Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

Summary: A personal journey deep into the heart of the iPad and Xoom tablets. Which side won?


I've been an iPad fan since Apple first released the ubiquitous tablets; with instant-on and long battery life, these devices are an ideal traveler's companion. This post describes iPad love, Android lust, and a reluctant return back to Apple.

An early adopter of the original iPad, I was also one of those crazy people who stood in line for hours when Apple released the iPad 2. As Apple's blowout sales numbers indicate, millions of people are iPad fans.

Despite my admiration for Apple, however, aspects of the iPad experience are problematic. For example, the company rigidly controls which third party apps are released to the public through the App Store. By rejecting apps that do not meet its guidelines or policies, Apple maintains a stranglehold on content delivered to iOS devices. Apple's restrictions trade cohesive and consistent user experience against openness and flexibility; personally, I don't like that tradeoff.

More significantly, Apple's policies ensure that it participates in all financial transactions taking place on the iPhone and iPad. This economic reality explains why Apple locks down the platform and also underlies Apple's cat and mouse game with those who jailbreak the devices. By circumventing Apple's control, Jailbreaking, which is completely legal, directly threatens the company's financial model for content.

Google's Android operating system, an alternative to Apple's iOS, runs on a range of phones and tablets. Android offers several significant advantages over iOS, including:

  • An open ecosystem unrestricted by Apple's control
  • True multitasking; notifications and background events simply happen
  • Excellent Google applications that mimic their desktop counterparts
  • A superior browser, which includes Flash and tabbed browsing

Swayed by these software benefits I bought an Android tablet, the Motorola Xoom, which has important hardware features that improve on the iPad. I especially like the high-resolution screen, better quality speakers, and ability to expand storage with a micro SD card.

After buying the Xoom, I spent countless hours studying new apps, learning tips and tricks, watching movies, reading forums, and going through the steps needed to become a power user. Although the Android / Xoom package has many strong points, I also discovered weaknesses. Among my complaints:

  • Screen is less sharp and contrasty than the iPad
  • SD card mounts as read only, so you must use your computer to transfer files to it
  • Browser has bugs when using an external Bluetooth keyboard

The iPad wins on apps. Through this experiment, the importance of apps and user experience became clear. Apple's developer ecosystem offers a level of application quality and diversity that is just not available on Android devices. Not even close. If Google is serious about making Android competitive with Apple products, it should create financial incentives that encourage the best third-party developers to write Android apps.

Related gallery: Ten great iPad applications

In the end, the Xoom went back and I decided to keep the iPad. While Android has its great points, the iPad is more polished and ready for prime time. Android shows great potential, but it's not quite there yet.

See also:

Photo from iStockphoto

Topics: iPad, Mobility, Mobile OS, Laptops, Android, Hardware, Google, Banking, Apple, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I'm nitpicking, but...

    shouldn't the title read "Apple iPad vs. Motorola Xoom" or "iOS iPad vs. Android Xoom" or "Apple iOS vs. Motorola Android"? You know, to keep it consistent.
    • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

      @statuskwo5 Not entirely. Cause when compared to the Transformer, the XOOM falls extremely short.
      • Could you elaborate?

        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

        1. Graphics are sharper side by side on the Transformer
        2. Keyboard is a dock with extra ports and battery
        3. Only real issue I found is key press lag in HTML rich web text input
        4. I can read /write to the SD card
        5. Sound quality out is superior ( I use Beat headphones)
        6. Et....

        I tried the Xoom and returned it
        I own and use an iPad2
        I like and use my Transformer more frequently

        Hope this helps clarify your uncertainty :)
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

        There is are really only two things on that list that actually makes me wish I had a Transformer instead of the Xoom.

        > Dock
        > Sound quality

        I have had no issues with the screen, nor do I use an SD card.

