A different view (same conclusion) on iPad vs. Android Tablets

Earlier today, Fraser Speirs tweeted about an article from Mark Cunningham, who has been implementing a 1:1 Android pilot (140 devices) for the Edinburgh Council.

Every now and then, I receive feedback (in person, in an e-mail, on a forum) where an Android tablet owner is upset about the continued success of the iPad, particularly in education (and although it is true more and more Android devices are being sold than iOS devices, iOS is still maintaining a huge percentage of web usage, profits in the industry, and available apps).  Mr. Cunningham, after using Android devices for a year, has this to say:

…After much consideration iPad / iOS is the platform which best meets the needs of our secondary learners. There are two fundamental reasons why I believe we need to change from Android tablets to iPads this year: 1.  Availability of rich learning content All too regularly I come across a fantastic app only to discover that it’s available only for iOS and not Android. I don’t have an exact figure, but I would guess that maybe one third of the educational apps are designed for iOS only (some great examples are GarageBandExplain Everything,FoldifyKeyNotePuppet PalsBrushesGeoboard to name but a few). Of course that might change in the future as Android continues to catch up, but as things stand this is a problem. 2. Device (and company) robustness As I highlighted in my previous 1:1 posts, Toshiba (note: Toshiba and not Android) have let us down. Badly. The project this year has been hampered by a return to base warranty issue which has meant that at times we were without 20% of all devices and the time to repair was on average a completely unacceptable 4-5 weeks. This was down to a manufacturing / build fault, but despite numerous requests for support Toshiba spent 6 months saying there was nothing they could do. Would Apple have sat back if one fifth of their devices rolled out to a school were faulty? I doubt it, and I doubt Apple would allow such build faults to get past their quality control processes. (I should point out that 7 months into the project Toshiba finally visited our school to review all devices, but in my opinion this was too little too late). Would other Android companies such as Asus or Samsung be any different to Toshiba? Possibly, but I don’t know. Just to be absolutely clear, I am neither an Apple or Android promoter, I just want to ensure we are providing the best educational tech tools to meet the needs of our learners. Currently, in my opinion the iPad is the tablet device which best meets our needs. And next year? Well, who knows…

The topic of this blog is (and remains) the use of technology in music education.  Although I do not have the ability to purchase all devices, I make an attempt to buy a few (such as my Android-running HP TouchPad and the Samsung Google Chromebook, which I am actually using to type this blog post) and to get to big box stores to play with other new technology that I can’t buy.  Cunningham’s two issues are true in music education as much as any other field in education; but I would add that nearly every other technology solution–particularly when it comes to computing, other than the iPad–fails miserably in the music classroom, as well in the classroom of other electives.  My firm belief is that in the current era, when a school chooses another platform for computing (Android, Windows Tablets, Windows PCs, Chromebooks, even MacBooks), they are sending a message that the electives are not important in education, and that technology does not matter in those fields.

Yes, I am pro-iPad.  But I am also pro-technology.  A fellow teacher at my school recently gave me a bit of grief for buying a Chromebook, saying, “The biggest Apple Fanboi I know just bought a Chromebook!”  He was joking, but I replied rather seriously, “Don’t confuse my love for Apple and their solutions with my overall interest in technology and its use in education.”

Put another way, there may be a place in your life for a Chromebook, and Android Tablet, a WIndows PC, or a MacBook.  As I have mentioned, I am using a Chromebook at this moment.  But if you are pursuing a 1:1 educational situation with any of those devices instead of an iPad–then that effort is misplaced, particularly if you endorse a well-rounded liberal arts education.  If you don’t support a well-rounded education, then buy everyone a Windows PC or a MacBook, and be honest about your philosophy of education (most decision-makers are afraid to be honest about this, or deny that they have that bias).

As Cunningham notes (and in fact,so did Fraser Speirs, when originally writing about their adoption of the iPad), “Currently, in my opinion the iPad is the tablet device which best meets our needs. And next year? Well, who knows…”  But here is the thing…you should never buy something for what it might do, but instead buy it for what it currently does.  One of the problems with Android devices is the issue of fragmentation (multiple versions of the OS running on thousands of devices), although the iPad is starting to experience fragmentation, too (The three-year old first generation iPad cannot run iOS 6, and thus a large number of apps).  I know of a number of schools buying Android devices that say, “We expect the app situation on Android to improve.”  And it has–a little.  But Apple’s platform has continued to develop as well, and so has the Apple App Store.  If you are going to spend limited education dollars on technology, you need to have an ear to the ground about what is coming–but also be aware of what the device can do right now.  If you compare Apples to Apples (terrible analogy in this case), then the answer has to be iPad.

Final Note: Fraser Speirs followed with some additional tweets about Mr. Cunningham’s experience with faulty tablets and down time, which he also discusses in his article.  It HAS to be unacceptable to lose 20% of your technology platform at times (as happened in Mr. Cunningham’s situation).  Mr. Speirs noted that he could get a device replaced within a day, versus 4-5 weeks with the Toshiba tablets.  Granted, there are probably better quality Android tablets on the market that would have the operational durability we’ve seen with iPads…but this is a part of the discussion to consider when Android tablets are chosen over iPads.

Post Script: I managed to crash the Google Chromebook while writing this post.


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