The new iPad Air reminds us just how bad most Android tablets really are

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 hero
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 hero (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Samsung can make a damn nice tablet. I don't much care for tablets, but even I was really impressed with the Galaxy Tab S6 while I had it here for a review, and I'll be the first to say that a Samsung tablet is a well-built piece of machinery that looks and feels like it justifies its price. But that's not the problem — it's the apps.

The most expensive Windows laptop is hundreds of times faster than a new iPad or Chromebook or crappy Windows laptop.

Forget all the PR mumbo jumbo Apple's slick new iPad Air presentation about how much more powerful it is than practically every Chromebook and Android tablet out there. That's all hogwash — an expensive product from one company was compared to the best-selling budget models from others. The new Galaxy Tab S7 with Qualcomm's latest processor is plenty powerful enough to do everything the new iPad can do. The iPad is overbuilt so Apple has fewer components to manage and that saves money in the long run.

No, what's frustrating about Android tablets isn't the hardware. It's not even the platform. It's the apps.

The only great apps on a brand new Galaxy Tab S are the ones Samsung wrote for it. You can use the S Pen with oodles of pressure sensitivity, you can transfer handwriting to text, you can even draw a crummy circle and an app can make it look geometrically accurate instead of like the blob you drew. But when you open the Play Store it all comes crashing to a halt.

I feel like I keep writing this over and over, but Google just doesn't seem to care about tablet apps the same way Apple does. That's a shame because something like a Galaxy Tab deserves great apps like Pixelmator or any of the other "must-have" apps for the iPad. It just doesn't get them.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

There isn't much Samsung can do about it other than pay thousands of developers to write those apps and games. Samsung probably could afford to do it, but it's not going to when it can spend that money developing its own first-party apps that are pretty awesome on the Galaxy Tab. No, this problem is something only Google can solve.


That's not an easy task, either. Google basically has two choices: it could go the Apple route and if an app isn't tablet-optimized it's not listed on the device's Play Store at all. That means close to 90% of the apps — including ones you want to use — would be gone when you hit up the Play Store with a new Android tablet. Or it could pay cold hard cash to get developers to do it. Google is going to do neither, so it just gave up.

It's all about the mighty dollar. You've heard it before but developers don't make much money from Android apps when compared to apps for iOS. That goes double (at least) for tablet apps. I don't know if that's because Android users have been trained not to pay for things after years of getting most apps and services for free, or whether because of Android's open nature piracy is just rampant. But I do know it's true because I've seen the same studies and reports you have. Apps written for iOS make a lot more money than ones written for Android even though there are twice as many people using Android.

iPad Air 4 Apple Official

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

When there's no money to be made, nobody cares. I can't fault a developer who wants to feed their family by sticking with iOS. That's a smart move and exactly what I would do if I were in their shoes. I'm actually impressed that some third-party apps, like Sketchbook (opens in new tab) (a must-have app for any Galaxy Tab or Galaxy Note, in my opinion) are so great on a tablet because I know they aren't making much money.

I want to recommend a new Galaxy Tab to someone looking for a great tablet, but I can't because iOS has apps that are so much better.

There is no easy answer. Most Android apps work on an Android tablet or a Chromebook but they look like crap or don't work correctly. Google keeps making it easier to design and lay out apps for bigger screens — because it hasn't given up on great Chromebooks like it has for tablets — but it's not making a difference. Google Play is a desert for good tablet apps. You'll find an oasis once in a while, but there is a lot of empty sand not worth paying attention to in between.

