Android VS iOS… Round 1

Recently I decided to pick up a new Android tablet as I’d been using it on my phone for some time, and while I absolutely adore my iPad 2, I wanted to see how far Android had come as far as providing a real challenge to the market domination held by Apple.

My choice was the ASUS Transformer TF300T.  It’s a 10.1″ tablet with the NVidia Tegra 4 processor, 1gb of RAM, 32gb of built-in storage, and an available microSD card slot.  It’s a few ticks lighter than my iPad2 with a higher resolution as well.  I looked over the other options but I felt that short of going online and ordering a Nexus, this was my best option as far as a balance of performance and price.  The option of an attachable dock -w- keyboard was also nice but wasn’t something I picked up at the time.

Now some folks might say it’d be better to compare this against an iPad3, but to be perfectly honest if you’ve got an iPad3 – how likely are you to switch?  Sure, the cost savings are obvious, but if you’re already in the tablet game the big question for you would be whether to stay with Apple or to try something new.

Now lets get my complaints out of the way right off the get go here…

* Power jack is on the long-edge of the tablet.  One thing I didn’t realize was great about my iPad until I got the TF300T was the location of the power jack.  Generally I use my tablet in a seated position or while laying down in bed.  That leaves the jack pressing into my chest, stomach, or against the table which puts undue stress on the joint between the plug and the cable.  I foresee this wearing out sooner rather than later, which leads me to my next complaint…

* Power cable is unreasonably short.  I’d guess it is 3-4′ in length, so if you enjoy using it while plugged in to maintain the battery, plan on buying a longer cable or only sitting intimately close to the nearest outlet.  Good news is that a 3M charging cable is less than $3, but this leads me to my next complaint…

* Cannot charge / use the tablet when connected to a PC via the USB cable.  I generally kept my iPad jacked in to my PC unless I had the power adapter available.  After installing a 3rd party app from Asus I was able to both maintain the charge as well as use the device.  It seems that the TF300T is specifically designed that when connected to anything BUT the available charger, it will only charge when the screen is off.  LAME.

* Apps?  The only way to really get the full experience of any modern tablet is by downloading and installing apps to the device.  Personally, my priority is on gaming but I also require other apps to allow me to do my job remotely.  I’ve never paid much attention to the Google Play store until now, and when compared to the Apple App store – there is very little to actually compare.  The whole Play store interface is generally cumbersome.  Searching for various keywords results in a long list of Apps with a small number that actually provide what the user is looking for.  Other app stores (such as Amazon) are available but as they’re based on providing app’s to the same Android system, you may get more flexibility but IMHO – much less convenience.  It should be able to provide greater granularity to the store without being sued by Apple for copyright infringement.

* Games.  Like I said, I’m an avid gamer.  You don’t have a gaming laptop, Xbox 360, Wii, and iPad 2 each with an obscene catalog of games if your hobby is fly fishing.  I love to game.  I love to explore, conquer, and generally bake the workday out of my brain in new games.  There’s a pretty large collection available, and the HD titles look prettier overall than their sister titles on iOS, but I’ve discovered that there’s just way too much … CRAP in the Android app store.  There’s no real distinction between what plays best on a tablet vs a phone beyond “HD” or “THD” branded titles, so the global availability of Android across many different hardware platforms has drastically cut the price point of owning an Android based tablet but it has also contributed to the general confusion of making the most of the tablet with new apps.  As far as my current addiction – sandbox titles – there are a handful, but none of the 2D staples that I’ve enjoyed on my iPad.

Now for the pros.

* Performance.  This thing is FAST.  Loading the same App on the TF300T vs my iPad 2 indicates that the TF300T spanks it, hands down, as far as loading Apps and booting the device.

* Options.  The TF300T has a GPS, a standard mini-HDMI port, expandable storage, and ‘rooting’ the device allows the user to install any number of custom ROM’s, apparently some folks even install Ubuntu linux on these.  I’ve already rooted it so I can fully explore what it is capable of, I even tried a custom (and popular) ROM known as “Cyanogenmod.”  I ended up removing it shortly after as I found that the performance rapidly degraded with that ROM.  I may try some others but for now the stock ROM, rooted, appears to work just fine for me.

* Price.  With tax, the TF300T cost me $374 at Best Buy.  My iPad2 64GB Wifi cost about $800 new, and an iPad3 with 32gb of storage will run you about $600 and generally lock you in to the “Apple” universe while the TF300T offers many more options for expansion and utilization.

Overall, Android is the best option for a new tablet user IF you’ve never owned an iPad.  When it comes to apps, Apple wins hands down.  Jailbreak the device, and Apple still holds the lead.  If I could make a simple metaphor here, Android is like the wild west of portable computing where iOS is the shining city on a hill.  Not without its flaws mind you, and unless Apple retires its legal department and dusts off its innovation department, I don’t see a future where Android will not dominate… but it’s not there yet.

Here’s hoping that Google gets off its ass and tightens up that app store so there will be a day where I don’t need to switch between my iPad and my Transformer anymore, until then – I’ve got the best of both worlds.

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