Android vs iPad? Why Android Tablets Can’t Beat the iPad

I just received an email from community member Andrew Wellings:

Hello Chris! When I’m doing stuff around the house, I like to keep my phone on me to listen to music or browse the Web (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and reading up on my news/tech blogs). As you may know from experience, this drains the battery alarmingly quickly, and the small screen is very limiting.

I have been looking at buying a tablet device for a few weeks, but I would rather trust your opinion, as opposed to some reviewer on a tech blog (which technically, I guess you are…). Anyway, the big dilemma is this: should I buy a used iPad 1st gen, or one of those many Android tablets?

I don’t need 3G, cameras or any bells and whistles. All I would need is Wi-Fi, a 7-10inch screen (not too fussy there, although preferably capacitative), to be able to watch videos, listen to music and maybe store some photos to show the relatives.

It would need to be available in the UK though, and preferably have a sub £250 price tag (~$400). Thanks very much for any help you can give.

Andrew, like most consumers (99 out of 100), are looking to get the most bang for their buck – right?

If you know anything about me (at all), you probably also know how I’m going to answer this question – but even if you didn’t know me, you’d be hard-pressed to find a true consumer advocate who would not recommend the iPad 1st-gen in this case. Can the 1G iPad do everything? No. Does that make it an inferior device? No.

You may be inclined to attack my position – so before you spout off your own brand of nonsense, why don’t you read a fandroid’s thoughts first. “Can the Android Tablet Ecosystem Still Beat iPad?” Yeah, I’m in complete agreement with him. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this post – I happen to agree with cogent Android supporters.

I also think that the most definitive article on this subject has already been crafted by someone with far more insight than you or me.

Now, since Apple has recently dropped the price of the iPad 1G to US$400 (while supplies last, assumedly), it’s become even more attractive to would-be tablet owners. Keep in mind, too, that despite its year-old life, Apple continues to push the latest iOS updates to it. Find me a Honeycomb Android tablet that sells for less than $400 (without contract) with a capacitive (multi-touch) screen today at less than 1.5lbs and I’ll seriously reconsider my suggestion.

You have to wonder: what is Motorola smoking? At least Samsung has the cojones to state the painfully obvious. Buying any device based on its possible future potential is just… ill-advised.

Android tablets can’t beat the iPad – Reason #1: Splintered experiences.

The industry has yet to see an Android tablet that comes close to matching the iPad’s overarching experience. Ah, there’s the key word: “experience.” That’s the magic revealed when hardware works in perfect harmony with software. This is the elusive factor that all Android devices seem to face after the new car smell wears off.

Specs be damned. Would you rather have a souped-up machine that did everything 50% of the time, or a stripped-down machine that did some things 100% of the time? You’re a fool to answer the former.

The OS can never be written to run optimized on all compatible hardware. That’s a difficult hill to climb (trying to be all things to all people). Couple with that shortcoming that certain device models are effectively locked out of software revisions by carriers… and you’ve got the making for an even more cluttered, confusing, and just plain god-awful consumer experience. This very disconnect will keep Android from besting iOS, alone.

Let he who hath been locked out of an Android OS update on capable hardware cast the first stone.

Android tablets can’t beat the iPad – Reason #2: Current pricing models.

Apple is the only company creating iOS-compatible hardware – versus dozens upon dozens of companies creating Android-capable hardware. In other words: Android devices are a de-facto commodity. And there’s one thing you can’t do with a commodity if you expect it to succeed: charge too much. But higher-than-iPad pricing is exactly what we’re seeing from these supposed “iPad killers.”

Why on god’s green earth, if you were trying to compete with a clear market leader, would you set your entry model’s MSRP at a higher cost than the leader’s entry model?

As a matter of fact, the reason would-be Apple denouncers have been so anti-Mac for years is because they see the Mac as “more expensive” than its PC cousins. Well, it seems to me that if you are a dyed-in-the-wool PC user who brandishes this outdated myth about Macs, you should never be caught dead carrying an Android tablet – since they’re absolutely more expensive than Apple’s iPad.