If someone were to ask me which tablet I recommend I'd either steer them to a Fire tablet if they were all-in with Amazon Prime — or an iPad. And I hate that because Android is just better than iOS. You can simplify Android down so it "just works" but you can't upscale iOS so it does more than just work. I want to be able to recommend Samsung's great line of premium tablets, but until Google gets the app gap sorted, I can't.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Bottom line: The Galaxy Tab S7 is an easy choice if you're looking for a powerful Android tablet. Assuming you can overlook the awkwardness of Android on the big screen, you're treated to top-notch specs, loads of features, and a powerful S Pen that's included for free.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Can all these reviewers stop with that BS? Everybody is saying exact the same words, 'android tablet sucks, apps are not optimized', and then you look what people who ACTUALLY using Android tablets on a daily basis saying, they are totally happy, they don't have any apps which is not working for them. There is no pin point where the problem with Android tablet is, it is just nice phrases and nice quotes. On an android tablet you have the freedom to use it the way YOU want, while on an iPad, you are told by apple how YOUR experience should be, that's my opinion, but that is already the Android vs apple discussion, which is not the point I'm trying to say here. What is my point? That all reviewers are saying basically all the same quotes copied each by other, it sounds very nice, but they are not reflecting the evrage user. Period.
  • Based on sales numbers, it seems that articles like these reflect the average user perfectly. Period.
  • Based on articles like this people don't buy Android tablets... It's a viscious cycle.
  • Reminds me of owning a windows phone. ;)
  • WRONG. 65% of tablet sales are ANDROID. Samsung sells more tablets than Apple sells Mac. And by the way: these are just Android tablets. They don't include the tons of people who are buying Chromebooks to essentially be Android tablets. (More Chromebooks will sell this year than Macs too). I don't know what agenda there is with even (alleged) Android sites knocking Android tablet sales. I posted this link on Android Police (to their column also using this release to bash Android tablets) and they wound up deleting the entire article. I am going to keep doing this until the people who keep regurgitating this false narrative stops doing it. Yes, a bunch of apps that are only used by like 5% of the population aren't on Android. Most of those are enterprise/niche productivity apps that people have full versions of on their Windows laptops anyway. For the rest of us - who aren't professional photo or video editors or things like that - our productivity needs are filled by Office 365/G Suite.
  • Based on sales numbers, iPhones are the greatest phones, right? I have an iPad, not because I wanted one, but because to contact some relatives I have to use FaceTime. I tried to tell them that they could use Duo, and they could simply download it to their iPad so I wouldn't have to shell out @ $400 for one. Apparently that was too complicated for them and now I've got an iPad that is only used for FaceTime. For anything else it's too frustrating to use. The hardware and the battery life are great, but that's about the only positives it has IMHO.
  • I have a Galaxy Tab S6 and absolutely love it. Prior to this I had an iPad Pro which I barely touched. The Android tablet can be made to be mine and it works great.
  • "on an iPad, you are told by apple how YOUR experience should be" Doing exactly the same thing you gripe about here. Maybe look at people who are ACTUALLY using iPads on a daily basis. Very little difference between the freedom of iPodOS and Android, once you get past the 'app launcher', that interface that is there to get you to an app you want to use. If customizing home screens was what drove people to phones or tablets, neither Google nor Apple would need an app store, and Windows Phone wouldn't have died.
  • From a consumer point of view, you're quite correct. One of the guys that I work with has a Tab S5 and he loves it. All he really used it for is mobile browsing and the odd note taking session from a meeting though. From the vendor's point of view, Jerry is correct. For some time now both Samsung (and Lenovo) as well as Apple (especially Apple) have been trying to position tablets as replacements for laptops by saying most of what most people do on a laptop can be done just as well on a tablet. While I'd say that's true for the majority of people that only use their laptops for browsing and the occasional document editing, it's not true for the hard core user or the power user that want and need more capabilities.
