As Steve Jobs was very keen to tell us earlier this month, iOS currently holds some 65,000 tablet applications. He contrasted this impressive figure with the number of Android Honeycomb apps: 100. The great disparity between these two numbers has fueled countless columns and opinion pieces across the Internet. And now, news has broke that things may be even worse for Android than they seem.
Justin Williams of CarpeAqua has counted up all of the Honeycomb apps that were more than just resized versions of normal applications. He came up with far fewer than 100. In fact, only 17 apps met his criteria of being "specifically designed for a tablet experience". Williams justified his standards by saying, "There is little point in buying a $600-$800 device just to run larger versions of apps you run on your phone."
And he's right. Tablets are larger, more powerful devices and users deserve applications that do more than just mimic something on their phone. Most of Justin's remaining apps were things like "CNN App for Android" or "USA Today for Tablet" or "WeatherBug". The thumb keyboard got a mention, as did the excellent DrawFree app and the game Vendetta Online. You'll notice that many of these apps- like CNN, were featured in the Honeycomb launch event. Vendetta even makes an appearance in the first Xoom ad.
What this all means is very simple: Android users are being asked to spend hundreds of dollars on a device that can't yet offer them much more functionality than their phones. If the larger display size is the only real benefit of an Android tablet, something isn't quite right.
Android tablets are undergoing a chaotic adolescence. Manufacturers and marketers will gradually learn to push away from the aggressive "spec dump" tactics they used with the Xoom. Google will eventually recognize the need for a more carefully crafted user experience. Developers on Android will catch-up with iOS. But all of these things are a few years in the future. For now, Android tablet early adopters will just have to grin and bear it.