The iPad family defines the tablet computer for many users, and with good reason. It’s a quartet of well-built, easy-to-learn devices that build on Apple’s success with the iPhone. But unlike iPhones, iPads are more dominant in their market segment. Android tablets are known to be inexpensive utility devices that can’t hope to match Apple’s slates.
As a result, I’ve been an iPad user for as long as I’ve been using tablets, yet continue to hear disappointing things about the Android equivalents; although I enjoyed the Amazon Fire tablets to some extent, I knew they weren’t for me.
This year that changed when I got the chance to try out the Samsung Galaxy S7 FE and the Nokia T20. Spending time with two quite different Android tablets made me appreciate that they aren’t that bad, and in some ways they outperform the iPad.
Read on and I’ll share with you the lessons I learned from switching to Android tablets for work and play. Maybe with that knowledge in your pocket, it’ll make you rethink exactly what you want and what. you need a tablet when you decide to buy one.
Switching to Android may offer larger specs
Watching Android, both for tablets and phones, helps put into perspective how much more you can get for your money if you’re willing to ditch iOS. This is particularly visible in the cheapest segment of the market.
I have a 7th gen iPad which, other than an older chipset and an updated Center Stage compatible front camera, is identical to the current 9th gen iPad. And wow is he showing his age. Sure, it’s supposed to be Apple’s entry-level iPad and I shouldn’t expect all you can get from the iPad mini, Air, or Pro models, but despite next month scoring the 12 Years of the iPad, my 10.2-inch model looks a lot like the identical to the 9.7-inch model Steve Jobs waved on January 27, 2010.
So when a few months ago Nokia introduced a 10.4 inch tablet with much smaller bezels and facial unlock to boot, I wasn’t surprised. But that Apple could get away with selling such obsolete hardware for certain models seems unforgivable.
We see the other side of the story by looking at the Galaxy S7 FE. It’s priced between the base iPad and iPad Air, but it has a larger screen than all iPads except the $ 1,000 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
It’s also worth noting that Android tablets generally use USB-C charging ports, which makes them much easier to connect with any convenient cable for charging. While Apple has changed its iPad ports on recent models, the base iPad still uses the proprietary Lightning port.
… but not always better specs
Because while Apple doesn’t always provide you with the latest hardware, what it does provide works just fine.
Of course, in theory, watching a video on the T20 would be superior because it’s a bigger screen on a proportionately smaller tablet. However, I still prefer my iPad because the colors are so much richer. Plus, it’s just better to hold. Apple always gives its cheaper tablets a premium finish, and while there’s nothing wrong with the materials or ergonomics of the T20, it just doesn’t give off the same luxurious vibe.
It’s also worth mentioning that some users actually like having a physical home button. Not everyone wants to embrace a future of gesture control, and if there’s anyone who knows how to make users feel comfortable with their products, it’s Apple.
Also, while my specific iPad is not a good example, iPads are still more powerful than equivalent Android models thanks to Apple’s use of its powerful A-series chips, and more recently the M1 chip for laptop in the iPad Pro 2021. iPads and their apps run smoothly longer, especially thanks to Apple’s long update schedule for its devices that can last five years or more. Most Android tablets stop updating apart from security upgrades after just two years.
Android can be more generous with its accessories
When you start spending $ 400 or more on a tablet, you may start to think about the extras you can get to make your tablet even more useful. If you’re the type of person who enjoys buying branded trinkets to go with your latest purchase, then you might have noticed that Apple has a very specific way that you need to use its devices, and an equally specific way. for what you should get by default. That’s why I was happy to see Samsung include an S Pen stylus with the Tab S7 FE, while Apple never bothered to include one.
Samsung’s stylus is also a lot nicer to write on, at least in my opinion, than the Apple gen-1 pencil that you can buy as an extra for the base iPad. The S Pen also has a built-in button for additional functions, something you only find (as a touch gesture) on the Apple Pencil 2, exclusive to the iPad mini, Air, and Pro but an even more expensive supplement. .
Where you have to buy accessories separately, Samsung is again offering lower prices. The keyboard case for the Tab S7 FE (which I myself liked using) starts at £ 139, while the regular iPad equivalent starts at £ 159, while being much thicker.
… but you have a lot more choice with Apple
Everyone wants a slice of apple pie, so it’s no surprise that there are countless third-party accessories on offer for every iPad. For example, checking Amazon UK for available cases, there are over 3,000 results for the 9th generation iPad. For the Galaxy Tab S7 FE, it’s just 250. For the Nokia T20, it’s 140.
Maybe you are happy with the default options your Android tablet maker gives you, in which case, great. However, if you’re not a fan of any of the basic accessories, you’re more likely to find something to your liking designed for iPads than Android tablets. Going back to our keyboard case example, Logitech has some great ones for the whole iPad family that cost less than Apple’s. There are no third-party equivalents for Samsung tablets, the closest being a two-piece design that doesn’t integrate the keyboard at all.
Android is worse on big screens than iOS
This one is a refrain you may have heard a few times over the years. While the difference between iOS and Android on smartphones is close enough to boil down to personal preference, the gap widens when these operating systems are used on larger screens.
Apple spends a lot of time running its own apps on iPad and iPhone. Many developers have also spent a lot of time creating exclusive apps for the App Store, as it’s a safer bet than using the notoriously under-moderate Google Play Store.
We can see a fairly standard version of the Android tablet on the Nokia T20. Maybe if you’ve never used an iPad, you would just assume that all tablets are plagued with similarly unoptimized apps. But that’s just not the case with iPads, which Apple sees as having software needs so different from the iPhone that iOS and iPadOS are now two related but separate systems.
Maybe if Google can improve the capabilities of Android’s big screen, as the new Android 12L update has shown, then the gap can be closed. For now though, Android by default is a poor rival to iPadOS.
… unless it is strongly modified
Note that I said “default” there. Google may not yet have figured out how to make Android tablets behave properly, but the foundation is there to do it.
This is a point I learned using the Galaxy Tab S7 FE. One user interface is based on Android, but Samsung doesn’t care so much that it looks like a separate operating system. And luckily, that means you’re having a much better time using it on a tablet-sized screen.
Being limited to Samsung or Apple if you want a good tablet experience is not a wide choice. However, we should be happy that there is currently a choice given Google’s historical lack of interest in focusing on tablet users.
As good as the iPad is in many ways, it shouldn’t be a default choice for those looking for a tablet.
Android tablets vary widely, and you can use that gap to your advantage, finding the ones that best suit your budget, your preferred size, or offer much-needed features bundled together that an equivalent iPad would charge you extra for, or directly do not include. However, the roles change once you buy a tablet, as you can buy a lot more iPad accessories than competitive tablets. In addition, for now, iPadOS is objectively the best operating system. It’s generally more pleasant to use, with a few exceptions, and you’ll get updates for a lot longer.
This advice only really applies when you are making a buying decision in a vacuum. If you already own a lot of Apple, Samsung, or other branded products, you might be better off sticking with them in order to get the most out of all the features available. But if you don’t mind, keep in mind how many options you actually have when buying a tablet.