Android Tablets and Genealogy

Dick Eastman wrote an article on his blog that was just begging for a response. Someone was asking him about the Nook and the Kindle Fire for genealogy uses. He actually owns both of those devices, but went on to tell his readers that neither is good and they should buy iPad. He clearly hasn’t been paying attention to other genealogy bloggers who use Android devices, because we have just been raving about them and about the apps that can be used for genealogy. And because he uses devices that have crippled versions of the OS, he doesn’t understand what Android is capable of. In the end, he tells his readers that Android is no good and they absolutely have to buy iPad if they want to use them for genealogy. This blog post is the long version of my response: he is completely wrong.

Not So Expensive

The only tablet that is useful for genealogy programs without modification is the Apple iPad or possibly one of the more full-featured and expensive tablet computers that run the Android operating system.

Those “full-featured and expensive” Android tablets cost less than his iPad. And not only are they full-featured, they probably have more features than his iPad does. Just because the only Androids he’s ever used are crippled and require jailbreaking does not mean that he has any experience with Android.

He is correct that the Nook and Kindle (Fire) are aimed at the ebook reader market and are not as full-featured as the iPad. He is correct to tell the questioner that the iPad is better for genealogy uses. He is wrong to suggest that every other Android is just as useless as these crippled Android ebook readers.

Not So Incompatible

Neither Legacy nor Family Tree Maker have versions that will run on the Nook Tablet or the Kindle Fire nor on any other Android or iOS tablet computers.

Via Twitter, Caroline Gurney quickly pointed out that “Ancestry App allows you to do 2 way sync between Family Tree Maker 2012 database and Android device.” Also, there is an app called Families for both OSes that will read and sync with Legacy Family Tree.

Those apps may not run on his Nook or Kindle, but they certainly run on other Android and iOS tablets.

Not So Bad At Web Browsing

However, most tablet computers do have web browsers. If you are within range of a wireless network connection, you can access a web-based genealogy application. However, my guess is that most tablet computer owners will not be happy with that solution. None of the web-based genealogy programs look very good on a 7-inch screen.

Has he ever used a “real” 7″ Android tablet? Not only is he comparing two 7″ tablets to a 10″ tablet, it’s clear he’s never used any other Android 7″ tablets. I agree that web sites do look best on 10″ tablets, but they are just fine in 7″ and some don’t even need to be zoomed to be read if you have young enough eyes. (Dick may be too old to see any kind of small print.)

Not Needing Modification

Both the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire run modified versions of the Android Operation System.

This is true, but he still uses this against all Androids by saying that none of them are as good as his iPad.

Dick then goes on to discuss hacking the devices. He ran his “hacked” Nook off of a microSD card, so clearly he either doesn’t know how or didn’t try to hack it properly. My first tablet, a ViewSonic gTablet, required hacking to access the Android Market. I did not use a microSD card, but installed the mod right onto the tablet’s memory. There was no lagging like he experienced with his not-really-hacked Nook.

He then talks about sideloading. Again, having never used a non-crippled Android, he doesn’t realize that the Android OS allows you to sideload apps. Maybe the Nook and Kindle don’t, but every Android I’ve ever used has had the option to allow apps from somewhere other than Google’s market. It is not hidden and it is not difficult. The iPad does require jailbreaking to install anything not from the Apple store.

Not So Many Drawbacks

In my mind, modifying or hacking a device of any sort always includes some drawbacks. I’d suggest the better, simpler, and more effective method is to purchase a tablet computer or cell phone that is designed to have all sorts of third-party programs installed, including genealogy apps. Admittedly, this is usually a more expensive solution.

But he hasn’t actually done that. He’s comparing his iPad to these two other tablets, not to the “more expensive” Androids that cost less than his iPad and do more.

Not The Leading Candidates

At this time, the leading handheld candidates for using genealogy apps are the Dell Streak tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tab, the T-Mobile SpringBoard with Google tablet, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, the T-Mobile SpringBoard, the Apple iPad for Apple’s iOS operating system, and a wide variety of “smartphones” (cell phones that include complete computers).

Um, what? What’s a T-Mobile SpringBoard? How does he figure that’s a “leading” tablet and why did he list it twice? Not only do I know a lot about a lot of Androids, but I use T-Mobile and I’ve never heard of this one specifically. The Dell Streak is also not a “leading” tablet. He failed to mention the Acer Iconia, Toshiba Thrive, and Motorola Xoom; those along with the Asus Transformer (and the brand new Transformer Prime) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are more like the “leading” Android tablets. The Acer and Toshiba both have full size USB ports for flash drive, external hard drive, keyboard, or mouse. Does his iPad do that? These Androids are more “full-featured” than his iPad.

