Lets face it, there’s a lot of controversy over which tablet are the best. There’s the Apple iPad crowd who insist that their tablet is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and then there’s the Android crowd who enjoy the freedom that Android brings them. As an owner of both kinds of tablets, plus someone who has used various models, I will endeavour to clear up a few points about which tablet are really the best for your needs.
The “Apps” – Applications really do matter.
The thing that you will hear people bang-on-about mostly of course, in all the advertising blurb is the App stores. Apps are “applications”, programs that run on your tablet and give you the freedom to do what you want, when you want. They come in three different forms, the paid-for apps that you pay a small fee for, the free apps that are usually supported by advertisements and the demo-app that gives you limited functionality until you pay a small fee to unlock its full potential.
Let me start by saying, both Android and Apple stores have thousands of apps. Forget the “My app-store is bigger than yours” argument, because at the end of the day both stores offer a mind-boggling amount of apps. What is important though is the quality of the apps that are available for download. On this score, Apple’s iPad apps win hands-down. Apple has a thorough process that only allows the best apps onto its marketplace, Google’s Android allow anyone to put an app on the store, and it really shows. For the most part, iPad 2 apps are simply mind-blowing. They make use of the iPad’s screen and precise touch capabilities and they just ooze quality. Apps on the Android store can really be hit or miss, and quite often you’ll download an app only to find it takes up a little corner of the tablet because it has not been optimised for tablet use. Apps on Android tablets really are a mine-field of trial and error; I’ve yet to experience a truly bad app on the iPad.
The “User Interface” – Getting around your tablet.
This is an area where opinions can be divided. Android tablets run Google’s Android Operating System (versions anywhere between 2 and 4) and Apples iPad’s run Apples iOS 5.1. For ease of use, iPad wins with its simple layout and press to use icon. For custom-ability and pretty widgets (eg. A display to show the weather, without having to click on something to access it), Androids tablets are the tablets to go for.
When it comes to speed though, even the fastest Android tablet seems slow compared to an iPad. Swiping the screen and going from page 1 to page 2, or even simply opening an app is silky smooth on an iPad 2, the same can’t always be said for an Android tablet. Little things such as opening and closing animations, fade-ins and fade-outs etc are also for the most part smoother on the iPad. This just makes the iPad 2 feel that bit sexier than any Android pad I have used. That said, Android’s Operating System has come on leaps and bounds in the last few months, and in every-day use the difference really is minimal. It’s a close one to call with regards to the “User Interface”, both are great to use depending on the experience you prefer.
My one concern when buying an iPad 2 was the inability to play Flash websites. Luckily for me, times have moved on, and with the advent of HTML5 and a range of truly stunning apps for to replace certain websites, the web experience on the Apple iPad 2 is quite simply stunning.
I also have an Android pad, which of course handles Flash websites with no problem at all, and the same experience can be had with my pad that can be had with a desk-top. This makes the decision on which tablet to get an interesting one...
The one big difference is the speed at which the different devices handle the internet. Remembering that Flash adverts and content can be quite resource hungry, some websites on Android tablets seem to be a lot slower loading that on the iPad 2. Once loaded, you can smoothly scroll and zoom in or out on the iPad 2, but on an Android pad its not quite so smooth. Again, the iPad 2 experience is made that little bit pleasurable due to its silky smoothness.
Media – Video, Music, Pictures and more.
Both Apple iPad’s running iOS 5.1 and an Android tablet running Android 2, 3 or 4 are capable of all the media functions you can think of. With the correct apps they can all run downloaded films, music and of course view pictures.
With an Android tablet its just plug-and-play, where you plug in your tablet to your PC and usually you can just drag files onto the pad. Although that sounds simple in theory, I know many people who are not too tech-savvy who really struggle with that concept.
Apple of course have iTunes. Although I have been a basher of the iTunes software for many years, I have realised lately how efficient it is when plugging the iPad 2 into the PC. Everything is there in one app, and it really is simple to add and remove media to the iPad.
As far as apps go for media content, Apple’s store offer a fantastic range of software that I’ve yet to see on an Android tablet. Streaming tv from Sky Go, awesome apps from BBC and Sky with regards to news (making their Android cousins look mediocre and out-dated), photography apps, weather apps, magazine apps that are just not available on Androids platform. A best of app list is on the cards, but thats another blog, another day.
With the right software, both Android and Apple’s iPad offer great media experiences. What makes these experiences different is the next section, the screen quality.
Screen Quality – Where it really matters.
Tablet screens have come on a great deal over the last few years. However, the screen quality was the reason I decided to also get an iPad and use it now as may main tablet. That probably is the main reason for my iPad 2 purchase. I studied all the available Android tablets, along with the iPad 2 and iPad 3 and chose the iPad 2 because for its price I believe it offers the best quality screen.
What makes it stand out from the crowd? The screen just looks amazing! Its bright, vibrant and colours look “real” on it. Compared to other tablets, the iPad screen just looks right. I didn’t get the iPad 3 because for the extra £70 I don’t believe it’s a much greater display. I found it difficult under normal conditions to really see a difference that mattered.
If you want to read books or graphic novels (like I do!) then the iPad 2 screen just brings the pages to life. Yes, books and graphic novels look cool on Android pads, but the iPad 2 screen is just so much clearer. What’s more, the iPad screens are renowned for not picking up finger-prints as much as other tablets and it does seem a lot more resilient to your sticky fingers.
I’m going to keep this short and to the point. When I first bought my iPad 2 it had 50% battery power in it. I used it for a solid 5 hours before charging it, browsing the internet and downloading apps. That’s how good the battery life is on the iPad 2! A full charge really does give around 10 hours battery life, I’ve yet to have a ‘quiet’ day, so I have no idea the battery would last if just using as a book reader with wi-fi and blue-tooth off.
My experience with Android tablets has had me charging up the battery between 3 and 5 hours with minimal web browsing, game playing and reading, so there is definitely a difference in battery life between different tablets.
I like to think my opinions are not biased in anyway towards either Apple’s iPad’s or any of Android’s tablets. I think they both offer great value for money these days and whether you choose an Apple produce or a tablet running Google’s Android you will be happy.
However, comparing the experience to what you pay, the iPad 2 is £329 for the 16GB, wi-fi only model, most Android tablets are between £149 for the Android 2.x tablets and £499 for the Android 4.x tablets. At the price of £329 the iPad 2 tablet is the sexier, smoothest performing tablet and is priced smack-bang in the middle of the price range.