iPad Competitors – Yet More Thoughts

This evening, I had a chance to read through the day’s RSS feed, and Daring Fireball’s John Gruber posted a reaction to a recent article summarizing the tablet that is in “second place.”  Gruber makes a point that the iPad is completely removed from the comparison, and that the “top” selling tablet (other than the iPad) sold 1/50 the number of iPads that were sold in the same time period.
That second place tablet?  The HP TouchPad, which was discontinued and sold at the prices of $99 and $139 in an odd fire sale in August. 
On a related note, the CyanogenMod team released a 3rd Alpha version of the CM7 Android 2.3 installation that can be placed on an HP TouchPad.  I’ve been running the operating system for some time, and have suffered some issues such as the “Sleep of Death” (the TouchPad won’t wake up after “sleeping” and must be booted holding the power and “home” button) in Alpha 1, and odd wi-fi issues the last couple of weeks with Alpha 2.  Under Alpha 3, things seem faster, and I suffered some more wi-fi issues right after install–but so far wi-fi has been working after that.  
The more I use Android, I can make several broad statements (even though this is 2.3, many devices are still shipping with this version of the OS or even older versions of the OS.  This includes the Kindle Fire, which runs a modified version of Android 2.2.):

  1. I’ve been reading the Steve Jobs Biography and I’ve heard it said that Steve Jobs and Jony Ive considered many different form factors for the iPad.  They settled on the current 9.7 inch 4:3 version.  For general use, the 4:3 format seems ideal for everything BUT watching movies.  I like that the TouchPad is 4:3 and running Android.  All the other Android tablets are 16:9 or 16:10.
  2. Android works.  If the apps you need are available on the device, or all you need is a highly portable e-mail/internet/Netflix device, you can’t go wrong with it.
  3. But it doesn’t work as nicely as the iPad.  The iPad is simply more fluid and more logical than any Android device I’ve seen.  For the technicians that like to dabble, Android makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes I’m a dabbler, too.  But for the average user–for my mom, even–I wouldn’t buy the Android.
  4. Some authors are saying that they don’t see any Android-only apps that make you say, “I gotta have that!”  Put another way, apps that run on all the devices (e.g. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja) generally work and act the same on all devices.  But you can come up with a list of a ton of useful apps (education or otherwise) that exist on iPad and not on Android.  I can see someone buying an iPad JUST for Pages, Keynote, or Garage Band.  What app does that for Android?
  5. In terms of music and music education…the apps just aren’t there on Android.  Show me one good music reader.  Show me one music app (other than, perhaps Google Music itself) that doesn’t have a better version (or answer) on iPad.  It’s not there.  This is significant, because the iPad has been out less than 2 years, but many of those apps were available within a month of the release of the iPad.  Android tablets started coming to market soon afterwards–but where are those apps?

I also wanted to write about the Kindle Fire.  I’m all for that device, just like I was for the B&N Nook Color.  I don’t have any qualms with a seven inch screen, or any of the limitations of those devices.  They are inexpensive tablets with the primary purpose of being an e-reader, followed by multimedia second.  If someone gave me either one, I would use it, just as I’m using my TouchPad.  But I wouldn’t use it like I use my iPad.

Here’s how I used my iPad Today:

  1. It charged next to my TV overnight (it sleeps there)
  2. I wirelessly synced it to my MacBook this morning before I went to work.
  3. During a staff meeting, I used forScore to display pages from Bruce Phelps’ Sight Reading Manual and then used the iPad’s built-in screen capture tool (power button & home button at the same time) to take pictures of specific exercises I wanted to do with my choirs.  Then I opened Keynote and deleted yesterday’s sight-reading exercises and replaced them with today’s sight-reading exercises.  Then I deleted yesterday’s warm-ups and replaced them with today’s warm-ups.
  4. I took attendance at the beginning of each class using our district’ web portal (Infinite Campus).
  5. I then used the Apple TV to mirror the iPad, generally using the Keynote presentation for warm-ups, sight-reading, and announcements.  Our administration is “big” into purpose-statements this year, so I’ve created general purpose statements for each part of the rehearsal that show as I get up to turn off the lights or turn them on again (the projector in our room isn’t bright enough to deal with leaving the lights on).
  6. While using forScore for my own music, I mirror the screen (although small and in portrait) while I work, zooming in when I make a mark–which also shows the students exactly what I’m marking.
  7. For our accompanied songs, I also use forScore as an accompanist (it plays an attached audio file) that either comes as a CD from a publisher or I create on Finale.
  8. During my prep period, I used the iPad to display music as I edited some songs in Finale (ultimately creating accompaniment tracks), and to access our music library.  I also pulled up a list of local voice and piano teachers on the web (it’s on our website) and printed via AirPrint to an HP printer our booster club purchased for us (It was $69 at Wal-Mart).  I also had to print out a roster of every member of one of our four curricular choirs, and also a new folder roster from Numbers.  These were all on the iPad.
  9. A Boys Hockey Parent brought a list of potential dates for singers of the National Anthem, which I then took a picture of with the iPad and placed into Noteshelf, and displayed that list for my top choir so they could see potential dates and begin to choose dates to sing.  I used my Adonit Jot Pro to make notes on the Noteshelf document.
  10. Tonight I’ve used my iPad with my son to watch the new “Monster at the End of this Book” app (only $0.99 for a limited time), to watch some Netflix, and to write this app.
  11. And with all that, I’ve still got 12% left on the battery at 10:27pm.

I ask you this: could the Amazon Kindle Fire do this?  How about the B&N Color Nook?  How about any Amazon tablet?  A Windows 7 Tablet?  A HP TouchPad?

You know the answer: No.

Could they?  In time, absolutely.  But the issue–particularly in education–isn’t what you can do eventually, it’s what you can do NOW.  We move VERY slowly with technology in our schools, and if you buy into a product with a promise of something that’s coming–there’s a chance it never will.  I’m more scared of buying a technology with potential empty promises than I am of technology that gets outdated.

As I mentioned in Iowa last weekend, there’s nothing wrong with these other tablets.  If you can find a tablet that meets your needs, get it.  Just make sure that what you buy isn’t limited to only your current needs, because your needs can change over time.


Comments are disabled.