Xoom vs. iPad 2

Two prominent competing parties often create heated argument between their followers, Canon vs. Nikon, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, but the battle between Android vs. iOS has the potential to surpass them all. As I happen to own both Xoom and iPad 2, arguably the two best tablets in the market from each side, I dare to jump in and give my views on these two products.

Typical tablet users use their devices to browse web, watch YouTube, read emails and play games. When choosing the product, the overall user experience is a more important factor than the hardware spec. This is what Apple wants people to know, and it is indeed a truth. So, I won’t compare the CPU, video chip or memory of these two devices, not even their cameras, ’cause I rarely use it.

Both devices I have are their wifi-only version. In terms of the physical appealingness, iPad 2 is clearly a winner. Needless to say, this is the philosophy of any Apple’s product. It is lighter, thiner and looks brighter. Anyone who ever holds a tablet for long time will agree that being 130g lighter makes huge difference.

iPad 2’s accessories are better too. Smart Cover is a magic. It perfectly attaches to the device with magnets. Once the cover closes, the display is turned off. It can be folded and used as a support to make iPad stand. It’s colorful and add no weight to the device. On the contrary, so far I haven’t found any good case for Xoom. The one I have makes device even more bulky and it easily attracts dusts, so I stopped using it. I figured the life cycle of these devices is no more than 2 or 3 years. The worst thing can have without a case is some scratches, which is not a big deal to me.

As to the system software, Xoom is the winner. In fact, Android 3.0 that was shipped originally with Xoom was not very stable, but the new 3.1 release corrected all that. Android has several nice features that iOS doesn’t support, such as Live Wallpaper and Widget. The one feature I like the most is the navigation buttons on the task bar at the bottom of the screen. Compared with iPad’s one-button design, a design that has been with Apple since its one-button mouse, three navigation buttons make the device naturally support multi-tasking. Going back and forth between different applications and within an application becomes much easier. In that sense, iPad 2 is just like a large-size iPod.

A more interesting topic is the Apps. This is what Apple often brags about. I would say iPad 2 wins in this category, but by not much. Basic Apps are available on both tablets and each system has their own unique Apps. While Android may have more Apps in total, iPad 2 has a lot of more choices of Apps that are specifically designed for tablets instead of phones that has a smaller display. That is also why overall iPad 2’s Apps are better looking and have better interface design. The advantage of iPad 2 is, because of the its overwhelming popularity, to reach more users, most developers will always provide iPad compatible Apps before working on the Android version.

Speaking of Apps, Apple is notorious on controlling from hardware to software. On iPhone and iPad, Apple even controls what you can run on these devices. Anything that may compete with its own software will be rejected by App Store. One example is XBMC. You have to jailbreak the iPad to install it. On the other hand, I see no reason to root my Xoom. Downloading some App packages, it can be customized as you wish. But, too bad, there is no XBMC on Xoom.

To many people, using Apple is not a choice but a religion. I am not an Apple fan, but I really wish Android can make some good-looking tablets.

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