probably have been spun of as its own company during the Alphabet restructuring.

I've found Windows very frustrating to use on non-Surface tablets and somehow the tablet mode is even more so. IIRC, opening the on-screen keyboard makes you lose focus on whatever window it was you wanted to type in.

How would the onscreen keyboard function if it worked that way? I don't think you remember correctly, and it doesn't do that.

The tablet mode is weird though, I gave up on using it. :(

You tap an icon on the toolbar to open it which loses the focus. Then, once it's open, you can switch between the two without losing the focus. You could leave it open but then you lose half the screen to a keyboard without a number row.

It's only a matter of time for the convergence of phones and Dex like docking functionality. I'm actually surprised Google isn't exploring this area more because it will really kick up the versality of phones. I guess Google doesn't want phones to cannabalize their Chromebook marketshare.

There actually have been a few attempts at "convergence," notably Canonical with Ubuntu phone. The reasons behind the failures are complicated, and IMHO haven't been proven definitively, but IANA expert in that field (just a consumer that really, really wants that).

I only mention this because it's possible Google watch the others crash and burn and decided not to enter.

I guess Google doesn't want phones to cannabalize their Chromebook marketshare.

Android, Chrome, and ChromeOS exist as channels for Google to deliver its services, they are not profit centers in and of themselves (no license fee for Android, Chrome is a free download, ChromeOS runs on the cheapest hardware out there). Google would have no qualms about gutting the ChromeOS market if whatever replaced it offered a better opportunity to get their services in front of more eyeballs.

Exactly. This is the core strategy for Google. And it makes sense, because google makes money from ads. Not android or chromeos

I highly doubt this. I mean on a long enough timeline it’s only a matter of time until we are cyborgs with high speed internet access backed into our brains....but I cannot see any thing like Dex ever taking off. The user interaction is just horrendous.

Maybe if it is wireless and never interferes with the users ability to use the phone for anything, it could work, but if the user has to ‘dock’ there phone I think it’s game over...

This really needs to happen. I want all my state in the cloud. Whatever device should sink up with that state down to the desktop and window manager.

Phones aren't built for active cooling. Google maps turns my phone into a blowtorch after 30 minutes of usage.

The dock can have cooling capabilities which is something that haven't been attempted yet. It can be similar to Laptop Cooling Pads. Just like when I put my phone in front of the air ventilation with AC on, it doesn't get hot even with mapping on.

Phones should have a thermal output port just like they have I/O ports.

The problem is that nobody likes Windows, and most people will chose an alternative even if its functionality is limited like Android or IOS. Though I agree I would kill for a premium tablet with a proper operating system like OSX or Ubuntu.

I have an Asus Chromebook flip and love the form factor. It can be used in tablet mode (360 hinges) and runs almost all Android apps.

Pro: cheap, physical keyboard, 10hrs runtime, lightweight

Con: flaky touch, proprietary charger, mine needs a new battery, no gps

Funny thing is that the early days of Android tablets were just like that.

Hell, Android was poised to get into the 2-in-1 market as well.

But then two things happened.

First Google expanded the Android Marketplace (later rechristened Google Play) to offer movies and music. Coinciding with this, Google redesigned the permissions surrounding removable storage, making them for most apps read only (making it that much harder to produce on a Android device and then store the results on a USB stick or similar).

Second was now CEO Pichai's baby, ChromeOS. The path of it and Android beyond phones crossed, and Pichai was able to best Rubin. Thus we had a grand unveiling of ChromeOS where they tried to angle it towards corporate use, to the point that they had Citrix join them on stage to demo logging into Windows PCs from a ChromeOS browser window.

And while Google tried in vain to sell ChromeOS as a corporate tool, Android languished. Only recently have there been renewed interest in Android beyond consumer phones. First with a "sandbox" for work apps, second by putting Android apps on ChromeOS.

"Microsoft seems like the only company that understands tablets right now. They should be more like computers, not more like phones."

Consumers are yet to get on board with this idea, though, as they're not very popular.

