When we shell out hundreds for the best phones, tablets and laptops, to say nothing of all the services we spend our time in and our money on — we expect the manufacturers and tech giants responsible for these devices and services to give it their all, to battle for supremacy and build off each other in order to give us the best experience. It's what we deserve. Instead, at least when it comes to one section of the market, what we have instead is a battle where the outcome is all but certain and one side's efforts are almost comically lackluster, to the detriment of all: the way Android tablets — and especially tablet apps — continue to be a complete laughingstock compared to iPad.
Apple's iPad and especially the iPad Air have ruled the tablet space from day one, while Android tablets have largely failed in both software and hardware for years and years. Sure Amazon's Fire HD Tablets are so cheap you don't care about their shortcomings, but the only worthwhile Android tablet today is the ridiculously expensive Tab S7, and even then, system updates on Android tablets are slow to arrive and still can't hold a candle to Android phones, much less iPads and Chrome OS tablets like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.
If Google wanted to really give iPads a run for their money, Chromebooks and Chrome OS tablets are the best tool for the job once Google gets off its ass and finally decides to give a damn about tablet and big-screen optimized apps. Apple did things right by setting forth strict rules for how tablet apps need to be optimized in layout and function, while Google allowed Android developers to push out phone-optimized apps that are either hilariously blown-up or have enough wasted space to hide a dead body.
And when these apps were only available on Android tablets, that laissez-faire approach would've been excusable. But Android apps have been on Chromebooks for almost five years now, and Google still seems utterly uninteresting in improving the app experience on larger-screen devices. Even partnering with Samsung for apps on the Galaxy Fold and the Galaxy Tab series hasn't roused their interest in tightening restrictions or guiding developers to better ways to dynamically lay out an app in a multi-screen world.
This is far from the only area where Google has just refused to suit up and put up the fight we expect from the biggest tech company in the world. YouTube is the biggest music platform in the world, and yet YouTube Music cannot get its shit together even with three years and a multi-million-dollar investment. Google closed Stadia Games and Entertainment before they released A SINGLE GAME, which is not making people wonder Is Stadia itself shutting down?.
Don't even get me started on Google shutting down apps and services that are older but work for newer, buggier and less feature-packed alternatives. The rant on Inbox alone would probably get me thrown out of Disney's Animal Kingdom where I'm writing this while enjoying a break in the rain.
Google may boast record profits for multiple quarters, but innovation and a willingness to fight for its services and its customers got Google to this point. And unless they regain that will to fight something other than antitrust lawsuits and the continent of Australia, it's going to be pretty hard to excuse the company's spinelessness in a few years.
In other news this week:
- I got my Galaxy S21 in this week and after six months on the Pixel 4a, it feels huge. Look forward to lots of case reviews in the coming months, but so far I've been using the Caseology Parallax — which was my favorite for the S20 and the Pixel 4 — and the Caseology Nano Pop, which I've actually been liking a little more than the Parallax. It's not the mesmerizing texture across the back, but it has a coating that feels very, very nice in the hand. And yes, I'm using a PopSocket, because I want my hands to not hate me.
- Also, I have a serious bone to pick with Samsung's One UI team. Why would you take away the toggle to not have Dark mode dim your wallpaper? WHY?! I just wanna live in the dark, but I want my wallpapers to still pop, dammit!
- Jerry Hildenbrand is right to still love the Pixelbook Go for its keyboard and trackpad, but why in Google's name haven't they discounted it in 2021? Just knock it down from $650 to $500 or $450 and watch it fly off the shelves.
- I've already said my piece on that leaked Android 12 theming system, but whatever comes this summer, I'm not falling for this charade again. I've done enough of this Lucy/Charlie Brown football gag when it came to dark theming a few year ago. Fool me once, shame on you, Google, you insufferable tease.
- Xiaomi, why? I mean, just ... why??? It's too small to use as a viewfinder, or anything else for that matter, so why would you put that there and make the camera module so big?
- Android Auto is still getting improvements, but what we all really want to know is this: what is it going to take to get widespread wireless Android Auto? Because while I'm okay plugging in for longer drives, I'd prefer not to plug in for that ten-minute drive from my house to the pizza joint.
- Lawnchair is alive and I'm not the only one very, very happy to see that. I might not go in for the totally Pixel look, but for those that do, Lawnchair is the best around. And more competition for the Best Android Launchers is always a good thing).
To everyone staring down the barrel of a massive winter storm, stay safe and stay warm. Severe weather sucks, but remember to keep your gear charged, have your emergency info and your insurance policies downloaded just in case, and download a few books or movies to entertain yourself if/when the power goes out.
Happy candy sale eve, everybody!
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.