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Apple iPad: How it stacks up to the Android tablets

Melissa J. Perenson | March 8, 2012
Scores of new tablets have appeared in the past few months, and now that we know what the third-generation Apple iPad will offer when it ships March 16, here's the verdict: Android tablet vendors, get busy. Apple's specs blow past most rivals, whether shipping, announced, or on deck. Expect competing tablet makers to rush back to the drawing board and get a plan B in order to compete.

The Android tablets have been struggling to offer competitive prices competitive, let undercut the iPad -- and that's at the current hardware specs. The new iPad will have several months head start on its closest announced competitors, spec-wise, and the pressure is now on for Asus and Acer to deliver tablets at a lower price. After all, why sell a tablet at the same price with lesser specs; at that point, the consumer might just as well buy an iPad. Yes, I realize some users prefer an Android tablet, and therefore will still buy an Android model over iPad; but clearly, based on current tablet sales data and Apple's crushing lead over Android, these users remain in the minority. Apple's strong app ecosystem and emphasis on the experience are strong pluses in the iPad's favor [[link to first analysis piece]], and without price as a differentiator, Android tablets will have an uphill battle in the market.

Apple updated its camera to 5 megapixels, and claims additional improvements to its lens design and image signal processing to enhance the image. This was a much needed improvement over the iPad 2; most of the Android tablets are at 5 megapixels already and can capture video at 1080p. Specs alone don't tell the capture story, though: The remaining big question is the quality of the improved camera. Android models have not exactly been stars, although the 8-megapixel Asus Transformer Prime currently leads the field. If Apple has done a good job with hardware and software optimizations, though, then it has an opportunity to jump far ahead of the others. Given its experience with a 5-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4, Apple may do just that.

Where Apple Stumbles

With all that Apple adds to the iPad  -- 4G radio, Retina Display -- the tablet actually takes a couple of steps backward compared with the Android competition. Specifically, it has regressed in size and weight. The iPad is now slightly thicker, at 0.37 inches thick, than Asus Transformer Prime's 0.33 inches, as well as the 0.34-inch form factor of iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The Toshiba Excite 10 LE, which gets slimmest tablet honors for now, measures just 0.3 inches. But iPad is now practically the same as Samsung's unreleased Galaxy Note 10.1, which measures 0.38 inches.

While thin is chic, I'm more concerned about the iPad's heavier weight, now at 1.4 pounds. Heavier is not the right direction for tablets, and this bucks the trend of competing Android models, which keep shaving weight off of their previous heights of 1.5-plus-pound. The Toshiba's weight starts at 1.18 pounds, while the current Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 weighs 1.24 pounds; the Asus Transformer Prime and the forthcoming Galaxy Note 10.1 weigh 1.29 pounds; and the iPad 2 weighs 1.33 pounds (and 1.35 pounds for the 3G version).


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