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Alex Fergusson Architects

Does Android lack the physical presence necessary to challenge Apple's iPad?

Fancy an iPad? You probably do.Apple Store

You wouldn't want to buy it without an idea of what it's like now, would you? Why not go along to one of the 330 Apple Stores worldwide (31 are here in the UK) and have a play with one! Have a question? Just ask any of the multitude of helpful smiling faces ready to soothe any possible concerns you have about spending over £400 on a device that has only one button.

Thinking about an Android tablet? Maybe.

Want to have a play around with it? Unfortunately... you can't. At least, not easily. You could traipse around your local high street's HMV, Carphone Warehouse, Dixons or PC World to see whatever range they've decided to stock. Just don't ask any difficult questions - you'll have to ask the manufacturers. Or Google, themselves, who have developed and nurtured the platform. Although, you could come to a very helpful website, like this one.

And this could be the reason for Android tablets' poor performance against the iPad. When it comes to the mass-market (where the money is), devices running the techy-OS-of-choice are struggling to keep up with the iPad and looks like that's how it's going to be for some time to come.

Since you're reading this article, written on a technology-info website, you probably aren't going to choose iOS without giving fairly careful consideration to the options. And you may well be right to do so - but you're not most people. You're just a little bit more tech-savvy in one sense or another. Most people who haven't bought a slate yet aren't sure why they need one, or are worried they won't know how to use it.. and that's where the Apple Stores come in.

Whether they've actually ventured into one in the past or just walked past one in their local shopping centre, potential buyers are given the impression that if anything were to wrong with their beloved iPad, there are 50 staff members dressed in blue - or some other coordinated colour of the day - ready to sort it out. Apple's Stores, full of grandparents receiving iMac demonstrations and 10 year old kids playing with iPhones, give off the impression that there is no type of person that buys an iPad. Everyone buys one.
Apple Store Kingston
On the other hand, Joe Everyman has heard of Android, but has never really seen it in action, or played with one in a shop. Quite often, people may not even be aware that this is the platform running their mobile phone - wasn't that made by HTC, or Samsung? Plus, he's heard its the techies' choice, and has never seen 50 smiling faces wearing matching t-shirts in an Google Platform shop. He's obviously going to steer clear of this risky investment.

Sometimes glowing online reviews for the competitors aren't quite enough - no real chance to 'have a go' means the choice between the now dozens of name-brand high-spec slates available online is still quite a difficult one. Which is why he pops into the Apple Store, gets charmed with a sample for 10 minutes ('Wow - it just works!') and walks out with £400 worth of iPad.

People are also already famiiar with the iOS interface. Whether or not they own an iPhone, they've probably had a look at their wife/friend/child's, so feel quite confident in venturing towards a bigger-screened device. Similar to iOS, Android is available on millions of phones, but this is not the 'tablet version' of the platform.

If the iPad is going to be overthrown, the contenders are going to need to start appealing to Joe Everyman. And all his mates. Which unfortunately for Google, Apple has a habit of doing pretty well.

That they produce all the devices running the same version iOS is a big advantage for Apple, as they can showcase everything in their stores together, working together as intended. Since any Tom-Electricals, Dick Entertainment or Harry-Tech can stick Android on their device, a bricks-and-mortar storefront isn't so easy - and unless they can shake their 'techies-only' reputation, its no shocking conclusion that they have no chance of capturing any of Apple's sales to Joe Everyman.

Maybe as the market grows, it will be impossible to not know someone with an Android tablet, and people will become more familiar with the interface, and more likely to invest themselves. Only time will tell though, and without substantial changes (and soon!), the market will be Apple's for the taking for a long time yet.

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