What should I look for in a tablet if I want to try out this book? I don't have an android phone so I thought I might pick up a "cheaper" tablet to test things out with. Any recommendations for minimum specs or any other gotchas I might need to be aware of?
First off: you can to some extend test things out on the emulator. It is however a buggy and slow beast, and i wouldn't recommend developing games with it (especially not OpenGL ES based games).
In terms of minimum specs there's no lower limit. All the games and examples have been tested on a variety of handsets: HTC Hero, Motorola Droid, Nexus One, HTC Desire HD. Those are phones, not tablets though. I'd try to get a cheaper Android phone or buy one of the ones i listed from ebay. I'd aim for a second generation device (Nexus One, Droid) if you buy one on ebay. Those are sufficiently fast for almost all types of games still. If you can afford it try to get your hands on a more recent phone like the Nexus S or an HTC Evo.
In terms of tablets there's not a a lot available on the market yet that is cheap and functional. If you want to go for a tablet i'd try to get my hand on an Asus EEE Pad Transformer. I have no experience with the Samsungs Galaxy Tab or other similar small-form-factor tablets (ArchOS comes to mind as well, stay away from it).
A (probably) dumb follow up question. I'm the kind that still holds on to his old mobile for years so I'm unlikely to change phone, but can you test on a Android phone even if you don't have phone service on that phone?
Yes, you can. One usually connects the phone via USB to the desktop on which you program. To run the app on your phone you just do the usual Eclipse magic (Run As -> Android Application) and select the connected device you want to run/debug the app on. I personally have a tablet (nvidia dev kit, it's special :p) that is Wifi only. For tablets that's totally fine imo.
If you want to cover a wide spectrum of the market and use OpenGL ES you have to chose by GPU. You should have at least one device with:
- A Qualcomm chip (preferably an Adreno 200 or above). Anything from HTC will do that's more recent than 8 months.
- A PowerVR chip. Samsung uses PowerVR in many of it's mid to top range of phones. Some Motorola phones feature a PowerVR as well.
- A Tegra 2 chip, see basically every new phone and tablet
It basically Galaxy tab, analogue, for half of the price. It has 1Ghz CPU and Power SGX540 with OpenGL ES 2.2.
The review mentioned Angry Birds running smoothly (seems Angry Birds becomes the gaming benchmark of the mobile world), so I reckon it should be enough for development needs.
I'm afraid i don't know this specific device. If the specs are legit (the review is a little shoddy imo) then it should be a good enough test device. Angry birds is certainly not the benchmark for Android games though