Dell just put another nail in the Android tablet coffin. The company announced that it is killing off its Android-powered Venue slates. As more and more consumers use bigger phones and people hold on to their existing devices longer, tablet sales have been crashing for a while. But Android tablets are particularly pointless.
“The slate tablet market is over-saturated and is experiencing declining demand from consumers, so we’ve decided to discontinue the Android-based Venue tablet line,” a Dell spokesman told PCWorld.
The irony is that the Dell Venue 8 7000 is one of the best-rated Android tablets we've reviewed, sporting a gorgeous OLED display and an innovative RealSense camera. The problem is that no one really needs an Android tablet anymore--and that they've always trailed the iPad in one critical area.
For years, Android tablet apps have paled in comparison to Apple's rich selection of tablet-optimized apps. Many titles are just stretched-out phone apps, while iPad developers have found better ways to take advantage of the available real estate, as well as pen input with the latest iPad Pro. At least games play as well on Android tablets as they do phones.
Speaking of phones, Android tablets are becoming irrelevant because no one needs a 7 or 8-inch slab that does the same thing as a big-screen phablet. The experience between using a phone and tablet just isn't differentiated enough. And you can pick up a large 5.5-inch handset for cheap, like the $199 Huawei Honor 5x.
There's yet another reason Android tablets are on death's door; they're transforming into something else: Chromebooks. Now that Android apps run on Chrome OS devices, you're starting to see more Chromebooks with touchscreens build in. The Asus Chromebook Flip was just the start. HP just announced the Chromebook 11 G5 with a touchscreen, and more are on the way.
Android tablets are dying, but Chromebooks with touch could essentially give the category new life as a 2-in-1 combo. According to IDC, detachable devices like the Surface experienced triple-digit growth year over year in the first quarter of 2016, while the rest of the tablet market declined by 14.7 percent.
For now, most touchscreen Chromebooks are convertible clamshells, but I expect to see detachables proliferate by the end of the year. In fact, the Chromebook Pixel C would have been much more satisfying a hybrid if it ran Chrome OS with an Android store on top.
I'm not saying that Chrome-tablets are going to take down prosumer devices like the Surface Pro 4. But for consumers focused on value, as well as students, touch-friendly Chromebooks that run Android apps and games could provide a great mix of ease of use and versatility.
So don't cry for Android tablets. They're just finding a new home.
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