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Which tablet: iPad or Android? How to choose

Posted on 5 Feb 2013 at 11:25

Paul Ockenden offers advice for those deliberating between an iPad and an Android tablet

I constantly receive emails asking: "should I buy an iPad or an Android tablet?".

I’m sure many people are wondering exactly the same thing. Much like when choosing a smartphone, there’s no single "best" device on the market; different people will have varying needs when it comes to selecting a tablet. Let’s look at a few reasons why you might choose one over the other.

First – and let’s get this out of the way right from the start – many people take a strong anti-Apple stance. Sometimes it’s for justifiable reasons (they don’t like the closed architecture and the "one true way" Apple culture), at other times it’s for more ephemeral reasons. Many folk simply see Apple owners as stupid people who are lured by slick marketing into paying too much for their tech. Either way, if you’re in the anti-Apple camp, don’t buy an iPad. Simple!

Similarly, there are Apple fans who always want to own the latest Cupertino gadget, and indeed will queue to get it on the first day. For them it would be madness to buy anything other than an iPad, although this advice is superfluous since they’ll already have one. In fact, they’ll own several, since we’re now on the fourth generation of the original device and they’ll probably have upgraded each time, as well as having just bought themselves an iPad mini.

If you or the company that you work for is heavily tied into the Google infrastructure and its cloud-based applications, such as Gmail and Google Drive, then you’re probably better off with an Android tablet – which isn’t to say you can’t use an iPad; it’s just that the Google ecosystem integration is deeper on a device running Google’s operating system, as you might expect. As a general rule, the iPad will try to force you into using Apple’s cloud services, while an Android tablet will steer you towards those of Google.

Size used to be a differentiator – the iPad came in only one size, with a screen roughly the size of a sheet of A5 paper and a bezel around the edge making the whole unit around A5.5-ish (that is, halfway between A5 and A4). But now we also have new iPad mini with its 7.9in display and thinner bezel. Although Android still has the edge when it comes to a choice of devices and form factors, with everything from whopping 12in monsters down to tiddly 5in minnows, the iPad now has two bases covered rather than only one.

The same can’t be said for pricing, where the iPad is very much the rich man’s option. Even the new iPad mini, which was widely predicted to be Apple’s move into lower-priced tablets, turned out to be nothing of the sort: it’s still priced as a "premium" product. Its main competitors are priced within the £100-£200 bracket, so the iPad mini’s £269-£529 could turn out to be its most distinctive feature.

Creating apps

If you’re a developer then you’re faced with a rather paradoxical choice: if you go with Android it’s far easier to create apps, with more tools available, and you can host your development environment on just about any platform going, but when you’ve finished it’s often hard to make money on Android app sales. Go down the iPad route and you’ll need a Mac of some description (you can, in principle, use a "hackintosh", but it probably isn’t something you’d want to rely on for your living).

Once you’ve created your app, though, you’re far more likely to see revenue from it, since iPad users are significantly more likely to hit the Buy button than their Android-owning brethren (and significantly less likely to pirate your work).

It can be more difficult to get an app listed in Apple’s App Store, however, with many more rules and regulations to meet, and the company prone to unexpectedly moving the goalposts. Apple would have you believe that its "guidelines" are there to prevent a certain type of app – tip calculators, for example – such as those you find in Android stores, but the rules are actually more often to protect Apple itself.

If you make any in-app money then Apple wants a cut. If your app is a storefront for other apps then it will be rejected, even if it directs users to the App Store to complete their purchase. There’s a raft of such issues that you need to think about at the planning stage of your app, rather than trying to fudge the rules later to make the app fit.

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User comments

Shame...

...That these people don't consider the Surface as it has a lot to offer.

it's also a shame that lenovo, Asus, Dell, HP and others priced their Atom based tabs out of the market as they are CONSIDERABLY better than the Android or iPad devices.

By rhythm on 5 Feb 2013

Shame...

...That these people don't consider the Surface as it has a lot to offer.

it's also a shame that lenovo, Asus, Dell, HP and others priced their Atom based tabs out of the market as they are CONSIDERABLY better than the Android or iPad devices.

By rhythm on 5 Feb 2013

In case it's not obvious...

... I wrote the above column in mid October last year, prior to the Surface launch.

By PaulOckenden on 5 Feb 2013

Would it have killed a tree to update this before publishing to include Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets? If it was written in October 2012, why is it dated February 2013? Texh moves fast - why should a 5 month old article not be re-thought?

The Surface RT packs a pretty good wallop as a consumption device and some unique features which may seem quite compelling to a user. That it can handle a bit of actual work too is a bonus - and we're only days away from the Surface Pro launch which, frankly, makes other tablets look like Vtech toys.

I sometimes think that PC Pro are starting to succumb to the new way of tech reporting that involves coming up with a title that is likely to annoy the most people. I get it, the advertisers want numbers.

Sorry, I really don't mean to sound ranty, it's just that these base articles don't really help when they're out of date the minute they go live.

By onegin101 on 5 Feb 2013

@Onegin101 I'd take a stab that the article is out of date because they want you to buy the magazine for up to date info not give it away free on the net. But I agree out of date articles is of little use and frequently annoying. Similarly many of the reviews and 'A' list is badly out of date. But as I'm no longer a subscriber I cant really complain, just have to look elsewhere.

By billy_love on 5 Feb 2013

No mention of the playbook? Cheaper than most android tablets and a high quality product in terms of both the hardware, the software and there is a good range of app on the app store. Plus RIM/BB is about to move it to OS3 so it has the best support out there.

