Tablet wars – iPad 2 Vs. Xoom Vs. Samsung Galaxy 10.1

Very rarely does one anticipate ‘value for money’ proposition from Apple Inc. Most often, it’s a case of high premium for products that are great in design (eye candy!), thought leadership and artistic execution. Like swiss chocolates, Apple products have seldom required any justification to have, than for the very delight of savouring it.

Within Tablet space, however, it has now become very evident that value/ sq. inch of tablet space is one of the strong pull factors for iPad 2, unless other credible Android players with hardware and financial muscle, like Samsung, LG do something remarkable anytime soon. I know die-hard Apple fans would say “it’s just not the specs, idiot”, but let’s face it – given that no hardware vendor, save HP, has the luxury of optimising hardware with OS, this is just a clear case of Android 3.0 having to rise to the occassion, leaving Tablet makers with better hardware for less $.

When Samsung Galaxy Tab launched last year, though an avid Android follower myself, I couldn’t see how they would justify a steep price for a 7″ display Tablet. Perhaps, mainly because of its size – the lightness and portability, it did seem to garner enough support, somehow, selling 10 million units, reportedly, since its launch. Now that iPad has shed some flab and has also become thinner, albeit at 9.7″ not cut for coat pockets yet, it should be reasonably easy to carry around !

There are enough other URLs in the web that provide comparison on specs, dimensions etc. – e.g this link

So, I’ll just focus on some views/opinions alone.

Earlier at CES, Las Vegas and recently, at MWC, Barcelona – one of the most highlighted topics was the emergence of Android tablets, with a vengence ! And yet, only two or three candidates seem to have a credible chance of wresting some marketshare from Apple !

(1) Motorola Xoom 10.1″ display
(2) Samsung Galaxy 10.1 – 10.1″ display
(3) LG Optimus Pad 8.9″ display

In the wake of iPad 2’s aggressive price plan (sticking to last year’s original iPad price despite being faster, thinner, lighter!), all of the above are caught on wrong foot !

In terms of relative pros and cons, for a platform agnostic person, it could be these -

iPad 2:
Pros -
(1) Beautiful design, still unrivalled !
(2) 65000 iPad specific Apps – some of them very well received and popular (Android may take at least 12-15 months to catch up to a reasonbale state)
(3) At $ 499 for a 16 GB version, very competitive, especially if bought in $ instead of £ /€. Come to think of it – in the UK, it may cost close to £ 125 to get a decent photo LCD to hang on wall – of 9.7″ or nearabout size ! It will cost around £ 150 to get a good in-car DVD player to entertain family on long journeys. If, at about £ 310 an iPad 2 can do these two, besides being a super fast PC substitute, isn’t that a great value !
(4) An area where iTune does come into good utility ! – Podcasts

Cons -
(1) For those who hate iTunes, no escape
(2) Front facing camera is a measly VGA (0.3 mp) quality. Many Android mobiles – in the market or set to launch soon – sport 1.3 or 2 mp cameras even for smaller displays! Come on – Apple, you can’t reserve such easy-win aspects in store for iPad 3 !
(3) Not so brilliant display, good enough though
(4) No DLNA or other easy ways to share multimedia – you’ve got to shell out more money to buy Apple adapters etc from the legendary(-and-fleecing!) Apple accesory ecosystem !
(5) No 4G speeds (for those who are bothered only about WiFi version, this does not hold against it)
(6) No USB port or micro-SD card slots – if you didn’t have any Apple adapter either, those camera shots from your spring trip photos will have to be ‘routed’ via iTunes for viewing !
(7) With Apple flexing more muscle, and in more brazen ways (e.g. 30% cut on subscription fee charges via Apps etc.), chances of content shift happening to more benign platforms in future. But, given that, competition is so ill-prepared, it may take 2-3 years to have a shift so radical to make this a point to worry as of now. And, who knows, in as much as Apple has been subtly pressurised to keep the iPad prices low, it may change subscription fee cut tactics in future !

As for competition, across all three Android devices,
Pros:
(1) Better screen resolution than iPad 2
(2) Ability to mimic a PC experience (which Android smartphones also do well) lot more than iPad, without the pains of Windows OS !
(3) Certainly lot more open – USB ports, micro-SD card slots, DLNA etc. Plug and play your cousin’s camera photos on your device, during his brief stopover at your place, just by insering the card without menacing him to allow ‘import’, ‘sync’ etc !!
(4) Audio/Video pre-installed codecs – usually, this also includes DivX play ability, straight out of the box !
(5) Less/Nil money spent on proprietary ‘adapters’
(6) Support for Flash – (Xoom is expected to get it as an update from Adobe soon).
(7) Customisable screens, helpful Notification bar, Task Manager type utilities, increasing functionalities Over The Air (OTA) mode – very 2011ish !
(8) Lot better Front facing camera and rear camera as well – not a compromised VGA quality – remember, I am not talking of rear camera – whatever pixel it is, since most people may end up using only the front facing for video calls and not to actively take photos/videos.

Cons -
(1) Low number of Apps written specifically for larger form factors – should catch up fast
(2) Some basic stuff still at large – good Podcast channeling App (in-built), support for Unicode, Synchronisation of contact/calendar/notes etc of Outlook (not Exchange)
(3) More expensive than iPad, for comparable models, by about $ 50 – 75 at least.

It’s a rare case where Apple’s pricing is actually going to make even avid Android fans look at iPad 2 closely. It does suffer from usual setbacks of going with Apple based igadgets. However, if there was one device of Apple that every Andorid-using family would like to lay hands on just to tap into Apps that are written only for iOS and not for Android – iPad 2 could well be it.

Till recently, I used to believe that iPod Touch 4th Gen represented the best value for money, of any device from Apple. iPad 2 seems to have just dislodged it from that spot!

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