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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.

The good news is that pinching and zooming, as well as autorotation as you turn the device, works equivalently on the Xoom's Android OS and iPad's iOS. For text entry, I find the iPad's on-screen keyboard to be easier to work with than the Xoom's, with clearer keys and better contextual use of extra keys, such as in the Mail application. Although I appreciate the intent behind the Xoom's use of Tab and other keys not found on the iPad, the result is that the keyboard is not full size in landscape orientation (the iPad's is) and thus difficult for touch-typing. I'm sure I'll eventually get used to it, but it remains an annoying UI decision.

Text selection and copying. The Xoom's Android OS falls short compared to the iPad's iOS in its text selection. If you're tapping away and realize you've made a mistake not caught by the autocorrect feature, such as when typing a URL, it can be difficult to move the cursor to that error's location in the text. If you tap too long, the screen is filled with the Edit Text contextual menu; it took me a while to figure out how to tap long enough to move the text-insertion cursor to a new location without opening that menu. It is true that Xoom is not as bad in this regard as the various Android smartphones I've tested.

On the iPad, you tap and hold where you want to insert the text cursor (sort of like using a mouse); a magnifier appears to help you move precisely to where you want to go. You then add and delete text at that location. Plus, the controls for text selection appear, so you can use those if you'd like and not worry about a screen-filling menu getting in the way.

The winner: A tie. Although iPad fans may find the Android OS too loosey-goosey and its ever-present alerts annoying, Android fans may find the iPad a bit too rigid and disconnected from what's going on. To each his own; both work.

Deathmatch: Security and management
A long-standing strike against the Android OS is its poor security. The standard Android OS doesn't support on-device encryption, and it supports only the most basic of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) security policies. By contrast, with the enhancements made in iOS 4 [22], the iPad has become one of the most securable mobile devices available, second only to the RIM BlackBerry.

Motorola Mobility recognised that deficiency and has added on-device encryption. My only beef is that it takes an hour to encrypt the device when you enable that capability (by contrast, the Motorola Atrix smartphone requires no time at all to enable encryption). Fortunately, it's a one-time activity. The Xoom doesn't go much further than standard Android in its support of EAS policies, so if your business requires complicated passwords with timeouts and history restrictions, you'll face the same issues as with other Android smartphones.

 

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