What Is the Difference Between an iPad and a Tablet?

Powerful hardware and a dedicated operating system help the iPad stand out

Much like the iPhone has done for smartphones, Apple’s iPad has become synonymous with tablet PCs. The iPad and its flagship brands have many similarities to the various tablets manufactured by Samsung, Microsoft, and other companies, but also some key differences to set them apart. 

Is an iPad a Tablet?

Technically, every iPad is a tablet. Tablet PCs are mobile computing devices with touchscreen displays, which is essentially what an iPad is. A good way to think about it is iPad is a specific type of tablet designed and manufactured by Apple. iPads run a proprietary operating system called iPadOS. Newer models now support accessories like a keyboard and mouse, so you can use them as you would a laptop.

The iPhone and iPad both used iOS up until September 2019 when the iPad moved to iPadOS, a derivation of iOS. iPadOS is similar to iOS but is better optimized for iPad devices.

Most non-Apple tablets use Google’s Android OS but Amazon and Microsoft produce their own popular tablet lines that run on Fire OS and Windows, respectively. These include models like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Microsoft Surface, Amazon Fire HD, and Google Nexus.

What Advantages Does an iPad Have Compared to a Tablet?

The iPad performs many of the same functions as other tablets such as browsing the internet, listening to music, watching videos, playing games, downloading apps, and more. However, there are certain features and benefits that set iPads apart from the competition.

Some of the iPad’s strengths are: 

  • iOS/iPadOS is widely viewed as being more user-friendly than Google’s Android OS or even Windows.
  • Apple’s App Store is exclusive to iOS/iPadOS devices and contains millions of free and paid apps, many of which are specifically designed for the iPad. Apple’s curation and approval process are also stringent, which significantly decreases the risk of apps containing malware.
  • Close integration with other Apple products. You can seamlessly share data across your iPad, iPhone, Mac, and other Apple devices through Apple ID, iCloud, and other account features.
  • Arguably the industry-standard device for designers thanks to its pressure and tilt sensitivity technology, Apple Pencil (sold separately), and powerful iOS versions of apps like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
  • Simple, clean user interface that has maintained a consistent design through years of updates.

What Disadvantages Does an iPad Have Compared to a Tablet?

Ironically, many of the features that set the iPad apart from other tablets are also what holds it back. Due to Apple’s widespread use of proprietary technology and hardware, iPad tablets are less customizable and may not integrate as well with your non-Apple devices. 

Some of the iPad’s weaknesses are:

  • Limited storage expansion options. Unlike many Android and Microsoft tablets, iPads don’t have SD or microSD card slots. You’re stuck with the amount of internal storage the iPad came with unless you use a compatible external drive.
  • Lack of customization options. While the iPad OS is generally more intuitive, Android tablets are built around customization.
  • Multitasking. Although iPad models that support iPadOS can run multiple apps at the same time, multitasking isn’t possible on older models.
  • iPads are generally more expensive than comparable Android tablets.

iPad vs Tablet: Which is Better?

While Google has promised more focus on the tablet experience for Android, Google's focus has been on Android as a smartphone OS. Meanwhile, Apple has only committed to a better experience on the iPad by creating more powerful hardware and an OS dedicated to the iPad.

However, if the iPad remains beyond your reach financially and your uses for it remain pretty typical (web browsing, email, videos) then an Android tablet might fit your needs just fine.

  • How do you use an iPad as a drawing tablet for a Mac?

    Along with the Apple Pencil, the iPad is compatible with many Bluetooth-enabled drawing styluses. You can use it as a drawing tablet with the Sidecar feature, which lets you use your iPad as a second monitor for your Mac. With Sidecar active, you can drag apps from your Mac to your tablet. You can also mirror your iPad's screen to your Mac, which lets you draw on your tablet while your work appears on the computer.

  • How do you screenshot on an iPad?

    If your iPad has a Home button, take a screenshot by pressing it and the top button at the same time. Without a Home button, press the top and Volume Up buttons. You can also take one using Siri with a voice command.

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