By Kevin Vadala, Uloop

Picking the right tablet can be tough for students. There are new models popping up almost every day, but the main debate rages on: Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS?

By Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

A woman uses the Samsung Galaxy Note in New York on Aug. 15, 2012.

1. Price

• Android
The top Android tablets have a wide price range. The cheapest is the Samsung Galaxy 2, a 7-inch tablet selling at under $200. The higher-end Nexus 10, at $399 for the basic model, is one of the best mid-range tablets, and the Samsung Galaxy Note is the premier device, setting you back $499 or more.

• iOS
Apple’s iPad Mini starts at $329, and goes up to $429 for the 32 GB version. The full-sized iPad with retina display runs from $499 to $599. Obviously Apple has stuck with higher price points, but that’s always been its strategy.

Android is the winner for price. With models as low as $200, students have a greater choice in how much they want to invest in an Android tablet.

2. App Store

• Android
There are not as many restrictions on apps coming into the Android store, so there are a lot of bad and unpolished apps. But, there are also many interesting apps that take advantage of the less restrictive climate. There are emulators, rooted apps and apps that take advantage of Android’s powerful customizable interface. For example, the automation application Tasker allows you to change the display of your device based on time of day or location.

• iOS
Apple’s strict and older app store guarantees apps are top of the line. Most games are pushed to the Apple app store before they go to Android’s — something to consider if playing first is a high priority.

When it comes to app stores, both operating systems have their advantages. If you want an easier time finding apps and access to an older library and more games, then iOS is the way to go. For more open and imperfect apps, turn to Android.

Handout

The iPad Mini.

3. Usability

• Android
Android is known for being less user-friendly than Apple’s iOS. Things are not presented as simply, and you might actually need to read a user’s guide to master it. There are, however, more features to mess around with and customize, so more complex things are actually easier to do with Android. For example, transferring movies and music can be done with a simple drag and drop, meaning that you don’t have to rely on Apple’s iTunes.

• iOS
The iOS operating system has a unique, intuitive quality about it. It’s easy to pick up an Apple product and just go, and it is probably one of the reasons Apple’s stock price is topping $500 per share. The company excels at making its products accessible, even if it restricts users.

iOS trumps Android in its ease of use and the ability for unfamiliar users to catch on quickly. An intuitive and streamlined operating system goes a long way in bringing in new customers.

4. Aesthetics

• Android
With its open-source operating system, you can make your Android device’s layout look just about any way you want. You can change your home screen or add interesting widgets. On the outside, Android products look good, but some models feel cheap. The 7-inch Nexus 7, however, feels sturdy, and while not as pretty as the iPad Mini, it still looks great.

• iOS
When you hold an Apple product, you can’t help but marvel at the slick metal frame and streamlined feel of the device. From a hardware perspective, Apple’s products are near perfect, but the software leaves something to be desired. You can only customize your background, and there are not as many small things to customize like lock patterns and widgets.

The winner in this category comes down to preference again, with Apple’s products leading in hardware aesthetics and Android’s leading in its customization.

Overall winner: Android

The Android operating system and the tablets that use the system lead the way in innovation. It is amazingly customizable, and has affordable price points and a burgeoning app store. Google has stepped up to the plate with services like Google Now, and its cloud integration with Google Drive is supreme. But, if you don’t care for complexity and customization, Apple products do win on design and consistent software performance. So, get your parents an iPad, and learn to enjoy the challenges and rewards of becoming an Android owner.

Disagree? Think iOS is the way to go? Let us know in the comments.

Kevin Vadala is one of Uloop’s Student Writers at the University of California – Santa Cruz. For more college news, interviews and advice, check out Uloop.com.

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