This is my first article covering tablet computers and the apps they provide for amateur radio. In this first article I will look at the two main platforms, Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android. Apple’s OS revolves mainly around two devices, the Iphone and Ipad. Both will utilize the same applications. But Apple has many more native tablet apps than does Google: a native app utilizes the devices space properly, an app designed for a phone often does not adapt well to the increased size of a tablet. Apple’s App Store is the front runner having more than a 800,000 applications. Google however is catching up quickly. Google’s Android platform is a bit more fragmented, not only do its devices vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the flavor of its OS also varies. The Latest OS for Android is version 4.1, but you’ll find it on only one device at present, Google’s own Nexus 7. Many more tablets are running previous version 4.0 or earlier. When buying Android devices it’s best to get the newest OS available. Anything 4.0 or newer should be fine. Apple IOS is presently up to version 6, the benefit to IOS devices is that mostly all but the oldest devices get automatic OS updates, Android devices get updated based on the various manufacturers’ desires.
So which are best for Amatuer Radio and best for you to buy ? That’s a complicated question. Both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. The Android tablet offers greater customization. Icons and Widgets can be set up on pages anyway you’d like, every Android Tablet can look different because of this. But also because of this things can be more complicated to run if you are a novice user. The Ipad also uses icons which can be rearranged on the various pages, but at a lesser degree and there are no Widgets. But because of this the Ipad is a better choice for the novice computer user, “It just Works” is a saying Apple and their users like to use and it’s true, the Ipad is very easy to pick up and use. If you are a tinkerer though and are familiar with a computer and its operating system, you should not have many problems with an Android device after a few days of use.
Both platforms offer wi-fi and cellular versions, the latter allow internet connection without a wifi connection but will cost you a monthly fee. Both have their own app stores, for Google it’s the Play Store and for Apple it’s the APP Store, where both applications and content can be purchased. So both platforms devices can be used without the need of a computer to interface with, making them the perfect first device for the non-computer user. Android tablets are available at a multitude of price points from $99 on up. The Ipad currently start at $349 for an Ipad 2, and $499 for an Ipad 3 with a higher resolution screen. Apple is rumored to be releasing a 7” version sometime this month but no details are known at this point. I did not look at the devices from Amazon and Barnes and Noble as they are more specific to content consumption to those various retailers and do not offer enough flexibility as a tablet to be useful to amateur radio.
My next article will look at the usefulness of a tablet to amateur radio. I will look at several apps useful to our hobby.