10 Things the Motorola Xoom does Better than the iPad

For the last 3 weeks, I have been Tweeting and Blogging about my experience with the new Motorola Xoom Tablet, which is the very first Tablet sporting Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb. Honeycomb is the next generation of the Android operating system, which is optimized specifically for Tablets.

One question that I get often is How does the Motorola Xoom compare to the iPad? So without further ado, here are 10 things I really like about the Xoom as compared to the iPad, which I bought and have used since the first day it went on sale:

1. No PC required to get started

I didn’t really realized this until later but I was able to activate my Xoom, setup my Gmail account, as well as my Exchange e-mail and .Mac account without ever needing to connect my Tablet to a computer as I had to do when I first bought the iPad. My point is that if Tablets are really supposed to eventually replace our Desktops, the Xoom is off to a better start than the iPad. This means that you can literally buy a Xoom when you are traveling and while you are waiting for your flight, or on a train, you can be up and running with your new device. I think this is very powerful indeed.

2. Widgets

I came to Android from the iOS world having used an iPhone and an iPad, so it took me a little while to get used to Android, but now that I understand it, I’m a big fan. If I had to pick one thing about Android in general and Honeycomb specifically as the killer app, it would have to be Widgets, hands down. The idea that apps like the USA Today can show me a headlines preview for each section without launching the full app is just very appealing to me. I can also tap the bar at the top of the widget to go from one section to the next and only if I’m interested in a story, I tap it and then the app launches taking me directly to that story. I now also have widgets for trending Apps in the Android Market, for all three of my emails accounts, for Google Books, YouTube videos, Facebook updates, Twitter mentions and Browser bookmarks. Very powerful stuff. The iPad has nothing comparable to this.

3. Notifications

One of my least favorite iPad features is how obtrusive notifications are. If you use an iPad, you can probably relate. You are the middle of reading, or doing something important and a notification pops-up that interrupts your flow. Not so on the Motorola Xoom. All notifications are quietly placed at the bottom right of your device and you can display the list when you want. Notifications include Twitter mentions, Facebook updates, new e-mail, music playing or paused, remaining battery, wifi connections, as well as an option for getting to more Settings, etc.

4. Multitasking

I really like the ease with which I can switch between the latest apps I have been using on my Motorola Xoom. I can Browse the web and then just tap the third button, which is always located at the bottom left of the Xoom to switch to my e-mail, or my photo gallery, or to a YouTube video I was watching. On the iPad, I have to press the Home button twice, then scroll left or right to find the app I need. Not too bad but I still prefer the Xoom for multitasking.

5. Persistent Virtual Navigation Buttons

Another thing I really like about Honeycomb on the Motorola Xoom is the three persistent virtual navigation buttons, which help me go back to my previous task, return to my Home screen and the multitasking button respectively. Oh and some times you get a fourth button, depending on the app you are running. This last button typically provides more options for a particular app.  This means that you can rotate the Xoom all you want and these buttons will follow you along and will always be found at the bottom left of your device. On the iPad, you always have to look for that physical Home button in order to return to your Home screen, or double-tap it to switch to another app. Again personally, I prefer Honeycomb’s approach.

6. Updating the OS

Motorola and Google have already pushed out their first update for the Motorola Xoom and I found the process to be extremely easy and best of all, it was all done Over The Air (OTA). On the iPad, every time there’s an iOS update, you absolutely have to connect it to iTunes in order to download and install the update. Of course you first have to know there’s an update in order to do this. The Xoom adds a notification about an update at the bottom right, so it’s easier to miss updates on the iPad than it’s on the Xoom.

7. Web Browsing

The Motorola Xoom approaches the web browsing experience in a very similar way in which we browse the web today through our desktops and laptops, namely via multiple Tabs. Simply tap the + icon and you get a new Tab, swipe left and right to visit other tabs. I haven’t found a limit to the number of Tabs that I can have at any given time. There’s however a limit in the number of sites you can have on the iPad and you have to tap a button in order to display and switch to another web page.

