The Hills Are Greener: The Tablet Inequality

The Hills Are Greener: The Tablet Inequality

Aug 8, 2011

I have gotten to use an Android tablet for a week and a half now. If there is anything that I have learned, it is that Apple’s penchant for design and user experience is quite overblown when comparing the iPad to Android tablets. While the iPad may have come first and sales numbers for Android tablets are struggling, Android tablets are designed to be superior usage experiences.

Android 3.x is just better designed for tablets than iOS is for the iPad. It starts on the lockscreen, where the lock is on the right side, easily accessible by the right thumb when holding the tablet with two hands. The multitasking works much better than iOS, with a virtual button for calling up a list of the most recently opened apps. This means that switching between apps works much better than iOS, where double-tapping the menu button is required to call up the multitasking dock. The notification system is designed to be unobtrusive, with notifications popping up in the bottom right of the static bar without being obtrusive. This bottom right area offers easy access to the recent notification stack, as well as quick options for brightness, rotation, wifi, and quick access to settings. The static bottom bar is always available, and is thumb-accessible. That is the best part about Android tablets -they feel like they were designed for tablet usage, far more so than iOS is for the iPad. It feels like whenever the tablet has to be held in one hand, it’s because thumb access was not impenetrable, with the exception of the keyboard; thankfully it is easy to find thumb keyboards on Android Market.

Compare this to the iPad, where the device just feels like a blown up iPhone after using an Android tablet. The OS itself is not designed for tablets. Many elements feel placed where they are because that’s where they were on the iPhone, like the lock slider being in the bottom center of the lockscreen. While Apple is making improvements, like a builtin thumb keyboard, and an improved notification system that won’t entirely interrupt apps with a small box in the center of the screen, it will still just feel like a bigger iPhone. The apps are what defines the tablet experience of the iPad, not the OS itself. While this is less of a problem with the iPad having App Store access, than the limited selection of tablet apps on the Android Market, it still feels like Apple could do more to make the iPad feel like a more natural tablet experience. Even having more apps on the homescreens like Android has would help improve the experience.

User experience is Apple’s strength! So why does a tablet made by Motorola and featuring a Google-designed OS feel more comfortable and natural than Apple hardware and software? The iPad I love because of the apps and games for it; my Android tablet I love because it is better to use. The apps will come. The iPad was the first major tablet, but I have learned it is not the best tablet. Android is the OS that is supposed to be rougher around the edges, yet it somehow is better as an OS?

Carter Dotson
Carter Dotson, editor of Android Rundown, has been covering Android since late 2010, and the mobile industry as a whole since 2009. Originally from Texas, he has recently moved to Chicago. He loves both iOS and Android for what they are - we can all get along!
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