Motorola is dropping the price on the Xoom, but is that low enough to capture any amount of market share before the next Android-based iPad-killer is released in another month or so?

New Android devices should be more affordable, comparatively – and certainly priced less than the lowest-priced iPad. Who could argue with that?!

We might readily suggest an older Android device that weighs in at a much more affordable price, but with it comes a correspondingly lackluster experience. Have you ever tried using Android 1.x (resistive) after playing inside 2.3 (capacitive with multi-touch)? Let’s just assume that sacrificing usability is never an option for any consumer – otherwise, we’ll be forever wrestling with nerds who believe that GUIs are for wimps.

Besides, it’s difficult to compare today’s available options with yesterday’s in fairness. I personally can’t wait to buy a truly competitive Android tablet. It, however, doesn’t currently seem to exist.

Android tablets can’t beat the iPad – Reason #3: Too many choices.

Consumers absolutely need choice – but there’s a far greater chance of you making an incorrect choice on a menu with thousands of items.

I absolutely do see a world where there are more Android than iOS devices – that’s inevitable, much like we see more PCs with no true or clear differentiation between them. However, #1 in saturation does not imply a #1 product. Do I really need to bring up IE6 as an example to belabor my point?

There’s only one iPad, and it’s easy to spot the differences between 1G and 2G models. Even with future editions in the fold, Apple only offers a limited amount of units at any given time.

Ask yourself this: why is it that a new “best Android device” seems to be released every few weeks? Who could keep up with that?

Tangentially, Android is irresponsibly positioned as “good” for the consumer with an intentionally laissez faire app marketplace – but while Android’s software choices seem to be equal to those within Apple’s iTunes App Store, you’re doing nothing but swimming in an array of razor blades within Google’s Market. That may be acceptable for geeks, but not for most of the known galaxy.

Nah, you’ll be safe with Android. I’m not making this stuff up. Certain geeks should be ashamed for wholeheartedly endorsing an experience that has such a strong potential for compromising the innocent consumer. That’s not a choice – it’s the Sword of Damocles.

Android tablets can’t beat the iPad – Reason #4: Flash is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

But why even bring up Flash in this entire “iPad vs Android” argument? Because it’s too frequently called upon as a trump card without true qualification. Maybe if poorly-developed Flash apps had caused my browsers to crash with less frequency over the years, I’d be more sympathetic to Adobe’s cause. Flash? Platform non grata in the mobile space.

It’s also been argued that the consumer should be able to view Flash-rendered content on any particular platform. But Flash, in case you missed the memo, has overstayed its welcome – and is far from stable or secure (on any OS). Even its proprietors are Flash compatibility (which will likely drain your battery at break-neck speed and run medicore-at-best), who am I to argue? It’s your money – and you’re absolutely free to spend it in whatever way(s) you see fit. I’ve been living largely without it on my desktop for some time, thanks to the Click-to-Play functionality found in development builds of Google Chrome (my default Web browser, and one of the best available today).

Oh, snap. Did you see that? I wrote an article about how Google’s Android wasn’t a good choice for consumers if they were also considering an iPad – then I dovetailed my statements with a clear assertion that I prefer Google’s Chrome web browser above all others. This isn’t about what’s right for Google or Apple – it’s about what’s best for consumers on the whole.

iOS devices are still selling like hotcakes, despite their inability to natively support Flash content. If you’re really concerned about not being able to view useless Flash splash screens to restaurant Web sites, just look up the information on Google Places. As far as Flash video content on the iPad is concerned – there’s always Skyfire. “Problem” solved.

By all definitions, the iPad is a new kind of computer. I need to state this outright, if only because the most ardent iPad antagonists awkwardly continue (in gusto) to shoehorn the “tablet” class into a classic notebook / laptop paradigm (USB ports, et al). If any Android tablet expects to be seen as true competition to Apple’s entrant, it must first qualify by accepting new rules and eschewing perception.

