2011 seems to be the year there will finally be some substantial competition to Apple’s iPad tablet, after last year’s glut of vaporware and lukewarm release attempts. The trash talk from vendors like Samsung has begun, and while I love competition, my thinking on the subject has evolved: I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing is going to be as good as the next generation iPad.
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to work with both iOS (the system that runs on Apple’s portable devices like the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) and several competing portable operating systems, I continue to categorically recommend iOS.
iOS devices boot instantly, crash rarely, and have the most elegant hardware user interface. The way Apple builds devices is truly an art, with each device a masterpiece of design, function, and reliability. Their control of hardware specifications allows them to build a uniform experience that translates across the spectrum — buy an iPhone and you already know how to use an iPad or iPod Touch. This control also extends to the responsiveness of the devices. iOS won’t run on a machine that isn’t capable of providing a quick, efficient experience, and they offer regular updates to make sure that your hardware is running the latest and greatest version of everything.
Software for iOS devices is easy to find, install, and manage — and it’s all vetted by Apple before it appears in their App Store, which helps prevent installing anything that’s potentially destructive [this is something I am actually against when it comes to the Mac App Store because of the precedent it sets]. There’s also a dynamic community of developers releasing and updating thousands of high-quality apps at reasonable prices, and the process of syncing apps and media is long, but (mostly) painless.
Contrast that with other portable devices I’ve used, and it’s startling. So many of these things are over-complicated, underpowered, and underperforming. The OS is rarely updated, and good apps are often difficult to find, install, and update.
I almost feel bad for Google. This really isn’t their fault. Android is an exceptional portable Operating System, and could easily be as much of a contender as iOS, but the hardware gets in the way. Gingerbread may be every bit as good as iOS 4, but I’d never know because I don’t own the one device out there that currently runs it, whereas every Apple device I own is updated to the very latest version.
It pains me to say this, but the fact that Android is Open Source is what hurts it because it gives device manufacturers the ability to churn out sub-par merchandise, which they do on an alarmingly regular basis.
If I’m going to pay big money — and these portable devices are certainly not cheap — I’m going to stick with the company that provides the most consistent, reliable, and functional system, even if (or perhaps because) it’s closed.
iOS it is.