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Tablet deathmatch: Motorola Xoom vs. Apple iPad

Galen Gruman | March 4, 2011
As Apple commences shipping of the iPad 2, the first viable Android competitor packs a punch does battle with the original iPad.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA, MARCH 3, 2011—Apple's iPad singlehandedly created a new form of computing in 2010 and, in the process, launched the year of the tablet. Not coincidentally, 2011 is the year that everyone else is trying to catch up—while Apple is moving its iPad to the next level.

Today, we see a competition between the original iPad and the recently shipped Xoom from Motorola Mobility. The Xoom is the first Google Android-based tablet that has a 10-inch screen like the iPad and, more important, uses the tablet-optimised Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" OS. (Earlier Android tablets, such as the so-so Samsung Galaxy Tab, used the smartphone-oriented Android "Froyo" 2.2 instead.)

How do the iPad and Xoom compare? I put both through their paces for a few weeks to find out. Follow me as I walk through their key capabilities and compare them. I also point out any changes promised in the new iPad, in case you're waiting until it's available to make a decision.

As you'll see, the Xoom is a credible competitor to the iPad, even exceeding it in some areas. But it has odd omissions and flaws that Android smartphones do not, making me wonder if the tablet and smartphone teams at Google and Motorola Mobility ever compare notes. It definitely feels as if the Xoom were rushed to market to reach stores before Apple's new iPad announcement.

Deathmatch: Email, calendars and contacts
For testing these essential business functions, I used a personal IMAP account, a personal POP account, a personal Gmail account, and a work Exchange 2007 account. Both devices work directly with IMAP, Gmail, and POP; my email, email folders, calendars, and contacts all flowed effortlessly among the smartphones, my laptop, and the server.

Both devices try to autodetect your settings wherever possible, and both do a good job. Setting up Exchange access on both devices was also simple. Unlike most Android devices, the Xoom supports on-device encryption, so it easily connected to our corporate server and passed its Exchange ActiveSync policies. My email, contacts, and calendars flowed into the Xoom's apps. And unlike the Motorola Atrix smartphone's convoluted set of email applications and difficulties sending email accounts in some configurations, the Xoom's regular Email app allowed me to access and send my messages and easily switch among accounts as needed.

Email messages. Working with emails is equivalent on the two tablets: Both use the large screen to provide common controls at all times, and both let you see a selected email without opening it when in landscape orientation. The Xoom tablet displays mail as black text on a white background (as does the iPad), not as white text on a black background in the manner of Android smartphones; the messages are thus much more readable.

 

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