Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

227

August 31, 2011 • Editorials

To iPad or Not to iPad?

It’s simply the latest variation of that popular topic:  is your [thing] better than my [thing], or is it the other way ’round?  Wine, or beer?  Ford or GM?   Tastes great, or less filling?  Mac or PC?  “Firefly” or “Buffy”?  (“Firefly”, dammit!)

Yesterday, your faithful Gear Diary team was hashing over the topic of iPad, or Android tablet.  As you might expect with a collection of Appleheads, PC mavens, UNIX and Linux folks, and all the rest, it got heated, involved, and nerdly.

It started with a friendly discussion between Francis and Joel as to which device Joel might soon be buying, and it developed from there:
 Joel McLaughlin

Going to BUY the device! 🙂 Not saying which one it will be just yet. 🙂

 Francis Scardino

I’m betting a Transformer.

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Francis Scardino

Currently number 1… 😉 That is unless the EeePad Slider comes out! 😉

 Michael Anderson in reply to Francis Scardino

I was just at Best Buy (son getting the ‘special edition’ of Lil Wayne’s Carter IV) … not a huge fan of the transformer – Android isn’t really ready for tablet prime time yet, let alone laptop-land …

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Michael Anderson

Every platform has to start somewhere. I only see Android getting better. It just depends on what you want to do.

The iPad 2 still isn’t out [of the running], but it’s really lower on my list compared to the Transformer.

 Francis Scardino in reply to Michael Anderson

I would have to respectfully disagree (I know, shocker. hah) I don’t really see why Android is not prime time tab material. My Nook Color, Galaxy 7″, and G tablet all run (ran) near flawlessly. Honeycomb is arguable. But I cannot see what setback Android is on a tablet over a phone. Short of call features, They run almost exactly alike. Honeycomb is a different story, but even that runs pretty damn fast on the new galaxy and the transformer has all the extras that attract a good crowd. Interested in wondering why Android is not Tab friendly in your eyes.

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Francis Scardino

When I use the iPad 2 at work, it feels so much like a blowed up iPod touch it’s not funny. Almost like the interface itself doesn’t take full advantage of the screen with the gap between the icons and more. It felt ok, but not like it should. My opinion only. I could live with the limitations, but do I really want to?

 Francis Scardino in reply to Joel McLaughlin

Using an iPad for me is of course slightly awkward due to the fact that I only use it for some work stuff and to play some games on off time. I dont really like the layout of the system or the lack of personalization. I personally dont have a need to ever use an iPad if it were not for some of the apps that we use. Most often I use a tablet for entertainment purposes or couch surfing. The necessity to encode movies, music, and lack of flash just dont cut it for me.

I dont want to rip every movie I have and sync via iTunes if I want it on my tablet. Any format music and movie works on most android and I can simply copy/paste right over to mass storage. Again just my opinion but some things I just cannot do without. And no matter what anyone on this planet preaches, Flash is not dead. Not by a longshot. I will argue that till im blue in the face.

Again, just my opinion. But I do like a lot of iOS apps, games, and the hardware itself. I just dont like the cookie cutter layout (although it is improving.
 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Francis Scardino

I am kind of in the same place. I want to like iOS, but I don’t like being forced into a, well, dare I say it? Ecosystem. The iOS wants you to do things Apple’s way and only Apple’s way. You may be able to work around it, but then Apple undo your workaround on the next OS update.

Now not with my iPod, but with any mass storage media player, I could use Doggcatcher to download media and then copy it to a Sansa and be able to PLAY IT on the device. Android devices are more like the computers that they ARE than an iPad is.

 Francis Scardino in reply to Joel McLaughlin Well, I did not even get into the “enthusiast” standpoint of it. I was mainly talking about consumer driven. I have at least half dozen apps that are testers or beta from some developer friends, Apple would never let you do that.

 Doug Moran in reply to Francis Scardino

I’ve reripped so many movies so many times, I hardly even think about it any more. I started ripping for my Tapwave Zodiac, then reripped for my HTC Uni, then reripped again for iOS, and now am reripping again as blu-ray has come out. I’ve just given up on that one myself, Dino. (I think I’ve reripped Firefly about half a dozen times.)