Nobody has anything to learn about hardware or software from Microsoft. Samsung and Amazon are doing fine. I'm going to sell my £150 10inch Amazon tablet and get what? An expensive Surface thing?

"maybe soon the market will be ready for the return of Windows Phone."

Or maybe not.

The downside is that being "more like computers" usually means "more complicated". iPads on iOS 11 have gotten so overloaded with gestures and other crap that I don't think I'll buy them for personal use and relatives anymore.

I really think there's a market for dumb-but-simple media consumption devices that the tech "elite"/press doesn't appreciate.

> Microsoft seems like the only company that understands tablets right now. They should be more like computers, not more like phones.

Apple finally seems to be getting the hint here with the iPad Pro and the iOS 11 update. The restrictions on what Apple will approve to be published on the App Store means it certainly will not be a traditional computer replacement at this time - but I'm comfortable saying I can actually get some work done it if I had no other computer available (I'm not going to be programming on the thing of course, but I can at least get through meetings, triage email, write documentation, etc.).

> I'm hopeful Microsoft can also move to spur on this change; maybe soon the market will be ready for the return of Windows Phone.

I can only hope, as a month 1 adopter of Windows Phone 7 and having stuck with the platform through Windows Mobile 10 I'm still pretty miffed and have little hope they'll manage to make a phoenix rise from it's ashes. Hell, my entire family had Windows Phones until it was painfully obvious it was going nowhere almost 3 years ago so we started switching to iPhone's instead as the need to replace or upgrade devices rolled in.

I don't even think it's something silly like Microsoft doesn't "get" mobile, because I always thought WP was great at giving the consistent and (mostly) polished UX you'd get from an iPhone while presenting the choice of hardware the Android ecosystem allows.

Personally the only reason I was the first to jump ship was because I wanted to access our work VPN without needing my laptop, but there was no AnyConnect app available for Windows Phone. The application ecosystem was barren, and I had no problem with that myself outside the aforementioned VPN app but without even an official YouTube app it's a hard sell to many. The current Microsoft store has an increasing number of Windows 10 apps available, but so much of it is absolute garbage that even Google Play is less frustrating to search.

Microsoft knows how to build hardware, they proved that with the Surface line and did a decent job with the Microsoft-branded Lumia hardware too. They know how to develop a software platform, Windows is still king of the desktop and makes a strong showing in the enterprise server market, Visual Studio is touted by many as the best IDE (not my favorite, but it does the job fine so I guess I can see why they'd have that opinion). What they don't know how to do is develop an ecosystem, to get partners to WANT to develop for their platform instead of being FORCED to (basically any enterprise is going to have Windows Server deployed and admins on staff, Windows is the only relevant desktop in the enterprise market, .Net Core is nice enough but unless you're already a .Net shop there's not much reason to choose it over more mature ecosystems). Until they get that sorted there's no way Windows Phone will get rebooted again, it's dead.

A big issue was the usual internal wars between DevTools and WinDev.

.NET used to belong to DevTools, while C and C++ to WinDev.

So from the outside when they won the internal Longhorn wars, and COM emerged as replacement for the .NET ideas, we ended up with WinRT and WinDev idea how .NET on thr new world should look like.

Naturally it wasn't well received, we ended up going through UAP, UWP and now they are merging Win32 and UWP into an common model.

Now that the divisions have been merged, maybe these issues are not happening again.

Microsoft understands tablets? According to this chart their tablets don't even register.


Am I missing something? The table for that chat shows only 3 companies and Microsoft isn't among them. That doesn't mean Microsoft tablet sales are insignificant in comparison.

The chart shows 10+ companies of which only 6 are visible on the graph.

I am not surprised. What we think of today when we say "tablet" is a first-class computing device and I am of the opinion few people want a plurality of such devices in their life. This is due to what I call the "yet another application platform dilemma." At some saturation point, few people want the mental burden of adding the care and feeding of another device to their life. Few people want to manage numerous devices each of which requires installation and configuration of applications, processing of notifications they've seen elsewhere, and irksome routine updates.

Multi-device living is exhausting when each device is a first-class application platform that (out of necessity) assumes it may be your exclusive piece of technology.