  • Because its true! At least for artists, Android tablet is fine for simple everyday stuff, but when it comes to productivity, iPad is the way to go 100% because of this very same reason, i just cant find apps that i need on Android, so i had to sell my Android tablet, and just got iPad Pro 12’9 (4th gen) i was blown away by it! the user experience is amazing, the apps are high quality, and I don’t agree that Android is more useful or more customizable, iPadOS, has everything just perfectly layered out, apple doesn’t give us what they want, they give us what Android can’t, the best user experience right out of the box, i can deal with Android on smartphones, and i love some features that Android has over iOS, but every year, Apple just makes iOS almost like Android, but more polished and with better App Library, lets wait for “HarmonyOS” from Huawei, they promised that it’s gonna work even better than Android and iOS, we’ll see, but for now, it is what it is...
  • I have to agree...I sold my iPad pro a year ago and don't miss it at all. I have the last new Samsung tablet and all my apps work like I need them. Not one time did I think I wish I still had that iPad pro. If Samsung keeps this up, I'm not going back to the iPad. But that's just me.
  • Look up the comments for all articles on this subject, you will see that most users are perfectly happy, that have no idea what's bad. Oh, I almost forgot, yes, @beno is very unappy with Android, but also no pin point on actual problems, he can just copy paste these phrases, like 'android sucks', and 'apple has won the tablet war'.
  • It's called click bait.
  • Man, it’s WILD how many people on Android Central had an iPad Pro last year! It’s easily just 10 people in these comments alone! No wonder Android tablet makers (all 2 of them) are struggling with tablet sales.
  • No. Samsung sells more tablets than Apple sells PCs. Overall, Android has 65% of the tablet market. No one ever shows these numbers because it does not support their false narrative. About 90-100 million Android tablets sell in any given year.
  • And i did exactly the opposite, but its just me, unfortunately Android doesn’t have apps for music and video editing that i get on iPad Pro, and I noticed the same apps on Android works much better and fluid on iPad, now, I can’t imagine using anything else, the user experience with new iPad Pro (4th gen) is just pure joy, the design of the tablet, the feel, I didn’t see anything even close to be this good, and now I finally can use it for website editing, connect mouse and keyboard for precision, finally with iPadOS 14, only now this is truly feels like a pro device rather than just being a huge iPhone, last years iPad couldn’t do all those things, basically i get all Android functionality plus high quality Apps, you will notice this over time, and I’m sure you will be back to iPad after a while, just like me... Or maybe not...
  • Content creators should use the Apple ecosystem. (If they are technically skilled content creators, such as computer animators or in the video games industry, Linux is a viable alternative.) Everything else, it doesn't matter whether you use Android, iOS, ChromeOS, Windows etc.
  • No probs here on my old Samsung S4 pad, even my cheap Lenovo tab 10 works really well.
  • Why do we keep seeing the same article posted every year? We get it, the iPad has more apps optimized for to take advantage of the tablet experience. You know what though? Most people only use a dozen or so apps on a regular basis and for a lot of those people all of those apps work great on an Android tablet. How about you talk about something new like why is it that both Twitter and Instagram make excellent PWA's but there is no easy way to "install" them on an Android tablet. Everyone from Microsoft to Google are going ahead with PWA's as the future so why can't we get better integration of these onto Android tablets? Now that would at least be a new take on something instead of rehashing the same iPads are great Android tablets suck article year after year.
  • You’re 100% right, for most people Android tablet will do just fine, for less money, but if you’re professional musician or video/photo editor, get iPad for sure, and it always been like this, as for myself, i used macs for some time, but came back to windows and bought very powerful Surface Book 2, and im super happy with it, Nothing beats good old windows))
  • You can keep saying Apple apps are the best thing on the planet until you are blue in the face. BUT I'll never buy into that closed dictatorship of a platform where I don't really even own my hardware. As far as Apple is concerned you pay for the privilege to use THEIR hardware.
  • What are you talking about? You payed money for the hardware? If yes, then you own it! Not Apple, Apple only designed this hardware, designed it for your convenience, so why would i get something not as optimized as iPad? Android is useless for something professional, and that was proven many times, its good for simple every day stuff that most people do, and thats why Android user base is bigger than iOS, But now, I’m very intrigued by “HamonyOS” from Huawei, now that’s interesting! At least based on their keynote....
  • No, Android is useless for something professional for content creators. For nearly all other jobs, Android is fine. Hence the 85% market share in phones and 65% in tablets. Also why ChromeOS is eating away at the iPad market share, especially in education (yet another profession).
  • I'm reading this on my Huawei M5 and I don't know what you're talking about. I have bigger issues with EMUI than I do app experience. And even that is only slightly annoying.
