Last weekend I did something that I’d put off for a while: I rooted my Transformer Prime. Unlike my previous rooting efforts, however, this was not to install custom roms, make an image backup of my system, or side-load apps that weren’t available yet. I rooted it to make the fucking browser work.
Ok, let me back up a bit. For all of you not familiar with the world of Android tablets, the Transformer Prime is a quad-core tablet from ASUS that’s been out since mid-January. However, despite having over six months now to mold Google’s latest mobile offering to their all-powerful hardware, the browser still stutters, hangs, and crashes the entire tablet every few page loads. Seriously, I think I see the words “Browser is not responding. Would you like to close it?” more than I see actual web pages.
It doesn’t end with the stock browser either. Chrome and Dolphin suffer from the same problem. Opera seems to be immune, but it has too many rendering issues for me to use it as a day-to-day. There seems to be a system-wide issue that begins at the kernel level (or maybe it’s something something else, I have no idea) and causes web browsing to suck. A quick Google search turned up a thread on XDA which, as of now, has 35 pages of people offering up workarounds or begging ASUS to fix the problem. It was there that I found the Browser2Ram solution, which requires a root, but has temporarily alleviated my problem.
It’s this kind of shit that’s keeping Android from being a serious contender in the tablet market. You can blame a lack of apps all day, but the fact remains that people want their tech to be invisible and unobtrusive. Freezes, popups, and workarounds that involve a process the average person wants nothing to do with are neither. Android tablets got a bad reputation with Honeycomb, and they’ll continue to have one as long as manufacturers churn out slabs that aren’t optimized and don’t work well.
How companies still can’t grasp the idea that the quality of the user experience is far more important than how many processor cores they can pack into a device escapes me. Apple has built their entire company on the idea that their products just work. Sure, they meticulously craft their hardware, but a pretty computer wouldn’t matter to anyone if the software was half-baked. It’s amazing that so many others have failed to catch up to them by ignoring this simple concept that’s at the core of their success.
ASUS claims that a fix for the browser issues is coming in the next OTA update, but at this point I’ll believe it when I see it. My experience with the Prime has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and it’s going to take a lot to get rid of it. It’s really a shame too. Such a great piece of hardware deserves to be married with great software. Maybe Jellybean will be that great software, or maybe Windows 8. All I know is I’m much more likely to reach for the latter now. It may actually load web pages.