Google's Android Tablets: The Achilles Heel

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Want to use your tablet as a phone? I'm sorry, Google (GOOG), but this is one area where Apple's (AAPL) iPad nails Android to the wall. Let me tell you why.

Android tablets have some obvious advantages over Apple's iPad. For starters, they're cheaper. Let's say you want a 32 gig 7-something inch tablet with LTE, so that you can use it as a cellphone for data access as you're walking down the street, never having to think about connecting to a WiFi network.

In this case, an iPad Mini will cost you $559. In contrast, Google's Asus Nexus 7 costs only $349. That's a $210 difference -- almost enough to buy you an additional 16 gig WiFi-only Nexus 7 for the money you saved.

For all of Android's advantages over iOS, however, Android falls short in a critical area which makes it impossible for me to use an Android tablet as my primary tablet. This area is apps.

On the smartphone, Android doesn't suffer an "app-gap" vis-a-vis the iPhone. Basically, the two are on par with each other. I can't think of a single app that I use, that's not available on both.

On the tablet, however, this isn't so. With the LTE-enabled iPad, I can use it just like an iPhone or Android smartphone, walking down the street and using all of my apps.

As much as I would like to avoid purchasing a future iPad, in favor of an Android tablet, I will be unable to do so, unless something changes. There are many critical apps I would be missing, if today's situation remains unchanged.

When I get up in the morning, I first head to Starbucks ( SBUX). With an Android tablet, the Starbucks app isn't available, so I can't pay with it.

When I sit down at Starbucks, I'd like to view my American Express ( AXP) charges for the last 24 hours, so I can see if there are any incorrect charges. With an Android tablet, the American Express app isn't available, so I can't check my AmEx account without having to use the actual Web site.

If I don't like Starbucks, how about McDonald's ( MCD)? Whoops, that app also isn't available on Android tablets. Then there is the case of my local/regional version of the McDonald's app, which offers all sorts of coupons and discounts. It also isn't available for my Android tablet.

After Starbucks, I want to charge my electric car. In order to find a charging station that's not occupied, I need the Chargepoint app, which is the dominant electric car charging network. While it's available on my Android phone and iPad, it's not available on my Android tablet.

That said, if I still manage to find an available electric car charger, I need an app for my electric car to see how the charging session is progressing, so I know when I can expect to go pick up the car.

If I have a General Motors ( GM) car, such as the Chevrolet Volt, the OnStar app isn't available on the Android tablet, unlike on the iPad.

If I have a Fiat 500 electric, same thing. Ford ( F)? Yup, Ford, too. Toyota ( TM)? Yeah, not available for Android tablets. Nissan ( NSANY)? No.

The only electric car app I can find that works on Android tablets is the Telsa ( TSA) one. Small wonder Tesla is doing so well against the less expensive electric car competition!

But let's say that I don't want to drive myself. Let's say I want to get a cab, where Uber is the new Internet-centric game in town. I get an Uber cab from both my iPhone and Android smartphone. On the Android tablet? No cab for me.

So let's sum this up: If I try to replace my LTE iPad with an LTE Android tablet, I won't be able to pay with my Starbucks app, I can't get my McDonald's coupons, I won't be able to find a charging station for my electric car, I won't be able to monitor my electric car (unless it's a Tesla), and I won't be able to get an Uber cab.

Basically, unlike the iPad, I can't leave the house with my Android tablet as my only device. I use a tablet just like a smartphone because I prefer a big screen and a big battery, and it's always in my hand anyway. Too bad this is the one area where Android just can't compete with iOS.

The closest you can get to an Android tablet that will have all of these apps, is to buy either the Samsung Galaxy Mega from AT&T ( T) or the Sony ( SNE) Xperia Ultra. They are 6.3- and 6.4-inch "phablets" respectively.

For some reason, all of these Android apps work just fine on these 6.3- and 6.4-inch devices. However, if you have a 7-inch Android tablet such as the Nexus 7, or any of the numerous 8, 9 and 10 inch Android tablets made by Samsung and others, these apps won't install.

This is an insane and artificial difference. Some of us want to use a tablet as a phone, the device which we carry in our hand when we walk out the door. Today we are effectively forced to use the iPad, despite otherwise being inside the Google ecosystem.

Whose fault is this? There are two possibilities, not entirely mutually exclusive:

Possibility #1: Obviously, the app makers themselves could remedy this situation, simply by making their apps available for Android tablets voluntarily, ceasing the arbitrary discrimination against Android tablets in favor of the iPad. Shouldn't there be a law against this senseless and arbitrary discrimination?

Possibility #2: Google could put a stop against this if they just wanted to. Google could simply demand that if you want to have an app in the Google Play Store, for the Android smartphones, you must also make it downloadable for the Android tablets as well.

Google wonders why its market share in tablets is lower than in smartphones, the mirror image of Apple's situation. This is why.

This is an easy fix for Google and the companies who make Android apps. All it takes is for Google to enforce some simple non-discrimination rules that it could impose. The result would be that people didn't have to buy an iPad in order to have a fully-functioning tablet when they walk out the door.

At the time of publication the author was long GOOG and AAPL.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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