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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 main differences between the iPad and Xoom browsers are cosmetic. Both browsers have persistent buttons or fields for Back, Forward, Bookmarks, Refresh, and navigating tabbed panes. The Xoom's browser shows a row of tabs at the top for each open browser window, whereas the iPad displays a button showing how many windows are open; tapping it opens a screen that previews all open windows. The Xoom automatically opens a Google search page when you bring up a new tab; that's a waste of time and bytes (which matters if you're on a 3G data plan). The iPad opens a blank window instead.

Both browsers can share pages via email, but the operation is faster on the iPad, which also lets you print the page to a wireless printer (either to an AirPrint-compatible printer or to a local wireless printer connected via one of the many printing apps available for the iPad). But the iPad's separate Search and URL boxes are less convenient than the Xoom's unified URL and Search box; you have to be sure to tap the right box on the iPad. The Xoom also has a separate search control, if you prefer.

Unlike Android smartphones, the Xoom's touch keyboard offers a .com button–like the iPad and iPhone–when entering URLs, which is a significant timesaver.

Both browsers let you select text and graphics on Web pages, but only the iPad lets you copy graphics. The Xoom can save graphics to the tablet's local storage. The iPad can save images to its Photos app.

Both browsers have settings controls over pop-up windows, search engines, JavaScript, cookies, history, cache, form data, passwords, image loading, autofill, fraud warnings, and debugging. Where the Xoom falls short is in its browser identifier. It uses the same ID string as the Android smartphone browser, so you can't see the full desktop sites such as InfoWorld.com that redirect smartphone users to a mobile-friendly site. (To see InfoWorld on an Android device or any smartphone, go to iphone.infoworld.com.) The iPad has a unique browser ID, so most sites treat it like a desktop, which is appropriate for its 9.7-inch screen.

Using the cloud-based Google Docs on either device is not a pleasant experience. It's barely possible to edit a spreadsheet; the most you can do is select and add rows, as well as edit the contents of individual cells. You can edit a text document but only awkwardly, and although you can edit appointments in Google Calendar, you're restricted to day and month views (no week or agenda views). Partly, that's because Google hasn't figured out an effective mobile interface for these Web apps; the Safari and Chrome browsers are simply dealing with what Google presents, rather than working through a mobile-friendly front end. It's also because the mobile Safari and Chrome browsers don't support all the capabilities their desktop counterparts do.

 

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