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Which One Is Better? The Galaxy Tab 2 vs. the iPad

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If you want to purchase a new tablet and your choices have narrowed to the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, Eric Butow helps you decide by comparing hardware and software features of the large iPad 4 and Tab 2 10.1 as well as the smaller iPad mini and Tab 2 7.0.

The Apple iPad is the most popular tablet in terms of market share—with 39.6 percent of all users owning one of the five iPad models, which includes the latest fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini. Samsung is second in the market share race with 17.9 percent (http://www.businessinsider.com/android-ahead-of-ios-tablet-market-share-2013-5).

If you're thinking about purchasing one (or both) of these two leading tablets, you can learn more about the differences and similarities between both the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 by reading on.

This isn't a true apples-to-apples (ahem) comparison. I own an iPad 2 as well as a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, but I will also list the hardware specifications of the iPad mini and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. There are, by the way, no issues with the operating systems run by different models of the iPad and the Tab 2. The iPad 2 runs the same operating system (iOS 6.1.3) as the third- and fourth-generation iPad as well as the iPad mini. The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 also runs Android 4.1.1 just as the Tab 2 7.0 model does.

Apple refers to the latest, fourth-generation iPad as the iPad with Retina Display, but for the purposes of this discussion, I will refer to this latest iPad as the iPad 4.

Data Carriers

All iPad models, including the iPad mini, offer Wi-Fi connectivity only as well as the capability to work with cellular data providers Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T.

Both the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and 10.1 models come with Wi-Fi connectivity only. However, your desired cellular carrier will determine the Tab 2 model you can get. If you want to use Verizon, you can use both the Tab 2 7.0 and 10.1 models. However, if you use AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, you can only purchase the Tab 2 10.1 with those carriers.

Hardware

Both the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 2 have many of the same features, such as an LED screen and a built-in camcorder for taking videos. However, this section discusses differences in hardware offerings between the iPad and Tab 2 models.

Display

The iPad 4 has a smaller diagonal screen size (9.5 inches) than the Tab 2 10.1 (so named because the screen is 10.1 inches). However, the iPad 4 screen's resolution is much sharper thanks to Apple's Retina technology with a 2048 by 1536 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch. The Tab 2 screen's resolution is 1200 by 800 pixels at 149 pixels per inch.

If you want to go smaller with the iPad mini or Tab 2 7.0, the iPad mini wins the screen size competition with a 7.9-inch screen compared to a 7.0-inch screen on the Tab 2 7.0.

You'll find both tablets' screen resolutions are comparable because the iPad mini doesn't use Retina technology for its screen. The iPad mini resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels at 162 pixels per inch. Though the Tab 2 7.0 screen's resolution is slightly worse at 1024 by 600 pixels, Samsung has fit 170 pixels per inch onto the screen.

Weight and Dimensions

If the weight and size of the physical tablet is important to you, there are significant differences between the iPad 4, iPad mini, and the two models of the Tab 2. Note that adding cellular service to your tablet will add a little more hardware to the tablet and thus a little more weight.

The Tab 2 10.1 is the winner in the size and weight competition against the iPad 4. The Tab 2 10.1 model's 10.1-inch screen makes the entire unit larger (10.1" wide by 6.9" high by 0.38" thick) than the iPad 4 (9.5" wide by 7.31" high by 0.37" thick). Despite the larger size, the Tab 2 10.1 weighs 20.64 ounces, which is considerably slimmer than the iPad 4 weight of 23.35 ounces.

The iPad mini is physically larger than the Tab 2 7.0 at 7.87 by 5.30 inches, compared with 7.63 inches by 4.82 inches for the Tab 2 7.0, because the iPad mini has a larger screen. However, the iPad mini is thinner than the Tab 2 7.0—0.28 inches for the iPad mini compared with 0.41 inches for the Tab 2 7.0. As a result, the iPad mini is considerably lighter (11.01 ounces) than the Tab 2 7.0 (12.13 ounces).

Battery Life

When you inspect battery life, look for the mAh (milliamp hour) number. The higher the number, the more power the battery has, so you'll be able to run your tablet for a longer period on a single charge.

The iPad 4 wins the battery competition against the Tab 2 hands down, and this is due to Apple's lithium polymer battery that provides 11560mAh of power. The Tab 2 10.1 has a lithium ion battery that provides 7000mAh of power.

