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

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:11:34 PM
re: Android Cheat Sheet: How to Beat the iPad 2

Having hundreds of manufacturers with hundreds of Android devices won't really matter if the apps available aren't compatible with most of the Android devices out there. I think this is where Apple's tight control of the App Store makes it a safe(r) bet for consumers.

comtech3 12/5/2012 | 5:11:27 PM
re: Android Cheat Sheet: How to Beat the iPad 2

People are not really attracted to tablets because of their "apps.The real magnet is the mobility, compactness,and touch screen capability that tablets afford.The same is true for when the netbooks came out.The limiting factor as far as the Ipad is concerned, is the price.With more of these devices coming out at a much cheaper price than the Ipad, Apple is going to see a decline in sales.However, the euphoria that herald in the netbook fad has died and so will the Ipad and it's clones.Incidentally, if you had the chance to look at the preview of Apple's next OS 10.7,aptly named Lion, gives one the impression that the marriage between 10.6 and the IOS  is a telling tale that Apple is on it's last hurrah ! In other words, Apple has run out of ideas.

neyo 12/5/2012 | 5:11:26 PM
re: Android Cheat Sheet: How to Beat the iPad 2

I wonder how many iphone owners have moved to other devices for the reason that the latter offers more functionality than the iphone could offer them.

No device yet has come close to better or even match the iphone touch screen experience. To add to that, the easy of accessing new content - apps, news, books, etc. on the iphone - is simply unmatched.

androidgold 12/5/2012 | 5:11:01 PM
re: Android Cheat Sheet: How to Beat the iPad 2

While I agree that the iPad is one of the most revolutionary pieces of hardware since, well, the iPhone, there are a few items you mention that do not necessarily mesh with what I've discovered while running AndroidGold.com - a service that find the best Android tablets from China and sells them online:

<li>Many consumers specifically don't want to be forced into Apple's ecosystem: you say that iTunes is the easiest way to download songs and movies onto a device - have you ever tried just drag-and-dropping files from a computer to a device?&nbsp; Can't do it with Apple, but sure is a snap with any other MP3 player - so why can't it be so easy with a tablet? With removable memory it is.</li>
<li>Which brings me to my next point - removable memory.&nbsp; For someone like me who has a bunch of gadgets that run on SD cards, not being able to simply pop an SD card into an iPad makes them impractical for many users.

<li>Flash - 'nuff said on this one unless Mr. Jobs gets over his arrogance in regards to Adobe, for many users this feature alone is an iPad killer waiting to happen.</li>
<li>Cost - Considering the above, I disagree that cost is a limiting factor, and though many iPad competitors will try to beat the price-tag at the cost of performance, I think the market WANTS Android tablets to the point that they are willing to pay a premium for these benefits.

<li>Apple is no longer the choice among young, geeky, tech-savvy individuals as it was during the emergence of the MacBook and even the iPhone.&nbsp; Android is particularly popular amongst teens and 20-somethings.&nbsp; App makers are becoming increasingly frustrated with Apple's iron-fisted rule over the iStore, and the ROM-chef community that has sprung up around Android ROM development has spawned a hobby industry unlike anything Apple will ever allow to flourish around its proprietary iOS.</li>
sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:10:48 PM
re: Android Cheat Sheet: How to Beat the iPad 2

Circling back on this...how many features that the analysts mentioned did Apple include in its iPad 2? Just the HDMI port, not even a USB, although it was more content-focused this time around.

Looks like these are all still opportunities for Android.

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