Android vs ipad

I recently got an android tablet (Samsung galaxy tab 10.1). I've also played around a bit with an ipad.

I decided against the ipad 2 because it looked like I would need a mac desktop or laptop to develop applications for the ipad.

My main motivation for getting a tablet was the desire to write programs for it. And so the fact that there are development kits for android on windows, linux and mac appealed to me.

But I expected to be let down by the android tablet and I expected the ipad to blow it away otherwise.

However that is not what happened. As a technical user I was blown away by how easy and straightforward the android tablet was and how awkward the ipad was in comparison.

Some simple examples:

I configured the tablet entirely on the tablet. There was no need for a computer nor the need to install any special software. The ipad on the other hand refuses to do anything until it is connected to itunes. The ipad also won't let you install applications without an apple account which requires credit card info.

I plugged the tablet into my pc dragged my music into the music folder and it just worked.

Similarly I copied some .avi video files into the movies folder and they played on my tablet without any conversion.

Ditto pictures. Also I can send pictures from my phone to my tablet using bluetooth. This did not work with the ipad 2. Additionally to get pictures from my pc onto an ipad I had to put the pictures in a folder, tell itunes to sync that folder as my pictures foldet and authorize the pc with ipad's apple account lest itunes delete all the apps on the ipad!

Finally my tablet has a file browser where I can navigate the filesystem and see all my files. Ever since ms-dos a hierarchical filesystem has become part of my expectations.

Also my tab supports flash, which is not that important to me practically (I only use it to watch funny cartoons) but is very important ideologically. I don't enjoy being told what I can or can't do.

Another minor win is that my tab supports user selectable and installable soft keyboards.

So up until this point my tab beat the ipad hands down. Of course this is from my point of view as a technical user.

I like being able to copy files back and forth from my tablet to any computer without special software like itunes. This lets me connect to any computer, whether it runs linux, windows or mac, and whether or not it has an internet connection.

But the applications in android are not good enough for my needs. To be fair I don't know that the ipap apps would be good enough.

Some examples of where apps fall short:

No decent imap mail program. I want an email app that supports Imap with properly hierarchical folders. And I want to be able to select which folders to scan. Profimail which I use on my nokia cellphone does the trick, and there is an android version, but the full version costs $20, and I don't feel like buying it for the nth time. My solution is to use my own webmail: squirrelmail running on my imap server. Fully functional but sub-optimal.

The stock ebook reader is pretty crappy. It uses ugly fonts a bad layout and a brownish sepia tone for the background color. Aldiko turns out to be an ok alternative but it suffers from another problem that the built in ebook reader has where pictures in epub files look greyed out (grey backgrpund instead of white background) most of the time. It looks to me like some sort of resizing/dithering problem.

No decent editor. I want either emacs or vi. And preferably both. More specifically I want vim and gnu emacs. Doesn't look like they are available. I'm not interested in any solution that involves rooting my phone, although that is something I might do anyways for other reasons.

Oh and to answer the question of how I'm managing to type this on my tab without an editor, there is a decent ssh client and I always write these essays with vi or emacs through ssh anyways. In this case I almost have to use vi due to the soft keyboard (no easy way to type alt-foo).

In the end after a week or two of messing around with both devices I have to say that I'm pretty happy with my Android device and that I would have been miserable with the iPad.

The deal breakers would have been the lack of drag and drop support for files without itunes and syncing, and the inability to browse the filesystem on the device.

If anything what I miss the most on my Android tablet is an editor in the unix shell and access to a C compiler. If and when I get a decent set of unix utilities set up I will be one happy camper.

Programming for a computer from the computer itself is something that I want to be able to do. It is a fundamental necessity. It's what separates toys from real computers.

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