A few years back, I argued [1] that we have forgotten an alternative definition of tablet, a device category that—were it executed well, and with today's capabilities—would be sufficiently compelling that I would buy several for my household:

> In the early 2000s, Microsoft experimented with mobile display panels in a tablet form factor called "Smart Displays." ... Smart Displays provided access to your desktop computer via Wi-Fi. With their poorly executed hardware, short-sighted licensing limitations in Windows XP, immaturity of the RDP protocol, high prices, and essentially no marketing, Smart Displays were a certain failure from the start.

> But theirs was a trajectory for tablets that has since been lost to history. They existed to bring your singular computing environment to you, wherever you were, in a convenient form factor.

That singular computing platform with multiple views model is what I have wanted essentially my whole life. I've called it "PAO" (Personal Application Omnipresence) [2] for the last several years. I believe it's a model that could be highly compelling if executed broadly by a tech titan willing to try something different.

[1] http://tiamat.tsotech.com/why-tablet-sales-are-falling

[2] http://tiamat.tsotech.com/pao

FINALLY, someone who had the same idea as me. I've actively looked for ways to do something like this and even considered setting something like this up in a quick and dirty way (by abusing X forwarding over the internet across devices; probably the closest I'll get to making this system work without modifying every program on my computer).

The sheer inefficiency of getting my email on my phone, laptop, PC and tablet across several apps without any of them communicating between them is driving me mad.

I have an overpowered gaming machine in my room and a slow, old Samsung tablet near my bed. If I want to read something in bed, I'll have to suffer through the slow Chrome browser with all of its lag and lack of hardware accelerated decoding while there's a machine with incredible graphical power available _right there_. I'd love to turn my tablet into a thin client for my PC, but that requires a mix of slow or unstable remote desktop apps.

In my mind, this concept would also have other devices help with the workload. For example, when my server is busy running compilers, my laptop can kick in and help out with some of the work by doing the Javascript for my tablet. This makes the work more complicated, but combines the power of my collection of personal devices into a single platform.

I really hope someone or some company can help the world move this way. It's been done before in part back when thin clients were the latest hit and after the last few years, responsive design has been normalized to the point combined systems like these have a real chance of becoming the next thing in computing.

Sadly, I fear the moment this becomes popular the general population will just pick a cloud-based solution so they don't need to set up an application server, which gives companies like Amazon and Google even more power and data then they already have.

I remember those smart displays.

As i recall, they didn't go anywhere because MS could not get their licensing scheme to work with it. Because their Windows Home license assumed one active user pr PC, but people assumed that with the smart display one family member could be on the couch while another was typing at the keyboard.

But when you undocked the smart display, all other displays connected to the PC blacked out.

This is somewhat strange. I thought tablets killed the PC market. My wife is a primary school teacher and it's very difficult to teach children to use a mouse because they all have tablets at home.

I know Android tablets haven't been selling well, but that's because people like me have been desperately waiting for a decent device to be released. iPads are absolutely everywhere.

What's the proposed alternative for media consumption? In particular reading, but even watching videos and playing "board" games etc.

There's no real alternative. You buy an iPad or Amazon tablet, and you get either iOS with the App Store or Amazon's weird Android fork and it's Amazon centric ecosystem.

Google is being short sighted here. These are the operating systems our kids are growing up with, and tablets are amazing for kids. My kid started on a busted old iPad 3 I had laying around, and now he's punching trees in Minecraft on an iPad Air.

Android tablets have been replaced by Chromebook convertibles that are capable of running Android apps. It's a much better experience than a typical android tablet ever was.

Also smartphone screens became larger and took usecases from tablets.

Yeah, that's a good point. The old 7" tablet market is kind of pointless when 6.5" is a normal phone size.

6.5" at what aspect ratio though?

6.5" 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio phones have a _lot_ less area than a 7" 4:3 tablet.

For a reading surface this makes a big difference.

> I thought tablets killed the PC market.