 Francis Scardino in reply to Doug Moran

I’m sure it’s like second nature. But for example. I can trade or give music and movies to others with an Android device without issue. While we were waiting to go out and pick up people in teh flood, we watch movies as usual. I hooked up a projector and played a few movies by using an Iconia tab over HDMI. The movies played from a thumbstick that we popped in the tablet and after I was able to give the movies to some others to use on whatever they wanted. If that were an iPad I would have had to copy movie to computer, covert movie, sync iPad. In the army all we do is swap movies. With Android, it’s as simple as plugging in an external USB drive with the content directly to the device, or just plugging it in to any pc and dragging the movies over. Even with fragmentation you can play 85% of all formats with free software from the market.

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Francis Scardino

Just wish the Android port of VLC would some out.

 Francis Scardino in reply to Joel McLaughlin

I love MoboPlayer. Uses hardware decode. Plays almost anything.

 Michael Anderson in reply to Francis Scardino

Apps unavailable – Android broken.

Kindle doesn’t work on some tablets, crashes on all of them – Android broken.

USB connection unreliable across tablets depending on computer OS, unlike smartphone – Android Honeycomb still beta class.

Bluetooth stack unreliable for keyboards – Honeycomb is beta… and so on.

Bottom line, Android Honeycomb is nowhere near the polish level in late 2011 that the iPad had 18 months ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tablet, but I honestly see anyone calling Android tablets at the same quality level as iPad as pure apologist. Just not reality.

 Francis Scardino in reply to Michael Anderson

I cannot speak too much for Honeycomb. The build I am using is AOSP. I have zero if any of those issues with my Galaxy tab 7″. Of course I am not the norm since I run Vanilla ROMs, but I see your point. I still cannot agree that it is not ready for prime time, I mean hell, I use a PS3 controller with my Tab and had BT support on the NC when it was not supposed to even be hardware supported. Polish, I understand, but again with AOSP style polish it up to the user. I’m not sure what intent HC [Honeycomb]was to be put on the market, but it’s clear 4.0 should be eliminating that altogether. Hope the current tabs all get it.

 Francis Scardino in reply to Francis Scardino

I appreciate your points, all quite valid. But talking USB support, well you can simply forget it unless you have iTunes installed. No mass storage mode, no expandability, and not a single port for anything without a dongle. A big deal, maybe not for some but definitely for others. And for me with the military especially, if you are off the grid , have no computer, or have no service then Apple is definitely a crutch. With Android you can share apps without having service. We backup and transfer apps from phone to phone or to tablet (legally) using BT to share between. Like with work we are not allowed WiFi, and you cannot connect to a PC. But we can copy to thumbstick, SD card, or download on phone and transfer to tablet from mobile to mobile. As far as sending an app from phone or tab to anything else, I dont think that is possible. So that is where the crutch lies for me. Too confined for me.

 Doug Moran

You can store in the cloud. Aside from Apple, there are several iOS third-party cloud-storage apps. So you could upload your movies to the cloud, then access them from anywhere. I’m going to give this a try myself fairly soon.

 Michael Anderson in reply to Francis Scardino

You are talking two different things here – operating as designed compared to actual issues with a semi-functional product.

If you buy a product such as the iPad expecting the ability to side-load apps, use a SD card, and so on … it is your problem.

If you buy a product such as an Android tablet expecting to connect as a drive to any computer, to have bluetooth keyboards connect and function reliably, to have apps work or at least show up – and it doesn’t … that is a product issue.

If the iPad doesn’t work for you because of the core product, that is fine – there is a reason for multiple product types and so on.

But that is different than inconsistent hardware and/or software functionality across multiple devices carrying the same supposed OS. If I plug a basic mouse into a PC or Mac USB port, something predictable and expected happens. When I plug an iOS device into a USB port, something predictable and expected happens. When I plug an Android device into a USB port … who the heck knows what will happen.

My best analogy is Hackintosh – you get an OS that will pretty much run on a variety of hardware, but there is some stuff that doesn’t work correctly or at all, and some things behave differently according to various hardware options and so on. That is fine for Hackintosh, as it is an unsupported hobbyist setup. Problem is, Android on Tablets is Hackintosh right now. Good OS, good hardware … inconsistent experience.

Here is a defining moment for Android, which says everything about how it behaves, how it treats users, and how it regards consistency:

Android Market runs in landscape mode. If you start it in landscape mode, no issue. If you start it in portrait mode, it opens in landscape mode. If you are doing something else in portrait mode, have the screen toggle locked (in other words, DON’T CHANGE TO LANDSCAPE), and you do something that launches the market? Yep – landscape mode.

