Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

HERE they come! The An­droid army is storm­ing mo­bile com­put­ing on ev­ery front. Ev­ery­thing from cheap-and­cheer­ful mo­bile phones through to top-of-the-range tablets, such as the up­com­ing Sam­sung Galaxy Tab 10.1, are putting pres­sure on Ap­ple’s iPad op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

A slew of al­most 100 Google An­droid-driven tablets were on show at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in early Jan­uary.

And in Aus­tralia, like last year, it is Sam­sung that has formed the first beach­head in an other­wise iPad­dom­i­nated land­scape.

But this time Sam­sung’s tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, has bet­ter soft­ware and two iPads in its sights.

The orig­i­nal Galaxy Tab — one of the first on the mar­ket — ran a ver­sion of An­droid that even its mak­ers say was never in­tended for tablets.

A year later, Sam­sung has re­grouped and has a gen­uine iPad com­peti­tor run­ning An­droid’s Hon­ey­comb soft­ware; the pur­pose-built tablet op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

Pick up the new Galaxy Tab and one thing is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent: this tablet has no static home­screen like the iPad. Dy­namic apps pro­vide a much bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence.

Lay­ing the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and (orig­i­nal) iPad side-by­side, it was the first thing by­standers no­ticed.

Of five testers, all de­faulted to the Tab.

Its screen is slightly big­ger than the iPad (9.7-inch ver­sus 10.1-inch) and is brighter thanks to bet­ter res­o­lu­tion (1280 x 800 ver­sus the iPad’s 1024 x 768). Sam­sung has clearly brought its tele­vi­sion re­search to the mo­bile world.

Other Tab hard­ware one­up­man­ship in­cludes an 8-megapixel cam­era, 2-megapixel for­ward-fac­ing cam­era and stereo speak­ers, but hard­ware fades into the back­ground with these tablets.

The big deal is the op­er­at­ing sys­tem An­droid Hon­ey­comb, and how it com­pares with Ap­ple’s iOS soft­ware.

An­droid’s tablet-op­ti­mised soft­ware — also com­ing to Acer and Mo­torola tablets this month — is a cracker.

Dy­namic up­dates, such as hav­ing email mes­sages ap­pear on the home­screen, make sense on a tablet.

Google has worked hard to build tablet-spe­cific na­tive apps, too, such as the ‘‘ won­der wall’’ YouTube ex­pe­ri­ence that lets users swipe movies around the screen.

But, like all open-source projects, there are un­pol­ished el­e­ments.

It can be clunky at switch­ing be­tween land­scape and por- trait modes and apps do crash.

De­vel­op­ment is mov­ing fast, though. An­droid is cut­ting deep into the smart­phone mar­ket with de­vel­op­ers and mar­keters. TechCrunch pre­dicts 2011 will be the year app de­vel­op­ers be­gin re­leas­ing con­tent on An­droid first and Ap­ple iOS sec­ond.

New con­tent-spe­cific An­droid smart­phones, such as Sony Eric­s­son’s Xpe­ria Play, also make a com­pelling case for ramp­ing up An­droid con­tent.

The Xpe­ria Play, due this month, runs An­droid’s slick Ginger­bread edi­tion and is de­signed for game­play.

Sony has added PlayS­ta­tion games to the An­droid Mar­ket to dif­fer­en­ti­ate its hand­set, which will come with 50 pur­pose-built games at launch.

Smart­phone games might seem an odd in­vest­ment, but com­peti­tor Ap­ple’s App Store tells the story. Of the more than 350,000 apps, 65,000 are games and they are the high­est-gross­ing cat­e­gory.

As Google is now en­tic­ing big names — from Sony to Sam­sung— to its vi­sion of ded­i­cated hard­ware and soft­ware, the fight for gad­get dom­i­nance is be­ing tightly con­tested.

Un­der siege: the Ap­ple iPad.

On the march: the Google An­droid­driven Sam­sung Galaxy Tab 10.1

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