A decade ago, seeing a tablet computer was a rare incident. With a flat screen and a touch interface, it feels like something out of this world but it wasn’t until Apple introduced the iPad in 2010 that tablets became more than just a curiosity.
Previously, they were a preserve for just the affluent few (directors and CEOs). Not anymore! Fast on the heels of Apple’s runaway success in the tablet market is Google. Google introduced the Android operating system a few months after Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. While Google optimized the original build of Android for smartphone devices, the company continued to develop the mobile operating system. In 2011, Google introduced Honeycomb, also known as Android 3.0. Google designed this build of Android with tablet devices in mind.
Tablet computers fill a niche between smartphones and personal computers, tablets tend to have faster processors than your typical smartphone but fall short of the processing power you’ll find in an average computer. You can watch videos, listen to music, surf the Web, read electronic documents, play games and launch apps from a tablet. Many companies are working hard to create apps, services and content geared specifically for the tablet form factor. It’s not a stretch to say that tablets are part of a new model for content creation.
What is an Android Tablet after all? In the tablet market, there are two primary philosophies when it comes to device design. On one side you have the juggernaut: the Apple iPad. Apple has strict control over the entire design of the iPad from the user interface (UI) all the way down to the actual hardware. Every design decision comes from Apple itself. On the other side, you have Android tablets. While Google is responsible for the Android operating system (OS), other companies produce the hardware. Hardware manufacturers may even alter the UI without changing the functionality of the operating system. The bottom line is that if you look at two iPad 2 devices side by side, they’ll essentially be identical. But pick any two Android tablets and you may notice some big differences. Google doesn’t set standards for a tablet’s size, weight or screen dimensions.
Which viewpoint is better? That depends upon your own point of view. If you like sleek design and an operating system that works in a clean, predictable way, the Apple iPad may appeal to you. But if you like to tweak settings and change things around, the Android approach may suit you best. In the end, both types of tablets will let you perform similar tasks on the go. Another reason that defining an Android tablet is tricky is that you can find the Android operating system on numerous devices from many different manufacturers. Some of those devices run an older version of Android that isn’t optimized for the tablet experience. These devices rely on versions of the OS before Android 3.0, so you’ll get a tablet device running an operating system originally intended for a smartphone.
When Google released Android 3.0, manufacturers like Motorola Mobility began to produce tablets with an optimized operating system. That means Google designed this build of the operating system with tablets in mind. Tablets running on Android 3.0 will have features and options you won’t find on older tablets. A device is really only as good as the applications it can run. Android owners may not have access to the sheer number of apps available to iOS owners -- at the time of this writing, the Apple App Store boasts more than 90,000 apps for the iPad and over 400,000 for iOS in general. But Apple limits iPad owners to purchasing apps from the official App Store exclusively. With an Android device, you can install any app designed for Android whether you find it in the Android Market or elsewhere. You may have to change your device’s settings to allow it to accept apps from unofficial sources but the freedom is there. But be warned; downloading apps from unofficial sources may be dangerous. You could download m
alware to your Android device. This all boils down to, Android tablets are touch-screen, mobile devices that run some version of the Android operating system on them; it not necessarily that they are smartphones, though with the right software and hardware you might be able to make calls over Wi-Fi networks using one.