As much as I love the iPad, iPhone, and iOS, I have to admit that I have become intrigued by some of the new and exciting features offered by some of the competing Android phones and tablets. I do appreciate how easy iOS is to learn, use, and set up. I still feel that iOS is the most user friendly mobile operating system and is still the operating system I would recommend to family members and friends. I think iOS is especially a good choice for those who are new to smartphones and tablets. However, I sometimes wish for some of the more advanced features now being offered on some Android phones and tablets such as an integrated stylus, the ability to run multiple apps on the screen at once, and all the neat things that you can do with live widgets on your app screen and lock screen.
I made the decision to go and see for myself if the grass was greener on the Android side. In order to do this, I picked up the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and Samsung Galaxy Note II phone to give them a try. I chose this specific tablet and phone as I believe Samsung is Apple’s closest competition at this point for the phone and tablet market. Many reviews are available for these two Android devices online, so I won’t write another review of these two products. Instead, as an iPhone and iPad user, I will share what I feel the iPhone and iPad do better than the Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Note II and where I feel the iPhone and iPad have fallen behind Samsung’s offerings. This article will focus on the the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs. the iPad, and next week I will take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Note II phone vs. the iPhone 5.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is an Android tablet currently running the latest version of Android – Jellybean. It features a 1.4 GHz quad cored processor, Samsung’s special S Pen stylus built in, and a 1280×800 screen. It is available in both white and deep gray with 16GB or 32GB of storage.
I purchased the white 16GB version for my comparison with the iPad. After using the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 as my main tablet for a week, I now have a good grasp of what this tablet is capable of, how useful its features are, and how it compares with the iPad.
What the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Does Better than the iPad
I love what I can do with multitasking on the Note 10.1. This feature, alone, is enough to tempt me to use this tablet over my iPad. In my daily workflow, I do a lot of internet research to put together presentations, write documents, and get my work done. I gave up doing this type of work in the iPad long ago due to how tedious it is to constantly switch back and forth between apps on the iPad. Pulling information from the web was just not something that could be done very quickly when the internet cannot be open and on the screen at the same time as your word processing software.
The ability to have multiple apps open on the screen at the same time on the Note 10.1 works incredibly well. A multitasking pop-up shortcut is always available on the bottom of the screen. Clicking on this shortcut brings up a menu of all the apps that support multi-screen viewing. Apps that support this feature include the internet browser, S-Notes App (Samsung’s handwriting & note taking app), calculator, email, calendar, twitter, Polaris Office, and more. While very few 3rd party apps are available for this feature, all the apps that I felt were needed to get work done were available.
There are two modes of multitasking – Dual View and Cascade View. Dual view splits the screen down the middle and allows you to run a different app on both sides. Cascade View lets you open up any of the supported multi-tasking apps in a small, moveable window over the top of any other open app.
In my week of using the Note 10.1, I did feel very product having the internet browser open at the same time as my word processing app or the S-Note app to type or write notes. I loved leaving behind the hassle of constantly having to switch between apps to pull information or pictures off of the internet. Jotting down or typing notes and copying and pasting information from one app to the other is a breeze when both apps are open. Going back to my iPad felt like taking a step back in time, and I was instantly annoyed by having to flip back and forth between apps again. I am very impressed by this feature and see it as the biggest selling point the Note 10.1 has over the iPad.
I wasn’t sure how much use I would get out of the S-Pen stylus. I have always been someone who prefers to type things rather than write them. I am also someone who has messy handwriting, and I did not see that translating well to writing on a tablet.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the usefulness of the stylus and find myself using it quite a bit to jot down notes. The high quality S-Pen and the wrist guard technology that blocks out your wrist from making unintentional marks on your page combine to make writing on the Note 10.1 as easy as writing on paper. Before long, I found myself often jotting down little notes for myself, taking notes at meetings, and drawing sketches of ideas. Typing on the screen of a tablet frustrates me because of the number of mistakes I find myself making. The stylus offered me a quick and easy alternative for jotting down quick notes and ideas that was free of the frustration of typing on a glass screen. I had tried some handwriting apps for the iPad and had even purchased some different styluses to attempt writing on the iPad but none of the solutions I found worked very well. The iPad was not built to work with a stylus while the Note 10.1 was specifically built for this purpose. The Note 10.1 is even able to sense many different levels of pressure when the stylus is used and will adjust line thickness as you write. The difference between the S-Pen and the stylus options available for the iPad are night and day. I would compare it to writing with a jumbo crayon (iPad) and then writing with a nicely sharpened pencil or a pen (Note 10.1). I didn’t expect this to be a big advantage over the iPad for me, but now I miss having an effective stylus when using my iPad.
I doubled the storage on my Note 10.1 for $8.99. That statement right there shows why I think expandable storage is a big advantage the Note 10.1 has over the iPad. The Note 10.1 has a slot for Micro SD cards. I found a new 16GB card on Amazon for $8.99 and instantly doubled my space. Apple charges a premium for extra space as it costs $100 more to purchase a 32GB iPad instead of the 16GB model. If I run out of space, I can always go out and buy a bigger Micro SD card. The Note 10.1 accepts cards as large as 64GB. You run out of space on an iPad and you are out of luck.