8. Sharing is simply better on the Xoom

In general, sharing content with your Social Graph is much easier and more thorough on the Xoom than on the iPad.  For example if you find a web page in the browser that you’d like to share on the Xoom, just tap the "Share page" option and you are presented with all apps that are capable of sharing, for example Twitter, TweetDeck, Facebook, Evernote, Gmail, etc, even Bluetooth is there as a sharing option. On the Xoom, you are in total control. Say you find the same page in Safari on your iPad and you tap the Share button, your options are Add Bookmark, Add to Home Screen, Mail Link to this Page and Print. Before my Xoom, I found myself emailing interesting articles that I wanted to share on Twitter, then I could only do this after I got to my laptop. Big difference between the two Tablets and my opinion, Honeycomb is the clear winner here.

9. Updating Apps

The process of updating apps is particularly important for new Tablet users. On the iPad, unless you actually tap the App and visit the App Store, you won’t know if there are updates for your installed Apps, which means that if you don’t frequently visit the App Store, you may miss out on important updates posted by the development community. The Xoom on the other hand approaches this process in two very distinct ways, namely you can setup your apps to update automatically and forget about it, or you can choose to be notified when an update is available and again, the notification appears unobtrusively in the notifications area. I like to know when updates are available so I go with the latter.

10. Adobe Flash Player 10.2

After only a few days of installing the Adobe Flash Player 10.2 on my Motorola Xoom, I’m convinced that perhaps the reason why iPad users haven’t missed it more is because they have never seen it running the way it does on this Tablet. I realize that I work for Adobe Systems, but hopefully those of you who follow me on Twitter and read my Blogs know that I can be very objective, open and frank when it comes to the technology I use and write about. My point is that I too have become accustomed to browsing the web on the iPad and quietly moving on whenever I came across pages that included Flash, perhaps even subconsciously I also began to think that the Flash Player wasn’t needed. And then last Friday I installed the Flash Player from the Android Market and trust me when I tell you a Tablet and the Web are simply better with Flash than without. I work in eLearning and perhaps no other Industry has been impacted more by the lack of Flash on the iPad than this profession because most (if not all) eLearning courses today are Flash-based and to be able to consume a course on the Motorola Xoom is nothing short of impressive.

So there you have it, these are my early first impression of the new Motorola Xoom, which runs Honeycomb. I’m in Orlando attending the Learning Summit conference and my plan is to publish a video showing each one of these features in action when I’m back in my office next week.

Please let me know what you think and I thank you in advance if you share this post with your Social Networks.


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  • Interesting read but…

    It would have been nicer if you had switched it to honeycomb and tied it to the platform, and not the device. The Xoom has some problems.

    I am waiting for the Samsung 8.9.

    As devil’s advocate:
    10 things the iPad does better than the Xoom:

    Less Expensive
    Faster User Experience (UI never lags)
    Far More Apps (Granted this is a platform argument, but still until people make more Honecomb apps…)
    My Friends have iDevices so FaceTime
    No Malware
    Significantly better battery life
    Wifi Model Already Exists
    It wasn’t rushed to market. It isn’t going to be pulled less than 7 months after introduction for a complete redo to fix all the production/implementation problems that should have been sifted through in QA.

    • Hi Joshua, many thanks for reading the post and for taking the time to comment. Your point about tying my list to Honeycomb vs the devices makes sense to me. The Samsung Galaxy Tabs that were shown a couple days ago should be very interesting because they will come with Honeycomb, so I look forward to them. As for your list, I especially agree with the Apps, but I think that it’s a matter of time before we have lots of them on the Android Market. I haven’t had any issues with Malware or the speed of the Xoom, or the weight or the battery life. So far I like it a lot. Thanks again.


  • Jason Nichols

    Thanks for this information RJ. I agree with most of what you said, and it was good to read a pro-Zoom article. Your Flash-for-elearning point is very interesting, and I will be following how this develops. Having written this though, I’m still going to get an iPad 2 tomorrow. 🙂

  • Steve

    Interesting read RJ. Good to see this from someone who works in e-Learning and use both items. From a working point of view, I’d have to go with the Xoom but for non work, it has to be the iPad for me. Hope I don’t regret this, will be getting mine next week!