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Doug Moran

What if the cloud isn’t available?

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Michael Anderson

It’s funny…..definition of quality is different for everyone. The iPad is great. I will give you that. However it’s far from a perfect device. Apple’s iOS isn’t bug free and niehter is Android 3.2.

 Michael Anderson in reply to Joel McLaughlin

Joel, they are not even on the same plane of existence in terms of consistency of experience, tendency to crash, standardized implementation and so on. And it is easy to say ‘well, that is because Apple controls hardware and software’ … but the difference is glaring. I use both Honeycomb and iOS constantly every day for two weeks now … and … well, it just isn’t even close.

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Michael Anderson: For YOU Michael.

Things I dislike are:

Notifications
Button to go back is in the wrong place on many screens.
Apps haven’t crashed but they have not worked until I rebooted the iPad.
Little Things with Safari
Can’t replace built in functions.
No iPad Facebook application!
Superfluous graphical design in calendar application(don’t need my calendar to look like a paper calendar) .
I should be able to swipe between months in calendar like you can do when turning pages in iBooks.
Only one real button!

With Android if I don’t like something I can change it. With iOS I can’t unless I jailbreak.

Polish can be done by me with Android. With iOS, Apple has to polish it. Polish is a perspective point of view. 3.2 has the polish and features I need. Not saying iOS isn’t great. It just may not be for me.

If I am wrong, enlighten me.

Michael Anderson: Polish is NOT something ‘you’ can do – it is based on an underlying infrastructure. You cannot hack in polish.There is a difference between ‘things you do not like’ and ‘things that do not work’. Not liking Apple notifications is different than plugging a cable in and not getting SD card mounting.

Also, there is no tablet facebook app for Android either …

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Michael Anderson

Really? Cyanogen has put a lot of polish on Gingerbread… and every version before it. Including the underlying infrastructure.

 Michael Anderson in reply to Joel McLaughlin

Can I buy it in a store on a retail system? No. Then it is Hackintosh – an admission that the retail OS is an unfinished mess that needs to be replaced. Not ready for prime time, half-baked whatever.

Joel – Android is perfect for you and for Linux users … because there is an underlying desire to tweak and essentially NOT have things ‘just work’, because the challenge of rebuilding kernels and tweaking driver loading and so on is part of the appeal. I remember my first Linux install back in the early 90’s, it was a blast.

Dan mentioned a survey a while back he had taken showing just how non-normal all of us geeks are, so I try to apply a ‘reality filter’ through my family when possible. If the words ‘root’ or ‘custom ROM’ are needed to do something, you have just left 99.9% of the world behind.

Further on Facebook, on iOS I can install Facebook on my iPad. But on Android tablet I can’t even install it – because of ‘Google Draconian Decisions’. 🙂

 Carly Zektzer in reply to Michael Anderson

Just chiming in that you guys should definitely cut & paste this whole discussion into a GearChat., it’s the modern “Mac vs PC”.

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Carly Zektzer

That it is Carly!

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Michael Anderson

And NOTHING just works. Even the iPad doesn’t JUST work. There are bugs in everything.

 Judie Lipsett Stanford in reply to Carly Zektzer

Thank you. I awoke to 38 (!!!) yams, and many had the makings of a quality article.

 Michael Anderson in reply to Judie Lipsett Stanford

I think between Joel’s article and my Iconia review we will have captured much of this stuff … most of it we have discussed in the past, but I agree that in a couple of weeks we should do a full-on iOS vs. Android as the new Mac vs. PC debate.

 Francis Scardino in reply to Michael Anderson

Yeah, we pretty much have this argument every few weeks/months. Some things change but unfortunately a lot is still the same argument. 🙂

 Judie Lipsett Stanford in reply to Francis Scardino

Yeah, it is the same argument, but there are always new takes on it. =)

 Doug Moran in reply to Joel McLaughlin

What if your SD card gets zeroed out when it goes through the X-Ray machine at the airport? What if your backup hard drive crashes? What if your main hard drive crashes? What if . . .

C’mon, Joel; you can always come up with disaster scenarios. You were pointing out what you saw as a hole in the iPad, and I was pointing out a possible solution to it. That’s all.

