iPad 2 vs. Xoom

Strangely, now that the spec sheet is out, people don’t have as much to grouse about when it comes to the iPad. However, there are still some writers who can’t help but take pot shots at it. I will take as my subject Preston Gralla’s piece titled “Motorola Xoom versus the iPad 2 — the Xoom is a clear winner.” I will include his complete article, but add my own editorial:

Apple’s revamped iPad, the iPad 2, is certainly an improvement over the original iPad. But when compared head to head against the Motorola Xoom, the Xoom still wins. Here’s why.

As I explained in a previous blog, Eight reasons the Motorola Xoom beats the iPad, the Xoom is far superior to the original iPad. And now that the iPad 2 has been announced, it’s clear that the Xoom is superior to the new iPad, for almost all of the same reasons.

Ok, he wrote something before and he needs to defend it. Fair enough, let the defense begin.

The major new additions to the iPad include a dual-core processor and front and rear cameras, so in those instances, it’s caught up to the Xoom. The new svelter and slightly thinner design is good as well. A gyroscope has been added, which the Xoom already has. And software tweaks, via the new iOS 4.3, are welcome as well.

So for starters…well ok, the iPad is sexier, but that doesn’t make it better, it’s just good. And the other stuff puts it on par with the Xoom. Let’s see what else the defense has.

But that still leaves the Xoom a better tablet than the iPad. Start with the operating system. With iOS 4.3, iOS was tweaked but didn’t get a dramatic overhaul. Android 3.0, called Honeycomb, is simply better than the iOS for a number of reasons.

So we are going to say that the operating system is a feature. Ok. We can do that. An operating system that Motorola depends on someone else* to make for it is a feature. Check. And he proposes Honeycomb is simply better. And what are the specific reasons?

It handles notifications, multi-tasking and app switching better. The widgets still outpace anything on the iOS.

“It” meaning the OS, which is a feature that Motorola has outsourced, handles notifications better. One point for the Xoom. Although I would say it is a matter of opinion, most people agree this is true. The next opinion is that multi-tasking and app switching is handled better on the Xoom Honeycomb. If allowing any application to run whatever it wants without you knowing is considered better, then Xoom gets another point. If, however, you don’t want to have to manage what is running on your device, iPad iOS gets the point. Widgets don’t exist on iOS. There is a point for Xoom. So what other specific reasons are there?

And Honeycomb has more features and is more customizable. The iOS 4.3 tweaks did nothing to change any of that.

More features…I see…like um…features that aren’t on iOS like…well…well it is more customizable. Like you can theme your home screens. I mean I guess that is what he is talking about since he didn’t mention anything specific. So suddenly Apple isn’t the one that is putting in low-function, high beauty stuff – it’s Android. Well what else makes Xoom better?

The Chrome-like browser built into Xoom trumps the Safari running on the iPad 2. Xoom’s browser sports tabs, will sync bookmarks with PC, Mac, and Linux versions of Chrome, and uses a single box for typing URLs and searching.

I think that tabbed browsing is cool. iOS also syncs bookmarks though Mobile Me. And as for a single box…really? That is important? If you say so.

Xoom, of course, will be able to play Flash relatively soon. The iPad 2 will never do it. Clearly, being able to run Flash is better than being banned from running Flash.

Will be. So not now, but later. And I truly hope that Xoom users find that Flash works great. Because from what I have seen of Flash on Android, it kind of sucks. When it doesn’t suck, Xoom will get a point.

When you buy an iPad 2, you’ll be subject to the whims of what Apple wants you to download and doesn’t want you to download. Want to be able to get information from the WikiLeaks site using an app, for example? Don’t try doing it on your iPad 2 — Apple has banned any app from letting you do that. It bans plenty of other apps as well. With the Xoom, you can download and use any app you want.

Really? Apps? You want to go there? I am not even going to make a comparison to the number of quality apps in each store, or the number of tablet specific apps. I will just say that some users, like me, prefer Apple’s protective nature and would say that this is good feature. You never have to worry about malware on an iOS device If you want other stuff, you can use the web to get it. Even WikiLeaks.

Finally, the Xoom’s built-in apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar still trump anything built into the iPad 2.

How are they better? The world may never know what the author was thinking because he doesn’t get specific. But just know that in the opinion of Gralla, Apple, legendary for interface design, and usability/ease of use, is somehow, in some way, lacking in its built in applications, even though each of the services described above can be used seamlessly with iOS’s build in apps, or as great web apps. Somehow, Androids apps “trump” iOS’s.

And using the Xoom’s Tegra 2 chip, you get nifty new features, such as vector graphics and 3D rendering in Google Maps.

3D rending is definitely nifty. I am not sure how useful it is in maps, but I guess users will just have to get by with the hundreds of navigation/maps apps that currently exist on the iOS app store. Including Google Earth. As for 3D rendering generally, I think iOS is doing just fine.

Unfortunatley, that is the complete list of reasons that the “Xoom is the clear winner.” Let’s recap the points awarded:

  • Better notification handling
  • 1/2 point for multitasking/app switching
  • Widgets
  • 1/2 point for some vague “features” and “customizability”
  • 1 point for tabbed browsing and the single box (I just can’t believe that is a top feature)
  • 1 potential future point for the ability run Flash in a non-sucky way
  • 1 point if you feel comfortable being your own app screener

That is it folks. 6 points at most. Those are your key differentiators. But I don’t really think it is a spec battle. I think it is an experience battle. From what I have heard about the iPad’s better battery life, app quality and selection and seamless integration into technology you already use, it sounds like the overall experience will be better. And I think that word will continue to spread.

* From Engadget’s review of the Xoom: “Strangely, there’s a microSD slot present on the device, but it’s non-functioning at this point. When we pressed Motorola, the company made it sound like it was waiting on a software update from Google to enable the slot. Very strange stuff.”

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