The ability to customize your home pages and lock screen with widgets is one of my favorite features of Android. I still am a bit miffed by the inability to do this in iOS. For those who aren’t familiar with widgets, they are live updating tiles of information that you can put on your home screens with your apps to give you information at a glance without having to enter any apps. I have my email, calendar, twitter feed, local weather, and a news feed open at all times on my home screens. Within seconds of turning on the tablet I can see my email inbox, glance at my upcoming appointments on my calendar, see the latest headlines, and view the weather. For me, this beats having to launch all of these separate apps to view the same information.
What the iPad Does Better than the Galaxy Note 10.1
The Retina Screen
Flip on the Galaxy Note 10.1 and you will instantly see its biggest disadvantage verses the new iPad. The Galaxy Note 10.1 has a 1280×800 screen that is instantly recognizable as lower quality than the screen on the iPad. The Note’s screen is by no means ugly, but for those accustomed to the higher pixel count of the new iPad will definitely notice a difference. When placed side by side with an iPad 2, I would rate the screen of the note 10.1 as very comparable in quality. When placed side by side on a store shelf, most customers will likely instantly gravitate to the new iPad due to screen quality. If having the Retina screen is important to you, the iPad will be the better choice. However, I feel it is a shame many may not give the Galaxy Note 10.1 a shot, as I do feel some of its unique features really shine despite the lower quality screen.
The App Quality and Selection
I had no trouble finding most of my favorite apps on the Google Play store. Upon opening them, however, I was disappointed to find many of them were not optimized to take advantage of the larger screen of a tablet. A good portion of the apps were blown up phone apps that had large areas of open space and very small text more suitable to a phone. The Google Play store seems to be adding more tablet optimized apps every day, but the selection and app quality still does not even come close to what is available on the App Store for iPad. If you rely heavily on 3rd party apps rather than the built in browser, word processor, and basic functions of a tablet, the better choice for app selection and app quality is still the iPad. If you rely on a tablet more for basic email, note taking, and web surfing, this category is more of a toss up as the built in apps and S-Pen compatible apps on the Note 10.1 are quite nice.
I mentioned that the customizability of Android is a plus of the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. However, the more limited multi-tasking and widget free functionality of iOS is a big part of what causes the iPad to have some of the best battery life available on a tablet. If long battery life is a must for you, the iPad will be your tablet of choice. The Note 10.1 could eek out about 10 hours of battery life with widgets turned off and limited amounts of multi-tasking. However, this removes the Note’s biggest strengths and what makes it unique from an iPad. With heavier multi-tasking and widgets constantly updating on the home page, I got closer to 7-8 hours of use on the Note 10.1 before the battery died. While this isn’t terrible and easily get me through the day, my iPad routinely gets 10-12 hours of heavy use before the battery calls it quits.
Ease of Synching Documents, Photos, Music, and Apps
I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons I recommend iPhones and iPads to relatives and friends is their ease of use. While there are plenty of options available for Android to have documents, apps, music, and photos synch to various cloud services and between devices, iOS outshines Android in making this process extremely simple. Apple’s iCloud takes all the thought out of how to get documents, apps, music, or photos back and forth between your devices or your computer. Everything just happens without you having to do anything, set up additional accounts, or dig deep into menus on your tablet.
As someone who has heavily invested in iTunes music, I missed how easy it was to get all my music and apps from one device to another. There are apps available on Android to allow you to send your iTunes music over to your Android device, but the process is far more complicated than the way it automatically works with an iPad.
Dropbox and other cloud services and apps are making it easier to share documents between Android devices as well. In fact, the Note 10.1 came with 50GB of free Dropbox space for 2 years. However, sharing documents via Dropbox takes an extra step or two compared to the automatic cloud sharing that can be turned on and used with your iPad.
Conclusion – A Tablet That Will Appeal to Certain Types of People
After my week with the Galaxy Note 10.1 I came to the conclusion that the Note is a tablet that will either appeal to you because its unique features fit your needs, or it will not appeal to you at all. Those who prefer their handwriting to typing, students, graphic artists, and those whose work involves taking notes from or pulling information off of the internet may find that the Note 10.1 has some real advantages over the iPad. Those looking for a simple, easy to use tablet, those who want one of the best screens and battery life on the market, and those who rely heavily on 3rd party apps will likely prefer the iPad.
I definitely think there are some areas in which the Note 10.1 outshines the iPad. Every time I use my iPad now I miss the multitasking features of the Note and occasionally wish for a better stylus option. I also miss the customizability that Android allows verses the very plain, cookie cutter look of iOS on the iPad. Apple has some serious catching up to do in these areas, or I may be tempted to continue experimenting with other options.
Apple has fallen dangerously behind in multitasking and in customizability of their operating system. While ease of use, the iPad’s unmatched build quality, and the large amount of money many people have invested in the iTunes and App store will cause the iPad to be the tablet to beat for the foreseeable future, the advancement of the Android operting system on tablets such as the Note 10.1 are beginning quality to tempt loyal Apple users away from iOS. The iOS operating system is especially in need of some new solutions for customizability and multitasking if Apple wants to keep their tablet lead over the ever more impressive offerings of its competitors. It should be fascinating to see how Apple chooses to respond in its next iOS release.
Even though I am currently enjoying the unique features of the Galaxy Note 10.1, I do feel I will eventually stick to the iPad as my tablet of choice. The biggest reason for this decision is the fact that I do rely heavily on 3rd party apps and many of these apps are just not available or done as beautifully on Android. However, the once very wide gap between the iPad and its competitors has narrowed significantly due to the unique features offered by tablets like the Galaxy Note 10.1. A year ago this would have been a much easier decision.
Verdict: I’m Sticking With the iPad – For Now