One iPad phenomenon that Android can't counter

Android tablet makers do everything they can to make products that compete with the top dog, iPad. That's fine and dandy but the iPad has one advantage that Android cannot touch.

The iPad is the undisputed leader in the tablet race, and by a wide margin. This is especially true if you treat each Android tablet as a single competitor, which it is, instead of lumping them all together as an Android tablet army. Even if you do the lumping, the lion's share of tablet sales belong to the iPad. Try as they might to compete with Apple's iPad, Android tablet makers find one iPad advantage that leaves them in the dust and always will.

Most gadget buyers have a tendency to buy accessories for them, from simple cases to more exotic items that extend the usefulness of the device. I am as bad as anyone in this regard, the first thing I do after buying a new gadget is look at accessories to outfit the new toy.

I own an iPad 2 and several Android tablets, and one thing is clear -- there is no comparison to the wealth of third party iPad accessories when compared to those for Android tablets. This is due to the success of the iPad, and the lead in the market it has enjoyed. Many iPad accessories also work with the iPod Touch and iPhone, another reason there are so many of them by design. Owners of new Android tablets on the contrary soon find a frustrating lack of accessories to get for their new slate.

While simple accessories like cases may eventually make it to the market for top-selling Android tablets, not much else does. Buyers are limited to accessories the tablet makers choose to offer for their particular models. There is not much choice available to the Android tablet owner.

Contrast that with iPad accessories, which number in the thousands. Don't believe that? Go to Amazon and search for iPad accessories. That search returns no fewer than 62,065 currently, ranging from hundreds of cases to unusual items like kits to mount the iPad to virtually any surface imaginable. Sure there are some duplicates in those thousands of items, but most of them are unique products that work with the iPad.

Go to the Best Buy online store and while more limited you still see more of the same. There are a more reasonable 781 products in the online store, thoughtfully organized into types of accessories. These cover the range of expected accessories, like cases and cables.

What makes this accessory ecosystem so impressive is these thousands of products are custom-made for the iPad for the most part. The hundreds (or thousands) of cases available are all custom-fitted for the iPad and not generic products that "just fit". Companies churn them out because the installed customer base is big enough to generate a return on investment. That doesn't exist for Android tablets, thus the lack of choice.

The accessories for the iPad cover a wide range of uses, from the whimsical to the practical. Want a blood pressure monitor that connects to the iPad for tracking your health over time? Those are out there. Want a scale that turns your iPad into a big brother that watches your weight for you wirelessly? Those, too. Dream of using your iPad to fly a small helicopter around the office? There are several of those to choose from.

Accessories can maximize the usefulness of tablets in addition to help protect them. The wealth of options for the iPad ensure owners can always find what they need, something that just isn't true for the Android competition.

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