Ask Lifehacker: Should I Get An iPad Or An Android Tablet?

Ask Lifehacker: Should I Get An iPad Or An Android Tablet?

Dear Lifehacker, I am looking at getting myself a tablet for Christmas, and was wondering what the major pros and cons of getting an iPad or Android tablet, and why I should choose one over the other. Any information would be great! Cheers, Aaron

Picture by Arjan Almekinders

Dear Aaron,

As far as we're concerned, both the iPad and most of the Android tablets on the market are good choices (and well worth discussing in the context of Christmas). Both offer portable browsing and app access, making it possible to travel without a notebook PC but still giving you more functionality than you'll get simply from a smart phone. Which one you choose will depend on how you feel about a few key factors, and (potentially) how much money you have to spend. Here's our take on the pros and cons.

iPad: The Pros

  • Highly regarded for its ease of use, streamlined design and excellent battery life.
  • Available in both Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi/3G models depending on your needs.
  • Huge range of free and paid apps available, and the Apple approval process means malware and super-buggy software are largely unknown.
  • If you purchase a 3G model, there's some excellent value iPad data plans available.

iPad: The Cons

  • The device is dependent on iTunes for initial setup and updating.
  • On a non-jailbroken iPad, your options to customise can be limited, and Apple can make arbitrary changes you might not like (such as its recent controversial decision to change the orientation lock to a mute button).
  • Despite being based on the iOS platform, you can't use the device to make calls.
  • No direct ability to add any external storage (such as an SD card from your camera).
  • Use of micro-SIM means you can't easily swap SIMs between most phones and the device for data access.

Android: The Pros

  • There's a large and growing range of devices available on both contract plans and outright purchase deals, with prices ranging from sub-$300 to more than $1,000.
  • You've got a choice of device sizes and built-in connectors on offer, and many models can be used as a phone as well as a tablet.
  • Built-in Google integration means your tablet is quickly synced and usable without needing to connect to another device.
  • Since Android is open source software, customisation and tweaking options are broad and you can easily install a custom Android ROM if you don't like the default options.
  • Large range of apps in the Android market.

Android: The Cons

  • Having a range of devices can make choosing more difficult.
  • Resistive touchscreens on cheaper models don't offer the best experience (this isn't a problem on the higher-priced devices).
  • Ease of upgrading devices to newer versions of Android varies hugely by manufacturer (presuming you don't root the device and take on that task yourself).
  • Few restrictions on apps in the market mean a higher risk of bad software if you don't research apps first.

That's our take; we're sure readers will have extra thoughts to offer in the comments.



  • Wow, so prettu much with the “range of choices” factored out,

    Android had more Pro’s & Less Con’s. Which to me states an obvious decision.

    Thanks lifehacker, looks like I will be looking into the Samsung galaxy tab, I love the fact that not only can I have android installed, but I have the option to have Ubuntu Installed as well.. Which in my opinion is an hand down WIN!

    • I to got really (REALLY!) excited when I saw the Ubuntu on Galaxy Tab thing…. until the part of the “no virtual keyboard”. Kinda sucks to VNC into the device and use a keyboard attached to the PC.

      I really look to MeeGo tablets (e.g. hitting Oz, especially if the rumours about supporting Android apps are true. Best of both worlds, baby!

  • IMHO, there is not a decent android tablet out at the moment, except for the galaxy tab.

    Android should never be on a resistive, or single touch, screen, thats just a shot in the foot for devices. With the $300 tablets from optus and telstra both having them and also my dislike of their brands (I wouldnt touch a Huawei or ZTE with a 10 foot pole) i dont like their prospect.

    Archos, Millenius, and the Notion Ink tablets would be what i would look into with regards to Android. They seem more polished and more comparable to functionality to the iPad.

    The iPad is nice, i actually have one, but there are some things i just absolutely hate. As an Ubuntu user I have no way to put music and movies on it. The iPad has yet again a different music database compared to the other iOS devices, which the ubuntu driver cant handle yet. Because of this the device feels like its a slave to iTunes, and with its power and storage, really should not be. The OS makes me feel like I’m dumb in some respects, limiting access to things, hardly any customization options and a homescreen that seems like its now old and needs an update. The App store is a big pro for it, but as higher resolution Android devices roll out, im hoping higer resolution and more tablet like apps appear on the Market.

    • Install the VLC app and your music/video problems will be gone 🙂

      Also, Lifehacker should note that the next version of Ipad is expected to be announced next February/March.

  • At the moment if your an Apple fan I’d say go with an iPad but if your an Android user go with the Galaxy Tab. Better still, wait for Motorola’s Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) powered tablet like I plan to! Yes, Apple still has the edge with quality of apps at the moment, but the gap is closing all the time and I want a browser with flash thank you very much! :p

  • Aaron – I would say it is better to save your Christmas money, wait for CES 2011 show in 6-9 January 2011 where you will find some new tablets that will blow away the current crop.

    Specifically the new Motorola tablet that will be running Honeycomb is likely contender. Patience will be rewarded when it comes to tablets. Early adopters are going to get punished badly with this tech.

  • “# Highly regarded for its ease of use, streamlined design and excellent battery life.”

    Why is this a single pro?

    # Claimed ease of use due to streamlined design
    # Claimed excellent battery life

    If you believe the claims is up to you.

  • I’ve had an iPad since they came out in April. One of the things that is quite obvious is that iOS was re-written to support the larger screen (as were the applications installed).

    My understanding is that a tablet version of the Android software is still coming; if you are interested in an Android tablet, I would wait until the software is ready.

    There are plenty of choices with regards to Android – some of them will lead nowhere. The iPad compares to the very top-end Android Tablets. The cheaper tablets offer quite a different experience. You’ll notice that some of the high-end manufacturers have indicated that their Tablet will be waiting until newer (Tablet-friendly) versions of the OS is available.

    I don’t envy your choice.

    As a Mac fan-boy I’m now just a little bit locked in (iMac, MBP, iPhone, Apple TV, AirPort Express, Time Capsule, etc). Save yourself! (Or not).

  • I just ordered a win7 tablet from China with a 32GB SSD, 1.6GHZ atom processor and 2GB RAM. Based on the few vids I found online, it should be faster than the ipad for basic things and running windows means I should be able to use the applications I need for it to actually be useful for work. The ipad is great if you’re a child or old or maybe unemployed, likewise with android devices. If you need a tablet to earn it’s keep, I’m afraid it’s very much a windows world out there. The tablet is about $500US with 3G so about half the price of a similarly equipped ipad. Yes, it may suck balls but I’m being optmistic…I gave up waiting for a HTC to come out with a windows device.

  • Ignoring all the Apple Fanboy/hate. The iPad is still realistically the only Tablet worth buying right now..
    I think Android will draw closer in usability once Honeycomb (and tablet specific software) comes out. But until then, you really are just using a big phone running a phone OS.
    I agree that choice (at this time, when developers are still working out what’s good about a system) is a bad thing and is an advantage to the iPad.
    Personally, I’m holding out on picking up a Tablet for my Mum… I think the iPad is the best available but don’t like the price or the lock-in.

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