Should You Buy an Android Tablet or an Apple iPad?

This Christmas, millions of people are going to give or receive a tablet computing device as a gift.  Which is better?  Apple iPad or one of the tablets with the Android operating system?

As the owner of a software company that produces apps for both Android and iPad’s  iOS system, and as the head of a household with several Android and Apple iPad tablets that are operated adults and children from ages 8 to 14, I have formed an opinion that I will be glad to share with you.

First, how are iPad and Android tablets similar?

  • Both have polished graphical user interfaces that interact with users by touch.  The gestures used to advance pages, zoom, and select are virtually identical across both devices.
  • Both provide access to email
  • Both provide access to a wide selection of cloud storage providers
  • Both have hundreds of thousands of free and commercial apps available for download through a convenient app store. The edge here goes to Android, with more than 700,000 apps. But truly, neither side is significantly lacking in apps
  • Both devices usually include front facing cameras, wifi, and built-in speakers.
  • Both offer access to complete music catalogues.

 

Given that there are so many similarities between iPad and Android, why would I recommend to that you select an Android tablet over iPad?

Having used both devices, here are some of the reasons that have shifted my bias toward the Android platform.

  • There is a greater choice of Android tablets to choose from.  Consequently, you will find prices for Android tablets ranging anywhere from $69 to $700.
  • Android is an open platform, while Apple’s iOS is closed.  This has come to mean a significantly greater catalogue of apps, and difference that I believe will become more pronounced in the years ahead. As a developer I prefer the Android platform because it’s technically open to other app stores, providing great opportunities to distribute my products. While Google’s Play store dominates Android, Amazon and other app stores have been able to gain a toe hold.  Contrast that to Apple’s app store, and the lock-out of any competition on iOS.
  • There are quirky things with Apple iPad’s iOS that simply drives me nuts. For example, iPad’s Safari web browser does not allow you to upload files you create in different apps to a website, because Apple has locked down your access to the iPad’s iOS file system. Access is extremely limited. When it comes to uploading, you are only allowed to access iPad’s photo folder.   For example, if you want to upload a PDF file to a website, it’s not possible without engaging in a quirky work around that is neither convenient nor easy. This  should have been addressed by Apple years ago, yet it remains to inconvenience users.
  • Apple iPad’s do not have the ability to add external storage such as a 32 GB micro-SD card.  If you buy a 16 gb iPad, that’s all you will ever get.  Yes, you could attach additional cloud storage, but unless you buy an expensive 3G or 4G internet package for your device, your files may not be available when you need them.
  • There are no USB ports on an iPad, which means you can connect it to a printer, external storage, or other convenient USB  devices.  Android devices typically do provide a USB port.
  • Most Android devices provide the ability to insert external storage, include an SD card slot. This is a huge convenience if you want to add photos or video to your Android tablet;  you can’t do this as easily with iPad.

While Apple created a huge new category of computing devices with their iPad,  the edge today in my opinion goes to Android when I consider price, apps, ease of use and adding external storage and sharing files.  Apple’s closed eco-system in which they control the entire experience of the hardware, and in which most of their app developers are not making money, the closed  iOS operating system and limiting the apps that are permitted to run on their hardware allowed iPad to gain an early lead.  The introduction if iPad unleashed a tremendous amount of creativity from the app developer community.  However, I’m concerned that Apple will not be able to maintain this creative edge as their platform has matured, and so many free apps (nearly 1/2 of all apps are free) have significantly altered the profit landscape for app developers.  When considering the future of both platforms, I give the edge to Android where an open market place will allow software developers to innovate and build successful businesses without Big Brother Apple looking over their shoulders and obstructing their creativity.  While there is a slightly more bit of risk with allowing an open platform, the long term benefits of the creativity that Android will outweigh the risks and give Android an advantage over the long run.

Advantage:  Android.