Not So Lesser Known, And Some That Are

If you search online, you can find many more Android tablets although most of them are lesser-known devices.

Sure, to an iPad fanboy. Actually, there are a lot of Android devices, many of which are “lesser-known”. But that just means there are that many more options, so instead of being forced to buy the one and only model available, you can buy an Android that does what you want it to do and not what Apple thinks you should do with it. Given his “leading candidate” list, he doesn’t even know which Android tablets are lesser-known and which aren’t. Some have full size USB ports, some have full size SD card slots, the Transformer has an attachable keyboard making it like a netbook, the Thrive is built like a netbook will full size ports, etc.

Not So Outsold

The Apple iPad is by far the most popular tablet computer. In fact, Apple sells more iPads than all the other tablet manufacturers combined.

Is he using old information? The only reason no one model of Android has outsold iPhone/iPad is because there are so many to choose from that people can buy what they want and what they need, and not be forced to by the only model available. (Yes, I’m repeating myself now.)

While I can find multiple web sites that state Android is currently the dominant OS in smartphones (with varying numbers depending on the time frame), it’s harder to determine the tablet market. Most iPads have 3G and thus show activations just like smartphones, but the vast majority of Android tablets have only wi-fi. So counting activations is not a fair assessment. Also, Apple only reveals their shipment numbers, not their purchase numbers. Several sites said that Android has a greater market share in the US and worldwide, but many were before the iPhone 4S was finally released. Of course, many people buy the iPhone for the “prestige” and not because they’ve compared it to an Android. My favorite find, while looking for a statistics link, was this article from, well, tomorrow (according to when I first wrote this), stating that Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, prefers his Android to his iPhone for the features it offers, including Android’s voice features over the much-hyped Siri app.

Not So Few Genealogy Apps

Dick Eastman (the cause of this rant blog post) goes on to link to an earlier article of his about genealogy apps for iPhone/iPad. Tamura Jones has recently compiled lists of Free Android Genealogy Apps and Paid Android Genealogy Apps. There are a lot more apps for Android users. Maybe not for Dick with his crippled Nook and Kindle, but for the rest of us.

Not So Unrepetitious

In short, anyone who wants to use a full-featured genealogy program on a tablet computer needs to purchase an Apple iPad (which has many genealogy programs available) or one of the “leading handheld candidates” listed earlier that run Android (and will then be limited to only two or three genealogy programs). However, none of these choices can match the low prices of the Nook Tablet or of a Kindle Fire.

Again, he mentions those leading candidates that I’ve already pointed out are incorrect, and thinks they are limited to two or three programs, which Tamura proves is incorrect.

While the original question was about two tablets that Dick actually owns, the Nook and the Kindle Fire, he did not even offer a comparison of the two. Instead, he compared them both to his iPad. The two tablets are not even in the same league or remotely within the same price point as the iPad. If he wants to compare an iPad to something, he should try a 10″ Android that hasn’t been crippled by its manufacturer to be just an ereader.

He is also wrong about the prices of Android tablets. I purchased my 7″ Galaxy Tab for the same price as the Kindle Nook. Because Apple controls the iPads, they have set the prices. But Androids can be purchased from a variety of sellers, sometimes refurbished, but working like they are new.

To have a really fair comparison for Nook and Kindle, he should have compared them to other 7″ tablets. But wait, Apple doesn’t make one. There are no options in iOS for something the size of an ereader, and sometimes the size and weight of it is the big draw. No, he’d have to compare to the 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HTC Flyer, or the Dell Streak. The HTC seemed a little overpriced to me. The cell providers don’t sell the old Galaxy Tab, but there is a newer version now, that with a two year activation, would probably cost about the same as the Nook and Kindle. Does the iPad cost less with the activation like the Androids do? This I don’t know.

Conclusion

Just because Dick Eastman has been blogging about technology for so many years doesn’t mean he’s always right. And even if he owns the devices in question, it doesn’t means he answers his readers’ questions about them, other than to steer the reader towards a device that was not even a possibility in their mind.

Also, as of the posting of this blog, he has not approved of any of the comments that have been left, as I know for a fact that there have been at least three. Does he not like to be told he’s wrong on his own blog? Possibly. I don’t know. Maybe he’s been busy since sending it out into the social networking world.