As Michael said, there’s a big difference between “dislikes” and “stuff the OS and hardware simply won’t or can’t do.” And some of your dislikes seem a little weird to me, honestly; how is it Apple’s fault that Facebook hasn’t developed an iPad-native app for iOS yet? And what’s wrong with using the third-party app “Friendly”, which works just fine? And how is that an argument for why the iPad is inferior to an Android tablet running honeycomb?

I guess I just don’t understand your arguments, honestly. Many of your “dislikes” are matters of taste, and things that other people probably like. (e.g., I *like* the fact that the iPad calendar app looks like a paper calendar; I use it more often than any of my other electronic calendars for that very reason.)

And for a release 1 product, the iPad has (and had) fewer bugs than I have seen in the vast majority of released products in my entire career. Yeah, there are still times when I need to reboot the iPad–of course there are. The Bluetooth support is flakey, to put it mildly. But over all, it’s an amazingly-solid piece of software and hardware considering how short a time it’s been on the market. Windows has been out *for three decades*, and it’s still so buggy that I just make it a habit to reboot my Lenovo *every day*, simply as preventative maintenance. I don’t have to do that with my iPad very often, and I *rarely* have to do it with my iPhone. (I used to have to reboot my HTC Uni several times a day!)

 Joel McLaughlin in reply to Doug Moran

How is it Google ‘s fault that the Kindle application crashes on Mike’s Iconia?

 Doug Moran in reply to Joel McLaughlin

I didn’t say it was. But you’re using the lack of a iPad-native third-party app to downgrade the iPad/iOS user experience, and that doesn’t make any sense to me.

 

So, what’s your opinion on this, the titanic struggle of our time: to Ipad or not to iPad?

Chime in below!

2 Responses to " To iPad or Not to iPad? "

  1. David Min says:

    Wow interesting discussion! A lot of good points made.

    I have an iPad2, Xoom and Samsung G-Tab 10.1, but I am an admitted Apple Fanboi so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    If you look at the device platforms from the standpoint of the broader market, iPad/iOS is hands down the winner. No other tablet maker even comes close. The iPad dominates consumer consumption “like a fat kid loves cake.” But the discussion goes far deeper than just looking at market dominance/penetration. It’s the old Betamax vs. VHS debate.

    Ultimately, I think it is pointless to try and determine which platform is superior, mainly because a determination of that variety will completely depend upon the criteria used to measure superiority. By that, I mean that no tablet will be “all things to all people.” So one’s view of what makes a device superior will be dependent upon what one finds to be important. Customisability vs. stability? App selection vs. App quality? One can make strong arguments in every case.

    I like to fiddle with my devices, but I don’t have a lot of time to spare to figure out why my device stopped working after I made a rooted it and loaded a custom ROM. So if you are talking about a device that I want to be using regularly, I am not going to take a risk and do something that could potentially make the device unusable or faulty until I have the time to figure out what I did wrong. Now don’t get me wrong, I do like doing weird things to some of the “toys” that I own. I have loaded Mac OS X onto my HTC Shift several years ago. However, this was a pet project to fill some spare time.

    I think most users don’t really like to tinker that much with their devices. It’s like back in the day with VCR’s that were in a lot of folk’s homes that still were blinking 12:00. They just want to USE their devices and will flock to the device that provides for the most seamless experience for an otherwise techno-unsavvy person.

    As far as USB etc. goes, with the new class of portable media server hard drives that manufacturers seem to be making, the issue of USB for media transfer may become moot.

  2. Christopher Gavula says:

    I wish I had bought this discussion on Yammer, but I’ll add my 2 cents worth here:

    I have had an Android phone (HTC Evo 3D running 2.3.4) for a number of weeks now and I have a Cisco tablet that I just started working with (running Android 2.2.2) and I have to say that I agree with Michael that Android is NOT anywhere close to the level of consistency and polish that iOS is. Sorry – you can tweak it into oblivion – that is absolutely true – but that doesn’t hide the weird pauses, huge inconsistencies (much bigger and more glaring than any inconsistencies you may find in iOS). I find the HTC Sense interface to be nearly useless (yes, you can mod and go back to a generic Android build, but most consumers won’t know how or want to do that because it may void their warranty). The point is that I can modify Android, but I shouldn’t have to to get a useable device! Phone or tablet!

