iPad 2

The iPad has set the precedent for a growing tablet market

Just 11 months and 10 million sales after Steve Jobs proudly presented the category-defining iPad in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts Centre (a favourite location of Apple and the perfect place to showcase the latest in design and technology), he proclaimed 2011 to be the year of the post-PC device, revealing the iPad 2 to an expectant crowd early last week.

Leaner, meaner and more powerful than the original, Apple’s iPad 2 seems set to continue the success of the tablet, iterative rather than innovative with the addition of a faster internal processor and a pair of cameras.

Tablets are handheld, touch-driven gadgets equipped with software that seems more intuitive, easier for the less tech-savvy to get to grips with when compared to laptops or netbooks, and sporting a myriad of uses thanks to easy-to-install applications.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab was the quickest to the punch by following mere months after the iPad, but its diminutive size and hefty price tag were ultimately its undoing, moving a relatively modest 2 million units worldwide.

Samsung’s post-mortem of their first effort admitted the difficulty of competing with Apple in this new and untamed territory, but it hasn’t stopped them – as well as a flurry of leading manufacturers – following in their wake with yet more touchscreen tablets.

But what makes them distinct from each other, and more importantly, are any better than Apple’s own offering?

We compare the latest and forthcoming tablets with the iPad 2, to see how they all stack up…

Motorola Xoom


Motorola Xoom tablet device

The Motorola Xoom shows off the latest Android software

Pros

–   Latest version of Android software, dubbed “Honeycomb” is impressive for browsing and dedicated tablet feel.

–   5MP rear and 2MP front facing camera, HD video capability.

–   Large 10.1-inch display.

Cons :

–   Lack of customization to Android interface, little unique feel.

–   Apps are lacking the ‘wow’ factor on Android.

–   Expense in getting 3G model – exclusive to Carphone Warehouse.

Release date: April 9th 2011.

Price: £600 for 32GB, wi-fi + 3G model.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1



Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 shows off its large display

Pros :

–   Larger, more comfortable display than the original – 10.1” over 7-inch original – but still very lightweight at 599g.

–   Running on latest, tablet-native version of Android software.

–   8-megapixel camera with high-def recording and full HD playback.

Cons :

–   Likely to be expensive when compared to iPad…yet again.

–   Lack of differentiation, overly identical Android experience.

–   Tab 10.1 is still far from release.

Release date: Summer 2011

Price: TBC

HP Touchpad


HP Touchpad

HP Touchpad

Pros :

–   HP’s WebOS software makes for a novel and intuitive tablet experience.

–   Super-fast internal processor.

–   Touch-to-share data functionality with Palm Pre phones.

Cons :

– Far from release, whilst iPad is weeks away.

– Number of applications for WebOS far fewer than Android and iOS at present.

– Brand is relative unknown in mobile/tablet space.

Release date: Summer 2011

Price: £699 (KingofGadgets.co.uk)

BlackBerry Playbook


BlackBerry Playbook

BlackBerry provides an iPad alternative for its loyal followers

Pros:

–   Sleek design with 7” display and HD video support

–   Powerful internal processor for swift browsing (with Flash support) and impressive multitasking.

–   Wirelessly and securely connects to BlackBerry phones for sharing mails, calendar, address book and BlackBerry Messenger contacts.

–   Could come in significantly cheaper than iPad

Cons:

–   Lacking 4G support in the UK (fault of our infrastructure rather than device, but still one less bullet point).

–   Unable to access BlackBerry features without connected handset.

–   Applications support still lacking (but quickly improving) for BlackBerry devices, tablet included.

Release date: Q2 2011

Price: US – $499.

LG Optimus Pad


LG Optimus

LG Optimus

Pros :

–   2 x 5MP rear cameras means 3D capability for taking stills and recording videos.

–   Powered by Google’s Android platform for tablets dubbed ‘Honeycomb’.

–   8.9” display has support for 3D (albeit with glasses).

Cons :

–   Honeycomb platform has little LG customization, making for an overly familiar experience.

–   Release weeks after the iPad 2 launch.

Release date: April/May 2011

Price: Rumoured $700 for US release.

One of the most notable announcements for the Apple iPad 2 was the price – identical to the original for all six models that will be available from the 25th of March.

Apple have seemingly added a wealth of features – powerful processor, a slimmer-than-iPhone 4 form factor and FaceTime video calling – and yet maintained the same cost to consumers as the first iPad, the competition seems to be pricing their tablet devices at whatever they think that the market will bear for a new category of device.

While it makes sense as the development times and effort to compete in this space quickly and with strong devices must have been immense, Apple have certainly wrongfooted the competition by bringing a sequel to market just as the majors are revealing their answer to the original iPad.

So, whilst a plethora of devices are due in summer with powerful internal processors, plenty of cameras and prices near to the iPad’s top end, Apple have already stayed one step ahead with a March release.

Time will tell whether Apple will have enough of a headstart against the quickly advancing competition, but there is no denying that laptops and PCs up and down the land will be left in drawers gathering dust – 2011 is undoubtedly the year of the handheld tablet device.

See also:

Review: Apple iPad 2 shows its credentials

Video: HP Touchpad demo. Can HP compete in the tablet market?

NewsOrange to stock LG 3D phone – the 3D screen that doesn’t need glasses.

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