  • Nope! iOS is a 'lockdown OS';D If you live inside the apple bubble nothing gonna hurt you (well, you are more protected), but you loose the choice of freedom, and all the risk and joy that freedom gives! World isnt perfect, nothing is! And remmember apple its just a brand, nothing more!
  • I don’t know what you talking about, its 2020, iPadOs is not as closed as it used to be, you still live in 2015, and Saying that Apple is just a brand, sounds super ignorant... You obviously don’t know anything about how iOS works and all of its functionality, let me tell you one more time: its 2020! Android has no advantage over iPadOS, it does have little advantage over iOS on iPhone (split screen) but thats all, everything that was possible on Android Couple of years ago, now possible with iPadOS, yes apple is slow on some features because they are quality maniacs, and i prefer quality and security, I think most people do, unless you’re ignorant Apple hater, than i have no questions to you...
  • More iOS people hate Android than vice versa. The reason is that nearly all Android device owners have used Apple devices in the past. (Developing markets, of course, notwithstanding.) Meanwhile comparatively few iOS owners have ever used anything else. You can see tech reviewers on major publications and sites betraying a lack of even basic knowledge about Android devices - where the process is literally "buy a Samsung or very cheap no name device, try to use it for what I use my iPad or iPhone for in the same way that I use my iPad or iPhone and if I can't I give it a mediocre review" - to find out what I am talking about.
  • "The most expensive Windows laptop is hundreds of times faster than a new iPad" That's....not true at all. At least not the "hundreds of times" part.
  • Apple's cheapest iPad reminds me how bad most Android tablets are. As long as you enjoy the ecosystem Apple products are vastly superior to Android and will get updated multiple years longer.
  • Android tablets never got any really support from consumers or devs, so your comment on android tabs is true. Apple products being vastly superior to Android as a blanket statement, though? Sorry, but no. There are android devices better than iphones and there are android devices that iphones trounce. It really depends on use case. Depending on what you're looking for in a device, an iphone may be the one, or a pixel, or a galaxy, or a note, or a oneplus, etc
  • 1. Android tablets COULD be great but there aren't enough devs giving it love to justify the cost of production
    2. Because there aren't really any decent android tabs outside of Samsung, devs see no reason to devote time and resources to android tab apps It's a cycle that won't end until someone decides to break it
  • You’re definitely right, but the reason is obvious, devs make more money on iOS because of its stability and fever devices (but again, Apple now has tons of different screen sizes, but hardware is pretty much the same) thats all...
  • Of course comments on android featured blogs would have people that are angry by these articles but it is true. Not from the standpoint that everyone that has an android tablet hates every second of it but from the fact that it would be very difficult to pull in ipad user as some will be losing their apps by switching or they just won't be optimized for tablets. And although samsung has made the hardware a ton better to close the gap, price wise you tend to get more out of ipad because of the software.
  • No. It is not true. 45-50 million iPads sell a year but that is only 35% of the market. Android has most of the rest. That does not even include Chromebook 2-in-1s. 17 million Chromebooks sold last year and as many as 30 million will sell this year. Now granted a big chunk of those are netbooks that go to the education market, but the rest are 2-in-1s that people buy to run Android apps and use them as tablets. With phones, Android is so dominant - Apple was #3 in smartphone sales before Trump hammered Huawei - that it is impossible to deny so we get actual sales figures. With tablets, Apple's market share is big enough that everyone PRETENDS that they are dominant when they aren't. 2 out of every 3 tablets sold is not an iPad. So that is why we never get sales figures. We just get "Android tablets are dead" and "nobody buys or uses Android tablets" statements from the press that are their own personal opinions with nothing to back it up. It is as if they think that if they keep saying it over and over again, it will come true.
  • Almost all Chromebooks are sold to schools that don’t allow the Play Store. And FireOS is Android-based, but not Android.
  • Both your points are false. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Samsung, Google etc. all sell LOTS of Chromebooks to enterprises and consumers. Since Google added Android apps in 2016 and Linux apps in 2018, the average price of Chromebooks has risen from under $300 - when most were going to public schools - to over $400. Where before the Pixelbook was the only Chromebook that cost over $1000, now tons do. You are seeing Chromebooks with 4K screens, 16 GB of RAM, Intel i7 processors and 256 GB SSDs - the same specs as MacBooks - aimed at developers, IT personnel and other enterprise workers. Now that the latest Linux kernel supports hypervisors natively, people are already installing KVM and creating Windows and other virtual machines so this is only going to increase. And FireOS is absolutely Android. It is a fork of Android that Amazon maintains and generally runs 3 or 4 versions behind AOSP. Lots of people sideload Google Play onto FireOS devices and use them in the same manner that they would use an LG, Motorola or Samsung device.
