Both the iPad 2 and the Xoom can pull email from a variety of services, including POP mail accounts. The iPad 2 has just one native email client for accessing all of your mailboxes, but Android 3.0 continues to segregate Gmail from other email in two separate apps. These apps both have a similar look and feel, but Android 3.0 goes deeper on the Xoom.
Both the iPad and the Xoom offer two-column mail views in landscape mode, but the Xoom’s is more robust and versatile. In one view, users can see all of the folders and labels for their GMail account in the narrow left column and a list of email message on the right. Once users tap a message, the left column becomes the mail list and the email opens in the larger pane. This makes message management somewhat easier. From the labels/message list pane users can tap and hold a message to drag it to a label or folder. It’s also possible to choose multiple messages and drag.
Performing these same actions on the iPad 2 isn’t as intuitive. And when in the folder/label listing panel, users can’t see a list of messages on the right, just whatever message was last opened. To choose multiple messages, users must hit Edit when inside a mailbox, then choose the messages they want to work select. On the plus side, the iPad 2 gives user the option to either see all inboxes together or separately. There is no unified inbox for Android 3.0 on the Xoom (or any tablet running this software).
Where the Xoom pulls ahead is Google Talk. Having a built-in instant messaging client really does give this tablet a boost in the productivity department. You can download instant-messaging apps with iOS, but there’s nothing baked in and integrated into the OS.
Winner: Motorola Xoom
The ability to drag and drop messages into folders, faster search, and a built-in IM client makes the Xoom the clear winner in this category.
The Xoom’s default browser comes out ahead in user experience with features cribbed from Chrome, including built-in tabbed browsing and incognito mode. Unfortunately, we miss the setting that tells websites to either consider the Xoom a mobile or desktop browser. There is a way to switch this, but it’s not intuitive or something less savvy users would know to do. Right now the version that loads depends on what the site’s server decides to do if the hidden setting hasn’t been tweaked.
Though it didn’t at launch, the Xoom does support Flash 10.2 now, whereas the iPad 2 doesn’t. The experience isn’t always smooth, but at least Motorola’s tablet has access to Flash-based websites and thus offers a more desktop-like experience. When we visited the Weight Watchers site, for example, the site was filled with little boxes that said “You must download Flash to access this feature.”
|Site||iPad 2||Motorola Xoom|
|Amptoons Blog Post||5 seconds||22 seconds|
|NYTimes (full site)||7 seconds||18 seconds|
|Strange Horizons||3 seconds||11 seconds|
In each case, we were able to read text, see most images, and begin scrolling within a few seconds on the Xoom. However, other elements on the pages took longer to load, which held the progress bar at around 90 percent for several seconds more. The iPad 2 completely loaded sites faster and didn’t seem phased by (or didn’t bother to load) whatever background elements tripped up the Xoom (which had Flash enabled).
Winner: Motorola Xoom
The iPad 2’s speed is a big bonus, but the Xoom wins this round because of its support for tabbed browsing and Flash. Plus, even though the Xoom takes longer than the iPad to finish loading pages, you can start interacting with sites almost as quickly. In the near future, the Xoom will get even better on the go with 4G support, although that will require an upgrade from Verizon.