    I have to add that the depth of modifiability on Android should not be ignored – you guys clearly like it and depend on it – you have mentioned it several times here – but that doesn’t necessarily make for a good end-user experience and I still argue (yes, we’ve had this argument before) that MOST people will not customize to any real degree. Some will, but most will not.

    At my work, we’ve recently deployed both iOS and Android phones (a few hundred) and the support calls are through the roof on the Android phones but not the iOS phones – why? because the iOS phones work (mostly) the way people expect and it’s pretty easy for them to intuit what they need to do. THis is simply not true for Android devices. The learning curve for them is higher – significantly. Worse, the Android phones are really inconsistent in how they operate so people are having trouble finding the things they need and understanding what they need to do to make things work. Interfaces like HTC Sense try to help, but it’s like putting lipstick on a pig – it’s pretty but once you get under the initial surface, its a real mess and the inconsistencies are even more obvious. It is EXACTLY the same complaint I always had about those interfaces we used to put on top of Windows Mobile to make it tolerable. It just magnifies the flaws and problems. That said, it is easier to lock the Android phones down (but harder to avoid malware and viruses), so the IT guys love them, but so far, most of the users are less than enamored with them.

    For me, however, the worst part is the weird pauses that seem to occur in the devices I’ve tried (most likely introduced by the add-on interface) and the less-than-sensitive screens most seem to exhibit. You can say that the interface manufacturer is to blame for the weird behavior (WM proponents used to make many of the same arguments) but the reality is that the OS allows it and doesn’t sandbox it to prevent those weird pauses and memory issues so the OS IS to at least partly to blame.

    The typing experience on both my devices is also less than ideal – the screen keyboards seem to require special care in typing that isn’t necessary on my i-devices. And Android has the only type-checking system that I’ve found that is WORSE than the one in iOS (which is, in itself, pretty terrible). As a side note – I have disabled the correction mechanisms on BOTH platforms!

    In my HTC phone (and many of them) you can only use the SD card by removing the battery cover and battery (because it’s in the way). I’d hardly call that functional. I know not all devices have this issue – my tablet doesn’t) but it is yet another hurdle that many consumers will have to deal with.

    As far as expandability – you absolutely have the cloud if you wish. There are a number of apps that make that available on iOS. You can also get pictures and movies into the iOS device through the SD or USB adapter – both very small – and not requiring a computer. There are also a number of apps – like Good Reader – that will move media (yes – including audio and video) into the device via a cloud, or email – again NOT requiring a computer. So people need to stop saying you MUST use a computer, you MUST use iTunes. It is not true. It is certainly the preferred mechanism (one that I don’t mind using at all since it also does a decent job organizing and cataloging), but it is NOT a requirement in many cases unless you want it to be.

    Last major point – apps almost always look better in their iOS flavors. The consistency in interface design and hardware specs makes this possible. You can run most iPhone apps on the iPad and then hit the 2x button and the app will frequently still look pretty good. I’ve got a number of apps on Android, on the Evo that look like crap and buttons are misplaced, etc. because of poor interface design and lack of a consistent scaling mechanism to improve porting of apps to multiple devices and displays. That kind of inconsistency is almost unheard of on iOS devices. Yes, it’s the developer’s fault, but as a consumer buying an app I won’t know that until I’ve bought the app (yes return is possible) but the disappointment and wasted time is already there. That does not make for a great consumer experience. That stuff needs to mature.

    Android has been making huge leaps and improvements – that must be recognized. And it can be configured in a huge number of ways. But MOST people will not do this (unless they have help). For most people they will find the inconsistencies a hurdle. it is still behind – in terms of polish and usability – where iOS was at this same time in its life. Customizability and raw features do NOT automatically translate into usability and Android still has a way to go on delivering usability and a consistent, polished experience. iOS is NOT perfect – definitely not – but it is much more consistent and polished.

    you guys mention that many of the hoped-for improvements will come in Android 4.x (like improvements in screen display/scaling), but if you are going to mention things coming in Android 4.x as a supporting argument, then you must also acknowledge the upcoming improvements in syncing, alerts, etc. coming iniOS 5.x which will be here long before Android 4.x.

    OK – again – all of this is just my 2 cents worth. In the end, you must decide which items are the most important to you – customizability – or consistency and polish. But I thought it was important to at least help dispel the notion that you had to use a computer to share (legally) media on iOS devices. That is simply incorrect.

Leave a Reply