Android tablet market shrinks even smaller as ASUS reportedly exits

Chrome OS devices in a tablet form factor can already use Android apps, while the potential for foldable Android tablets hangs in the balance.

Open-source LineageOS 16 based on Android 9.0 Pie improves privacy and security Phones supporting LineageOS can enjoy a cleaner, more predictable Android experience with security patches often delivered faster than the default Android version on many phones.

Facing increased competition from the iPad, production of the ASUS ZenPad line of Android tablets is ending, according to the Taiwanese technology news website ePrice. The last ZenPad model released was the ZN380KNL, which is presently sold out in Taiwan. ASUS is expected to continue manufacturing Android phones, though these historically sell better in Asia than in North America.

Sales of tablets have been shrinking for some time, though the iPad still leads the pack, holding 26.6% of the market as of Q3 2018, according to IDC. Samsung comprised 14.4% of the market for the same quarter, while Amazon represented 12%, Huawei with 8.9%, and Lenovo with 6.3%. In that time, only Huawei's sales grew.

The market for Android tablets has long been seen as a race to the bottom, due in part to Amazon's Fire series of tablets—which run Android, though lack access to the Google Play Store—significantly undercutting the market by positioning themselves as cheap content consumption devices. Considering Amazon's aggressive pricing, and the tendency of Android tablets to be—in essence—Netflix machines, the Android tablet market is not a particularly welcoming one for manufacturers.

SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Android experience on tablets has always been inconsistent, with tablet apps often appearing as stretched-out phone apps, or with copious amounts of whitespace. The lack of a consistent, tailored experience has long been an encumbrance for the Android tablet market.

Last year, Google accidentally deleted the tablet section entirely from the Android product spotlight website, leading to speculation that Google is likely to deemphasize tablets in the near future. At the time—and now—the tablet section features the Nvidia Shield K1, Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0, and Sony Xperia Tablet X4, all of which are from 2015, and none of which are available at retail. Google's apparently final Android tablet, the Pixel C, was released in December 2015, and could only be purchased from the Google Store.

Google, for its part, has moved on to Chrome OS—which features the ability to use Android apps. The Google Pixel Slate, introduced in October 2018, is an Intel-powered Chrome OS tablet, though its availability is inconsistent at best, as the low-end Celeron models have been out of stock essentially since they were launched. This leaves only the Intel Core m3 as the entry-level variant at an eye-watering $799, which puts it in the same price class as the iPad Pro.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold—arguably the most exciting Android tablet in history, insofar as you can call it a tablet—has now been delayed indefinitely. ZDNet's Jason Cipriani contends that the Galaxy Fold should simply be canceled outright, while Larry Dignan argues that "shelving the product forever would be a big mistake," noting that CNET's Jessica Dolcourt hasn't had any major problems with the screen—though to her credit, Dolcourt didn't try to peel off part of the screen, as reviewers from other outlets had attempted. (Samsung acknowledged that shipping a phone with a "special protective layer" from the factory without communicating this to reviewers was a mistake.)

For more on tablets, check out Jack Wallen's review of the Alldocube X, or learn why iOS dominates the corporate mobile device world.

Also see

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Image: ASUS

By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.