I received the Asus Transformer Pad. An Android tablet. I have some experience with the iPad (first generation) and have an iPhone 4. So this is my first encounter with Android. The pad comes with Android 4.0
The user experience of a product starts with the box it’s shipped in. Unlike some other Android devices, the box was easy to open. The tablet was immediately visible after opening the box. However it was it wrapped in a plastic that prevented me from seeing the product in all its glory. Also, the plug was wrapped in a tight and thin plastic that was hard to remove. Fiddling with bits of plastic caused some irritation, and left me with a pile of packaging material.
The worst part from the un-boxing was that the device had no battery life. I pressed multiple buttons (where’s the on switch?) It made me worried if the device might be broken. After struggling with more wrapping plastic, I plugged it in and starting charging. Still not sure if it’s actually working, but it showed some sign of life.
Set up process
The set up process was boring. The dark styling didn’t help to encourage me. Some forms had a problem because the fields were hidden behind the keyboard and I couldn’t see them unless I hid the keyboard.
One example of the dismal procedure was the wireless network set up. During installation the device asked me to connect to my wireless network, which makes sense. The problem was the lack of confirmation when I entered my password. The network showed the word ‘connected’, but I wasn’t sure if that meant it was actually working. A green tick symbol or something showing the ‘connect to Internet’ step was finished successfully would have been helpful.
After using the device for a few minutes, a new release of Android was available. The good thing is that it downloaded automatically over the air. What it didn’t say which version was available or why I should upgrade. If you haven’t upgraded a device before, this would probably be a very confusing dialog. It made me feel like I’m upgrading because Asus wants me to, not because I want to.
Installing new Apps
The application store shows some nice suggestions like Evernote, that gives me confidence Android is a serious platform. Installation of new apps is fairly easy. Searching for an app works OK but has it’s own issues: for instance you can’t see whether applications are optimized for the tablet. So when looking for a movie trailer-app, the number of possible apps is huge. If I could filter out the ones that are designed for tablet devices, it would help me find the right one more easily.
The search field was often unresponsive, which was irritating. I couldn’t see if it was because it was still loading, so I just had to randomly push the search field to see if it would come available.
Applications don’t seem to adhere to a common navigation style. Going back to the previous screen is not always obvious. It looks like pressing the top left app icon brings you back to the start screen, I’m not sure. The back button is neat, but I’m often unsure where that will bring me and in some cases it didn’t work at all. The back button leaves too much room for developer to build the application like a website, which it isn’t.
Of course one feature Android has that iOS doesn’t is widgets. I haven’t tried many, but especially a tablet has lots of room to show both app icons and widgets, so it’s a big plus for Android. To compensate for this great feature, Android keeps the bottom navigation bar always visible, which means apps don’t use the fill screen and immersion suffers. The trailer app didn’t even switch to full screen when playing the video, this is where the desktopy feel is a bad thing.
Switching between apps
For Android apps are ‘windows’ that you switch between. The ‘windows’ icon in the bottom bar is great, switching between apps is always available and the preview icons make it comfortable to find the right application. I have to figure outhow to close an app so it gets removed from view.
Android on the tablet is not bad, but also not great either. My iPad experience has been a more pleasant one, apps looks better, responds better and are more uniform. There are lots of apps, but Android developer seem less eager to create tablet specific versions, which is a shame. Apart from the widgets, everything feels like ‘slightly worse’ than the iPad.