Computers, Laptops & Tablets Tablets 118 118 people found this article helpful What Is an Android Tablet? Here's what you should know before buying an Android tablet by Marziah Karch Writer Marziah Karch is a former writer for Lifewire who also excels at Serious Game Design and develops online help systems, manuals, and interactive training modules. our editorial process Marziah Karch Updated on August 09, 2020 Tablets Android Amazon Tweet Share Email If you're thinking about buying a new tablet, you have many choices, including the Apple iPad, Amazon Fire, and hundreds of different Android tablets. If the number of available apps is most important to you, then you're going to want an Android tablet that uses the Google Play Store. Here's everything you need to know before you invest in a new Android tablet. Information in this article applies broadly to Android tablets made by different manufacturers (Google, Samsung, Lenovo, etc.). Android Tablet Cost and Other Considerations There are many things to consider before you buy a tablet including the processor, the display size, the camera, and the amount of RAM it has. While high-end Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 can cost several hundred dollars, there are plenty of great budget tablets under $100. Of course, the actual specifications matter more than the price tag, so you should know what to look for. Not All Tablets Have the Latest Android The Android mobile operating system is mostly open-source, which means that anyone can download it and design a device around it. That's why there are so many devices with Android or variations of it, and why many phone manufacturers (Apple excluded) make Android devices. The wide array of Android manufacturers means there's no standardization in the Android world. Thus, it's common to find new tablets that run an Android version that is one or two releases old. In 2020, the latest version is Android 10. A device running an older version will work fine, but it won't have access to the latest apps and features. mammela / Pixabay Not All Tablets Connect to Google Play Because anyone can make an Android tablet, some manufacturers (such as Amazon) use the mobile operating system to build an entirely different platform. This means they can choose whether or not to include the Google Play Store, the official app store for the Android operating system. Amazon's popular Fire devices, including Fire tablets, are based on Android but don't have access to the Google Play Store. Instead, these devices are set up to use the Amazon Appstore. It's possible to install the Google Play Store on a Kindle Fire, but that requires advanced technical knowledge. Make sure the tablet you purchase has access to the apps you want. Some Tablets Require a Data Plan Android tablets can be sold as Wi-Fi-only or with 3G, 4G, or 5G wireless data access. Often these tablets are sold at a discount in exchange for a contract with a cellular service provider, just like phones. Read the fine print when you check the price to see if you're committing to two years of payments on top of the price of the device. Also, check to see how much data is included in the plan. Tablets can use more bandwidth than phones, so you'll need a plan that expands if you need more data. Is There a New Model Coming Soon? Before you buy a new Android tablet, find out if a newer version is due soon. If you like or need the new features offered by the next model, wait for that one since it may be available at about the same price. If you don't need those features and you're happy with the current model, wait for the price to drop following the new release. Beware of the Modified Android Just as device makers are free to modify the Android user interface on phones, they're also free to modify it on tablets. Manufacturers say this sets their products apart, but there are disadvantages. On devices with a modified user interface, such as the HTC Sense UI or Samsung One UI, apps may need to be rewritten to work properly. When someone shows you how to do something on Android, it won't always work the same way for a modified version. You'll wait longer for OS updates since the update must be rewritten for the user interface. This isn't a common problem, but it's something to be aware of. Android Accessories, Features, and Capabilities Your tablet's manufacturer plays a huge role in the types of accessories and features it supports. For example, Samsung is one of the largest manufacturers of Android devices. When someone makes a case for Android devices, they usually consider Samsung first. Samsung also has a strong ecosystem around its products, with exclusive apps, integration with smart devices, and wearable tech such as Samsung smartwatches. A smaller manufacturer probably won't be able to offer as much support. Consider the other devices you own, as well. Maybe you want to control your smart TV from your tablet, but the Samsung tablet you're looking at doesn't integrate that well with your LG TV. Look for a tablet that is compatible with your other devices. If you want to install apps outside of the Google Play Store, make sure you can root your Android tablet. Rooting, also known as jailbreaking, provides access to all the settings on the device. While this is easy to do on most devices, some manufacturers make it impossible.