Why aren't people buying Honeycomb tablets?

Nearly one year into Android 3.0's lif, new data confirms that users are not buying Honeycomb tablets.

Scott Webster
Scott Webster has spent the better part of his adult life playing with cell phones and gadgets. When not looking for the latest Android news and rumors, he relaxes with his wife and son. Scott also is the senior editor for AndroidGuys. E-mail Scott.
Scott Webster
3 min read
Why are Honeycomb tablet sales so low? Google

As we near the one-year anniversary of Honeycomb tablets, you might assume that Android 3.0 has led to a proliferation of devices and sales.

After all, considering it was written specifically with large displays in mind, it was sure to revolutionize the tablet industry, right?

Well, not exactly. According to new data from ad network Chitika, Honeycomb only accounts for 1 percent of the Android usage on their system.

Based on data collected from hundreds of millions of ads served over the span of a week, Chitika found that Gingerbread and Froyo still command approximately 95 percent of the platform's market. What's more, Google's own statistics from the 14-day period ending December 1, 2011 show Honeycomb holding just a 2.4 percent of Android's market share, still a very low figure.

What's to blame for such a low percentage? I suspect that there multiple reasons for the less-than-stellar adoption.

Specs vs. hardware
I've long felt that Android manufacturers place too much emphasis on hardware components and the cutting-edge technology. Whether it's dual-core processors, cameras, or boatloads of memory, consumers are sold on what lies under the hood.

Apple, on the other hand, always has shown us what we can do with the hardware, even if it's less powerful. The iPhone was not the first major smartphone to feature a front-facing camera, even if Apple's commercials and marketing would have you believed that the company pioneered the technology. I suspect that the same thing has happened on the tablet front; there's simply too much focus on expensive hardware.

I could talk all day about how incredible the Transformer Prime is on paper, but many consumers just don't want to spend that kind of money unless they see value in what it can do for them.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons that the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet stand to be successful. Sure, there is that all-too-tempting price point to help things along, but I believe it has more to do with focus on experience.

Both should sell like hotcakes this holiday season based around inexpensive alternatives to the iPad 2 that offer a lot of cool features. Apps? Check. Internet? Check. E-mail, books, calendar, and music? You bet.

Pay attention to the television commercials over the next few weeks and watch how these devices are marketed. It won't be the hardware, but what you can do instead.

Many cooks in the kitchen
Another factor that may contribute to Honeycomb's poor sales is competition among hardware makers. As many of you have noticed, there are score of Android tablets on the market from innumerable companies. Given that the industry is still in its infancy, everyone is trying to grab their piece of the pie.

And just as important, since Google opted not to provide the source code for Honeycomb, a number of vendors went with previously available releases of Android. This is why you may see $100 tablets running Android 2.2 at your local Walgreen's or Kmart.

Carrier contracts
A third possible reason to consider is that many of the tablets from bigger players are tied to contracts with carriers. Yet, I believe this to be the wrong way to approach tablets, especially in a time when so many are coming to market.

Consumers are just reluctant to spend Netbook or laptop money on a tablet that forces them to sign a two-year agreement. It's one thing to know something bigger and better is coming around the corner. It's something else when you can't do anything about it because you're stuck in a contract.

I figured it would take a good year or more before Android's share of the tablet market would come close to Apple's, but based on what I've seen thus far, I wonder if it's even possible. Yes, things could change in a hurry with Ice Cream Sandwich and a fresh batch of tablets on the horizon, but I am not holding my breath.

Hopefully lower prices and a more cohesive user experience can jump start things. At 1 percent (or 2.4 percent) it can only get better, right?