Per IDC numbers over 250 million PCs were shipped in 2017 versus about 170 million tablets, which includes iPads but may not include the super cheap Ali Express models.

That was was decline of 3% and 8% respectively.

> I know Android tablets haven't been selling well, but that's because people like me have been desperately waiting for a decent device to be released.

Amazon sells Fire tablets pretty easily. The problem is that there's Amazon, selling tablets for next to nothing, and Apple and Microsoft, selling premium tablets. The middle market has to be either exceptionally good to exist, or it just disappears. That's what happened.

> I know Android tablets haven't been selling well, but that's because people like me have been desperately waiting for a decent device to be released.

Indeed. E.g. I want a tablet to be a as big as needed to view A4/Letter PDFs in 100% zoom without scrolling (so I'd be able to stop carrying papers with me) and have as much RAM as possible (at least 4 GiB). I'd also appreciate it to utilize the extra space available in this case by adding full-sized USB3 ports, and an external SD card reader to be used as removable media (in addition to the internal SD card reader to be used as the "hard drive" expansion).

Set them up with Fortnite and that won't be a problem much longer.

(You'll have plenty of new ones, though!)

The new solitaire? When mice first became a thing, games were useful to teach the motor skills; I suppose there's no reason it wouldn't work again:)

FWIW Fortnite has a PEGI 12+ rating for violence.

It also, I gather, has text chat making it difficult to monitor in a teaching environment and open to problems at home.

I ran into the issue your wife experienced with kids at her school teaching kids to use a mouse with my daughter. We have a Samsung tablet that my daughter has made her own for the last several years. The tablet will not charge anymore so I put her in front of my old laptop. I was surprised at how much she struggled to use the mouse. Her hands are stiff and she seems bewildered. I realise now how intuitive tablets are.

> I realise now how intuitive tablets are

Only if you're used to them. I've used PCs for more than 30 years, since I was 5 years old - and it took me a while to become comfortable navigating around my first Android tablet. I only recently tried my first iOS device, and it was an infuriating experience trying to find the settings menu for it - it was so unintuitive to me, I ended up asking Siri to open it!

Anything is intuitive with years of experience.

I watched my kids figure out how to use a variety of Android and iOS devices they had never seen before when they were less than 2 years old, so I would argue that touchscreens are in fact more intuitive to use.

Apple sued the heck out every other tablet company to help cement their lead. It worked.

What's annoying is that history will remember Apple as having "invented" the tablet. Prior to apple they were a sufficiently big thing that even Microsoft had a Tablet PC standard. Sure, capacitive touch screens were a big step forward and made tablets truly usable. But it's not like Apple invented them either although they were very early into that technology.

I’d love to see a link substantiating that claim.

Apple his owned the high end of the tablet market since the day the iPad came out.

As of earlier this year, the price of a fantastic brand new iPad is down to $300.

Android tablets never seemed to get anywhere. My impression, having never use them, was that the software wasn’t quite ready at the start and by the time it was it was too late.

Amazon attacked the low-end with cheap and subsidized tablets, taking up anything Apple didn’t.

The only thing that seems to be left are the $80 things that you can buy at pharmacies and other places. Sure they run Android, but the version is ancient and the hardware is garbage.

So basically only Amazon and Apple seem to be left at any volume.

Windows tablets obviously never took off, despite the fact Microsoft has been trying forever. The only “success” they have is convertibles, which are really Windows computers with detachable keyboard. No one seems to use them as tablets from what I’ve seen.

Your mention of the $300 price prompted me to take a look. I'm in the UK tho... and of course they've done that annoying thing of making everything more expensive here - £319 (~$425), so not quite as appealing :(

That's a hell of a claim. They sued Samsung (mainly because Samsung went out of their way to imitate Apple and fell afoul of design patents) but I don't remember them suing others.

For me the tablet form factor was killed not by apps but ironically the non-apps: web browsing went from perfection to trash once sites tried to detect touch screens and “improve their experiences”.

Pinch-and-zoom with normal sites goes a long way and should have been the preferred tablet web model.

