Since Apple released the original iPad back in early 2010, competing manufacturers have been racing to catch up. The closest competition we’ve seen challenge the iPad’s death grip on the tablet sphere comes by way of the Motorola XOOM. But like many competing tablets, while the hardware looks killer on paper, a sub-par software or software distribution method hampers an otherwise great user experience.
So where do we stand with the iPad 2 in lieu of competing hardware from Motorola, RIM, HP, and more? Hop inside for the full account…
But The Hardware…?
In many areas in life, first impressions are key. Fail to impress on the first encounter and you or your company risk alienating a person or group of people for life. In our review of the BlackBerry PlayBook, we noted how the hardware was awesome, the software was new and exciting, but in the end the overall experience fell flat. Similarly, we loved the Motorola XOOM. Though ultimately it was again an inconsistant user experience and a lack of apps that soured our view of the tablet.
When we compare the iPad 2 to tablets such as the PlayBook and XOOM, we find that in several ways it’s actually inferior. The 9.7″ screen is only 1024 x 768 whereas the XOOM features a 10.1″ display and higher resolution: 1200 x 800. The XOOM also can be retrofitted with an LTE/4G radio that gives it much faster cellular speeds than Apple’s offering.
Another knock against Apple’s tablet comes by way of the integrated rear-camera. It’s garbage and utterly useless. Honestly, Apple. At ~1-2 megapixels, why even bother? The XOOM features a 5-megapixel shooter out back and a 2-megapixel camera up front. The PlayBook also features a 5-megapixel camera but an even better 3-megapixel front-facing camera. And even better yet, the 10.1 Galaxy Tab packs an 8-megapixel camera on it’s backside. The iPad 2, mind you, has a pathetic VGA front-facing camera.
But the coolest new feature on tablets that has caught our attention resides on the PlayBook. Even though it fails to do many things right (or many things at all), we love the touch sensitive bezel. It takes touchscreen computing to a whole new level by essentially eliminating the need for buttons. Expect to see such technology cropping up on more tablets later this year and early next.
It’s Still All About The Apps…
But despite all the shortcomings of the iPad 2, we found ourselves actually using the device much longer than both the XOOM and PlayBook. Why? Apps and software. Android is finally starting to come around in the tablet app arena, though is still a far cry from Apple’s 12,000+ strong tablet app offerings. And don’t get us started on the PlayBook. Native (quality) tablet apps are MIA and the highly hyped Android app support still doesn’t work. Honestly, we got bored with the PlayBook 20 minutes after opening the box. The XOOM made it a couple of hours. But the iPad 2 still has us entertained days later.
We’ll state clearly that we love all the different mobile operating systems out there — some more than others. But when you sit them all side by side, iOS still comes across as the most complete and well polished offering. WebOS and QNX (PlayBook) are still works in progress. Though the latest builds of webOS we’ve seen look much further along. Android is a tweakers dream, and again, we love that. At the same time, the inconsistencies from device to another are too many and too glaring to be ignored.
One small thing we have to highlight that has struck us as odd is the inability for anyone but Apple to develop inertia scrolling the right way. Any iOS device you pick up is going to be buttery smooth when scrolling through lists, zooming, etc. QNX is a close second — another place where the PlayBook peeks out from the shadows of other tablets. Android is another beast, however. No matter how many cores it has to work worth, we have yet to use a single Android device that features simple smooth swiping on the homescreen without the aid of 3rd party launchers or skins. (Why Google?) WebOS isn’t too bad in this area either, and in fact we’d say it may be up there with the PlayBook. Nevertheless, we find the fact that we have to highlight something as insignificant as this rather startling.
Will the Apple and their iPad always be on top? No. No one is every the king forever. But we can honestly see the iPad sitting in the tablet throne for the next 2-3 years easy. As long as competing manufacturers continually fail to miss consumers’ real wants and needs (on a global scale) as well as cram endless lists of hardware specs down their throats without taking care of the software and distribution side of things, Apple will win.
Android is coming along, though fragmentation is something that will always be an issue due to the open nature of the platform. RIM’s QNX OS has tons of potential. They just have to finish developing it. Microsoft has already said they are waiting on the whole tablet thing because they don’t yet believe it has graduated past “fad” status. (Readers make note: This is another massive failure on Microsoft’s part in the making.) Finally, HP/Palm have a ton of potential with webOS as well. However, they absolutely need to keep hardware releases fresh, exciting, and consistant. Thus far int he smartphone they’ve been unable to do so.
For the reasons highlighted above, we find the iPad 2 still holds the throne.