Back when Android Gingerbread was the latest and greatest operating system out of the Google camp, Apple was selling iPads like crazy. And why wouldn’t they? The iPad was pretty much the only tablet on the market at the time, it was built well, and it got the job done. The bad news? Only Apple made it. Other manufacturers wanted a piece of that action, and since they couldn’t (and still can’t) license iOS to put on their own hardware, they turned to Android.
Android, being an open operating system, enabled pretty much anyone to do pretty much anything with it. Android hadn’t made the leap to tablets yet, so OEMs started “adapting” Android to work on devices with larger screens. Some adaptations were better than others. Most tablets we basically smartphone hardware with a big screen and a custom launcher to take advantage of the additional pixels. Sometimes this combination worked fairly well, and other times it was a laughably miserable experience. Many of these tablets were cheap — and no, I don’t mean “inexpensive”, though they were usually that, too.
“Cheap” is an interesting word. It can me “inexpensive”, but it can also mean “poorly constructed”. In most cases, these tablets were better described by the latter definition. Apple was selling their tablets for hundreds of dollars. Some Android-powered tablets were selling for a under a hundred bucks. You know that saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Yeah, that’s the case here.
Most of these ridiculously inexpensive tablets were terribly under-powered. They had barely enough processing power, RAM, and storage to hold the apps they came bundled with, let alone anything you might want to install later. This was a cruel realization that most who bought these sub-par tablets soon discovered.
Google, however, had other plans. They started selling tablets in their Nexus lineup. (Yes, I’m skipping the Motorola Xoom. Let us never speak of it again.) Once Android was “tablet friendly”, prices were still pretty high for most tablets. Google thought it could do better and teamed up with Asus to produce and sell the original Nexus 7. Finally, a tablet with decent specifications, good build quality, and a very affordable price. The other players were “compelled” to lower their prices (without sacrificing quality or specs). This helped the entire Android tablet ecosystem flourish.
I once saw a demonstration of a vacuum sealer — a machine that exists only to remove oxygen from bags and jars, usually to preserve food. To illustrate how much it “sucked” (pardon the ironic pun), the demonstrator put several miniature marshmallows into a glass jar, attached his machine, and flipped the switch. Over the next minute or so, the air was evacuated from the jar, and the marshmallows puffed up until they filled the entire jar. He joked that, since jumbo marshmallows used several times the raw ingredients as their miniature cousins, one could increase their profit margin by the same percentage just by vacuum-sealing the minis. He went on, “everything would be fine, until they open the jar”. With a whoosh, the air came rushing back in and the marshmallows returned to their original size. “You’ll only sell your customers one jar.”
He was right. Sub-par tablets are no different. True, it may have only cost $60-$100, but once you start using it, you’ll realize that it’s nothing more than “vacuum-sealed mini marshmallows”. You won’t be happy with it. And you won’t make the same mistake again.
Saying “crappy tablets don’t sell” may not be entirely true. Some people will buy them, but after they do and realize how terrible the experience is, they won’t buy another one, and they’ll tell all their friends about their experience. Sooner or later, the companies that make those crappy tablets will be just like the company that sold vacuum-sealed mini-marshmallows. They’ll have made a quick buck, but they’ll never succeed against OEMs that take pride in their products and sell you something that works so well that when it comes time to buy a new one you’ll happily do so, or when your friends ask you about it you’ll be happy to share your story.
What about you?
Have you, or a loved one, ever been suckered in to buying a crappy tablet? We want to hear about it! Head down to the comments and share your tale of woe. (Don’t worry, we won’t judge you!)