  • Michael Müller-Hillebrand

    Yes, very interesting, thanks!
    A positive thing about the iPad being connected to a PC every now and then is the Backup feature.

  • Akuma

    Very interesting facts about xoom. I am going to buy as soon as it is available in my dear country



  • Point 1:
    I don’t know for sure, but don’t you think Apple wants you to connect your iPad to a computer to get a proper backup? That is my guess. How do you backup your Xoom? And how do unexperienced Xoom owners do backups?

    – Point 2 and 3 is the same point, really. Notifications.
    – Point 4 is minor in my opinion, also, it is also a part of point 5.
    – I agree with Point 9 and half of point 6. Would be OK to be notified. Combine with point 2/3 if you will. The other half of point 6 is the same as point 1. What happens if an OS upgrade fails, and corrupts your OS? Need a computer? Would be nice to have a backup ready there then.
    – Point 7 is minor, in my opinion. I’d rather save memory than running 50 tabs.
    – 8 is a good point

    I sum up this article like this:
    Android 3.0 has better notifications and sharing, and it runs Flash.

    No need to smear out a 10 point list. And why not balance such an article with a few positive iPad thoughts and/or negative Xoom things? Your “early” first impression is 10 things that the Xoom does better than the iPad? Seems more like making som kind of argument than a first impression.

    • You lose

      Widgets and Notifications are NOT the same. You’ve obviuosly never used a widget before then since Apple doesn’t have them.

  • Sue

    Thanks for this, RJ. I already was leaning towards an Android tablet (and not at all thinking about an iPad). But this was a great review and just confirms that the Samsung Galaxy will be a good fit. (FWIW, the Galaxy is thinner than the iPad.)

    I’m sure this will elicit similar comments as when we used to compare Windows to Mac OS X. 🙂

  • Tom Aldous

    RJ, I like your article about the Xoom. I want one.

  • Do you think the Xoom will continue to be a best-of-breed for Android-based tablets this year, or is it better to wait a few months to buy one?

  • Brianmeek

    A good blog post. My own experience with Android is limited to my Samsung Fascinate phone (a Galaxy S device on verizon).

    What strikes me as most interesting is the scope of “community development” that’s happening on Android to provide a very wide range of user experience options at a very deep level… Because Samsung and Verizon have been very late in providing Andriod updates for my phone (that are required to properly use accessories I bought for the phone months ago), I turned to the dev forums, rooted my phone, and am now cheerfully running an updated OS with vastly-improved UI elements that aren’t dictated by Verizon (even my battery life has improved :-).

    Unfortunately, my path would not be practical for a less tech-savvy user. iOS is just so much more tightly-controlled (which I’ll admit has its advantages)…

  • Sallyslc

    Good info as always, buddy!

  • Tavis Highfill

    I don’t know why everyone whines about the Android Marketplace being smaller than Apple’s. So what? All the important apps that so many people use (facebook, twitter, online banking, advanced calculators, wikipedia,…) are on BOTH. Why would I care if the iPad gives me more farting applications? The fact is that if you’re running a company that’s trying to make money–and you weren’t dropped on your head as a baby–then you know to place your product in as many markets as possible. Any major app that’s only in one or the other is severely missing out and that’s their own fault. I can do without their product, I’m sure.

  • That was really helpful!

  • Ericstevenlittman

    The wi fi zoom has now dropped dramatically in price which I believe makes it good value. My main aims are browsing and surfing the web and I thank you for such an interesting article. I’m going to buy a zoom and at least learn the android system. I’m sure it will do the job I want. Every user has a different need and also budget constraints. If I can buy my zoom for $392 australian dollars and enjoy the stuff I like why should I pay double that to i pad just to do the same things.
    What I am learning is that as an older man it’s great to hop into this amazing tecnology but it isn’t necessary to spend heaps of money to do it. 

    many thanks 

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