If the reader of EOGN wants to buy a more inexpensive and smaller Android tablet for genealogy uses, I recommend the 7″ Galaxy Tab, which can be purchased refurbished for about the same price as a Kindle Fire. If willing to spend a bit more, and wanting a 10″ tablet, the Asus Transformer refurbished is available as of this moment for only $300. Take a little time to research the tablets and find the options that you want. I have purchased all of my Androids on woot.com and deals.woot.com; I purchased each from a different seller whose deal was listed on that site.

Sorry Dick, but in this case, you should have asked your readers to answer for you. You just don’t appear to have enough experience with real Androids to answer.

11 thoughts on “Android Tablets and Genealogy”

  1. I read his post in the middle of the night, and one thing that crossed my mind when I was reading, was, Dick has just been in the hospital, not sure he is totally “on his game” here.

    That said, cause the world is round I have not always agreed with him either, and that is what makes this world so wonderful, we each have our own experiences and we tend to like different things.

    As an example, he really likes Karen’s Replicator, so does a blogging friend, I tried, I really tried to learn it and like it, it is now gone from my computer and my life. I found another piece of software that seems to be working for me. Nope, did not agree with him on this one.

    In the past he has written about Android’s, the 10 inch versions. If my memory serves, and it doesn’t always, he was not favorable on them then either. I had a Xoom, it went back when they failed to update the Operating System after long delays and it started having connectivity issues that were getting worse and worse. I now have an Iconia, and if I get off my doofus and learn more, find more apps that work for me, I think I will like it more.

    All I need is time and fresh brain cells for serious learning curve time! :-))

  2. Great details about Android tablets/phones … I have a wonderful Android phone and love it. Downloaded the Ancestry app for it, so I can check anything needed, when in a library etc. And, thanks for the links to Tamura Jones – so helpful. Thanks again for sharing your detailed information!!!

  3. Excellent response to a biased and inaccurate article. It is a concern that the EOGN has such a large readership who may take what they read on face value without checking other sources.

  4. Excellent, comprehensive post and thanks for the shout out, Banai. I have the greatest respect for Dick, who is an extremely nice man as well as a great genealogist, but I’m afraid he has a blind spot about this. In the comments on Dick’s blogpost, a reader called Jeb pointed out that the Ancestry app runs on the Kindle Fire. Dick replied, “The Kindle Fire (and the Nook) do not yet have any genealogy apps that will STORE THE DATABASE IN THE DEVICE and allow quick and instantaneous access to the locally-stored data.” I have just checked the Ancestry app on my Android device and, contrary to what Dick says, the database is stored locally on the device and is quickly and instantaneously accessible without an internet connection. I’ve left a comment which has not yet appeared on his blog.

    1. Thanks Caroline. Another app, ezGed, also reads your GEDCOM file and stores the data on the Android. That one is brand new, so it’s not perfect yet, but it’s a great start.

      I also left a comment pretty early on and Dick hasn’t posted it. I guess he’s moderating for more than spam. I think all of us Android defenders might have overwhelmed him a bit with our responses.

  5. You are correct about Dick not liking to be critisized and not approving comments.

    A few months back I critisized something Dick blogged about and he corresponded with me by e-mail a couple times but never posted the comments on the blog.

    He comes off pretty arogant in my mind.

  6. Dick likes to present himself as a ‘technology expert’, but he is just a low-level support guy who switches tapes at night. I’m not kidding here, HE SAID SO HIMSELF in another discussion about erroneous claims he made, WHICH HE LATER DELETED, because so many readers pointed out so many errors.
    He makes a lot of errors, and isn’t mature enough to admit them. He has even DELETED ENTIRE BLOG POSTS to hide the errors he makes! Dick Eastman is a disgrace to the genealogy blogging community.

    1. That sounds a little harsh. Dick is a tech guy. He’s admitted to someone I know that he’s not a genealogist, so it’s just odd that he has a newsletter/blog for genealogists.

      He is kind of oblivious about social networking too. He has admitted to not using them, just posting links to his blog. A bunch of genealogists on Twitter got hacked once and he was one. I tried to explain it to him and he couldn’t even understand what I was telling him. Emails were traded for a few days and he never understood how to even look at his own timeline.

      I haven’t witnessed him deleting posts, just not posting comments. I wouldn’t say he’s a disgrace, but a lot of people listen to him and maybe he should take that into account more. Unfortunately, he’s not the only person involved in genealogy who comes off as arrogant.

  7. Thank you for an enlightened post. I get tired of the Applefanatics thinking ipads are the only game in town. I’ll put my Kindle Fire up against an ipad for genealogy any day.

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