Reddit is trying to force me into downloading their app and constantly switches to the mobile interface. I always have to request desktop site, as I really like the desktop format, using pinch and zoom.

Same here, their requests are getting more and more intrusive. I'm about to abandon the platform. The desktop site works so well on mobile, I'm not sure why they want to move away from that.

+1 honestly the optimization for tablets made every UI trash. Don't forget Windows 8 & 10's new interfaces.

I have Microsoft's RDP app on my tablet. It is shocking how well old fashioned windows software works with it. The app seemlessly converts your taps into mouse inputs, and you can bring up a cursor if you need to. It is not perfect, but I prefer it to a badly designed tablet UI.

You know you can get back that behavior through accessible settings?

What tablet do you use? I can pinch to zoom the same on my Android tablet as on my Android phone - unsurprisingly, really, as I'm using the same browser (Firefox) on both.

My favorite tablet ever made is discontinued and I never got to buy it[0] and it had a design that made complete sense to me. It is the only tablet where the speakers are facing you and they're on the top and bottom (idk any other tablet doing this...) and they're really loud. My fiance has one because I recommended it to her, and her parents got it for her as a graduation present.

It has it's funky moments, but I'm upset they never renewed it. It was slick and no nonsense. It's a gaming tablet, but a tablet is a tablet. Dear Nvidia, bring back the Nvidia Shield Tablet and market it better. Market it for everyone, not just 'gamers' and you could make a killing off it, if you QA it enough.

I love Android and want a serious tablet, but instead I have an iPad. I just don't understand why nobody makes a decent (more competitive like the Shield) Android Tablet.

[0]: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/shield/tablet/

>the speakers are facing you and they're on the top and bottom

This drives me crazy on my iPad. My phone came out in 2016 and has stereo speakers. My iPad came out in 2017 and despite being massive in comparison with tons of available space (and weirdly, a headphone jack) it only has one speaker.

Yet I never watch movies on my phone and I do it all the time on my iPad, where it makes way more sense to have stereo speakers. Get your shit together Apple.

The iPad Mini (2012) and iPad Air (2013) and all iPads since have stereo speakers on either side of the bottom edge. They're laid out for portrait though, since Apple treats that as the standard orientation. Not ideal for watching movies.

The Pro versions have four speakers in the corners and adjust which pair are left vs right depending on whether you're in portrait or landscape.

Plus Apple’s official case (Smart Cover) only allows you to prop it up in landscape mode, not portrait mode.

Especially with split screen modes making landscape more powerful I have to wonder if they’ll change their tune and go for a landscape-first approach in the next redesign. Ditching the home button in favor of FaceID seems like it would be the right moment to move the camera and other sensors to the long edge opposite the keyboard connection.

Yes how stupid to assume portrait, I (and everyone I know) have always used iPads in landscape mode! And why on earth do their crappy speakers face backwards ??

I've always wondered why the Nvidia Shield was the only tablet that figured this simple thing out, or if they bought rights to a patent to allow for this or something. Every damn tablet I know has the speakers on the bottom / back. Why...

So true - iPad speakers have always been rubbish - extremely annoying to spend £700+ $1000 (several times) to get the same tinny no base no volume experience. Which idiot decided to put the speakers facing backwards ??? Also screen brightness is still a problem in sunlight, surely with their umpteen billions in cash they should be able to develop a screen one can actually read from outside?? Having said that its still by far my most used consumption device - as a web browser and kindle reader. Such a bonus not having the weight of books to carry when traveling or filling the house with newspapers and magazines.

From what I understand, the Nintendo Switch is pretty much a (newer) Shield reference system implementation with a different OS. There's also a working exploit to run Ubuntu on the Switch right now: https://gbatemp.net/threads/quick-tuto-how-to-boot-linux-on-...

I would love to be able to stream games from my PC onto my Switch like you could with the Shield. It's just such a convenient system to play.

It’s only a matter of time since the device has been completely hacked now. Check for updates on the related subreddit:


Might want to pick one up in the near future though. Nintendo has a hardware update in the works to remedy the unpatcheable tegra exploit in current models.

