Android Tablet

The Quick Version

Cheaper than an iPad, with nearly all the same functionality. The only real downside is the security and backups are not as good as iPad.


The Key Points

1. Good prices.

2. Lots of innovation.

3. Security not as good as its competitors.

4. Backups not automated.

Frequently when people say "iPad", they don't actually mean iPad. The mean a tablet that looks and works like an iPad. "Tablet" is the generic term, iPad is a specific example of a tablet made by Apple. Nearly all of the other manufacturers use an operating system from Google called Android. Android tablets outsell iPads. Why? Because most of the time they are cheaper than iPads.

Are they better than iPads? That's the sort of question that gets geeks very over excited as they conduct jihad on behalf of their favoured option. The truth? Both types are a very good and advancing all the time from the competitive pressure of having to compete with each other. Having watched an awful lot of normal folks use both, I think the iPad is the best match for normal folks and Android is the best match for geeks, as the iPad is more locked down and protected and Android is more open and configurable. No doubt that assertion will create lots of excited feedback from both camps, but I believe it to be fair from my observations.


Security

If you have been reading the other pages on this website you will know I am very vocal about the lack of decent security on folks' home computers. I would dearly love to say that this is not an issue on Android, but I can't. If you want all the techie details, have a read of the Security Hierarchy page. Although Android is nowhere near as bad as Windows, its still has its problems.

There are anti-virus systems for Android and I suggest you install one from the Google Play Store on the device if you are using an Android Tablet.

Fortunately most people using an Android device will not encounter a problem, but some will. If security is your priority (and I think it should be) systems like iPad and ChromeOS are better locked down.


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Backups

If security is a priority then backups should be a super priority. You want to be able to see your photos when you are in the rocking chair in the old people's home, decades after this tablet has gone to the land fill. Unfortunately, Android tablets don't automatically back up everything on them. You have to install and configure additional software to backup your documents, photos and apps.

It's all do-able, but frankly I don't like it. Most people pick up a computer and start using it. If it needs fancy configuration it doesn't happen and the first they realise there is a problem is when it breaks and they lose all their stuff. Again, it's not an issue on iPad or ChromeOS. These systems are automatically backed up.


Funtionality

This is where Android scores. The system is more open. The programmers who write software for it can poke around and access all sorts of things that are simply not possible on iPad (for example). Unfortunately that's also why the system is not as secure, but that's the trade off.

That's why I believe Android to be a better match for geeks and iPad and ChromeOS to be a better match for normal people who just want to pick it up and use it.


WHICH ONES TO BUY?

There is a staggering array of models and manufacturers on the Android Tablet market. How is any poor person meant to make sense of it?

The first rule is don't go for any of the really cheap ones (less than $100 - £100). People want to buy tablets, so a large industry has emerged making super cheap tablets with makers names you have never heard of before. It's all about price and the quality can go hang. In my day job people hand me all sorts of different computers and when they hand me a very low priced Android tablet, so far, it has always been a piece of junk. Slow, poor quality screens and destined for a short life (they tend to be very unreliable) or of being ignored because nobody in the family likes it. Of course I feel guilty saying that because I am sure somewhere out there some bunch of ernest and talented engineers are producing fabulous Android tablets for the price of a packet of Doritos and I am damning them before ever seeing their stuff. Still, the market is too big and too fast moving to ever keep track of them all, so my advice remains: keep away from the super cheap stuff.

How to avoid nasty tablets? Stay with the large brand manufacturers (Samsung is a good bet). That introduces a new problem: Samsung's range is huge and they keep adding models all the time. You should see the debates about which ones are the best. On second thoughts, maybe not, only a geek could love the endless over thinking of detail. The truth is the differences are small in the eyes of normal people.

If you want a small tablet grab a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7-inch (US $155 - UK £136).

For a bigger one (US $299 - UK £204).

Also consider the Amazon Fire (which is even cheaper, but still good). And don't give up on an iPad because you think they are too expensive. When Apple bring out a new model of the iPad they tend to keep the old one around for a while at a reduced price. Have a look here for an explanation of the range.


Extras

Printer

It's possible that your existing printer might not work with an Android Tablet. Chances are, if it's more than a few years old, it won't. You need something that supports the Google Cloud Print standard.

If you are printing modest amounts I have had really positive experiences installing the Epson XP-410/412 (US $79 - UK £71). If you are printing more like an office, then Epson's Workforce range is better (US $129 - UK £89). These printers will also work with PCs, Macs, Android devices, Smartphones and just about anything else you or anyone else in the family has. Printers are surprisingly cheap for what they are, because manufacturers hope to make their money on the ink.

 

Keyboard

An Andorid tablet has an on screen keyboard and that's fine for most people most of the time. But some folks have a lot of text to bang into the system (like me writing this page for example) and they need an old fashioned keyboard. Of course people who know about computers will say you cannot have a keyboard on an Andorid tablet. As usual they are taking out of their bottoms.

Any bluetooth keyboard will work with n Andorid tablet. I normally go for cheap ones (US  $11 - UK £8). 

 

Case

If you are going to use a separate keyboard you want a simple stand to go with it. A lot of the cases have a stand built in, but I have never gotten on with them when using it this way. A few dollars gets you a stand you have to leave in front of a keyboard on your desk and it's easy to drop the tablet into and remove (US $8 - UK £6)


WHAT'S WRONG WITH CHOOSING AN Android Tablet?

Certainly Android tablets can make a very tempting choice because they have become a hot bed of innovation as all the different manufacturers who make these machines try to compete with one another either on price or on functions.

However, there are those nagging doubts about backups and security. Doubts that are not an issue on iPad and ChromeOS. You might say you have to have an Android because it can be cheaper. I would suggest you look at the very low prices of Chromebooks and Amazon Fire before assuming the Android is the only option. Also have a look at iPads, although they are more expensive when Apple come out with a new version they typically leave the old version on sale at a reduced price.

One last thing: you might think that if you have an Android phone you have to have an Android tablet to go with it. As someone who switches between the devices all the time, I would say it's not much of an issue. You can easily have an Android phone and a iPad as your tablet. 


Summary

Android Tablets are good, but backups and security and dealt with better on other machines. For that reason I think your money would be better spent there.



BUT THIS IS ALL NONSENSE!

There's a staggering amount of misinformation and urban myth doing the rounds on the subject of home computers, often nonsense that is most definitely against your best interests. So let's prepare you for when someone "who knows about computers" comes knocking by covering the popular hogwash in advance.

But you can't run Word, Excel and PowerPoint on it!

You can (see Word, Excel & PowerPoint for all the details). There are various apps in the Google Play Store on the device for doing this. I like WPS Office, which is free and good.


YOUR COMMENTS

Don't be shy, say what you think. The comment system below is there for anyone to ask a question or make a point. Especially don't hold back if you are a normal person just trying to make sense of it all. It's easy to get the opinions of geeks on geeky matters. Much more interesting to hear how this works out for you or what bits need more explanation. No such thing as a silly question, jump in.