Tablet deathmatch: Motorola Xoom vs. Apple iPad
As Apple prepares to ship its iPad 2, the first viable Android competitor packs a punchFollow @MobileGalen
App management. The iPad has a simpler app management process. For example, it's easy to arrange your home screens to cluster applications both on your iPad and on your desktop via iTunes; you can also put them in your own folders. Just tap and hold any app to invoke the "shaking apps" status, in which you can drag apps wherever you want, or tap the X icon to delete them (press the Home button when done to exit that mode). You can also arrange and delete apps using iTunes on your desktop.
Like all Android smartphones, the Xoom lets you drag apps to any of its home screens, which appear in preview mode below the apps matrix. (Unlike with Android smartphones, you cannot long-tap an app to move it to the current home screen.) The full list of programs is available in the apps page, which you access by tapping the Apps button at the upper right of any home screen. But the Xoom has no groups capability for presenting apps, and you can't rearrange the roster in the apps page -- just in the home screens.
The Xoom supports the Android OS's widgets feature. Widgets are mini apps that you can place on the home screens. Widgets can be very helpful, showing the latest email message or Facebook update or the current time in a large clock. Thus, you can see at a glance the current status of whatever you want to easily track -- one of Android's superior UI capabilities. The iPad has no equivalent capability. The Xoom, like other Android devices, has pop-up notifications that make it easy to see if you have new email or other alerts, whatever you happen to be doing. Alerts appear in the lower right of your screen -- not at the top as in Android smartphones. Again, the iPad has no equivalent.
Multitasking. The iPad's iOS 4 supports multitasking if enabled in the apps themselves; Apple has made specific background services available for multitasking, rather than let each app run full-on in parallel, as on a PC. As you switch iOS apps, they suspend, except for their multitasking-enabled services, which conserves memory and aids performance. By contrast, Android supports full multitasking, whereby default apps continue to run in the background when you take care of other duties. From a usage point of view, these differences aren't apparent; on both devices, apps appear to multitask the same.
The major difference related to multitasking is the UI for switching among apps. On the iPad, a double-click on the Home button pulls up a list of active apps; it's easy to see what's running and switch among them. On the Xoom, a new persistent menu icon provides access to all running apps at any time, and it even shows a preview window of what the apps are currently doing (like Mac OS X and Windows 7 do in their taskbars).
The winner: The iPad, mainly because there are so few tablet apps available for the Xoom. But the widgets and notifications capabilities of the Xoom's Android OS are very handy, and you feel their omission on an iPad after you've used an Android device for a while. Plus, the Xoom's ability to show all running apps and what they're doing is a really nice feature the iPad can't match.