The new iPad Air reminds us just how bad most Android tablets really are
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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
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.
Get the Android Central Newsletter
Instant access to breaking news, the hottest reviews, great deals and helpful tips.
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.