  • My tablet is primarily so I have a bigger screen than my phone, without the weight of my 2-in-1. I don't need it to be a word processor, digital canvas, or video editor. I have real tools for that. What I need is to read a book or news story without scrolling every five seconds. To actually see detail in pictures. To view an entire Fantasy Football lineup on one screen. My Tab S3 does all that just fine. The biggest change I'd make? I want it to weigh what my Nexus 9 did. I don't want slippery, breakable glass that makes a case a requirement. I don't want a keyboardless laptop, I want a great screen, a snappy processor, and the ability to watch the occasional video. I get that there's a market out there for people who want some Star Trek-esque artists' tool. But there's also a market for people who just need something between a phone and a laptop.
  • I was going to say the same thing. Not everyone is using a tablet as a more portable laptop type device or exclusively for work. I use my tablet for lightweight web browsing, facebook, reading the news articles in my feed and a handful of app games that are just fine in Android. I prefer to have an android tablet because my phone is also an android so I find the integration between the two to be convenient. If I need a Windows environment or more robust programs then I'm probably using my laptop. But for scrolling facebook or creating menus for the week or mindlessly playing some app game while waiting on something I'm perfectly content with my tablet.
  • Dude you're looking in to the wrong place. Google have moved "Android tablets" to ChromeOS. Google don't care about Android tablets as the industry, except Samsung/Huawai, moved on years ago. Why haven't tech reviewers caught up? Check out the Lenovo Ideapad Duet for where Android tablets are likely headed. Web Apps, Android Apps, Linux Apps, Windows Apps (Enterprise only). The Duet runs Android apps as well as an Android apps as well as an Android tablets thanks. And your viewpoint of what an app is is is so narrow. ChromeOS runs the thousands of web apps better than any other platform. ChromeOS is equipped to take on iPadOS.
  • Can someone as a reviewer please give me 10 apps that are on iOS and not on Android please . I just don't get it . Stop with this no app madness
  • I am a designer so here some good design app exclusive for iPad OS:
    -Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (Full version with Creative Cloud subcribtion, not those mobile app ).
    -Adobe Fresco.
    -Affinity Photo.
    -Affinity Designer.
    -Artstudio Pro.
    -Clipstudio Paint (Samsung brought it to Tab S7 but only in Galaxy Store, it in iPadOS for long time )
    That those app i know, and iPad have many more. Android have many thing, but not many app optimize for big screen tablet like in iPad.
  • and the average person uses all None of those.
  • Yes, creative arts professionals should rely on the Apple ecosystem for which the best tools are available for it. That is, unless they technically skilled like computer animators and video game industry professionals, in which case Linux is a viable option, which means USI-stylus compatible 2-in-1 Chromebooks can be used instead of iPads. But for 80% of the workforce, their productivity needs never surpass Microsoft Excel. Which means that Android tablets - very capable of running Office 365 and GSuite - are just fine for them.
  • The fact Instagram isn't even optimised to work in landscape puts a lot of weight behind this article. An app with 1 billion+ downloads. Also ever tried to use Sticky Notes on an Android tablet? Thought not, because you can't.
  • Well, but Instagram works no better on an iPad. Instagram's incapability to do landscape mode on any mobile device is only a testimony to what a poor app it really is.
  • You ... actually can use Sticky Notes on an Android tablet. Why do you believe otherwise? Also, there are apps that run on Android that aren't allowed in Apple's walled garden, plenty of them. So the very notion that iPads are "the default" and Android tablets have to be compared to iPads and only iPads instead of being evaluated for what Android tablets can do and are good at is absurd on its face.
  • I have a Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro and I'm quite happy with it but I don't use a tablet for anything more than media consumption, emails, etc. I guess tech reviewers are looking at tablets for video editing or something more sophisticated. I've used iPads and I don't see what the big deal is for someone with my use-case.
  • About 45-50 million iPads sell a year. Great. But that is only 35% market share. Android gets nearly all the other 65%. And that doesn't even include the 17 million Chromebooks that sold last year (on track to sell about 25-30 million this year) most of which are touchscreen models that support Android apps. The stats do not support the "Android tablets are terrible" narrative.
