App comparison: iPad vs. Nexus 7 -- no clear winner

App comparison: iPad vs. Nexus 7 -- no clear winner

Summary: Quite a few apps are now available for both the iPad and Android tablets but they are quite different on the two platforms. The 8 apps are shown in screen shots, first on the iPad followed immediately by one taken on the Nexus 7.

TOPICS: Tablets, Android, Apps, iPad

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  • Chrome browser- Nexus 7

    While similar to the iPad version of Chrome, some web sites including ZDNet display slightly differently on the Nexus 7 (with desktop version selected) than on the iPad.

  • Directv - iPad

    The iPad version of the Directv app is much better in both use of the display and in functionality. While both the iPad and Android versions handle DVR functions and the program guide, the iPad version also functions as a full remote control.

  • Directv- Nexus 7

    The display is used not as well on the Android version than on the iPad. The lack of remote control functionality makes the Nexus 7 version of Directv much less useful than the iPad version.

Topics: Tablets, Android, Apps, iPad

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  • Thanks for this

    It's clear many of the Android apps are only intended for smartphone not tablet usage. Annoyingly this won't change until Android tablet uptake increases.

    Directv, Skype, Flipboard, Facebook are all clearly designed only with phones in mind. Evernote is a good example of what an Android tablet is capable of when an an app is designed properly.

    I can live with Skype not being perfect because it's not the sort of app you look at the screen that often, you tend to only look at it long enough to find the user you wish to call (how's the video call screen displayed?) but apps like Facebook really need tablet support because the Facebook app just looks dreadful on tablets.

    Friendcaster is better than the Facebook app anyway and should display better on tablets. I don't think it's tablet optimized but does have a larger font display intended for tablets.
    • Look at the Flip Side

      For phone apps, I find that Android phone apps work better and scale better on an Android tablet than iOS phone apps will work and scale on an iPad.
  • Pandora doesn't work on the Nexus 7

    Pandora music playback stops and stutters horribly on the Nexus 7. I hope they get that straightened out ASAP.
    • Pandora works fine, your Internet connection sucks

      Pandora works fine on the N7, if you are getting stuttering the problem is with your Internet connection not the N7.
      • Not a network issue sparky

        iPad sitting next to it on same wireless has no problems.
    • Pandora on Nexus 7

      I've been using Pandora on a Nexus 7 since last week, and have found it to perform excellently, and I've been listening for several hours each day. I have the Pandora gadget on the home screen, and love the way it gives me a concise view of what's playing, as well as the ability to start/stop/skip. In fact, I'm liking it so much that I can considering becoming a subscriber to get rid of the ads.

      If there is a network hiccup, of course, it will stutter, but is a network issue, not a Pandora issue.
  • No clear winner?

    Looking through the pics there seem to be a CLEAR winner in terms of tablet specific apps and usability. Apps designed for smart phones first are stretched (scale) to fit on the larger screen Nexus screen - often times making it look flat and out of place with huge ugly space in-between the content. But looks like Rubin and Google is going to continue the push the one-size-fits-all App model, encouraging developers to write a single app for both phones and tablets (silly).

    "I don’t think there should be apps specific to a tablet...if someone makes an ICS app it’s going to run on phones and it’s going to run on tablets."

    • One size fits all is best

      When I get an app, I usually expect to use it on my Skyrocket (phone), Transformer (tablet) and now Nexus7 (mini tablet).

      What I don't expect is to have to buy a phone version and a tablet version unless there is a serious difference in function. I have to do this on iOS (Apple) and it seriously annoys me. So far the app limitation on the Nexus has to do with OS, not whether it is phone or tablet apps.
      • One size fits all is not best

        "One size fits all is best"-rhonin

        You're opinion is the wrong side of the facts although, to be fair, you and Andy Rubin agree.

        One of the major reasons why Android tablets haven't been able to compete with iPad tablets is the lack of optimized tablet Apps. And the fact that there are over 200,000 tablet specific Apps made for the iPad shows that developers see a need to create optimized Apps and customers see a need to download them.

        Many Apps are universal and you only pay for the phone and tablet versions once. Others are not. If you don't feel like paying for the tablet optimized versions, you can always choose to use the phone versions on your tablet instead - but few people do so and that should be telling you that one sized does not fit all and that tablet optimized Apps do have value.
        • No one cares about this

          I have a Kindle Fire, and I couldn't tell you which are tablet specific and which are not. Which were sideloaded (all phone based) or were not.

          It's so seamless, it's not even worth discussing. That being said with the Fire, occasionally there may be an app that doesn't work because of the Fire hardware (or lack therof), not an issue with the Nexus7
      • @rhonin - that's the problem

        "What I don't expect is to have to buy a phone version and a tablet version unless there is a serious difference in function"

        And you will never see that serious difference in function unless you as the end user prove to developers you are willing to buy tablet optimized apps. Willing to support the Android tablet app market just like iOS users. That's the current problem with Android tablet apps now (or lack off), users like yourself are telling developers you would rather not invest in their time building tablet apps. Just continue blowing up the phone apps (see twitter for Android tablets as the perfect example of this).

        As mentioned there's lots of universal apps in iOS that's optimized for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad screens. iOS store have over 230,000 iPad specific apps for users to choose from. If I am looking for apps for my iPad (or future iPad mini), I have a piece of mind knowing that the apps I am downloading will work as it should on my iPad. Not phone apps that may or may not work well on the tablet.
        • Not Quite ......

          If I have a phone app and a tablet version is offered that gives me enhanced, more, or tablet specific functionality I am willing to buy it - no problem.

