Which are best: iPad or Android tablets? What's the difference between them, and which should you choose? We shall first discuss the Android and Apple software platforms in general, and then discuss them in terms of tablet computers, specifically the iPad 2 and the Android Honeycomb operating system used in the Motorola Xoom tablet.
The fundamental difference between the Apple and Android operating systems for tablet computers is that the Apple system is a closed system, specific only to apple devices, while Android is open source. That means that Android is free for developers to use, both in terms of designing apps to run with it, and in the hardware using it as a platform.
Android now belongs to Google, who purchased it form the developers Android Inc. in 2005. Google made it open source, under the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). It is available as part of the Apache free software license. In 2010, it was listed by Canalys as the best-selling software platform for smartphones worldwide.
A Common Platform
That's the background for Android, which is now being used in tablets in competition to Apple's iPad. Because the iPad uses a proprietary software platform, it is by nature more restrictive than Android devices, and therefore does not have the same breadth of communication between devices as Android tablets would theoretically have. However, because Android tablets are in their infancy, this degree of platform commonality has yet to be used to any advantage.
In fact, it is highly likely that individual Android users will be protective of their own devices, and that the full benefits of a common platform are unlikely to be developed. Nevertheless, because of this common platform, it is highly likely in the future that apps and other forms of software will tend to focus on Android rather than Apple. For now, however, there is still a larger choice of apps available for Apple devices than for Android tablets - but this is expected to be only a temporary situation because development of Android apps is now continuous.
iPad 2 Vs Android Tablets
So how does all this translate into the hardware using each of the two operating systems? It is fundamentally now a comparison of the iPad 2 with the top Android tablets. There are several tablets that fail to match iPad let alone iPad 2, but there have been several good tablets developed using Android by top firms such as Acer, Samsung and Motorola, and is the latter that we shall consider here.
The Motorola Zoom Tablet uses the Android Honeycomb OS, and is thicker and heavier than the iPad 2 (0.34 v 0.5 inches). Both have dual-core 1GHz processors, but the Zoom has 1GB RAM against the 512MB believed to be offered by the iPad 2.
One excellent feature of the Xoom is that you can plug it into your PC and access your files. You can transfer files or download from one the other. With the iPad 2 this is a ponderous process that has to be done through iTunes. No need you use iTunes to download music: you can easily download music to the Xoom tablet by drag and drop without requiring a massive ponderous iTunes file to reside on your memory.
Another advantage of the Android tablet is that it is true multitasking which the iPad is not. The iPad is more a matter of changing between tasks, with a small amount of processing in the background, but not true multitasking. There are many other benefits that the Android tablets can offer over the iPad 2, including more flexibility in file handling, and icon presentation. You are not restricted to Apple formats because you can use any that uses the Android open source software.
However, the iPad does have some advantages in addition to being thinner and lighter, and one of these is the number of available apps as suggested earlier. This is likely because most tablet apps are based on the iPad, and are generally developments of the apps developed for the iPhone. Now, however, an increasing number are being created on the Android platform, and it will not be long before they overtake the iPad apps.
Apple Fan or Android Fan
Ultimately, the choice between the iPad and an Android tablet, exemplified here by the Motorola Xoom, will possibly come down to whether or not you are an Apple fan. Apple fans will likely stick to the Apple product, while there currently appears to be no compelling reason why PC fans should go with the iPad rather than the Xoom - though there are more excellent Android tablets on the market.
The Android software platform has been slowly but gradually eating into the Apple market, and, as more firms offer their own versions of Android tablets, this competition against the iPad 2 will increase. Before long, the tablet market will be very similar to the current situation in the laptop market where we have those that go with the Apple way of doing things and those that prefer Windows. Except it is now Apple Vs Android. Who will win - you will decide that.