Tablet? Put an Android under the tree

Ho ho ho. There you are, at an electronics store or looking online because you want to get someone near and dear to you the perfect gift.

A tablet.

An Android tablet.

You’ve made the right choice.

Choice, when you get down to it, is what an Android device gives you.

My Android tablet – a Viewsonic gTablet – has wifi, the Kindle reader, movies, TV shows and lots of games. It has an office suite and a photo editor. It also has a slot for a microSD card (mine will take up to 32 gigs) and a USB port (which will recognize another 32 gigs). So with 16 gigs of internal storage, I’ve got 80 total. I paid about $280 for my tablet and spent another 60 bucks for the external storage I use.

That USB port also very nicely accommodates a case that includes a keyboard. Voila: Laptop!

You can get an iPad, of course. I won’t say you shouldn’t. Choice of operating system is really a personal thing. I happen not to like the control Apple places on its devices, in that you have to use iTunes to move files back and forth, and if you want content and apps, you must get them via iTunes and the iTunes store. And significantly less money will get you the same or more storage on an Android tablet.

I can get content from wherever I want.  Copying to or from the tablet is as easy as using an ordinary USB cable to connect, drag and drop. There’s more than one Market (the iTunes equivalent). Amazon has its own and gives away a paid app every day. Developers can post apps independently on their own sites. And the beauty of any of those is that if there’s something wrong with an app, word will spread pretty quickly.

My family recently went to my niece’s wedding in southern Illinois. On the way back, my sons watched episode after episode of “Community” on my tablet, and there was plenty of battery life left when we got back home. On a vacation this summer, I was able to use it in the car in the middle of South Dakota (with a phone -- yes, an Android phone -- turned into a wifi hotspot) to stay caught up with email and Facebook.

I didn’t like the operating system my tablet came with, so I changed it. There’s an active community of developers online making available all manner of enhancements and versions of the Android OS. It took a little doing, but the actual process of changing to a different system is really quick. And the developers and other users make for an incredible resource when you have a problem or a question.

If you’re getting someone a tablet, screen size is your call. I like the 10-inch screen on my gTablet, but I'm intrigued by the Kindle Fire. Get as much internal memory as you can afford. The tablet should have a slot for either a microSD card or (rarely) an SD card. And it should have a USB port. It should run, at the very least, the Android 2.2 operating system – that is, any number below 2.2 (there are some tablets that are 2.0 out there) is best avoided. That shouldn't be a problem for new devices, but if you run across a real bargain Android tablet, check its specs. If it's not refurbished, it may be a bargain because it's so "old." This matters because the older Android OS won't run all the newest apps.

Next: Five must-have free Android apps.

 

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