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11 May 12 Ultimate Android betrayal: I just bought a third gen iPad

I feel almost ashamed to be writing this post, but we’re all friends here, right? I’ve been carrying the Android torch for a while now, but earlier this week I broke down and bought a third generation iPad.

This isn’t my first iPad; I bought the original model when it first came out and it proved to me that in general I was a fan of the tablet format. I wasn’t as much a fan of Apple’s “walled garden” or having to run iTunes on my system in order to back things up, but at the time there weren’t any good Android options available.

When Acer brought its Tegra 2-based Iconia A500 to market — one of the earlier dual-core, Honeycomb-running Android tablets — I switched camps and the iPad has been collecting dust since. I also have a Kindle Fire, and my current Galaxy Nexus smartphone replaced a Motorola Droid. So I’ve been an Android guy for a while now.

So why switch back?

Two main reasons. First is the Retina display. It really is a thing of beauty and I grew impatient waiting for Android tablet makers to catch up (I know the 3rd gen iPad hasn’t been on the market very long but I’m not a very patient person). I do a lot of reading on my tablets and anything that makes that a better experience is worth spending money on, in my opinion. My 50th birthday is a few years behind me and my eyes can use all the TLC I can offer them.

I’m comfortable with that reason, but it’s reason two that I feel a bit uneasy about. I bought an iPad because all my friends have iPads. That just makes me part of the problem, I know. Regular readers of this blog know I’m a gamer, and I’ve got a group of friends doing asynchronous multiplayer games via their iPads. I wanted to get in on the fun and too many newer games expect you to have at least an iPad 2 at this point.

So not only am I setting aside Android, but I’m bolstering the theory (a theory I’ve often disputed) that handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Vita are being killed off by tablets and smartphones. These friends don’t have handheld gaming systems; they have iPads instead.

Anyway, it’s way too late for me to do any kind of a ‘review’ of the third generation iPad but I thought I’d throw out a few random thoughts.

On the negative side, I wish it was a little lighter. (The original iPad was 1.5 lbs, the iPad 2 slimmed down to 1.33 lbs, but the 3rd generation is back up to 1.44 lbs.) The battery life doesn’t seem to be as good as on the iPad 1 or my Acer. That’s not to say it’s bad; last night I ran it down from 100% to 80% in about 2 hours, which means the 10 hour estimated battery life should be accurate. But the old iPad and the Acer seem to run forever on a charge. The change might be due to my using this new model differently though (I’ll get to that in a minute). Finally, the Apple cover is junk. I hate it. It’s always flapping around on me and getting in the way and of course it does nothing to protect the back of the unit.

On the positive side, since I’ve been away from the iPad world, the Internet has really moved forward with support for the device. I’m finding it pretty unusual to encounter a site that doesn’t render nicely on the new iPad, and video is virtually never a problem. Because of this I find myself watching a lot of streaming video on the new iPad, which may be why the battery life seems shorter to me. More time watching, less time futzing around looking for sites that support HTML5 video (the old iPad) or waiting for Flash to load (the Acer).

Generally speaking it’s nice to read about some cool new app and be able to assume it’s available for your hardware. Android seems to be catching up to iOS as far as support goes, but as an Android user I was very, very familiar with the phrase “Coming soon.”

Reading on this thing is a dream. My initial intent was to use the new iPad “for fun” and to keep doing work on the Android tablet. Work, in this context, means keeping up on many news feeds, filtering/sharing interesting articles into various ‘buckets’ I maintain for post fodder. I’m still not ready to do any serious text entry on a tablet.

Anyway that plan lasted about an evening. Text is just so crisp that it doesn’t make sense to go back to my beloved A500 for any kind of reading. I installed an RSS reader as well as InstaPaper and Pocket and off to work I went.

And last, this thing is really snappy. Now I can’t compare it to a Tegra 3 Android tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich and I like to believe the newer Android tablets will equal the performance of the 3rd gen iPad, but coming from a Tegra 2 device this thing works like a dream. I feel like I need to barely brush the screen to swipe, move and select items.

The one thing I’m still unsure of is iCloud. Apple gives you 5 GB of free storage that should allow me to back up the iPad over WiFi. Of course once I get more than 5 GB of stuff on it I’ll have a decision to make: install iTunes, pay for more iCloud storage, or live dangerously without a backup. Since I’m not generating much content on the iPad and I can re-download purchased apps, I might just live dangerously since the other two options aren’t at all appealing to me.

All in all, aside from this vague guilty feeling that I’ve abandoned Android, and of course the gaping hole in my wallet where $600 used to be, I’m really pleased with the new addition to my tablet collection.

Read more of Peter Smith’s TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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