The Suicidal Feature (or Why Google have just stopped me buying the Nexus 7 right now, and made iOS and Windows 8 more attractive)
There's often much talk of the Killer App and Killer Feature, especially in the smartphone and tablet industry. Well, I think I've discovered a suicidal feature - one that could completely put users off buying a device, if they become aware of it.
I'm a Linux user, and have been for quite a few years now. I have a Galaxy Tab 10.1 that I bought to test out a website I was developing on the tablet form-factor, but I didn't realise how often I would end up using it - I've been really surprised and I do rather like ICS and now use it all the time.
I have been waiting for the Vivaldi tablet to come out, as a more portable tablet would, at times, be very useful, plus it would be nice to have a "real" Linux tablet to play with. However, due to the hardware sourcing issues, the Vivaldi doesn't look like it will be coming out any time soon, which is a real shame, so I've been looking at the Android 7" tablets, primarily the Nexus 7. I've had a play with it, and it looks really, really nice. I was on the verge of buying it, but was debating whether or not to go for the 3G version, as it would be useful to have mobile capabilities on it, but I've gone against that that as I have a smartphone that I can probably set up a wireless hotspot to tether to.
I merrily went through the motions, got the software set up and can access my phone's 3G from both of my laptops - great. I then (as I am an IT person, and have thus been taught to test everything and not assume that things will work) tried to connect my tablet to it. Nothing. Nada. It couldn't even see the wireless hotspot.
After some searching it seems that ICS and JB can no longer connect to adhoc wireless networks. WHAT??? WHY??? You can root your device, and replace the wpa_supplicant2 file to fix this (though I'm not sure a Nexus 7 version has been made yet), and I'm more than capable of doing this, but why should I have to, in order to use such a basic feature? I was actually in the process of looking up the best price for the Nexus 7, but now I'm seriously thinking about whether I get one at all. I probably will, especially if I can get Bluetooth tethering working, but it's stopped my purchase in its tracks, for the moment.
This brought me on to thinking about regular users. Someone had suggested that this was Google in cooperation with the mobile phone carriers and was designed to try to get people to get extra or add-on SIM cards for their tablets, which didn't sound impossible. I did a quick search and I can't find any figures for 2012, but for 2011 and earlier, 90% of tablets that were bought were wifi only, and I would think that still holds, as most people who want mobile connectivity with a tablet will probably already have a smartphone and will want to use tethering - a separate tablet contract is, still, very much a luxury. So this feature suddenly cripples Android tablets for an ever-growing section of the market. Sure, not everyone will want to be able to tether their tablet to their phone, but more and more people will, as we go forward. iPads and Windows 8 tablets will happily connect to these hotspots, though, and I suspect that could sway people away from Android - indeed, it's now something else I would take into account when recommending a tablet for someone else (they don't fulfil my needs as a user, though).
Google: please sort this out, or it could end up costing you quite a bit of market share, as users become more savvy!