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