One of the perennial complaints regarding Android tablets has been that there simply are not enough tablet-specific apps for the platform. Andy Rubin was asked about this concern at the All Things D conference in Hong Kong and had this to say:
I don’t think there should be apps specific to a tablet...if someone makes an ICS app it’s going to run on phones and it’s going to run on tablets.Andy RubinGoogle
Well if that’s the view from the top, it would be understandable if the Android Market wasn’t exactly overflowing with tablet-specific applications.
I happen to think that isn’t the case. I’ve been trying for quite some time now to hunt down an accurate count on tablet optimized apps in the Android Market, and I now fully understand why that is a tough nut to crack.
Sure the Market has the “Featured Tablet Apps” section, but that has less than 100 apps in it. People will often cite this as the sum total of the tablet apps available on Android. Then we had David Pogue write a piece a few months ago that chose 232 as the magic number. What did the paper of record cite for that number? An Android Central forum thread. That number was wrong by an order of magnitude then, and yet I still hear it bandied about as being at least roughly accurate.
A simple Google search will tell you how wrong that count is. If you restrict a Google search to the Android Market and search for “3.0 and up” you will find approximately 5,900 distinct entries. Even back in July that count was on the order of 3,000 apps, something Pogue just dismissed because it “didn’t seem right.” In other words it didn’t fit his thesis, so he decided to throw it out. Keep in mind that number encapsulates those apps, widgets and wallpapers designed only for Honeycomb tablets. It ignores completely all the apps coded to properly display on a phone or a tablet, as Rubin would apparently prefer. I’d be surprised if the total didn’t, at a minimum, double if you were able to incorporate all those apps.
I don’t necessarily disagree with Rubin; I’ve used quite a few Android apps that simply scale as needed on my Galaxy Tab 10.1, and they look and work fantastically well. With that said there are also those that fail miserably at this task. The problem is the user has no real idea how each app is going to behave until they install it. Universal apps are wonderful, but developers should be able to flag their app as “tablet optimized” so I can filter for it when I’m looking in the Market.
What do you think? Does the Market need better filters to allow tablet users to more easily locate apps that are going to look good and work properly on their devices? Do you agree with the general idea that there shouldn’t be tablet specific apps, but rather apps should simply work no matter what hardware you’re using?