Analysts offer 10 ideas Android device makers could use to catch up to Apple in the tablet wars

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

March 1, 2011

5 Min Read
Android Cheat Sheet: How to Beat the iPad 2

There are dozens of Android-based tablets planned for 2011 from dozens of manufacturers, but -- let's face it -- they're all chasing the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad. That chase continues Wednesday when Apple is expected to unveil the second-generation version of the best-selling tablet computer in history. (See Reader Poll: Will You Wait for iPad 2?)

But these are early days and analysts say there are still plenty of ideas that Android device makers could use to give themselves an edge. Light Reading Mobile has compiled these ideas to give readers a look at what the experts say must happen if any Android tablet hopes to outsell, outrun and generally outperform the iPad. (See Tablet Wars: Who's Xooming Whom? and Tablet Wars: iPad 2 vs Android 3.0.)

Here's what they had to say:

1) Strength in numbers
The biggest thing Android has going for it that is is essentially a free platform for device makers. While Apple will have two tablet devices to carry its brand, Android will have potentially up to 100 different tablets based on the OS, featuring all sizes, price points and varying degrees of functionality. It will need to continue to grow in numbers and attract different customer segments to overtake the leader in market share.

2) All the Gs
Heavy Reading Senior Consultant Berge Ayvazian notes that new tablets need to offer 3G and 4G connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. He says devices built for Verizon Wireless should include 3G CDMA/EVDO and LTE, even if they use a USB stick or SD card, and AT&T versions should include 3G HSPA+ and LTE.

3) 'Hit 'em where they ain't'
"Most of the recent tablet announcements are from smartphone companies that rely much more heavily on the carrier channel in the U.S.," writes Ross Rubin, executive director, NPD Group Inc. "Particularly by launching on carriers Apple isn't supporting, like Sprint and T-Mobile, there's an opportunity not only to reach out to those customers but optimize the experience for their 4G networks. Motorola has a similar opportunity with 4G at Verizon with the Xoom."

4) Flash focused
Android tablets should all play up their support for Adobe Flash and AIR technologies, and they must have the capability at launch, unlike Motorola's Xoom.

5) Apple backlash
"Apple products used to appeal to the cool, the new, the artsy crowd -- the hipsters. However, with the launch of iPhone, Apple became mass market; Apple guys are no longer the rare proud owners of an Apple device, but just one of many, many, many," writes Stela Bokun, senior analyst at Pyramid Research . "Paradoxically, the very core of what Apple stood for was ruined by its own success. Android device manufacturers should play that card, and refer to Apple products as 'old news,' the non-cool crowd’s devices, devices for pensioners, boring, common.

6) Think different
"The only way to 'beat' the iPad is to offer unique and more compelling use cases -- copying Apple may capture a segment of the market that wants a different interface or brand association, but that’s not going to 'beat' the iPad," writes Avi Greengart, research director, consumer devices, Current Analysis . "Still, simply catching up to the iPad does seem to be the goal of many vendors, and to do that, they need to build -- or partner with someone to build -- a version of iTunes. iTunes has offered the easiest way to get music, movies and TV programs on to a device for years and years now, and yet we’re only starting to see half efforts from the likes of Samsung and Sony."

7) Pricing is No. 1
"My sense is that a similar tablet (to iPad in size/performance) needs to be priced 25-30 percent below iPad to garner any consumer attention," writes Chetan Sharma, founder and president, Chetan Sharma Consulting. "To make up for brand, distribution and the ecosystem strength of Apple, they need to do better on price while at a minimum matching performance. Obviously, ecosystem is getting better and OEMs are constantly seeking better distribution but pricing is kind of the number one variable that matters in this race."

8) Content first
"HP has differentiated by clearly positioning the TouchPad as a platform for other content first versus a digital toll bridge and has thus attracted magazines," writes NPD Group's Rubin. "That's a potentially popular media type that Apple has not yet fully integrated yet as the controversy over subscriptions looms."

9) Ports, ports, ports
Heavy Reading's Ayvazian says Android tablets should include additional standard ports like USB, DVI and HDMI, and an SD card slot.

10) Obvious things
Dean Bubley, founder, Disruptive Analysis Ltd. adds, "A good telephony experience, either with a headset or using the tablet with a stand as a pseudo desk-phone, well implemented SMS and MMS, NFC reader and open APIs for developers and easy support of USB 3G dongle modems."

There are other features LR Mobile -- and many of the analysts we spoke with -- anticipate Apple will include in the iPad 2 that will become table stakes -- not differentiators -- for any Android competitor. Those include a front and rear-facing cameras, faster processors, dual-core Central Processing Units (CPUs), more RAM, the most up-to-date version of the OS (always!) and a higher-resolution display.

And, as a general rule of thumb, thin is in. For any new Android tablet, the thinner, the lighter, the better.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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