Feb 242012

I’ll admit that accusing Android tablet makers of “failing” might be a bit much; but considering that I want to buy a 10-inch Android tablet and I have yet to find one that’s reasonably priced, I consider that to be a failing on their part.

As I type, my trusty HP TouchPad sits to my left, happily running Cyanogen 7 (Android 2.3). As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I manged to nab this for $99 when HP was running its fire sale last last year. Although it makes a great Android tablet, it’s not perfect.

For starters it identifies itself as a TouchPad, which causes problems with certain games and applications that don’t know how to handle it. This is particularly evident with some Electronic Arts games that try to identify the device as either a phone or a tablet and then download the textures that are best suited to that device. Unfortunately, because such games have no idea what to do with a TouchPad, the downloader stops completely. Some Gameloft games won’t even run, claiming that the game is not compatible with my device. Because I don’t have a genuine Android tablet, I’m unable to play the games that I paid for, at least on my tablet.  (They run on my Droid 2 phone.)

The occasional glitches also make themselves apparent through various “force close” pop-ups that otherwise work great on my phone or other bugs. I recently encountered one bug where the clock for reset back to epoch (1 Jan 1970). This was thwarted by booting into webOS, which reset the clock, and installing ClockSync after booting back into Cyanogen.

Finally, because Cyanogen needs to share its space with webOS and because I use my TouchPad as a media player when I’m at work, I’m finding myself starting to hurt for space. Between webOS, Cyanogen, the occasional must-have for the Amazon free daily app, and the number of podcasts that I subscribe to, the hard-limit of 16 GB is starting to become quite cramped.

Thus I’ve been on a quest for a genuine, 10-inch Android tablet to replace my TouchPad. Unfortunately, the major Android tablet vendors are so out of touch with the market that they offer either products that I don’t want or they offer products that I want that are overpriced.

What makes my search more difficult is that the cheaper 10-inch tablets currently epitomize the old phrase “You get what you pay for”. For example, the ViewSonic gTablet is a decent, previous-generation tablet for less than $300; however, ViewSonic’s support is iffy at best and chances are that the gTablet will not be getting Ice Cream Sandwich. Similarly, the Archos 101 is around $250 but it’s about as powerful as my phone and almost certainly is not going to run ICS.

The Toshiba Thrive on the surface seems to be a decent unit; however, refurbished units from places like Woot could have a version of Toshiba’s version of Android that has a bug that requires you to install a third-party version of Android before it will finally allow you to install the most recent version! The price might be right, but right out of the box problems might exist that would be a hassle to resolve.

Sadly, the next jump in tablets goes straight up to around $400 even for last year’s technology. The Toshiba Thrive, Sony Tablet S, Asus EeePad Transformer, Motorola Xoom – all of those tablets while not obsolete are not current-generation technology yet are still priced in a way that is completely unbalanced. Each is around $400; however, a current-generation tablet like the Asus Transformer Prime is only $100 more but is over three times more powerful.

Let’s look at straight benchmarks including the TouchPad. Sadly, AnTuTu doesn’t give numbers for competing products after running a test; however, the TouchPad received a score of 4734. According to the resulting comparison chart, the Asus EeePad Transformer (~$399), Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (~$450), and Acer Iconia Tab A500 (~$460) all ranked lower than the TouchPad. Meanwhile, the Transformer Prime (~$499) crushed all of those with a benchmark of roughly 13,300.

Take a close look at Asus in those comparisons. The original EeePad Transformer is only $100 less than the Transformer Prime, yet its benchmark is about a third of the Prime. That’s 1/3 of the speed for 4/5 of the price! Given that, why has the original Transformer not had a price drop to $300? I would be willing to bet that Asus would sell a huge amount of original Transformers, and I might even be one of those buyers. Instead, I would be foolish to pay $400 when the Transformer Prime is so comparably powerful for roughly $100 more. That’s balanced, however, by my resistance and the resistance of millions of potential customers to pay $500 for anything that isn’t a full laptop or PC.

So, once again the Android tablet manufacturers are either ignoring or clueless about the $300 price point vacuum for 10-inch Android tablets. The consumers are then inclined to purchase a refurbished or used tablet, which makes little or no profit for the hardware vendors, purchase a tablet that is effectively “good enough” from places like ViewSonic or Archos, or purchase a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet for less than $200. Worse, people who aren’t determined to buy an Android tablet will figure that if they’re going to be forced to pay $400 or more for a tablet, they might as well buy an iPad.

I am still looking for a way out of my Android conundrum. Sadly, the Android tablet makers are not helping, thanks to their continued, idiotic pricing. Given the current pricing options, I’ll keep using my TouchPad.