I recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, because my laptop was getting old, and I wanted something ultra portable. However I have so far found myself disappointed by the apps available. As I understand it, for iOS there are thousands of Tablet Optimized apps (that is they look nice on the big screens). Unfortunately I can’t say the same about Android. All of the Google Apps are fine (well most of them), but the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc have horrible apps that are not optimised for the tablet, to such a point for some of them they become unusable.
There is so much potential for tablet applications, and the extra screen space allows for some really nice application designs, but companies really need to step up here and optimised their apps, especially popular apps.
As is clear from the picture below Facebook is rather simple. This is the home screen I get. However whenever I click on News Feed, for Friends etc it fills up the whole page. I can’t see any other information.
Now compare that to FriendCaster, an alternative to the Official Facebook App. This is tablet optimized, and is my preference over the Official App. I can do so much on this. I can see a friends profile information on the left, while browsing their wall on the right. It’s segmented and flows nicely.
This is the official Twitter app. Completely unoptimized for a Tablet. Yuck! I actually can’t bare to look at this. I was semi able to handle Facebook but this app sent me on a spree to find nice replacements.
And find one I did. This is TweetComb. This is the Twitter application I use on my Tablet. It is sectioned, and I can even have more than three sections and scroll between them. This allows me to see new Tweets from people I follow, as well as Mentions and Direct Messages all on the one page. Now instead of a tweet being half a line, they take up 3 to 4, but that doesn’t matter. There has been a much improved use of space.
I’m going to be honest. This app had me in tears of laughter. It works perfectly on my phone. But as soon as I put it on my Tablet, well judge for yourself. The menu doesn’t open correctly, nothing really seems to work and it just looks absolutely terrible. I really hope that ESPN put some effort into this app, because it’s amazing. It like others has enormous potential, and with some TLC could be an awesome Cricket companion on my tablet. There is the potential to have the Live scores, while I can still browse around the stats, or view each individual batman’s results.
eBuddy works fantastically well on a phone. It’s the right size, and works nicely on restricted screen space. Now of course we scale it up to 10.1 (I imagine even say a 7 inch would be similar), and there is plenty of wasted space. I have some recommendations for this App, because I am yet to find one similar to replace it with. Firstly, List all my online buddies down the left. Then when I select one have the chat appear on the right say 2/3s of the screen. Secondly, you can group by accounts, so why not have it start of with Accounts. You select an Account (with the option for All so you can see All online contacts), and then it shows you contacts within that account, with the accounts still showing on the right. So the screen becomes partitioned, and still provides you with information. Then when you select a contact for the first time, it hides the accounts list, and waits for you to perhaps move back, before reshowing it, possibly even over the buddies list, keeping the chat visible. One more thing, address the font sizes.
Ultimately I realize that developing nice tablet optimized applications isn’t going to be easy. I look at my own Android application and know it’s crap, and it’s even worse on a tablet, but that wasn’t intended for the masses. It was a learning exercise where I developed a app that was useful to me, and I just happened to make it available publicly. I believe that Android doesn’t support automated font scaling, and this must be handled by the programmer. I am not sure whether this is to be included in the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich release but I really hope it is. Also I recall reading that ICS will bridge the gap when developers develop an application, allowing them to easily adapt it for a Tablet device. Lets hope it works.
However, companies that make these apps that are used by many people shouldn’t use this excuse. You pay people money to develop applications for you, and they should be doing a good job. and I fear that it not only can’t be good for the companies (people moving from their Apps to more Tablet optimzed version as with the Facebook and Twitter apps above), but it can’t be good for Android as a tablet platform. I don’t want to see people moving towards iPads from Android tablets just to get the nice applications. It’s time developers stepped up their game, and developed applications that suit the tablet ecosystem.
N.B. Some parts of the screenshots are blurred for privacy reasons