The New iPad: What It Means for Android

If you haven’t heard already, Apple just introduced the new iPad, the third-generation tablet the company will be offering. With a “Retina Display” (that’s a 2048x1536px resolution for a 10-inch screen), a 5-megapixel camera, 4G LTE and a new processor with quad-core graphics, the new iPad is no doubt a significant upgrade from the iPad 2, and is almost guaranteed to sell millions and attract many to Apple stores when it launches next week.

This announcement comes just a short while after the Android tablet landscape got a reboot at CES and MWC with new flagship products like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the updated lineup of Transformer Pads. With Ice Cream Sandwich making its way onto the larger screens, it’s an exciting time for Android too.

However, in a market that’s still dominated by Apple, what does the new iPad mean for Android?

Retina Display

One of the key features of the new iPad is the Retina Display, and it’s undeniable that Android tablet makers are going to have to do some catching up. When we take this in comparison to two of Samsung’s recent products, the Galaxy Tab 2 and the Galaxy Note 10.1, the iPad blows them away in terms of resolution and pixels per inch.

The Transfomer Pad Infinity, another rival of the new iPad, is a little closer. It’s 1920 x 1200 px resolution makes it a little more capable of combatting the iPad threat, with 224 pixels per inch, not far under the iPad 3’s 264. In terms of display, the Transformer Pad Infinity is close, but the new iPad still surpasses it.

Apple’s got a winner here, especially for consumers interested in gaming where graphic clarity is going to be amazing; it’s also backed up by a store full of games that will likely get a graphical makeover during the next few months. It’s a very visible feature, and is definitely going to be more attractive to new buyers if they put it next to a Samsung Galaxy Tab or equivalent.

The Retina Display on the new iPad is better than anything currently available on a tablet.

Apps and the Ecosystem

Tim Cook took time at the event to look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab and he closely compared it to the iPad for apps. Rightfully so, Cook said the apps felt like they were just stretched out smartphone ones on Android tablets whereas the iPad offers up a unique experience specific to the size. Android really needs to catch up with Apple in terms of apps; most of the apps on my iPhone are available in some form on Android, but the iPad’s selection is still unmatched on Android tablets.

Apple also took to announce a few enhancements to their ecosystem and iCloud, with the latter receiving support for re-downloading movies – that eliminates one of the advantages of Google Play’s “everything everywhere” setup. The updated Apple TV, while offering very little new, still highlights how Apple’s reach is extending around your whole home and not just on the screens that Apple made for you. Android’s yet to offer up anything that is as simple as AirPlay, and nothing close to it has gained mainstream success.

Aside from the work I do about the iPad, I really just use my tablet as a light web browsing, Twitter and video consumption device. While Google Play offers a nice selection of content that could somewhat satisfy me (a lack of TV show content keeps me away, though), it’s not yet fully baked into a physical ecosystem like a Mac/iPhone/iPad/Apple TV user will enjoy with iTunes.

Apple CEO Tim Cook made a big note of the mediocre app offering on Android tablets.

The Killer Feature: A $399 iPad 2

It’s clear that the new iPad is ahead of the competition in some areas, where Android will need to improve, but that’s not the killer feature. The feature that Android tablet makers are going to be taking note of is the iPad 2, which is now available for $399: significantly less than current generation rivals. Sure, you can pick up a Motorola Xoom now for less than that, but the Xoom’s still stuck on Honeycomb whereas the iPad 2 rocks the latest and greatest version of iOS, and will continue to do so update-on-update for the next few years.

For the 10″ Android tablet to compete, prices are going to have to start dropping significantly to compete with the iPad 2, not the new iPad.

I’m biased, not as a fan of Apple but as someone who is active in the technology industry as a commentator. You likely are too, and we all take our loyalties to specific companies and platforms very closely. It might not be the case where you live, but certainly for my region in the UK, the £329 iPad 2 is going to be immensely more popular than any Android tablet available for the average consumer. We have to think about a tablet outside of the market for people who are clued into the technology industry.

This is the killer feature for the iPad lineup now.

There’s an increasing number of reasons why to buy Android over the iPhone, and i’m the first to admit that. However, there’s simply not a single reason for the average consumer to buy any tablet but the iPad right now. Apple’s marketing, brand recognition and loyalty are going to keep their products successful. It might be unfair, but it’s up to the Android tablet makers to get their products using more cutting-edge technology, with significantly better specs, better developer support and cheaper prices.

Put yourself in a non-geek friend’s shoes, and try and come up with at least one reason why they should buy a 10″ Android tablet over an iPad in the comments. I’m very interested to hear your responses.