[Update] Microsoft Arrow Launcher Beta Adds Tablet Support

Microsoft Arrow Launcher on a Nexus 9

[Update:  Version 3.1 has officially been released!]

The Microsoft Garage team behind Arrow Launcher for Android have had a busy few weeks.  Last week they released a major update, version 3.0, to the public channel which brought a significant number of changes to it.  While performance and stability improvements were the hallmark of the release, the new Utility page which shows your frequent contacts, apps and recent documents on one page was the big new feature.  Right on the heels of that 3.0 release, the 3.1 build has hit those in the beta program with further refinements.  The big news though is support for tablets.

Arrow Launcher on tablets works the same way as it does on phones with the ability to customize the launcher as far as icon size, rows and columns and some included widgets.  It also supports app notifications (for apps that support it) and works in both landscape and portrait viewing.  It is also incredibly stable.  Those who visit often know that I generally shy readers away from betas because of bugs and stability issues.  This beta of Arrow Launcher however is pretty rock solid in the couple of days I’ve been running it on my Nexus 9.  Obviously proceed at your own risk but I’m happy with it so far.

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Android Tablet Sales Drop 10% in The Last Quarter of 2016

Nexus 9

While there were a few bright spots, the Android tablet market continued to constrict in the last quarter of 2016 according to Strategy Analytics.  The site Q4 2016 report is out and with it, you see that overall, Android tablet sales dropped by 10% year-over-year with Samsung seeing a 10% drop themselves year-over-year.  Interestingly, relatively new comer Huawei saw a 49% increase in growth over last year as they made their first significant efforts in the tablet space in 2016.  It seems to have paid off – at least for now.  Amazon also enjoyed a nice growth rate of 21% thanks to their Fire lineup of Android-powered tablets.

The news on tablet sales didn’t just impact Android.  Apple saw a 19% drop in iPad sales year-over-year in Q4 2016.

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Opinion – Chrome OS Could Kill The Android Tablet in 2017

Acer Chromebook 14

As 2017 gets started, one thing has become abundantly clear to me:  The days of the Android tablet form factor are numbered.  Its not that the Android experience on tablets will kill them – which is pretty poor to be fair – but rather the flood of Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices that are set to hit the market this year.  2017 will be the year that Chrome OS takes off for good with a wide range of form factors expected to be release and the much anticipated support of Android apps on the platform in Chrome 56.  The latter is due within days and the former, with the likes of Samsung’s new Chromebooks, will set the stage for a transformative year.

The push for the tablet form factor came fundamentally from Apple.  With the launch of the iPad, it suddenly became a tool by which you could get more things done on a larger screen.  Add to that portability and a lower cost, generally, than a laptop and you set the stage for a form factor that seemingly many wanted.  But for all the might of Apple, the iPad has never really taken hold.  Samsung, HTC and Google themselves have had the same struggles.  They brought the conveniences of a mobile Operating System and the associated apps but equally, they brought limitations that users did not experience on laptops.  It was, as if, they were a stop-gap measure until a proper merger of a desktop OS and a mobile OS could take place.

That merger is happening now with Chrome OS and Android.

Android apps running in Chrome will be more than just a stop gap.  You will get the benefits of an app ecosystem along with the power and productivity of a desktop OS.  Is it perfect?  No but it is a far cry better than having two completely desparent solutions to meet your productivity and entertainment needs.

I suspect that my usage of my Nexus 9 Android tablet is similar to many of you.  I like the tablet but 90% of my use of it is for entertainment:  Games, movie watching and social networking.  Rarely do I use it for productivity, even with the solid Google productivity apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides.  The only time I really use it for productivity is when I’m on an airplane, in coach, crammed into a little seat with little room to pull out a 14″ Chromebook to work.  If I’m in business class or First class, the Chromebook is always the weapon of choice to get things done.  So the question becomes, if I had my entertainment on a slate or convertible Chrome OS-based device, would I need a tablet?  The answer, in my mind, is a resounding no.

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Today’s Deal – Huawei MediaPad M3 Tablet – $299 on Amazon

Huawei MediaPad M3

Today’s Deal is on a well appointed new tablet from Huawei.  The MediaPad M3 is their latest offering and the 8.4″ tablet sports 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 2560 x 1600 pixel IPS display for $299.  To make this an even sweeter deal, the M3 has Harmon Kardon tuned sound so you should have a great media experience with it on top of the great overall specs.  The new tablet from Huawei was announced in November and hit the Amazon digital shelves in December.  If you are an Amazon Prime customer, shipping is free.

The MediaPad M3 is powered by the Octa-Core Kirin 950 processor running at 2.3GHz and it is coupled with the Mali-T880 MP4 GPU.  This combination should do great for everyday use and you have plenty of RAM to support the processor which always helps.

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Today’s Deal – Huawei MediaPad M3 Tablet – $299 on Amazon

Huawei MediaPad M3

Today’s Deal is on a well appointed new tablet from Huawei.  The MediaPad M3 is their latest offering and the 8.4″ tablet sports 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 2560 x 1600 pixel IPS display for $299.  To make this an even sweeter deal, the M3 has Harmon Kardon tuned sound so you should have a great media experience with it on top of the great overall specs.  The new tablet from Huawei was announced last month and hit the Amazon digital shelves yesterday.  If you are an Amazon Prime customer, shipping is free.

The MediaPad M3 is powered by the Octa-Core Kirin 950 processor running at 2.3GHz and it is coupled with the Mali-T880 MP4 GPU.  This combination should do great for everyday use and you have plenty of RAM to support the processor which always helps.

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Google 7″ Android Tablet Likely On Its Way

Based on a leak from the ever reliable Evan Blass, it looks like we could well see a new 7″ Android tablet from Google coming very soon.  In fact, it could be as early as next month with the October 4th event slated to announce the new Pixel phones, a 4K Google Cast device, Google Assistant and Google Home.  Adding a tablet to that mix wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

If the rumor is true, this would be a welcome device by many Android fans.  The very popular Nexus 7 (2013) tablet is no longer available or supported as far as major releases are concerned and the only real Google branded tablet option is the Pixel C.  That’s a nice device and Android Nougat has certainly made it more usable, but at 10″, it is bigger than what some people will want or need.

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Amazon Fire 7 and 10 Tablets On Sale Through Valentines Day

If you are heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem and are in the market for a good, mid-market tablet, the Amazon Fire 7 tablet is currently on sale for $39.99 at the online retailer.  That’s a $10 savings off the normal price and gets you a tablet for eReading, video streaming, email and other basic functions, is more than up to the task.  The Amazon Fire 7 has a 7″ display that renders at 1024 x 600, is powered by a 1.5 GHz processor and has 8GB of onboard storage.  That storage can be expanded by an additional 128GB thanks to the integrated MicroSD slot.  As you would expect, this tablet takes full advantage of Amazon’s digital services with the Kindle ebook reader built in as well as Amazon Underground, the self-built app store from the company where you can download apps and games, many of which are free.  Many times Amazon offers apps in the Underground that you would have to pay for at the Google Play Store.

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