The iPad mini also has a lithium polymer battery, but because the iPad mini is a smaller unit, the battery is smaller as well—it has 4400mAh of power. The Tab 2 7.0 battery has 7000mAh of power in its battery, so you get more battery life as the reward for a thicker and heavier unit.

Photo and Video Cameras

Both the iPad 4 and Tab 2 10.1 come with video cameras on the front and back of each unit, as well as a photo camera on the back of each unit. The iPad 4 beats the Tab 2 10.1 in terms of both photo and video camera resolution. The better the resolution, the better the picture or video.

The iPad 4 has 5 megapixel photo resolution and records video in 1080 lines of vertical resolution, better known as 1080p. The Tab 2 10.1 has 3 megapixel photo resolution, and records video in 720 lines of vertical resolution, or 720p.

Storage

The iPad 4 doesn't come with any memory expansion cards. Instead, you order one of four memory options when you order the iPad. The standard memory size for the base iPad 4 is 16GB, but you can also purchase 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB memory on your iPad to store your data.

The Tab 2 10.1, on the other hand, comes with 16GB in its base configuration, but you can increase memory to 32GB or 64GB by adding the appropriate microSD memory card into the microSD port on the Tab 2.

The iPad mini also has 16GB of memory in its base configuration, but you can order your iPad mini with 32GB or 64GB on board. The Tab 2 7.0 comes with 8GB in its base configuration, but you can buy a microSD card to expand memory to 16GB or the maximum 32GB.

Operating System and Apps

Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems have some similarities, in part because Apple pioneered the hardware and software user interfaces that major smartphone and tablet operating systems use today. The biggest difference in the home screens of both tablets is that all the apps on the iPad are on the screen (shown in Figure 1), and you can swipe on the screen from left to right (and vice versa) to view more home screen pages that contain more apps.

Figure 1 The iPad main screen shows the status bar on top, app icons in the middle, and stationary apps at the bottom

Jelly Bean is the first version of Android to include stationary app icons at the bottom of each screen, so when you move between pages of the home screen, these icons remain on the screen. After you rotate the screen to horizontal orientation, the stationary icons appear at the right side of the screen.

Figure 2 Six stationary icons appear at the bottom of the Tab 2 7.0 home screen in vertical orientation

The biggest difference you'll notice between iOS on the iPad and Jelly Bean is that Jelly Bean shows only those app icons it thinks you will use more often on the home screens. You can access all the apps by tapping the Apps icon at the bottom (vertical orientation) or right side (horizontal orientation) of your screen.

You may also notice the other big difference between the iPad and Tab 2 when you're browsing through websites. If you visit a website that has animations created using Adobe's Flash animation software, you'll find that you can't view Flash animations on your iPad 4 or iPad mini.

In 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs controversially refused to support Flash on the iOS platform; Jobs favored the animation features of HTML5, the latest version of the programming language the Web uses to display websites in your browser. The Android OS supports Flash animations, so you won't have any trouble viewing them in the Browser app on your Tab 2.

Another big advantage the iPad has over the Tab 2 is the number of apps available. The Apple App Store boasts 800,000 apps to choose from. Though about 300,000 of those apps have been written specifically for the iPad, you can also run many of the other 500,000 iPhone apps in the App Store in iPad's compatibility mode. However, you won't know how compatible each iPhone app is until you download it and run it on your iPad.

The computing media knows Android has fewer apps with just under 700,000 apps in the Google Play Store, but there are significantly fewer tablet-specific apps, though how many is unknown. When I searched for tablet apps in the Google Play Store as I wrote this article, the Play Store only returned 495 apps designed for an Android tablet. Like the iPad, you can also run apps designed for Android phones on your Tab 2 in compatibility mode.

The Verdict

The type of tablet you purchase depends on what your needs are. For example, if you want to take photos and videos with your tablet, battery life, camera and video resolution, and storage space are important—and the iPad 4 may be your best option. If you want a smaller tablet to take notes and occasional photos in the field, then battery life may be important but the type of operating system and storage space may not be critical, and so the Tab 2 7.0 may be the tablet for you.

I recommend making a list of the features you want from your tablet to better evaluate which one will best meet those needs. If you do that, you will ensure that your tablet experience is at least a reasonably happy one.

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