Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’

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8. “My openness and/or flexibility actually pay off.”

The iPad has the best-designed software in the business, but it didn’t get there by providing immense flexibility. Actually, there are shockingly few areas of the software that permit you to fool around with settings to choose a different way of doing things. (One scrawny example: the slider on the side that can be either a mute switch or an orientation lock.) And we all know that the App Store is run the way Apple thinks the App Store should be run, which sometimes means that entire categories of software that some of us would like to get our hands on are verboten. So on paper, at least, a less controlling experience should be an easy route to tablet success.

Any examples? Android is supposed to be that flexible, open mobile operating system, right? We can debate this subject non-stop for the next few months if you’d like–and probably will–but I’ve been continuously disappointed by the degree to which its openness doesn’t translate into enormous benefits to be had as a user of mobile devices. There aren’t enough utilities for tweaking its interface, and there are too few knockout apps in the Android Market which Apple would never approve. I’m still looking for a tablet OS that feels like it provides anything like the degree of freedom I have on a Windows PC or a Mac. (Come to think of it, today’s most customizable mobile operating system may be jailbroken iOS.)

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