  • Not many people know but Microsoft Office actually works better on Android than iOS. PowerPoint YouTube videos can be played on Android but not iOS. Microsoft's website confirms this.
  • Your statement is not correct. Microsoft Office works just fine on iPadOS and iOS - the issue you raise is a google issue not allowing YouTube videos to be played outside The Youtube app or web browser. Microsoft already has an Office app running native on M1 Processors and updates on iOS/iPadOS first before it does so on Android.
  • “Just use a Windows laptop for everything but watching Netflix” is not really a viable strategy to sell Android tablets…
  • The iPad is used by children and in this domain the iPad is simpler to use and has much more apps. The Android tablet market is mostly small display so the phone apps can work. A lot of it is the Amazon Fire which are so slow compared to even a 6 year old iPad. Google has a way to recover- foldable devices need app similar to tablets so if these devices catch up popularity, they might also get developers to update their apps for larger screens.
  • Lol, one of the worst uninformed tech "articles" I've read in a while. Wow. And this mor*n is somehow writing for Android Central. Pathetic
  • Where you been? Nothing but morons write for android central these days...
  • There’s the difference. Developers care about making money, so they care about target markets that will spend money. Not about vanity metrics such as absolute number of downloads, market share of hardware platforms, or tech specs of platforms. It’s sorta like Apple is Trump and Android is Hillary Clinton. One focused on metrics that matter, electoral college votes, the other focused of stuff that doesn’t matter like popular votes
  • The two problem with Android is not the lack of control over the Play Store, but the truly terrible thing the Play Store is, how hard it makes finding a good app is (where is the curated current selection of amazing apps in every category for ready use, like the Apple Store has?), how useless the search is (Google, FFS how could you get it so wrong?!?), the lack of checking of malware, utter rubbish and apps that extort users (eg. $300+/week subscription to photo filter apps!), and compatibity filtering (which the article touched on).
    Chromebooks and tablets are one thing, mobiles another, and then there's Chromecast/GoogleTV, which is the fastest growing area of Android right now. There is virtually nothing to choose for that platform and that needs to be addressed very soon if Google is serious about TV.
  • The other problem with Android is the failure of manufacturers (and network providers) to rollout new updates to all their devices currently in use, rather than just the latest models, Android devices should be kept up-to-date with the latest os version from Google for at least 5yrs after purchase, similar to Apple. The changes to Android 10/11 were intended to help with that, but experience tells us that that won't be nearly enough - Google has to offer certification for hardware vendors /manufacturers that will be removed if any updates are missed or take note than a few weeks for the update to be rolled out. This will ensure more secure devices and a more consistent platform for users, while bottom line inferior hardware would remain uncertified if it isn't adequate for updating.
  • Apple must provide this chap with free swag
  • That's probably true, given he's a tech journalist, he's certainly getting some compensation for it. However, it could just reflect a bitter frustration with the lack of progress on Google's countless projects, platforms and products. Jobs philosophy was to take someone's idea improve it continually and incrementally but to have just a handful of products to focus on - while Google takes ideas and spins many of them off if they don't perform, then keeping the rest with barest development in them, leaving users jaded or disappointed.
    I'm a serious advocate for Android phones and TV, despite their shortcomings, and that Chromebooks are arguably the best choice of computer for 95% of people's needs (especially students and retirees). However, while iPads are in many ways superior to Android tablets, even factoring the higher cost, the Surface Pro is the clear winner. Android has a lot to do to compete with all of those platforms, and Google seems unwilling to take steps to catch up with the competition, instead it's content with bringing us new beta products year after year - when did Gmail ever get a real update?
    Apple has solid products that continue to improve, and though I don't care much for any of them I can't argue with their refinement and attention to detail - is it unfair to compare?
  • Apples to Oranges. If you want a comparable Android Tablet get a Samsung Tab S-Series. Otherwise A-Series are just fine for the average person. I'm sure the same goes for other brands.
  • Doesn’t matter which Samsung tablet you get. The issue is with the app ecosystem, not the hardware. Android is just awful when it comes to Tablet apps.