Of course, the Android ecosystem could continue to ignore competition at is own peril. If I were Google, I’d be far more concerned about webOS than I would be iOS. But I’m (obviously) not Google. 😉 I have no horse in this race, other than wanting to see huge wins for consumers.

34 thoughts on “Android vs iPad? Why Android Tablets Can’t Beat the iPad”

    1. Well, if youve owned an iPad, then it’s tough not to be biased. Chris owns an iPad, thus he’s biased like the mutha!

  1. How long’s this person been on Crapple’s payroll or are they just fishing for a job? Apple has a nice, simple, controlled interface. Works well for children and people who are willing to give away autonomy and creativity for disciplined simplicity and draconian control with a hand constantly in the shmuck’s wallet. The hardware side of Crapple’s history is one of selling marginal quality, at premium cost. Money gets well spent on slick advertising to the 13 year old minds of its consumers. Oh by the way, nobody really needs a tablet. They are simply too small and limited for anything but play.

  2. As many GOOD reasons that iPad is better then Android Tablets..NONE of them are pointed here.

    #1: Sure updates don’t come as fast for most Android devices but do you really buy a product in hopes of getting a feature it doesn’t have yet… its not as bad a WP7 w/ copy/paste

    #2: Pricing module is almost the same, why does it need to be much lower..look at all the 32gb 3G models of these products… roughly the same price as iPad.

    #3: nothing wrong with numerous new products throughout the year.. just focus on making the best out of the product you bought just now and upgrade when you feel YOU need to.

    #: Can’t say lack of Flash is an advantage for iPad… You don’t have to enable flash on Android, however if you want to for just a few minutes then AT LEAST you have the OPTION.

    Now for me iPad is better but NOT for these reasons… ONE reason… IPS screen with better color saturation, battery life… and for now, thats basically about it.

    1. #1 and #3 are the same for me – android phone manufacturers can’t keep all of their devices up to date because of their number. If there was half the number of Motorolas then maybe they could get all to the latest system version. Instead we get many products that stop being supported after 1 year tops.

      I know there are roms but for general public it is not as convenient as company issued update. Also, iPhones get 2+ years of update as it is today.

      As “buy a product in hopes of getting a feature it doesn’t have yet” – I’d rather say buying a product that is “future-proof”. Well, not really, but an update is in plans and chances are that it will be delivered on time.

      I owned Motorola Milestone/Droid and the update first has been delayed 9 month and later it actually worsened the experience on my handset. Sure it was just a bump in the road but now I will probably stay with Apple until they stumble.

    1. Say if most believe your statement, then why is the battery life on the iPad superior to the competition?

  3. Went to WalMart to buy an Ipad, bought the Nook Color instead. Easy to upgrade because it boots from the SDcard. It’s running Froyo 2.2.1 at 1100 mHz, flash 10.2, plus with Samba wireless I can transfer files from my computer and it supports 32 gig sd cards. The Ipad is crippled in my opinion but still would like to have one to play with.

      1. Talking about Ipad one, not the new one. Two hundred fifty dollars difference in price also. Like Apple products, Own Macbook Pro 17″ and Ipod, don’t hate Apple, just don”t think the Ipad one was worth the money.

      2. Talking about Ipad one, not the new one. Two hundred fifty dollars difference in price also. Like Apple products, Own Macbook Pro 17″ and Ipod, don’t hate Apple, just don”t think the Ipad one was worth the money.

  4. Being a K-12 technology Coordinator for the last 15 years I have to comment on the price issue. Price has been one of the main factors to go PC vs. Apple, and it is not a myth, I buy 1 and half pc’s per Apple and when you factor the ease of locking down PC’s in a network environment with students vs. Apple’s system, you lose again in man power to maintain these systems. That being said I am glad the price of the iPad is lower, we are ordering 40 iPads with two carts this year, the app management for schools and iTunes is a nightmare. Apple needs to get back its focus on K-12 so pricing/management is made easier. I am also an Adndroid fan and look forward to the Xoom but right now iPad is the leader in price and functionality.