There's also the fact that if Nintendo detects that you have a hacked Switch, they will ban you from all their online services even if you log in from a different device.

If you get a 2nd Switch for hacking purposes and never login but wipe the OS can they still really detect this? Would be cool to just have Android on a Switch honestly. I love the Switch but if I ever did any modding for mine I'd buy an entirely new Switch for that. I miss the PSP hacking scene and when the PSP was still fairly relevant so people were actively working on things for it.

I’m guessing it would absolutely never happened, but I would happily pay money for the ability to have my PS4 stream games to my Switch. Like the Vita.

See if you can install Android on one, which you should be able to, and then install the Playstation app.

Steam link would be a pretty cool app to have on the switch. Unfortunately, I doubt that will ever happen, since it would undercut a lot of Nintendo's control of the system.

Sadly the nvidia shield tablet CPU is pretty weak these days. Nvidia even filed with the FCC for a tablet with a better CPU, but never shipped it.

There're a few used ones on Amazon, although that might not be something you'd want.

> ... few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. I, for one, have been using the third-gen (1st Retina) iPad since its release approximately 500 years ago and have never felt any compulsion whatsoever to get a new one.

This seems a little weird to me. Don't tablets age in a similar way that smartphones age? As in, the battery gets weaker over time (sure, often you can replace); OS updates, being designed for current hardware, cause slowdowns; apps written for the latest-and-greatest assume more resources and higher specs, etc.? I guess if all you use your tablet for is watching videos on YouTube, and don't care about OS updates (which you should, if you care about security at all), then maybe it's ok.

I think a more plausible reason for sales numbers falling is that people just don't need or want tablets as much as they thought they did, especially with smartphone screens getting larger with every generation.

>Don't tablets age in a similar way that smartphones age

Funny enough, although iPhones have a new "battery health" screen to show you if you're being throttled due to a weak battery, the iPad doesn't have this. The reason I've heard is because the iPad battery is so massive (it's basically last year's iPhone with a 10" battery strapped to it), the battery always has enough juice to not have to throttle during a spike in CPU load.

That may explain why iPads still feel relatively snappy compared to phones over the years.

> I think a more plausible reason for sales numbers falling is that people don't need or want tablets as much as they thought they did

That probably is part of the explanation. For me, I bought a "New iPad" on 2012. Some months ago I bought a new model, as iOS is not updated anymore. That is the main reason to upgrade and this is another topic for discussion. It has been six years between tablets. And the need for an upgrade is slightly artificial.

A 6-year-old tablet will still be able to run the latest version of Chrome and I can play casual 2D games without a problem. If Apple has not stopped supporting it I will continue using it.

When I was a teenager, I was changing computers every two years and a half. If you were a gamer it was a must do. For office applications, browsing the internet and playing casual games the live of computers is getting longer. Even my gaming computing is getting old, it supports VR and an extra wide 4K screen without a problem.

I have a 2010 iPad that I rediscovered after moving. On a whim, I reset it last year thinking it was going to be useless. Apple still lets you redownload "the last compatible version" of apps back to iOS 4.X. I was able to download and use older versions of Netflix, Hulu, Plex, Spotify, Crackle, and all of Apple's iWork apps. Safari is unusable and crashes constantly but everything else still works.

I bought a 2017 iPad with cellular and zi love it. T-mobile has unlimited data for $20 a month.

My cheap Allwinner based Chinese tablets do just fine next to the iPad my son uses on almost everything except when he wants us to play Roblox together. So basically anything that doesn't require high 3D performance. I'm sure I could find other things if I tried, but my experience is that I don't see much need to upgrade my tablets for performance. What's driven my upgrades for tablets have been improving screens / resolution.

That makes me think you have a point with screens. Resolution also plays in - e.g. I read comics on my phone a lot, and it made a huge difference when I got a phone with a 1920x1080 screen - e.g. I'd less often need to zoom in. And as my phones have pushed up towards 6", I went from 7"-8" tablets up to 10", but at the same time my usage probably dropped. My tablet has supplanted a little bit of my laptop use with the larger screen (and it has a magnetically attachable keyboard, but that gets little use), but I use my phone for a lot more things that I'd previously use my tablet for.

