Tablet Buying Guide: How to Pick the Perfect Slate

Which OS is Right for You?

Tablet shoppers didn’t hand Apple 87 percent market share because the iPad was the only game in town. The company took its phone-based software and optimized it for tablets in meaningful ways, including split-screen views for apps such as Mail. At the same time, iOS for iPad is just as intuitive as it is on the iPhone, making it easy for users of all ages to jump in.

The biggest advantage iOS has over the competition is apps. Apple offers more than 65,000 apps, with lots of compelling choices in multiple categories, especially games. Of course, one also can’t ignore that you can use the same iTunes account to purchase apps, music, movies, TV shows, and books. Up next (according to reports): more enhanced multitouch gestures, FaceTime support, and the ability to turn your iPad into a hotspot.

Just as in the smart phone world, right now Apple’s most formidable foe is Google. The company has built the latest Android 3.0 software from the ground up for tablets. You’ll find split-screen apps here, too, plus enhanced multitasking, a slick new 3D interface, more interactive widgets, and video chat via Google Talk. Other highlights include tabbed browsing and an improved notification system. Unfortunately, the Android Market stocks only about 48 apps in its tablet section thus far, and the software does have a learning curve.

RIM hopes to make a splash with its BlackBerry PlayBook, which is geared toward the professional crowd. The OS is very secure and multitasking-friendly (and looks mighty similar to HP’s webOS). However, you need to tether your BlackBerry phone to get work e-mail, which could be a dealbreaker for some.

HP is pinning its tablet hopes on webOS, which it acquired from Palm. In addition to an emphasis on multitasking, webOS plays up social networking integration, easy printing, and sharing of data with webOS phones with just a tap. The first webOS tablet, the TouchPad, won’t be out until this summer.

Meanwhile, the Windows camp is trying to put the best face it can on Windows 7 using various software overlays. We’re also seeing many hardware designs that include physical keyboards. None of these efforts can hide the fact that the underlying OS was not made for touch input, or that Microsoft lacks an app store. Nevertheless, some tablet shoppers will prefer the familiarity of Windows and treat the tablet functionality as a bonus.

Tablet Buying Guide

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Craig Says:

    Why don’t you ever comment on the limitations of the ipad? I have the apple IPAD and no one ever comments on the fact that one cannot open any websites that have incorporated Adobe flashplayer. (There are more websites that utilize this than one would think). Apple’s continued reluctance to allow total access to its products (citing, adobe flash is not a good program and causes crashes) is unacceptable. I already have a father. If I want to use add-ons to the electronic devices I purchased, then why not allow it, understanding that the machine could crash?
    I do not know much about the competitive devices, but I am assuming that there are no restrictions.

    My 2 cents

  2. charles Says:

    Since when did apps come to mean something different from program? “Microsoft doesn’t have it’s own app store” Last time I checked, it had literally thousands of programs able to run on Windows. Even if Windows isn’t the best software (right now at least) for tablets to run, please don’t sound ignorant in saying that Windows based tablets have no apps available.

  3. mirekk Says:

    There’s no such thing as perfect tablet, or perfect anything for that matter. It’s simply a matter of individual preference. Anyhoo the tablets of today are still relatively simple (media consumption) and require some more work (more interfaces, more storage space, etc.).

  4. Mark Says:

    Tabs are fun if you get the right one. Number one priority inputs. If so it doesn’t matter how much onboard storage is if you can pop in a flash drive or sdcard. Two GUI must be 3D capable. Three not locked in, to a carrier, or proprietary anything especially inputs and app store. Android tabs meet all those criterions. Ipad is more of a 20th century 1D device. Great for kids and the elderly. No frills, no thrills. Also, there selling points buying apps and garage band, be serious. I’m not buying a tab to continuously line apple’s pockets with my money, plus, the connectivity issues they hope no one notices.

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