The rumored Google Nexus tablet is something I should be getting stoked about. Finally, a year after gadget makers began launching Android tablets, Google may step in and show them how it’s really done.
But after reading DigiTimes’ latest scuttlebutt — that Google may launch a cheap 7-inch tablet to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire — I keep coming back to the question of why I should care: So far, nothing’s coming.
Tablets Don’t Have Smartphone Problems
The appeal of Google’s Nexus phones — developed on a roughly annual basis in close collaboration with a single device maker — is easy to understand: Phone makers and wireless carriers love to modify Android, so even though a Verizon phone made by HTC and an AT&T phone made by Samsung both run the same underlying software, they may look and act different. With Nexus phones, Google cuts away the bloat, and you get a pure Google experience. Not only are Nexus devices typically better than other Android phones, they’re also first in line for software updates.
With tablets, wireless carriers are out of the equation, unless for some reason you buy a tablet with a built-in data plan. And in any case, a lot of major Android tablet makers haven’t messed much with Android’s stock software. Instead, they’ve made gentle tweaks that actually improve the experience, while leaving the general look and feel of Android intact.
As for updates, many of the big tablet makers, including Acer, Asus, Motorola and Samsung, have promised to update their tablets from Android Honeycomb to the latest version, known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Even if Google is, in fact, working on its own tablet, these updates will probably arrive on existing tablets first.
Apps Are the Bigger Issue
The main issue for Android tablets today isn’t whether they run an unadulterated operating version of Android, but that there’s a shortage of great tablet apps available for the platform. Ice Cream Sandwich allows for easier scaling and better compatibility of Android phone apps, but that’s still no substitute for apps designed with big screens in mind.
A Nexus tablet would do little to improve the app situation for bigger screens, especially if Google is planning a 7-inch tablet, as rumored, because with that screen size it’s easy to rely on blown-up smartphone apps. Android’s best hope for tablet app growth is a 10-inch tablet from Amazon. It would likely sell well, which in turn would attract developers, who may then submit their apps to the Android Market as well as the Amazon Appstore to maximize their earnings.
Not Enough to Go On
Finally, I’m just a bit skeptical of the rumors so far. A Nexus tablet seems plausible — especially because Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, has hinted at it — but I don’t trust DigiTimes enough to believe the tablet will definitely be a 7-inch Kindle Fire competitor, rather than a larger iPad rival. In the meantime, pricing, specs and other details are still anybody’s guess. Without more details from more reliable sources, all we’ve got are hopes and dreams.