  5. I suppose there were a few Android 1.x devices with resistive touch screens, but all the mainstream ones were capacitive, including the G1. Multitouch appeared much sooner than 2.3, please don’t spread the FUD of Android being years behind the iPhone in functionality in every area.

  6. As an iPad1 and Android 2.1 phone user, I agree with Chris on almost all the comments that he has written in this post. His comments on software written for a particular hardware versus software written for generic hardware are spot on.

    1. This was perhaps a good point when it was written 2 years ago. Android is fine now unless you buy a Coby or some other off-brand. Androids biggest mistake was releasing products before version 4.1 was out. They basically beta tested their os with the public. Of course even having personally bought a droid tablet three times, one with 1.8, one with 2.6 and my newest running 4.3, I still spent less than buying just ONE ipad and got a lot more work done with the devices than an ipad toy could ever do.

    1. MSFT is, perhaps, the most closed-source company in the history of computing, and they did quite well for decades. In contrast, it is foolish to call Apple closed– partially closed is more correct. They got input from thousands of developers worldwide with the “Darwin project”, on OS X. They CONTRIBUTED to the open source community by allowing others (including Google) to use “Webkit”, the HTML rendering engine in Safari.
      Google, like Apple, is partially closed. You won’t seem them release their web search algorithms any time soon!

      I agree, open can be good. Apache can’t be beat on quality, for example, by ANY commercial product. But it’s silly to be dogmatic about it.

  7. Fairly biased, but several good, valid points in here as well. As for myself, I’m enjoying the best of both worlds: iPad2 Wifi Model w/ my Android-based Evo 4G.

    The bottom line when buying a new tech toy, in my opinion, is to make that list of pros and cons and go with what works best for YOU. Brand loyalty be damned, my loyalty goes to efficiency…

  8. one must always remember the Netscape Explorer war!
    it took some generation for Microsoft to make a better browser.
    the same goes for the IBM PC and the other PC’s
    the Android open source + the fact that so much money is looking to be invested and markets to be won, are for the favor of the new boy in town
    so things are more likely to turn around then stay as they are
    for the time being you’re probably right

  9. Excellent writing Chris. Thank you for stating the obvious about Android tablets and especially Samsung. I purchased a capivate and still there is no update to froyo or access to the media hub and I have had this phone since Oct. 2010. What a shame. The phone works well but I would like to use all of the features of the phone not what they advertise that is available on other phones. Pushing devises out to the consumers before all of the testing is complete just wastes consumer time and money. I want what was advertised. No wonder people hack these devises.Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I am a true fan Chris. Be yourself. Your geeky soulsista.

  10. I would think at it’s worst, fragmentation could result in a developer’s
    nightmare, not to mention frustration from the enduser in trying to
    figure out what apps/versions work with my particular flavor/version of
    Android.

  11. I have an android, not really amazed, all this is true, I have so damn much to say and I like how you took the time on this, someone truely understands, even if iPad’s bigger, it will always be better!!

  12. Old issues hence resolved by android. My $200 asus memo pad has a quad core processor, the latest 4.3 Android which is flawless, syncs my files across all my computers via google, has excellent stereo sound, an sd card so I cam expand memory easily, an hdmi slot so I can transition to a full tv if I am watching something, gps for mapping, is widescreen format so no wasted space, has 10 point touch screen that looks amazing, dual cameras, a google phone number (free) and was not purchased using a contract. My LG Optimus G has even better stats and was a FREE phone with Sprint. If you are tired of small screens, crappy battery life and a lack of flexibility overall, go Android. If you want a tablet or phone with fewer options, less free apps, twice the price and half the screen size, go Apple. I just bought a normal computer usb keyboard so I can work on a book using my tablet (in microsoft word format). Cost me $10. Just look at how much a keyboard costs for an apple product. No usb slot on an apple to even plug it into. You HAVE to buy expensive Apple accessories with apple products.

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