Are Android apps ready for the big screen?

With the holiday season approaching quickly, and tablets like the Galaxy Tab becoming more and more popular by the day, I’ve been thinking a lot about how these Android tablets will perform visually.

Backstory

I understand that most Android apps, whether they have been written specifically for a 4.5″ or smaller screen, look fine. There was a big story going around the web for a minute about how analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said that apps on the Tab will look ugly, even though he had yet to use one. There is visual proof that for the most part, he is wrong. In fact, most apps I’ve seen pictures or video of do look fine. Well, that’s all good and great, but whether or not an app written for an Android device with a 4.5″ screen looks OK on a 7″ screen is not the real issue. The real problem is going to be app developers utilizing the extra real estate. In my eyes, there’s only one way to do that: Develop apps for Android tablets and phones/MIDs/PMPs.

The real difference

For examples sake, I’d like to talk about an app known as Pulse. Pulse is a visual RSS reader that is available for Android, and iOS with different versions for iPhone and iPad. Let’s try to forget for a moment that the Android version of the app looks terrible when compared to the iOS variant, and focus on the difference between the iPhone and iPad versions. Some visual references will help, no?

If you watch both videos, you’ll notice that the apps are very similar. When the iPad is turned sideways, the app changes to better utilize the extra space available. The iPhone and Android version of the app won’t do that (at least the Android version won’t, as of 9/20). There simply isn’t enough screen space. The only reason the iPad version of the app makes that visual change, is because it’s just that, an iPad version of the app. Same core OS (iOS), but two different apps.

Now I know that technically iPad OS and iPhone OS are different, but like I said, they do run the same core OS. This is, theoretically, the direction Google will take Android when it comes to their tablet oriented software. Until that time, despite the exception of minor proprietary UI changes, Android is the same no matter what device you run it on. That doesn’t mean however, that apps can’t be written for tablets in the meantime.

Is it worth it?

My question now, is this: Is it worth it? Android OS as a whole is hands down my favorite mobile operating system. My Nexus is my lifeline and partner, and this will not change. So why then, would I want to buy a Galaxy Tab right now if I’m only going to see the same content, just bigger? For me personally, it’s not about having a front facing camera or whatever other hardware changes alone, it’s about the entire tablet experience. Which includes apps that are not just ported over to a tablet sized screen, but written for a tablet sized screen. So again, I ask, is it worth it?

What do you think? Let me know what you think in the comments, or through Twitter: @dustinearley. I’m eager to hear your opinions. As for me, I don’t think I’ll be jumping on the Android tablet bandwagon just yet. Someday, but not now.

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