Tablet deathmatch: Motorola Xoom vs. Apple iPad
As Apple prepares to ship its iPad 2, the first viable Android competitor packs a punchFollow @MobileGalen
Right now, the real issue with the Xoom is the scarcity of available apps. Longtime stand-by apps such as the New York Times' aren't available yet, while other established apps such as USA Today's don't run on the Xoom, though it can be downloaded. The few apps that are on the market don't really take advantage of the Xoom's larger screen; Amazon.com's Kindle app, for example, displays one too-wide-to-read page when in landscape orientation rather than two facing pages as on the iPad. The Xoom doesn't display such legacy apps in a smartphone-sized window, as the iPad does, to clue you in. Additionally, I haven't found apps that auto-adjust their display and capabilities depending on whether they're running on a smartphone or tablet -- a feature that has quickly become very common in the iOS world.
The Xoom and other Android tablets will need a better stable of apps to foster the addiction that iPad users exhibit with their tablets. So far, there are just 16 such apps in the Android Market. They show some of the promise of the tablet form factor, but none is exceptional.
App stores and app installation. There are tens of thousands of apps for the iPad's iOS, from games to scientific visualization tools. Sure, there's a lot of junk, but you'll find many useful apps as well. Android doesn't have anywhere near the same library of apps as iOS, but its smartphone-oriented apps portfolio is now in the thousands and growing, with many relevant apps such as Quickoffice, for which the Xoom includes a basic version with limited creation and editing capabilities. I often find that iOS apps are more capable than their Android equivalents (such as the Kindle app) -- but not always (Angry Birds, for example).
Both the Apple App Store and Google Android Market separate iPad apps from smartphone apps, simplifying the search for appropriate titles. The Apple store also indicates which apps auto-adjust for the iPhone and iPad, so you know they can be run on both devices and appear native on each.
Unlike Apple's App Store, the Android Market is not curated; developers will have an easier time getting their apps listed, but the market also lets cyber thieves create phishing apps that masquerade as banking programs or other apps and steal user information. Apple's App Store seems to be less at risk to such Trojans. The Android Market is also slower to load than the App Store and not as easy to navigate within the app details.
You don't have to use the Android Market to get apps on the Xoom. If you want to get down and dirty, you can configure the Android OS's application settings to install software from other sources.
Installation is similar: After selecting an app, you confirm your store account information and wait for the app to download and install. Both mobile OSes let you know if you have updates available. On the iPad, the App Store indicates the number of available updates. On the Xoom, available updates are displayed in the notifications pop-up at the bottom left of the screen.
The Xoom uses the Android Market to remember your paid apps (but not your free ones) and a separate sync utility for handling media files transferred from your PC, but in this regard, it's no match for the iPad. Thanks to its reliance on iTunes as its command center for managing media, apps, and documents, the iPad makes it much easier to manage your device's content. If you get a new phone, it's a snap on iTunes to get the new one up and running with the same assets as before; there's no such easy way to transfer the assets to a Xoom from a previous device.