          What bothers me is when a tablet app is advertised to provide more but does not. I find that all too frequently in iOS - the tablet version may have better graphics or a new opening screen but not much else. It is also usually significantly more expensive. And don't get me started on tablet specific that provide tablet functionality only if you have the retina iPad. These pseudo-tablet types have left me with a serious apprehension for tablet specific apps.

          In Android however, I find quite frequently that the phone apps work great on a tablet. When I do find a tablet version, it most frequently has tablet specific functionality and is not designed for a phone.

          End of the day, I would rather have an app that works on a phone, a small tablet and standard tablet (maybe even a larger version) and would be willing to pay for that flexibility.
          • List them

            You said that it bothers you when a tablet app is advertised to provide more but it doesn't. I have yet to come across any like this so do you care to list the ones you are talking about?
        • Phone apps on the iPad look terrible

          If you haven't used/developed for Android, you will not understand what Andy Rubin meant.

          iOS scales the display as a raster image for a phone app on the larger iPad resolution. It looks awful like an overblown photograph that gets printed at a higher resolution. On Android however, if the app is coded using device independent pixels and is not using absolute layout, the apps are scaled intelligently ie. if there's a list, it will expand to show more items in a list instead of showing the same items in a blur on the iPad. Given that the apps look pretty decent and given the poor sales of Android tablets, developers haven't been compelled to develop tablet specific apps.

          Having said that, while a phone app looks good and performs well on tablets, it is not taking advantage of the extra real estate and not optimizing the user experience for the larger screen. Many of the screenshots in the article reflect this. Now here's where we come to what Andy meant. In Honeycomb, Google introduced a concept called "Fragments" which allow Android apps to take advantage of the extra real estate when run on tablets and the *same* android app to use regular "Activity" screens when used on phones. I have never coded for iOS, but my understanding is that there is nothing like this on iOS. Hence iOS developers have to create separate apps for tablets and phones. I may be wrong about this. But I can vouch for a single app using Fragments working beautifully across Android phones and tablets seamlessly. To use Fragments API, the phone has to be running ICS. There weren't/aren't too many phones running ICS so developers had even less incentive to use it. There is a compatibility package for phones that are on earlier versions (all the way back to Android 1.6). But again, it was a lot of work for developers without a lot of reward since there aren't that many tablet users.

          All the apps that you can see in the screenshots in the article that look great and are tablet optimized are using Fragments and the *same* app will work on the phone and the layout will be adjusted for the smaller form factor by Android (not the developer).

          What Andy was talking about is that in a few months hopefully, you will not need to hunt for tablet optimized apps, all the phone apps (if using Fragments) will be tablet optimized. The OS does that for you. Just as Android does all the heavy lifting while scaling device agnostic Android apps today.

          The only caveat here is that the Nexus 7 is not going to do it. At 7", the phone apps will scale so well in most cases, that there is still no compelling reason for developers to update their code to use Fragments. It will need a very successful 10" Nexus device to do that. But hopefully, developers will get enthused enough as other apps like Evernote show the light into building beautiful and very usable apps.

          The Android Design Guidelines published by Google after ICS got released is already showing the results in much better looking apps on the Android Market in the last few months.
          • Phone apps scaled for iPad do look terrible

            This isn't really a problem though, at least from my experience. With the number of iPad specific apps available you generally don't have to worry about using a iPhone app scaled for the iPad. I have one app on my iPad that is an iPhone app and that's it. For ever other app I use on the iPhone and want on the iPad there is an iPad specific version of the app or an equivalent alternative. Just because I have different versions doesn't mean I have spent more money either.
      • Doesn't matter if they are free

        Might not have been your intention (though I am sure it was) to imply you always have to purchase multiple versions on iOS when you don't. For the most part I have not had to pay for multiple formats for the iPhone and iPad. Just about every app that I have had to pay for provides you with both versions. Off the top of my head I can think of two apps that cost money which I didn't get both versions and only one of those is one I would even want on both.
    • I'm sorry - but you're looking at this the wrong way.

      When I write a Windows app (or a Mac app, or a Linux app), I don't write it thinking 'the screen will be 1280x800' and then carefully code for JUST that resolution. In fact, all of those systems have resizable screens (well, for now at least).

      So, I start with the assumption that the screen might be any aspect ratio, portrait or landscape. I think out the best use of the screen in portrait and landscape and how to place elements and resize thm automatically to fit the screen.

      This is how desktop apps have been written for almost 30 years.

      There's literally NO difference when going to a phone or tablet. The app should look at the resolution, aspect ratio and orientation and adapt to the situation.

      The problem is that lot of iPhone developers have gotten lazy and expect exactly the same aspect ratio - and a simple multiple of resolutions. When they jump to the iPad, they actually have to build an entirely different model with its own limited set of resolutions - all with the same aspect ratio. Again, really simple. They simply don't have to do the work because the range of targets is so small.

      Android developers who come from the iDevice ecosystem bring this laziness with them. The early ones who didn't come from the iDevice ecosystem were fooled by the limited range of sizes and aspect ratios that existed on Android phones at first and never adapted.

      But Rubin is 100% correct. A good programmer should NOT code for 'phone' or 'tablet'. They should code so that their app runs on any resolution, any aspect ratio, any orientation. Even thinking 'but if the app is a phone specific app, it doesn't have to' is wrong. I have a 7" 800x480 Android tablet that includes a phone.

      It's really just not that difficult.
      The Werewolf!
      • I'm sorry - but you're looking at this the wrong way.

        BEST POST EVER!!!!!!
        hit the nail right on the head!
      • Not quite

        IWork on iPad is great, but on an iPhone? No go... Some apps could work universally, but some clearly can take advantage of the size and real estate of the tablet, and should.
  • Nice Article But The Title Is Poor

    A new tablet on a new tablet against an established OS and established tablet.
    Good write up but could use a better title.