By JamesD29 on 5 Feb 2013

@billy_love

Should have said, I am a subscriber but I must have missed this article in the paper edition. To be honest, I would have passed right over it anyway. Can't say I read the magazine to find out whether or not an Apple product (for which this same publisher already has a dedicated magazine/website) or Android Tablet is any good.

By onegin101 on 5 Feb 2013

Word

It was not obvious that the article's 5 months old.

"PC Pro are starting to succumb to the new way of tech reporting that involves coming up with a title that is likely to annoy the most people."

- You should see the front cover of the latest issue! After reading it people might as well dump Windows and just buy Apple or Android devices. Not good at all

By rhythm on 5 Feb 2013

Really?

What is the point of putting old articles as new on this site? Have a dedicated magazine archive section if you must. Your site should compliment your magazine not advertise it as out of date and touch. Is it any wonder that PC Pro is slowly dieing!

By stephen_d_morris on 5 Feb 2013

RWC articles

Thanks for the comments.

Real World Computing articles aren't usually put on the website until after the magazine is off sale, because the content in them is normally more timeless than that of reviews and news, which appear on the website first.

We only put RWC articles online if we feel they haven't run out of date. In regards to this article, Paul was offering advice to people asking whether they should go for an iPad or Android. None of the advice is out of date, and still stands even after the advent of the Surface.

We have plenty of other articles/reviews online covering Surface and Windows 8/RT tablets.

Incidentally, we shall be publishing RWC articles more promptly on the website over the coming months, but as Onegin101 noted, we like to reserve some content exclusively for paying magazine/app customers.

Barry Collins
Editor

By Barry_Collins on 5 Feb 2013

New Tablets for 2013

One Android tablet maker making strides to offer quality Android tablets at competitive prices is Ainol Electronics - which won runner-up for "Best Tablet of the Year" at CES 2012 and this month has introduced the Novo Quad Core Series of Android tablets -- including the Novo 7 Venus which launched this week -- with one reseller - a site called TabletSprint offering this new model for $149 USD --

The Novo 7 Venus compares and to the Nexus 7 tablet but for considerably less - matching key features, including a Quad Core processor, a high resolution multi-touch 1280x800 IPS screen, 16GB memory, a front camera, Android O/S and Google Play Store preinstalled -- while also offering a number of features the Nexus 7 doesn't - including a 2-megapixel rear camera, a MicroSD memory card slot, an HDMI 1080p port to download and watch movies directly from a tablet on a large screen TV and also project & play video games on to a big screen; plus more ways to connect to the internet, including Ethernet as well as 3G/4G Wireless connection through its USB port with a 3G/4G USB adapter.

The Novo Hero II also launched earlier this month - a full size, 10 inch Android tablet that packs in most of the same features as the Novo 7 Venus, including a quad core processor and 1280x800 IPS screen, and innovative features, including 4K HDMI Digital Output - Plus 32GB memory and a strong 8,000 mAh battery -- all for less than $250.

In February, the Novo 9 Spark is released, which features a Quad Core processor along with a 9.7 inch 2048x1536 (Retina) screen – and a powerful 10,000 mAh battery, 4K Digital HDMI, and a 5 Megapixel Rear Camera with AF and Flash for $269 USD at TabletSprint.

It should be interesting to see how the new Novo Quad Core Series fares in 2013 as this company gains more presence in the tablet market. The site TabletSprint also offers $25 in quality Bonus Apps with all models they carry.

By CoopAnderson1000 on 5 Feb 2013

Size Matters

"making the whole unit around A5.5-ish (that is, halfway between A5 and A4"

That would be half way between A5 and A6, i think you mean A4.5ish ?

By davidk1962 on 6 Feb 2013

No Brainer

Don't know why you needed a whole article for this - the choice is simple. iPad for brainless chavs - Android for the sensible. Simple.

By barrada on 6 Feb 2013

@barrada

I think I addressed people like you in the article ;)

By PaulOckenden on 6 Feb 2013

Wow such a blinkered person or is he having a laugh! I went iPad as they seemed to have the best/most apps. I also have been burnt over android versions by the hardware manufacture. Simple no, here is a reason why when looking at new apps, "a groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app that will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button. (For now, it’s just being released for iPhones and iPads, though Android versions should come soon) ".

By billy_love on 6 Feb 2013

Same old dilemmas

I'm reading this because I'm dithering between an ipad and a nexus 10.

I'll almost certainly go for the Nexus. iPad is lovely, I'd like to have ninja fruit (played on my son's ipad - addictive). And I like the ipad's looks.

BUT I really don't want to find any of my computing tied into the Apple thing - partly the "only way is Cupertino" culture, but also the software issues. My smartphone is Google, but I can interface with Windows easily. Well, fairly easily ...

I'm also tempted to wait and see since lots of good things seem to be just over the horizon. But then there are ALWAYS lot of good things just over the horizon, or just need a few initial bugs dealing with.

So - Nexus 10 for me (despite the lack of micro SD - slap on wrist!) whilst 32GB sill in stock.

By Philippa on 9 Mar 2013

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Paul Ockenden

Paul Ockenden

Paul is a contributing editor to PC Pro specialising in smartphones, mobile broadband and all things wireless. He's technical director of a combined IT and marketing company, which works on websites and intranets for several blue-chip clients.

Read more More by Paul Ockenden

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