Here's why you should rush out and buy an Android tablet. And also, you know, why you might want to consider something else...
Android tablets have come a long way since the early days of laggy, super-sized smartphones with next-to-no app support. We can gladly recommend the best Android tablets to just about anybody. But the iPad remains the king of consumption tablets, and the Windows Pro tablets are the only truly useful laptop-replacement business tablets. So why should you choose an Android tablet? (for further guidance see: The 14 best tablets of 2013: What is the best tablet you can buy in the UK right now?)
Here are 10 good (and less good) reasons:
10 reasons you should buy an Android tablet
1. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Price
The most important reason to choose Android. When Android tablets first launched they had a huge problem: they were not as good as iPads, and the good ones cost as much if not more. Cheap Android tablets used to be a synonym for 'terrible heap of junk'. But over the past couple of years that has changed significantly. If you want a high-end consumption device that is bigger than a smartphone you may well find the best experience from purchasing an iPad. You may not. But you'll pay for the privilege. Dial down the price a bit and you can find some great products at cheap prices, however.
The Tesco Hudl, Google's Nexus tablets, Barnes & Noble's Nook devices, even the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets: these are all high-calibre products from quality manufacturers. And they all cost a lot less than the iPads or the better Windows tablets. You can find value in the Android world, and that value starts at around £119 inc VAT (for the Tesco Hudl).
2. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Variety of device
You can also find variety, and escape from the 10in slate design so popularised by Apple. From 6in phablets, through children's tablets, up to hybrid devices such as Asus' Padfone: there is more variety in the Android world than there is Apple's iOS platform. Even more than in the Windows world.
The Kindle Fire HD is a very different device from the LeapFrog LeapPad and the Nexus 10: but they are all based on Google's Android platform. And remember that Apple was once opposed to the 7in size of tablet popularised by Google- and Asus' Nexus 7 device. You could argue that the iPad mini was inspired by Android. That couldn't possibly be true, could it?
3. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Freedom of where to buy apps and media
I'm not having a dig at Apple. I'm really not. If I was I would say how expensive it is to buy TV series on iTunes, and how annoying that you can't choose to shop elsewhere. With the exception of Kindle's eBook store, there is no shopping around for media or apps on iOS. Choose an Android tablet and you can choose from where you buy music, movies, books and even apps. And that means you can shop around for a bargain.
4. Why you should buy an Android tablet: USB connectivity, universal chargers etc
There isn't an aftermarket of third-party accessories for your chosen Android tablet - and that's a good thing. Because almost without exception Android tablets charge and connect via micro USB. So the charger and cable you almost certainly already own will work...
5. Why you should buy an Android tablet: You can use your tablet like external storage
...and what's more, it will work in an understandable and meaningful way. Moving from another platform to Android is never as difficult as people imagine. Put simply, to get your music, photos, movies or other files on to your Android tablet you just plug it in to your PC. The tablet will act like any other external storage device, and you can drag-and-drop files across. And that's it. Exactly how it should be.
6. Why you should buy an Android tablet: You use Google, so use Google
And if you are a Google user anyway, many of the sites and services you already use tie into your Android tablet, seemlessly. You're a Gmail user? Just sign in to Android and your mail is there waiting for you. As are any documents you have in Google Docs, while Google Maps will take you home. (Or course this means you are handing over more user data to Google, but you do that already, and do you trust Apple or Microsoft more anyway?)
7. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Storage expansion
Want more storage on your Android tablet? Buy an SD card. Not all Android tablets have storage expansion slots, but lots do. (And no iPads do.)
8. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Unique features
There are some other features available to Android tablets that you won't find on other platforms. These aren't available on all Android tabs, of course, but if you want wireless charging, or NFC, you need to look at Google's platform. If you want a kick stand such as that offered by the Lenovo Yoga tablets, Android is your only option (Ok, along with the Microsoft Surfaces). Or, being banal, how about the Tesco Hudl's integration with your shopping basket? These speaks back to point 2 above, but if you want something different, the Android world is where to look.
9. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Recent versions of Android are actually really good!
It wasn't always thus, but now I can say hand on heart that Jelly Bean Android is a really nice, consumer-friendly platform to use. And the versions pushed out by Amazon, say, or Samsung are as good as anything pushed out by any fruity vendors, or certainly Windows 8. iOS has more apps, but I can't think of any important apps that aren't available to Android tablets that have access to Google Play.
10. Why you should buy an Android tablet: Be different, start a conversation
Because iPads are so 2011.
5 reasons you shouldn't buy an Android tablet
1. Why you shouldn't buy an Android tablet: No guarantee of quality
So, variety is good, but you can end up with a dog. If you want a guaranteed, walled-garden, consumer-friendly experience, Apple's iPad remains the guarantee of a good time. You pay for what you get with Apple, but what you get is quality (and a killer guarantee). The range between good and bad Android tablets is huge.
2. Why you shouldn't buy an Android tablet: You're giving up your data
Other tablet makers want to harvest and even share your user data, but only Android is made by Google purely to generate information about you with which to target adverts at you. Personally I can live with this, but be under no illusions - Android is a loss leader so that Google can sell more adverts.
3. Why you shouldn't buy an Android tablet: The security risk
With freedom comes responsibility. Android is more vulnerable to a targeted attack than even Windows. There are known vulnerabilities that aren't being patched - and when you have a worse record than Microsoft in this area, you have a bad record. What's more, Google doesn't vet apps that go into the Google Play store and there have been incidences of dodgy apps making it in there. The risk is often overstated, but - again - if you want to be as secure as it's possible to be, get an iPad.
4. Why you shouldn't buy an Android tablet: Touchscreen lag
This bothers some people a lot more than others, but it is an actual thing: if you use an iPad alongside even the best Android tablets you will notice a barely perceptible lag when using the touchscreen on your Android. It's to do with the way the original code was written, and it's not a problem as such. But it is, as I say, an actual thing. It may bother you.
5. Why you shouldn't buy an Android tablet: They are pure consumption devices
So, for that matter, are iPads (face facts Apple fans). But if you want a tablet to replace your laptop, and that means to do more than web surf, social media, and send emails, you really need to look at a Windows tablet. And then probably decide a laptop isn't so bad after all...
If you're still unsure about which operating system is right for you, read our iPad, Android, Windows 8, BlackBerry tablets buying advice article.