The original Apple iPad has had a great first year. Although tablet pcs have been around for quite a few years, the sluggish and unfriendly performance offered never captured the publics’ imagination to any great degree. Now, with the unimaginable success of smartphones over the years, it was time for the tablet to make a comeback. Apple have exploited the lack of competition in this end of the market to build a sizable advantage over the competition, mainly from Android. However, not to outdone by Apple, Google have moved swiftly to update their Os for tablets and help companies like Motorola and Samsung get their own tablets to the market quite quickly. But has the “rushed” launch of the Galaxy Tab hampered their momentum? The original Tab was released to the market using the smartphone version of Android and commentators felt this was a bad move, especially considering how well the iPad performed. However, with Honeycomb now being drip-fed onto the latest and most powerful Android tablets, the playing field has been levelled somewhat.
With the iPad 2 featuring an updated dual-core processor, the Android tablets quickly followed suit with the Motorola Xoom and Galaxy Tab 10.1 featuring similar engines. These are widely considered the “Big 3” in the tablet world at the moment, RIM’s playbook and other such tablets are not exactly garnishing the greatest reviews. All of the “Big 3” feature updated Os’s, front and rear facing cameras and HD video recording. Both Android tablets have 1080p playback, whereas the iPad 2 only manages 720p. Many reviewers have commented on the fact that, despite having a slightly lower resolution, the iPad 2’s screen just looks better. The two Android tablets are the clear winners when it comes to the cameras, with both featuring 2MP front facing and the Xoom having a 5MP rear, the Tab an 8MP. The ipad 2 can only manage a VGA front facing camera, with the rear rumored to be 3-5MP. Apple will undoubtedly address this shortcoming with their annual hardware update of the iPad, most likely due Spring/Summer 2012.
Android 3.0 has now been fully optimised for tablets, although Googles frustrating policy of only making the latest versions available on select machines remains. This will not really affect the high-end Android tablet customers, but the lower end will have to make do with older builds. Widgets and full Flash support are now in place, Androids only real ammunition against the seemingly unstoppable iPad 2. This will no doubt make a sizable dent in Apples market share, but many (including myself), expect Apples domination in this market to continue for years to come. Recent figures released point to the iPad having 89% of worldwide and 97% of US traffic. Android has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, taking a sizable chuck of the smartphone market. Non ‘premium’ smartphones are doing excellently for the Android brand, offering consumers a complete smartphone experience at a fraction of the price of a new iPhone 4 or Galaxy S2. Honeycomb and future Android updates will continue to improve their tablet experience also, offering a flexibility an Apple device will never have.
Apple, I feel, will continue to dominate the tablet sector for years to come. With the iPad and iPad 2, they have built a brand people want. Microsoft has had tablet PCs out for years and been unable to convince the public or even the vendors that they are the future. Apple has built a lifestyle tool in the iPad. A ‘tablet pc’ may sound daunting for casual users, an iPad is ‘just a big iPhone’, but the public love it. Now with iOS5 on the horizon coupled with the iCloud and iTunes Share services, the ease of use can only get better. Better multitasking, tabbed browsing, notifications and multi-touch gestures are some of the new features available for the iPad and iPad 2 this September. Unlike the latest versions of Android, these will be directly available for download to your device, no limitations. iTunes is the biggest music store in the world, the new features in iCloud and iTunes share will only increase this.
The winner here? Well both the iPad 2 and Android equivalents are all fantastic devices, similarly priced and when it comes down to it, really quite similar. Choice has never been better and buyers have a wealth of literature at their fingertips to help them choose. Apple will continue to dominate I suspect, however Google cannot be written off and will continue to steal the iPad’s market share, albeit slower than they may like. So, the real winner here is you, the consumer. Choose wisely, and you wont be disappointed.