Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - COVER STORY - BY ASHISH BHA­TIA

Circa 2011, ev­ery­one and their grand­moth­ers want a tablet. A mo­bile de­vice that is much big­ger than a smart­phone, but smaller than a lap­top, tablets are fast gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity as a sec­ondary de­vice of choice for any­one look­ing for the power of a lap­top—sans its com­plex­ity. Most peo­ple jump at the idea of a tablet be­cause its size makes it so much more con­ve­nient to carry around, sim­ple to use while serv­ing mul­ti­ple pur­poses. Along with the porta­bil­ity and sim­plic­ity what ap­peals to even the non-tech crowd is the in­tu­itive­ness of a tablet’s nat­u­ral user in­ter­face—touch.

While there is a sur­feit of op­tions in the mar­ket, the tablet world is pre­dom­i­nantly di­vided be­tween the Ap­ple ipad and Android hemi­spheres. Ap­ple, the com­pany solely re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing the tablet a near­house­hold word to­day, con­tin­ues to lead from the front—in both in­no­va­tion and pop­u­lar­ity.

The Android OS, on the other hand, has many torch­bear­ers and spans across the ma­jor­ity of tablets to­day. (The only ex­cep­tions be­ing the Black­berry Play­book from RIM and a smat­ter­ing of Win­dows of­fer­ings). The wide spread of the Android op­er­at­ing sys­tem across varied man­u­fac­tur­ers—along with its com­mon pool of

apps—serve as Great Equalis­ers in the non-ios world. This makes choos­ing an Android tablet all the more dif­fi­cult. So it boils down to look­ing for sub­tle, oblique dif­fer­en­tia­tors, per­sonal pref­er­ences and peer ref­er­ences. By and large, the whole af­fairs has be­come a mat­ter of the ipad vs the Rest.


Hear ye, hear ye, all and sundry, harken to our tale of woe… While there have been con­spic­u­ous strides— nay, al­most a swag­ger—in Android’s strides in the past year, it is still far from reach­ing the promised land. We’ve been trawl­ing and tun­nelling the Android Mar­ket, but we’re hard put to find sparkling apps. It’s been six months since the birth of Hon­ey­comb, the much bal­ly­hooed tablet-spe­cific ver­sion of Android, yet the apps on it are few and far be­tween. It’s thum­be­liev­able! With the might of al­most all global giants be­hind it, shouldn’t the trickle have long be­come a flood? And then where’s the magic? We need some high ni­trate fire­works here, guys! The few score and ten that have man­aged to emerge are mere me-toos of apps that have been around on the Ap­ple IOS for months. There is noth­ing ar­rest­ing, eye­catch­ing or some­thing that will make you go WOW! Not yet, at least. For­get that, the Android de­vel­oper com­mu­nity is yet to con­jure up even some­thing as ar­rest­ing as Flip­board—an app that have been on the ipad for over a year now.

Rue­fully, in­stead of at­tempt­ing to leapfrog the ipad world—as one would ex­pect from Google—app de­vel­op­ment on the Android tablet plat­form is still barely there. Un­til we can see some­thing creative, com­pelling and breath-tak­ing, Android will con­tinue to swim up­stream and play sec­ond fid­dle. As they say, great re­sults al­ways re­quire great am­bi­tions.

Dear Android, we wish you had more steak to go with your un­de­ni­able siz­zle. Just as one fat turkey doesn’t an ea­gle make—hard­ware mus­cle alone will not help Android tablet man­u­fac­tur­ers win this bat­tle.

To re­it­er­ate what has al­ready been said a zil­lion times be­fore: Ap­ple has proved—first with the iphone and then with the ipad—that it’s no longer about the chip with the fastest heart­beat, in­dus­trial-strength Tup­per­ware, or bells and whis­tles that can take you to the top of the heap. It’s the whole bloomin’ bun­dle. Or, to use the world’s most blood­ied and bat­tered buz­zterm: the en­tire ecosys­tem. And by now no one needs rad­i­cal in­tel­lect to fig­ure that out. Com­ing to­gether is a be­gin­ning, keep­ing to­gether is progress, work­ing to­gether is suc­cess.

The ad­vent of the Kin­dle Fire, the $200 Android tablet from Ama­zon—slated to ar­rive in mid-novem­ber 2011, even as you read this—prom­ises to shake and stir things up. No, it will not dim the daz­zle of the ipad sun, not in the short term cer­tainly. But it will cause mo­tion in the Android tab ocean for sure. You can ex­pect the Fire to set the price tags of quite a few com­peti­tors aflame. Af­ter all, who would want to pay more bucks for for their bang?


Ba­si­cally, it comes down to what you want from your tablet. If it is a por­ta­ble com­put­ing gad­get to check mail, gawk at Face­book, watch a lot of movies by plug­ging in a USB source and play games, any of the top con­tenders in this round up will do. Just pick one that suits your pref­er­ences, pocket and panache.

You can do all of the afore­men­tioned on the ipad, and then some… If you’re look­ing for some­thing new ev­ery now and again, the ipad never dis­ap­points, serv­ing up a dol­lop of ex­cite­ment pe­ri­od­i­cally. That mon­ster bank of fas­ci­nat­ing apps just keeps grow­ing con­stantly. Be­sides, once you’ve pawed an ipad, you re­alise it of­fers the best user ex­pe­ri­ence among every­thing out there. It also re­mains the most in­tu­itive, com­pelling and wellthought-out tablet on the mar­ket to­day.

Much is made of a tablet’s abil­ity to make voice calls over the net­works. Yes, this is un­doubt­edly an ad­van­tage. How many times have you seen any­one—other than some­one try­ing to demo it, test it out or sim­ply show off—mak­ing a call over a tablet? And no, we are not re­fer­ring to VOIP (Voice over In­ter­net Pro­to­col) kind of Skyp­ing here.

Apart from the “psy­chic RAM” the Ap­ple de­vice con­sumes, the whole ipad pack­age has a lot go­ing for it at the mo­ment. As noth­ing suc­ceeds like suc­cess, the ipad boom is rid­ing the crest of a wave, right from apps to ac­ces­sories. Sat­u­ra­tion and su­per­fluity be damned, de­vel­op­ers, pub­lish­ers and ac­ces­sories man­u­fac­tur­ers are trip­ping over them­selves to push their wares into the ipad mar­ket—all to the ben­e­fit of con­sumers.

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