What Works Best for Tablets: iOS or Windows 10?

As part of my quest to find a Windows 10 tablet that meets my mobile computing needs better than the iPad Pro, I've spent a lot more time using Windows 10 than in the past. And, while there have been some significant benefits, it's not been all smooth sailing. There are features in both operating systems I really like and others that I find frustrating. Some of the challenges faced on the Windows 10 side come, I think, from the operating system's desktop origins and the openness of the Windows ecosystem. On the iPad side, Apple's tight control offers some benefits but also some real hassles.

While iOS on the iPad Pro met many of my needs, it wasn’t perfect but after a couple of weeks of near exclusive use of Windows 10, I feel like I can make some points about where both platforms excel and where they let me down.

Logging in

Windows 10 offers all sorts of neat tricks for securely logging in to a tablet or notebook computer. None of them get even close to Apple’s speed and ease of use.

That might to seem like a big deal but as someone who spends a lot of time travelling, and who ensures their computer is always locked when not in use, being able to quickly and securely log in is a big deal.

With modern iOS, you can use either a PIN (which is now six digits rather than the old four digits), a longer passcode, or TouchID. With Windows 10 tablets you may get all three options (under the Windows Hello banner of log in options), as well the use of a picture password and, on some devices, facial recognition.

On paper, it looks like Windows 10 puts the smackdown on iOS. In practice, it’s another story.

When I put my thumb on the TouchID sensor, it’s easy. The sensor is conveniently located and it’s fast. With two of the Windows 10 devices I have for testing, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Dell XPS 13 Convertible, the fingerprint sensor is on the keyboard and the reliability is less than stellar.

I set the sensor twice up on the Dell, rebooted and tried to use it to log in - it failed.

What that means is that every time I want to get started working, I waste time.

Typing and input

When it comes to keyboards, Windows 10 devices rule. While there are a few third party keyboard options for the iPad Pro, the ones that ship with Windows 10 devices are nicer to use straight out of the box.

One of the challenges of iOS is that it completely lacks a mouse interface. And there are times, when editing an image, or selecting text, where a mouse is a much better tool that a touchscreen.

This is one of those points where Apple lays out an ultimatum - you can either have a mouse or a touchscreen. But you can’t have both.

One this score, Windows 10 tablets win hands down.

User interface

I always thought this would be my toughest challenge - adapting to a very different UI. It’s clear that Windows 10 was primarily conceived as an operating systems for traditional computers and that iOS is all about the touch.

What I’d really like to see is, that Windows 10 is in tablet mode, the UI makes some of the screen elements a little larger. For example, the “X” for closing windows can be a little hard to hit. But I particularly like the ability to pin lots of apps to the Taskbar and that i can cat to them from almost anywhere. With iOS, I found flicking between applications more of a hassle. With Windows, it’s one tap and I’m there.

Window management is also superior on Windows 10. When Apple released the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, they made a big song and dance about being able to have two apps running side by side. And the implementation, while OK, isn’t as slick as the Windows 10 approach.

being able to snap an application between full screen or half by dragging and dropping to an edge is really handy - and it’s something I do often. Having Feedly open on the left and Evernote on the right makes it easy to do research. Or keeping Twitter open on one side while I’m writing on the other is useful.

And being able to have multiple apps running on separate desktops is more efficient than the iOS approach.

File system

This is an easy one - having access to a file system is really useful.

With the iPad Pro, I had access to a file systems via a network connection to OneDrive. But, losing that file system when I'm offline is what drive me to consider other options.

Windows 10 solves that problem.

Final thoughts

When I started this journey, my initial assumption was that iOS and Windows 10 would each have pros and cons but that they would level out.

I need to revisit that assumption. Aside from the annoying Windows 10 log-in, I find Windows 10 to be a more user-friendly OS for the way i work. And that’s an important consideration.

We all work in different ways. We are fortunate that in today’s world we have the choice of good operating systems in Android, iOS, Widows 10 and macOS, that meet the needs of all workers. And app developers acknowledge that choice through multi-platform applications that make it reasonably easy to transition between platforms.

I’m using a macOS desktop at one office, and Windows 10 desktop at another, an iPhone in my pocket, an iPad mini for reading and, now, a Windows 10 tablet when I’m out and about. And the main apps and service I use are available on all those devices.

What operating system is best for tablets? For me, it’s Windows 10 when it comes to real work. a


    I can't say I've ever used fingerprints to log into my Windows 10 laptop, but the iris scanner on the Surface Pro 4 always detects me and logs in fast; without needing to touch anything. I much prefer it over a fingerprint reader for a computer, whether Windows or iOS.

    I can't vouch for the Surface Pro keyboard that has a fingerprint sensor, or the iris scanner quality on a Dell though. These may be of varying quality :/. One of the benefits of iOS; standard components from device to device, meaning you can rely on the expected usage.

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