A tale of two tablets: Android vs the new iPad

If you follow technology, it’s no real surprise that Applewas on track to announce the new iPad at its San Francisco event today, andthat’s just what happened.

Some of the feedback I heard online was that the launch ofthe new iPad – which brings a 264 pixel-per-inch high definition Retina Display to thetablet, amongst other new features – puts the Android tablet world even fartherin the rearview mirror than it was yesterday at this time. Whether or not youbuy that assessment comes down entirely to your perspective, and what you’relooking for in a tablet, of course.

Apple’s largest strength is that they own the ecosystem –the hardware and OS both comes out of the same mothercorp, and there’s onesingle app store managing all of your app needs. By comparison, Android devicesare fragmented not only by manufacturer, hardware configuration and OS version,but also in splintered Market silos curated by manufacturer, carrier, or othersuch entities.

Now, in some ways Apple is just catching up or even stilllagging behind: while the new iPad’s A5X processor has quad-core graphics, itsmain processor is still only dual core, even while Android phones and tabletsare making the leap to quad-core processors. And while Apple’s iCloud is a stepin the right direction for sharing content between devices, Android tabletsgenerally have removable SD storage, as well as other ports (like USB) to getdata off the devices.

Android’s entire infrastructure is one that makes itpossible for manufacturers to innovate outside the bounds of one singleauthority – if you want something that the iPad doesn’t provide in itshardware, you’re pretty much boned until Apple makes it available. WithAndroid, you don’t have to wait for Google to act – there may already be amanufacturer that’s doing just what you crave.

Earlier today I had the opportunity to see a feature madepossible by Samsung’s consumer electronics footprint: you can be watchingcontent on your Samsung television, but you could then redirect your live televisionsignal to your Android-based Samsung smartphone or tablet. That way, you don’thave to miss a second of the game even when you have to head out to the deck toflip the steaks on the barbeque. While it would be nice to see that sort ofthing on Apple, it’s just not possible without bringing extra hardware into theequation, and even then it wouldn’t work anywhere near as smoothly.

Apple has made a big deal of its devices all working reallywell with each other – you can play iPad content to your AppleTV over your WiFinetwork using AirPlay. You can automatically sync your contacts and contentwith your computer using iCloud. It all works really well together, even if itdoesn’t have all of the features that people would like.

So the really big frustration with Android is that for thesetypes of things to occur, it seems like you really need to go all-in with thesame manufacturer, buying their devices across the board if you want an optimalexperience.

While it would be nice for all of the Android players to gettogether and decide on interoperability between Android apps and consumerdevices, ala the DLNA protocols, it’s really hard to see how that’s going tohappen any time soon. After all, Android OS 4 is out but you can still buybrand new devices running Android 2.3, some of which don’t even have a clearupgrade roadmap. Things are so fractured it’s not funny.

There’s so much potential in the world of Android devices,especially how we integrate them into the rest of our consumer electronicsworld. Still, even with the overall share of Android it’s still sometimes hardnot to see the platform as several strong players standing tall while  everyone else fumbles around, wearingblindfolds. It could be so much better than that.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthershttp://www.globalhermit.com
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at butterscotch.com, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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