13 Things Android Can Do That iPad Can't

Where Android Outshines the iPad

Woman using Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet
A woman using the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Since the introduction of Android, Google has played a massive game of catchup with the iPad. In recent years, Android has gone a long way to becoming as feature-rich as the iPad and the iPhone, but in many ways, Android is still lagging behind iOS. However, Google attacks the mobile OS from a totally different philosophy, believing that an open ecosystem is superior to a closed ecosystem. This gives Android devices some nice features that aren't matched by the iPad.

Let's go over Android's versatility and look into some of the things that might sway your decision when it comes to buying an Android tablet.

Multiple App Stores

One big difference between Android and the iPad is the support for multiple App Stores. This is an important feature because the Google Play store has a publish-first mentality, which means developers can push apps directly into the market with no one checking if they are harmful or misrepresented. This publish first and ask questions later philosophy can make Google Play a bit like the Wild West in term of the app marketplace. 

Alternative stores include the Amazon Appstore, which does some testing of apps before they are released, and the Samsung store, which comes with Samsung smartphones and tablets. In some cases, multiple app stores can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. For example, Amazon locks Kindle users into the Amazon Appstore, which makes it more difficult for them to get at the wider number of apps in the Google Play store, and in turn, makes Kindle tablets less functional.

Google Play Two Hour App Grace Period

The Google Play store may be a bit like the Wild West, but it does have one neat feature over the iPad's App Store and other app stores: it gives users a two hour grace period after apps, allowing them to return (uninstall) and not be charged. This is a great way to try out more expensive apps and get an immediate return if they don't turn out as expected.

Few App Restrictions

While it is not impossible to get kicked out of the Google Play store, but apps usually need to cross clear lines like trademark or copyright infringement to find themselves on the outs. And while this can be a negative for consumers, it can also be a good thing. There are some apps such as a Bluetooth on/off switch that Apple won't let pass through the App Store because they use internal APIs or repeat the functionality that comes default on the tablet, but there is no such restriction on Android. This leads to some handy apps that can make your tablet life much simpler.

App Connectivity and Task Targeting

Android is built a little more like Windows in the sense that apps find it easier to work together and can take over default tasks, such as choosing which app to use to play YouTube videos, etc. The iPad is becoming better at letting apps work together, but if you open up a YouTube video in Safari, the iPad will always try to use the YouTube app to open it, and failing that, it will open the video in Safari. You can't choose a third-party app to play the video.

USB Support

It's not quite true to say the iPad doesn't have USB support. After all, you can plug the 30-pin or Lightning connector into a PC to transfer photos directly to the PC or use iTunes to sync the devices. You can also buy the Camera Connection Kit to use USB devices such as cameras, wired keyboards, and musical devices. But this is limited compared to Android's open support of USB, which allows easy file transfers and more devices to be connected.

External Storage

While not true of all Android devices, many Android tablets and smartphones have an Micro SD slot for expanding storage without the need to buy a more expensive device. This is great for storing music and media while still leaving plenty of elbow room for apps.

File Manager

Android makes it easy to put files on the device, whether you copy via USB or download from the web. This can really be handy on devices that support Micro SD cards. You can also get access to the full file system by using a file manager like ES File Manager. This makes it easy to transfer documents, photos, music, video and anything else you might want to your Android device.

Multiple Users

One great feature of Android that many have been clamoring for on the iPad is support for multiple users. This means you can sign in to the device and get a new arrangement of apps based on what that user has purchased, which is great considering many tablets are tied to families rather than individuals.

Near-Field Communications

A feature available on some Android smartphones and tablets, near-field communications (NFC) allows the device to share information with other devices around it, like the much-heralded Samsung 'bump' to share photos and music. NFC works well when combined with NFC stickers, which can activate apps or features on the device, for example, going into car mode when being placed on a car stand with an NFC sticker on it. Apple introduced an NFC chip into the iPhone when it debuted Apple Pay, but this chip is closed off to apps, so the only purpose it serves is with Apple Pay.

IR Blaster

Another cool feature on some devices is the IR blaster, which allows you to use the smartphone or tablet as if it were a remote control. The iPad supports external IR blasters but doesn't include an IR blaster with the device.

Custom Layouts and Themes

The open nature of the Android operating system makes personalizing it much easier, including the ability to radically change the default layout of the device. It's possible to customize the iPad, but iOS is much more limited in this regard.

LED Notifications

A neat feature of many Android tablets and smartphones is the ability for the LED to flash when there is a notification. This makes it easy to tell if you've received an email while you were busy with other non-tablet tasks. Unfortunately, it also uses battery resources, so if you let one of these tablets sit for a few weeks without being plugged into a power source, the battery will slowly drain.

Device-Specific Features

While we have mentioned a few device-specific features, it bears repeating that Android is an open operating system that allows for more customization, including support for many hardware features. Android is showing up in Smart TVs and will soon be making its debut in hybrid-OS laptops that run both Android and Windows.

And more...

This list isn't meant to be complete, and when you add in some of the apps in the Google Play marketplace, there are many neat tasks Android can perform. For example, AppLock can be used to password protect a single app, so rather than locking your entire device, you can just lock those apps you don't want anyone to open. However, this is true of the iPad as well, so features of individual apps weren't included on this list.