As you might expect, the iPad 2 has an advantage in this category thanks to iTunes. You can use the same account to download movies, TV shows, movies, and books to Apple’s tablet. Android’s lack of a one-stop shop for music and video means Xoom owners have to cobble solutions together on their own. Good third-party apps and software exist, but having an out-of-the-box option is preferable.
On the music side, the iPad 2 makes it easy to sync, acquire, and manage music with the iTunes and iPod apps. Given Apple’s long history with this category, it’s no surprise. However, the Xoom’s music app definitely has a sweet UI and nice features. Though there’s no baked-in Android ecosystem for music, users can download Amazon MP3s, which makes it easy to shop for and download tracks right to the tablet.
When you compare audio quality, the Xoom has the iPad 2 beat. Apple’s offering has one speaker on the back that offers loud, but not very rich, audio. The Xoom’s dual speakers are a major step up. We listened to tracks from Keane’s Perfect Symmetry album and found that the Xoom offered richer audio and even some bass without sounding forced or too tinny. Even when we plugged in a good set of headphones the Xoom’s output was just better, giving audio a depth that the iPad 2 lacked.
There’s no direct equivalent for iTunes on the video side for the Xoom right now. While iPad 2 owners can easily buy or rent thousands of movies and TV episodes right from the tablet, getting video on the Xoom may require conversion via a computer and possibly breaking the DRM. The iPad 2 also has a leg up with premium streaming video apps — ex: Netflix and Hulu Plus — for the moment. Both companies say that apps for Android are coming soon.
Thanks to the Xoom’s compatibility with Flash 10.2, users can watch streaming video from Amazon Instant Video (5,000 movies and TV shows). However, given our experience with Flash on the tablet, it’s certainly not preferable to the iPad’s offerings.
With iOS 4.3 on the iPad 2, you can now stream videos from the Photos app to an Apple TV, which is a cool feature because you can shoot and share clips on the spot with this tablet’s camera. Apple also says certain websites and apps will work seamlessly with Apple TV. You also get the ability to share music and video from your Mac or PC’s library over your home network (when you upgrade to iTunes 10.2).
Winner: iPad 2
Even though the Xoom outperforms Apple’s tablet in the audio department, it’s much easier to find and purchase premium content on the iPad 2.
Going by the numbers alone, the iPad 2 trounces the Xoom with its more than 65,000 tablet apps, compared to a little under 50 in the Android Market (right now). Both devices can run apps developed for phone screens, which widens the field. Still, iOS handles expanding the apps to 2X; this may not offer the greatest experience, but definitely works for all apps. Android apps may expand to fill the available pixels nicely, but how good this looks or how well it works depends on the developer, not Google.
With the disparity in numbers there are bound to be many apps missing from the Xoom that can be found on the iPad 2. Comparing the top 20 iPad apps in the app store, we found that only five of them are available for the Xoom. However, three of the top apps are from the iWorks suite and have good Android equivalents in QuickOffice and DocumentsToGo. And there are ample substitutions for iBooks, including the Kindle, Nook and Google Books apps.
Some other major apps available for the iPad and iPad 2 only include the Flipboard news reader, TWCable TV for Time Warner subscribers, and The Daily iPad magazine. Several major apps are available on both platforms. In games: the popular Angry Birds (in all iterations), Fruit Ninja, and Words With Friends. In news: CNN, Pulse, and USA Today. In productivity: Evernote, Dropbox, and LogMeIn.
It’s also worth noting that the only source for iPad 2 apps is the Apple App Store, whereas there are multiple sources available to Android devices. Beyond Google’s Market, there’s also GetJar, the Amazon Appstore, and Tegra Zone, which includes games made specifically to work with the Tegra 2 processor.
Winner: iPad 2
Though you’ll find many major apps on both platforms and Android has some developer momentum, Apple has a huge lead.