For the second time in two weeks, Google is showing increasingly serious commitment to Android tablet applications. Last week, the company announced support for tablet app screenshots in the Google Play store. On Thursday, Google introduced a new tablet optimization tips tool in its developer dashboard.
The new tool allows developers to see how their app “is doing against basic guidelines for tablet app distribution and quality.” That means upon uploading a new or updated version of an Android app, developers will get instant feedback on how well their software is optimized for Android tablets.
If a developer didn’t target the right screen sizes or Android version for tablets, for example, they’ll get a reminder to do so. After addressing the un-optimized app components, devs can then upload a version better suited for larger-screen Android devices.
So why the big push? I can think of two reasons: one that’s been around for a while and one that’s fairly recent.
Android tablets essentially began life as super-sized smartphones, meaning apps weren’t optimally sized for bigger screens. This was a valid early criticism of Android tablets that I witnessed firsthand in 2010 when I bought a 7-inch Galaxy Tab. I often found very large buttons in apps or text that didn’t fit properly in a section of an app.
Unlike Apple’s approach — which offers apps specific both phones and tablets (save for the universal apps) — Google doesn’t support have tablet-specific apps. Instead, the company created guidelines and coding tools for apps to work properly on both phones and tablets with a single .apk installation file. But developers have to take advantage of these and properly code for different screen sizes. Not all of them do; in fact, I’d say a fair amount actually don’t. Hence, Google is trying to subtly nudge developers to do so with the new optimization tips tool.
Another reason came about just this week: According to one analyst report, Android tablet sales may be finally starting to catch up with iPad sales. Strategy Analytics shared its data on Thursday and it shows that Android tablet market share around the world is 43.1 percent, compared to the iPad at 48.2 percent. Note that the Android figures are for shipments, so that figure is surely inflated due to Android tablet inventory sitting on shelves or in warehouses.
With a rise of shipments, even, Android developers should be considering the mobile app experience on tablets and Google is all too willing to help in that department. It has been trying to do so for the better part of two years — Android 3.0 added many tablet optimized features — but every little bit moving forward helps.