Now that both the second generation iPad and Motorola Xoom are available, what should you get? Which one is the better tablet? Let's compare the two and find the better deal.
On the iPad, you have a dual core processor and front and rear facing cameras. On the Xoom, you have a dual core processor and front and rear facing cameras. The iPad has better battery life at 10 hours compared to Xoom's 8. Xoom has a better front facing camera at 2 megapixels compared to the .3 megapixels (VGA) on the iPad. Both have 5 megapixel rear cameras. They're both capable of capturing 720p HD video, and both the Xoom and iPad can output video through HDMI. The Xoom has a built-in flash; the iPad does not. Edge here goes to Xoom.
The iPad 2 weighs 1.3 pounds compared to 1.6 for the Xoom. The iPad is also thinner. The screen on the iPad is slightly smaller at 9.7 inches, while the Xoom is 10.1. Keep in mind that screen sizes are measured diagonally, so when you compare a Xoom to an iPad, they're very close in size with the Xoom slightly wider and shorter than the iPad, and the Xoom has slightly better screen resolution with more overall pixels. The Xoom is also thicker than the iPad, though neither is particularly bulky or thick. And for original iPod fans, the iPad now comes in white. This is a tie, because it depends on your preference of bigger screen or lighter tablet.
The iPad offers 16, 32, and 64 GB storage models. The Xoom currently comes with 32 GBs only. The Xoom storage can be expanded via SD card (after a future hardware update.) The iPad does not offer any SD storage. The edge here goes to iPad, but it may change with new Xoom models.
The iPad is available with 3G-only access through either Verizon or AT&T in the US or you can buy a Wi-Fi only version. The Xoom is only available with Verizon 3G. Current models will upgrade to 4G LTE in the future, and the Wi-Fi only version will be available on March 27th. The 3G Xoom has built in hotspot sharing ability, which is not available in the iPad. The iPad supports corporate security for wireless better than the current version of Android Honeycomb.
If you buy a 3G iPad, you can opt to buy one outside of contract and then buy occasional pre-paid data access. You must buy a monthly plan in order to have 3G access on your Xoom. If you're going on a trip, you could set up an account for your Xoom, add the service, and then cancel it at the end of the month, but Verizon does not offer the same inexpensive pre-paid month of service that they offer for iPads on the very same network. Until Xooms are upgraded to 4G and offer reasonable pre-paid data plans for occasional users, iPads win with better wireless access.
The accessory king is still iPad, hands down. Both iPad and Xoom offer wireless keyboards and cases that allow you to balance the tablet on a table. However, Apple came out with a slick "smart" case, and as a market leader, you'll find a lot more third-party accessories like cases and skins available for iPad.
Again, there's not much contest here. There are far more iPad apps available than there are Android Honeycomb apps, as in thousands compared to dozens. You can still use Android apps made for earlier versions, but some of them won't look good or behave well. Next year may be better, but developers make more money for their effort by writing those apps for iPad, and until that changes, the number of apps are going to lag behind in both quality and quantity. If you want apps now, don't buy a Xoom.
The other major difference here is that Android will support Flash when Adobe releases their tablet-specific Flash player on March 18th. Indeed, the dual core processor in the Xoom has hardware acceleration for Flash built in. That means that a variety of Flash apps could potentially hit the market.
This is hard to judge, but the winner is Xoom. The iPad is essentially an enlarged version of the iPhone interface. It works. It's easy to understand for iPhone users, but it's also limiting. The iPad interface will always be the thing that holds your icon buttons rather than a rich experience. The Android Honeycomb interface differs a bit from the Android phone interface, but not in ways that make no sense. Interactive widgets, navigation buttons that are always at the bottom of your screen, and easy access to the settings and other menus make Honeycomb tablets a great experience without launching apps.
I've handed my kindergartner both my iPad and my Xoom, and he had no problem launching and using apps on either tablet. I will note for people that do want to hand their kindergartners their tablet, that iPads are easier to lock down for restricted kid use (and there are a lot more kid-friendly iPad apps).
The iPad is the clear winner here. The iPad pricing stars at $499 and goes up to $830 for the 64 GB model. The Xoom comes in only one flavor, and that's $799, which is still more expensive than the equivalent iPad 3G version with 32 GB storage. The Wi-Fi only version of the Xoom is $599 for 32 gigs of storage, which is the same price as an iPad 2 with 32 gigs, but the lower starting point for an iPad still makes it seem like a better deal.
The iPad dominates the tablet market, even if it doesn't win on all comparisons. The iPad 2 lacks some nice features of the Xoom, including Wi-Fi tethering, 4G, SD card storage, better cameras, and the ability to play Flash. The iPad 2 is still a lighter tablet with a lot more apps, better battery life, and accessories and very similar hardware specs, even if not identical to the Xoom. If you have your heart set on Android, your best bet is to hold off for better or cheaper models. Samsung, Toshiba, Asus, and LG will all have tablets hitting the market this year, and there's a chance they'll actually have better pricing. If your tax return is burning a hole in your pocket, go for the iPad.
Meanwhile, the pricing on the original iPad has dropped by at least $100, and while you'll give up speed and cameras, you'll still get a pretty great tablet. Android bargain shoppers can find an original Samsung Galaxy Tab for around $480, but the discounted iPads are still a better price and value.