        It's better, yes, but I wouldn't say that the Xoom falls "extremely short".
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives


      When I hear people go on about another tablet (Android, RIM, etc.) having "better specs" than the iPad, I simply reply with this comparison:

      Looking at specifications, a garbage truck has a much larger, and more powerful engine than a Ferrari. But which one of the two is faster? Which one has the better user experience? Which one is more fun to use?

      It's easy to understand why the vast majority of tablet buyers choose the iPad over all others.
      Harvey Lubin
      • You ar so wrong....

        @Harvey Lubin

        The truth is in the original article but certainly not in your misguided and typically ignorant reply. I do say ignorant in the true sense, not cheeky, but lacking knowledge of some Android devices.

        a) The iPad is undoubtedly more prime time. You can give one to your granny and know it'll do what it does very well, and have little chance of falling over.. as the article says.

        b) My transformer has LESS memory (16Gb & ferrari in your analogy) than my ipad (64Gb & garbage truck in your analogy)... but wins on the following functions.

        - I can use it docked or undocked at a moments notice.
        - I have SD, uSD, USB, and uHDMI.
        - I dont need to attach it to itunes to add content
        - I don't risk it cleverly wiping its content if I connect to the 'wrong' itunes profile (thats a beauty when you forget)
        - My browser works better, and has Flash.

        So.. Most folk say they dont need flash cos they can't do side by iside comparison. Most folk wouldn'y have a clue of the benefits of having a proper keyboard but trust me its superb and adds so much.

        iPads are great, and especially if you want to maximise out-of-the-box experience. That said I dont even bring mine home now.... it stays in work, simless, and on wifi for testing user issues.

        Just like the old IBM saying of years aago... Nobody got fired for buying IBM, and it's like that with the iPad and iPhone. They certainly aren't the ONLY solution unless you're an Apple zealot (You I suspect) or a 'sheep'. For instance my iPhone lasts a day on 1 charge (Bluetooth and 3G) but I just bought an HTC Wildfire and its lasted 5 days on one charge. Which is better is purely subjective... but the Wildfire wins for me. It replaces my personal Hero, cause its battery life had gone downhill. For work I use a Blackberry Torch as it lasts two days extensive use against one (max) on my 4G.
    • What about the Toshiba Thrive?

      The Thrive is the only tablet with a swappable battery (while others argue about whose battery life is an hour longer), and the only major tablet with full sized USB2, HDMI and a full sized SD card slot for up to 128GB of external storage. The Thrive is a couple of ounces heavier and fractions of an inch thicker to make room for all those goodies, but so what? This is a 10.1" tablet, not a cell phone. A couple of ounces can't really change the way it is used nor spoil the experience (unless you are really, really weak).
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives


        I can't help but think that all this verbal viciousness over battery life or lack thereof among companies is so stupid because in just a few years, (five?) battery life that doesn't last a whole day will be a thing of the past.
  • What bugs with an external keyboard?

    Just askin.
    Michael Alan Goff
  • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

    I too am in the honeymoon stages with a Xoom. So far so iPad is still here...staring at me and waiting for me to come back, but I'm hoping I can hang on without it to become Xoom dependent
    • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

      @vandenbond How are the speakers? I'm looking to grab myself a Galaxy but sound quality is massively important - M. Krigsman seems to approve?
  • Drop the Xoom Pick up transformer or galaxy 10.1

    Apple has hurt the tablet marketplace, at least when it comes to bloggers/what not, in the sense that it has created the there can only be one device per platform idea. Xoom != Android. Xoom actually represents a sub standard Android tablet. Yes it was first 3.0 tablet for Android, I could very well be wrong on the first first part, but first != best. Do some research and yourself a favor pick up either a transformer or Galaxy 10.1 both of which will give you a much better experience then the Xoom. And could fix the issues you were experiencing.

    When looking at an Android Tablet think of it as if you were shopping for a Windows PC or Laptop. You have choices from many manufactures each with their own pros and cons.
    • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

      @hickorybro75@... [b]+1[/b]

      Haven't tried it but hear the Toshiba and Lenovo are good
    • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives


      " Xoom != Android. Xoom actually represents a sub standard Android tablet."

