How to Get a Good Cheap 10 inch Android Tablet

polaroid_tablet

I have been wanting a 10″ Android tablet, but they have always been too expensive. Sure, there have always been cheap Chinese knockoffs, but they have always been pretty junky affairs – until now.

My family recently bought me a Polaroid brand 10.1″ tablet running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). While this manufacturer does cut some corners, amazingly it didn’t cut the ones that count. It sports stereo speakers that sound better than the original Kindle Fire and has more memory as well. It even has a front facing camera and an HDMI output jack. Speed is decent and WiFi works just fine. It lacks the sensors of high end tablets and cell phones, but does have a microphone and accelerometer. It is perfect for viewing movies, PDF files, web browsing and Skype – typical tablet stuff. It also has USB input so you can easily attach a keyboard as well. You can also charge it via USB as well as using the supplied fast charger.

As for the downsides, there are remarkably few. Its ARM-based processor is only single core, and battery life is a tad less than the Kindle Fire, but decent. The biggest issue with this tablet is the lack of the Google Play store. Polaroid supplies alternative app stores such as Amazon, but the lack of Google’s app store is a real show stopper, especially for the hacker/maker. Fortunately, this problem is easily resolved.

I spent a considerable amount of time looking for how to install Google Play, but the instructions were often incomplete, files missing or out of date. Installing Google Play requires root access, so simple sideloading does not work. Fortunately, the Polaroid is already rooted by default, and since that is the key to getting Google Play to work, the process is really quite easy.

Download and Install Required Files

There are four files required for you to install. They are:

1. GoogleServicesFramework-signed.apk
2. OneTimeInitializer-signed.apk
3. SetupWizard-signed.apk
4. com.android.vending-3.1.3-signed.apk

 

They must be installed in the order given. I was able to find the files here, but if they aren’t available just google for them by name. After uploading them to your tablet, run the first three in the order given using the built-in File Manager (just tap the files to run). Don’t install the last one yet – it is the app for the Google Play store; it must be treated specially. Once you have run the three installers, reboot the device.A

After it reboots, you will be asked to choose to run either the default Launcher or the Setup Wizard. Check the ‘run always’ box and choose the Launcher app. Now everything is ready for installing the Google Play app.

Root Access

Root access is one of the shining features of the Polaroid tablet. The term ‘root’ for the uninitiated simply means administrator access to the operating system. Most Android devices lock the user from the core OS, and it often requires various hacks to unlock the device. The Polaroid tablet comes unlocked. Root access greatly expands the capabilities of Android devices. Installing the Google Play app is one of them.

First, we must gain access to the system directories. This process requires a few simple steps.

The first step is to download and install ES File Explorer from the Amazon app store. The tablet comes with its own file explorer app, but this app does not provide root access; ES File Explorer does.

Next, open ES File Explorer and go to settings. Select ‘root settings’ and check all the boxes except “make / ./system writeable”.

Now, go to the directory where the com.android.vending-3.1.3-signed.apk file is located. If it has “4. ” in front of it, rename it first to start with “com”. Move it by long clicking on it and selecting “copy”. Then navigate up to the root directory listing. Dive back down into the “system” directory and then the “apps” directory. In this directory, paste the file.

We are almost done. The last step is to change the permissions of the file. Long click on the file and choose “properties”. Change the permissions to:

  • User: read/write
  • Group: read
  • Other: read

When you okay this dialog, the “Permissions:” should read “rw-r-r”. OK the properties dialog. Reboot again. It should reboot normally now and the Google Play store app should be available and ready to go.

Parting Thoughts

The default launcher screen looks like it is a Windows 8 tablet. These launcher pages are just a gimick. They are not stock Android 4.0, but are some widgets Polaroid added. You can simply long click and drag them to the “Uninstall” link that appears at the top of the page to get rid of them.

This tablet is an outstanding bargain.  While it lacks some of the sensors in other devices, you can still use it for many engineering, reference and other hacks.

Another one of the best uses for it is reading PDF files. The Kindle Touch is a great e-Reader (I use mine all the time), but its screen is just too small for reading PDF files. Amazon offers a larger format e-reader, but it seems to be orphaned by the company. These inexpensive 10″ Android tablets offer better performance than an e-reader with the ability to decently display PDF files.

Being able to read PDF files opens an entire world of possibilities. You can comfortably read old issues of Make magazine or other magazines that offer PDF downloads. You can also read books available in PDF that aren’t available in e-reader format. Best of all, the pages are in glorious color, and you can zoom in for more detail.

There are no show-stopping issues with this tablet. With it’s very low price, many more people can afford it. Now is a great time to expand your technology toolbox.

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2 Comments

  1. NeWoj
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Stumbled across your 10″ Polaroid info today; bought mine in Feb 2013, and have been pleased with it as a ‘learning’ tablet…..only problem has been the non-access to the Market.
    Have managed to mostly work around this by subterfuge and side-loading apps, but that’s clunky…..
    So today you told me I already had root access!!!! Followed the procedure, and with only one glitch I now have the Market!
    I found that I could not copy the’ com.android.vending-3.1.3-signed.apk’ into the app folder; I checked with Root Validator and found I needed the SuperUser app to gain full root access. Downloaded this and BINGO!! Root Access!!
    But…still could not copy into the app folder……so I tried opening the apk anyway……and it loaded quickly and I am set to go.
    Many Many thanks for a very easy to follow procedure…..even for an old Geezer like me !

  2. Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Excellent idea! Thanks for putting this together. I had to sell my tablet recently because of money issues and this helped me a lot to get back a working tablet! Wiorked for even folks like me!

    More of this content needs to be out there…thanks again.

    John.

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