Don’t get me wrong, I really like my Android phone.
I like that I can root the device to give myself superuser permissions. I like that I can overclock my processor to improve computing speeds. I like that I can plug in more data space and install apps directly on my microSD card to save the internal storage for other kinds of data. With an Apple device, I wouldn’t have so many options.
But it’s for all these same reasons that the iPad might be the right choice for anyone looking at tablet computers as a gift for a loved one this year. If you’re anything like Mike Howie and me, you appreciate the level of customization that Android provides, right down to the operating system itself. But we’re technology nerds, and we’re in the minority.
Out of the box, I think the iPad wins. Its operating system is designed to be intuitive for anyone. You won’t be able to customize it the way you can the Android operating system, but for the majority of users, you won’t want to. You don’t need to be a computer buff to use the iPad (you don’t need to be a computer buff to use an Android tablet, either, but it helps).
With the iPad, all you have to do is plug the tablet into a computer with iTunes, and everything just, kind of, happens. Your music syncs. Your movies sync. Your software updates itself. There’s a new feature for iPad called the iCloud, which I admittedly haven’t used yet, having not found a need to update my iPad’s operating software in quite some time. With iCloud, users can upload all kinds of documents to the “cloud,” and they’ll be available across all your Apple devices. Again, they’re just there.
According to the Apple website, its App Store now contains 140,000 apps tailored to the iPad. That means the function, size, layout and design of the programs are geared specifically toward iPad users. You won’t get that kind of specificity with tablets that run on other platforms.
There are some beautiful apps — in both design and function — that are available only to iPad users. One of my favorites is Flipboard, which aggregates your social media like Twitter and Facebook into a readable layout. The best way I can describe it: It’s like reading a magazine about your own life, written by your friends. The Android Market has some imitations of this app, but so far I’ve found nothing that really compares.
I could go on and on about iPad apps that can make simple even arduous tasks, like editing audio or video. Or maybe you want to run your tablet like a high-powered laptop computer. Bam. Splashtop Remote Desktop.
I don’t mean to insinuate the iPad is flawless — I’ve already mentioned the lack of flexibility from how Apple wants you to use your device. The other big one is price: The iPad starts at about $500, and quite a bit more if you want more data storage (I should note here that my iPad was free — I won it in a drawing). That has been my hang-up with Apple products for years and something I have a hard time justifying. You’re paying for style. I’ll admit, it’s sleek. But you can get a more clunky device with similar features for a lot less cash.
But if it’s ease of use that you want, and you don’t mind the bigger price tag, the iPad is the way to go. What it comes down to, I think, is the recipient. Are you buying for a technology geek who will be thrilled to mess with those functions like root permissions and overclocking? Or is it someone who wants good functionality out of the box?
There’s a reason Apple has dominated the MP3 market with its iPod for a decade, and it’s the same reason I believe it will continue to dominate in the tablet market. Apple continues to innovate for the mass market. Its devices are designed to be accessible to everyone, and it promises to keep its products ahead of the curve.