      I understand what you're saying, but in the end, it really doesn't matter. The Motorola Xoom was touted by most doridtards as the "real iPad killer". You know, because the Galaxy Tab was supposed to be the iPad Killer, but that didn't quite pan out. You see, we've been down this path before. How many "iPod killers" have stepped up to the plate only to be knocked down? To many to remember. The same is happening with the iPad market and every time a new Android based tablet comes to market, we here the same hype, followed by the same disappointment.

      The problem is this, hardware specs alone are not going to be the distinguishing factor to drive this market. At the OS level, Android (for tablets) falls short of iOS, at least in many aspects. It has less polish, consistency and considerably less developer support.

      The biggest problem iPad competitors face is that the iPad is competitively priced. Further, none of the competitors answer the question as to why they should buy their product over an iPad. The "Google is great because their open" appeals to a very small (but vocal) minority of existing Android users. Flash has proven to be a complete non-factor in this war and becomes more irrelevant by the day.

      I expected HP to make a better showing then they have. The WebOS group at least demonstrates they understand good design. They just don't have enough momentum or support at this point to be a factor.

      RIM is a complete joke anymore. The Playbook attempt is just embarrassing. They even make Motorola look good.
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives


        How come someone who disagrees with your opinion has to be a "droidtard"? Maybe if you took the professional route, we could all have an interesting conversation. Instead, all we get are flaming fan-boys on all sides. Seems a waste to me...
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives


        My post used both "Android user" and "droidtard". There is a difference. Android user is self explanatory. The "droidtard" reference was used in the same context as those claiming each and every new Android based product will be the next ipad/iphone killer. You seem to have read a buzzword and immediately tuned out without addressing the content of the post. If you prefer a different term to refer to die hard zealots who don't offer reasoning to back up their position, I'm open to suggestions.
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives


        You make many good points but I can't help but think that Steve Jobs could kick the bucket any given year and then Apple will be instantly transported from King of the Mountain to desperately foundering behemoth.
      • RE: Apple iPad vs. Android Xoom: Judgment day arrives

        @techconc Very good points. I own and love an Asus Transformer. I'm convinced it gives me a much better experience than what an iPad or iPad 2 ever could. I hate iTunes with a passion. It's bloated, it's clunky and it semi-bricked my iPhone more than once (faulty firmware download which iTunes doesn't checksum before wiping the phone's existing OS - RETARDED design).
        But If my mom were to come and ask me what to buy I'd say an iPad. "It just works". My Asus is very close to that, but not quite.
      • It's a shame folk use the term 'iPad Killer'

        @techconc <br><br>I use Android and IOS and can see the benefits in both but I do hate the term iPad killer. It just throws up the hatred and ends up in a pointless debate where nobody listens. I just want to have the option to use what suits me... without a zealot on either side telling me it's rubbish. Long live Android, Long live IOS, Long live MS, Long live WEBOS, Long live Playbook.<br><br>RIM is in transition and will be relevent again one day. I've no doubt the playbook will be a factor for businesses and am tring to get one for myself. My Blackberry torch is a fantastic work device and my iphone is unused now.<br><br>We're looking for open access to work systems; Any of the above gadgets should be available for end-users hopefully, and all I want is the choice to buy a gadget of my choice to work and play.<br><br>ps The biggest factor ipad chasers have is the iPad has the name and enough 'sheep' followers, and it does its job really, really well. I meet so many folk who couldn't spell html try to tell me what an iPad does and that its got a camera. WooHoo, they think it's all there is and think they're supper cool to have one in their hands. For best integration and reliability, and use by anyone the igadgets are great. Android devices I've seen are less slick (some are off the scale and for tech folk only if you ask me) but can offer more in certain areas. I hope others get a foothold too... the market is more than big enough for all the key players just now, and there is scope to get a 'best fit' from the competition.