In general I replace my phone maybe once a year or once every 18 months on average, while my tablets easily live for 2-3 years or more.

You'd think they would... but in my experience they don't seem to.

My phone's battery is used 16 hrs/day, my tablet on average maybe 1-2 hr/day? And the battery is huge to begin with besides.

And on my phone I'm constantly switching apps (churning memory and CPU), whereas on my tablet it's mainly staying in one app for a long time -- whether Docs or a video or a game, and even games seem to be designed to accomodate older tablets since so many people have them.

Anecdotal: my iPads have never aged the way my iPhones do. As to the reasons, I suspect the primary is just where and how it's used: I beat the piss out of my iphones, dropping them, using them out of good areas, on the go, in the car, while eating, etc. where my iPads have a comparatively nice existence largely in my home. The most strenuous environment I use my tablets in is my porch.

But yeah, I just recently upgraded from an Air to the iPad Pro, mostly for the bigger screen and pencil. I had no reason to replace the current one other than having no reason to have two; 5 years on, it was kicking just as hard as ever.

My iPad Air has slown down to be almost unusable. It is ancient, and I’m guessing it’s the battery + software throttle going on, but it is still very reminiscent of an aging iPhone.

I’m not sure the throttling stuff really happens on the iPad. That was a check they added to the phones because of the unexpected shutdown issues, I don’t think that’s ever been much of a problem on the iPads because of their giant batteries.

However there is a known issue where for some reason iOS can start to get extremely slow. Restoring from backup or doing a fresh install sometimes makes a device WAY faster. Not unlike Windows back in the 95 days.

We solve reports of this when people were doing battery replacements. They go into Apple, get a new battery, and their phone wasn’t any faster. Then they’d do a fresh install and everything was fine. We also saw people give it a try before the battery replacement program was announced and have the same results.

Basically, the batteries and the only reason iOS can get insanely slow. There’s obviously some kind of rail bug that can destroy performance. But a fresh install fixes it.

Typically this happens if you run out of storage space. I don’t really know why but if you have less than about a gigabyte of free space everything becomes really slow.

What's your experience on the upgrade from an iPad Air to a new iPad Pro?

It's like moving from an airplane to a spaceship. Especially with the new ARKit stuff, the pencil support, and the smart keyboard.

I have the same model iPad as the author. Mine is pretty much dog slow at even relatively simple things now, but it still works, and I rarely mind waiting for it to trudge through things. I’d like to replace it at some point, but even at $200 or $300, the value proposition for an upgrade is still too low.

The iPad starts out with such good battery life that even if its capacity decreases by half over its service life, that’s still ~5 hours. Good enough to survive a cross-country flight is, well, good enough.

I think you’d be amazed how much faster a new iPad, the $300 one, is. Much like the iPhone 4 the first retina iPad was a bit slow at times because it had trouble dealing with all those pixels. The Air and Air two were each significant advances over that. Another big part of that is just how much more RAM they have these days.

I have a Nexus 10 that I guess is around 5 years old, and it has indeed slowly-but-surely gotten slower and slower while the battery has slowly died too. It's now so slow as to be unusable, and can only be used while plugged into the mains, as the battery doesn't hold a charge.

My Chromebook that runs Android apps has replaced any need for a tablet for me. It is lighter than my bug laptop but still can get a lot done and if I want I fold it into tablet mode and I'm set.

This is not a serious solution at the time I tried this several months ago.

Most of the apps I downloaded for Android were not optimized well for a Chromebook with text/window sizing, prevented resizing of the windows and were downright buggy(not registering presses and sometimes would even crash.)

What model did you try?

I'm using a Chromebook Plus, outside of the very first release when it supported apps, I haven't had any issues.

It's improving at a rapid pace. The more users run Android apps on Chromeos, the more devs are being forced to fix issues in that form factor to avoid 1 star reviews. My Pixelbook runs all the Android apps I'm interested in perfectly, including games like Hearthstone.

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