Tablets: an Android 2011 Retrospective

When the year 2011 is looked back upon by the Google historians, they'll mark it as the first time they officially made an effort to bring the Android platform to devices with displays larger than handheld smartphones – what we saw, as a result, was everything from the XOOM to the ASUS Transformer Prime. The folks at Google created a version of their mobile operating system Android titled Honeycomb and numbered version 3.0. This operating system began its life in the wild on the Motorola XOOM, a 10.1-inch tablet that by the end of the year would be replaced by the XYBOARD, a tablet which physically in weight and thickness to the iPad 2 – the dominant force in the tablet space throughout the vast majority of this past year.

If you've got something larger than a handset that came out inside 2011 running Android, more than likely it is running Honeycomb. By mid-2011 we not only expected but demanded that a tablet-sized Android device run at least Android 3.0 Honeycomb for it to be considered worthy of the market. As the market directed it, both thinness and lightness reigned supreme when considering sales tactics, but some notable exceptions did appear (and where quickly destroyed at the hands of small sales and lack of interest on the part of consumers.) We reviewed so many Android tablets it'd make your head spin, each of them listed here, one by one:

Dell Streak 7 Wi-fi with GingerbreadMotorola XOOM Verizon with HoneycombT-Mobile G-Slate (LG) T-Mobile with HoneycombACER Iconia Tab A500 Wi-fi with HoneycombASUS Eee Pad Transformer Wi-fi with HoneycombHTC Flyer (International) Wi-fi with HoneycombSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-fi with HoneycombHTC Flyer (USA) Wi-fi with HoneycombHTC EVO View 4G WiMAX with HoneycombBeBook Live Wi-fi with FroYoToshiba Thrive Wi-fi with HoneycombVizio Tablet Wi-fi with GingerbreadLenovo IdeaPad K1 Wi-fi with HoneycombAcer Iconia Tab A100 Wi-fi with HoneycombSony Tablet S Wi-fi with HoneycombAcer Iconia Tab A501 AT&T with HoneycombARCHOS 80 G9 Wi-fi with HoneycombLenovo ThinkPad Tablet Wi-fi with HoneycombHTC Jetstream AT&T with HoneycombASUS Eee Pad Slider Wi-fi with HoneycombT-Mobile Springboard (Huawei) T-Mobile with HoneycombSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE Verizon with HoneycombSamsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 Verizon with HoneycombNOOK Tablet Wi-fi with custom interfaceASUS Transformer Prime Wi-fi with HoneycombMotorola DROID XYBOARD 10.1 Verizon with HoneycombMotorola DROID XYBOARD 8.9 Verizon with Honeycomb

There isn't only good Android tablets out there, mind you, we've seen some really terrible pieces of machinery come through running Android mostly because Google offers up the operating system as open source. What this means is that unless a manufacturer wants the Android Market on their device, they can use Android however they want it, free of charge. As a result, mistakes are sometimes made, and a Crappy Android tablet: a Christmas Guide was this year made. For the rest of you running awesome Android tablets (many of which have been listed above, you can hit up the ten Android apps for your new tablet also written up for this holiday season.

We had the onset of a few keyboards created specifically for the Android tablet line including such gems as Swype 3.0 and SwiftKey Tablet X. We also had a couple of cross-over devices whose manufacturers decidedly called not-quite-tablets and not-quite-smartphones, the first being the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0, the next being the Samsung Galaxy Note. These devices are just a bit bigger than what's generally considered a smartphone, but just a bit smaller than what's generally considered a tablet. Will these middle sizes continue through 2012, or will the USA release of the Galaxy Note sign the death warrant for such displays worldwide? It all depends on that one device.

We had our fair share of excellent adventures with tablets this 2011 season, including such lovely bits as Tabletpalooza, giveaways for oddities like the Archos 101, and a brand new Android device directory by the name of Device.AC.

Then there was a wave of lawsuits of all kinds, with results as strange as a redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1 to avoid them. Oddities such as Microsoft making more money on Android than on Windows Phone through patent agreements as the result of lawsuits once again. Make no mistake, the Lawsuit punchout we've experienced this year has been no less than a vast annoyance, especially given that such webs of law spin just as thick year-by-year. That said, your humble narrator hopes for less kicking and screaming in 2012.

Android tablets haven't had any kind of monstrous sales thus far, the iPad 2 still having a domination of the two-handed touchscreen display device world still. But when you consider such things as the response we've had to the Transformer Prime, you've got to think twice before suggesting the Android OS won't find its way into the first tablet-like form factor that knocks the iPad out of first place – perhaps even inside 2012. Have a look at our review of Android 3.0 Honeycomb as well as our review of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to see what we're looking at for the screens of Android tablets through 2012. We're going to be seeing Intel's Medfield SoC hit tablets, NVIDIA continue to hit tablet after tablet with it's Tegra chip, this time in the form of the quad-core Tegra 3, and many surprises in the mix as well.