Apple, Android or Windows – what's right for you?
Do you go for the iPad with iOS or a Google-optimised Android tablet? There’s Windows 10 to consider too. Our guide explains everything…
What is an operating system?
An operating system, or OS, is a piece of software that’s preloaded onto your tablet. It manages your tablet’s software and hardware.
Should I buy into an ecosystem?
Already have an iPhone or an Android smartphone? Or maybe you work on a MacBook or Windows laptop?
Opting for a tablet that runs the same operating system as you’re used to will make things a whole lot easier. You’ll already know your way around and will be able to easily share contacts, calendars and files between your devices.
Apple – iOS
iPad brought the tablet to the masses. And iPads run iOS, Apple’s operating system which was originally designed.
Apple makes both the iPad and the software that runs on it, so everything is super-smooth. It's easy to set up, and very simple to use. Everything feels logical and natural - whether you're adding an event to your contacts or calendar, or scrolling through screens and menus.
The current version is iOS 10, but iOS 11 will launch later this year.
Best bits of iOS
- App Store – choose from over 1.5 million Apple-vetted apps, from Facebook to Netflix
- iTunes and Apple Music – cultivate your music, tv and movie collections from Apple’s incredible library
- Built-in apps – speak to friends with FaceTime, browse the web with Safari and find your stuff with Spotlight
- Sync your iPad, iPhone and MacBook – update your calendar on your iPhone and it’ll show up on your iPad
- Turn your iPad into a laptop – connect a wireless keyboard and boot up the Pages app or download Office for iPad
- