Android tablet

So you woke up Christmas morning and were greeted by a shiny new Android tablet under the tree.  After charging it up a little while trying on that sweater you also got, you finally have some time to sit down and play with your new toy -- only to find yourself completely lost, facing things like hardware issues, missing the Android Market, and little to no instuctions included with your gift.

You're not alone -- our inbox has nearly collapsed with questions from folks just like you, in the same predicament. We're going to lay it all out right here. Well, not right here, more like after the break.  You knew where I was going. Read on.

Craplets, caveat emptor, and all that jazz

We have to start here.  I know it doesn't help much if you already have your Android tablet, but we have to address the influx of very low end hardware carrying the badge of our little green friend.

Because Android is free for anyone to build and drop on their devices (yes, even you could download, compile it and slap on compatible hardware), it means there are a lot of crap tablets -- craplets -- out there.  That's not saying they are all bad, you just have to know what to look for.  Read any and all reviews, use some common sense, and try to find something that has some decent specs. These really are the minimums you should be looking for

  • A processor running at 800 MHz or higher
  • 512 megabytes of RAM
  • Android 2.1.1 or higher
  • A minimum of 8 GB storage, ideally an SD card slot for expandable storage

That's not to say that nothing else will work, but you'll be much happier if you pick up something close to the above.  Want some recommendations?  Besides the obvious choice of the Galaxy Tab, look at the Viewsonic Gtab, one of the new Archos tablets, or the Nook Color (if you're not afraid to hack it up).

The Android Market

Google's applications that run on Android -- we're talking Gmail, the Android Market and the like -- are not free and open source.  They are subject to whatever rules Google uses to determine which manufacturers can include them, and which can't.  Using them without Google's consent is out and out stealing.

But we understand that everyone wants Gmail and the Android Market on their tablet -- and we can't really blame anyone for that. If Google's core apps aren't installed on your new tablet, you'll have to find a way to get them on there yourself.  If you're comfortable enough to root and move a few files around, it's probably pretty easy.  Find the right version of Gapps for your screen size and Android version, and use trial and error to get them in place.

Be sure you have a way to restore your unit to factory settings -- notice we said trial and error.  Errors sometimes mean wiping and starting all over again.  Often, a quick trip into the forums will find someone else trying to do the exact same thing.  Forums are the lifeblood of Android modification.  Use them well, and often.  Just don't blame us if the Google Gestapo comes knocking on your door.

Hardware issues

Sometimes, these things just aren't going to work.  Looping boot sequences, units that won't turn on, and systems freezing and crashing can be frustrating -- especially if you haven't done anything to cause it.  As above, your first stop should be the forums.  A lot of times, there are easy fixes that have been figured out after talking with tech support.  Knowledge is power after all.

If you can't find someone that worked through a similar issue, the next logical step is tech support from the manufacturer.  We can't cover every tablet maker here, but we can provide a bit of info for the manufacturers of the tablets we're hearing about the most.

Everything else

Have questions about setting up WiFi?  Or how about managing your multimedia?  All your general Android questions are easily answered in the forums.  Start right here, register and introduce yourself, then by all means ASK QUESTIONS.  We're a big happy family here, and you'll find the help you need to enjoy your new tablet.  I'll see ya there!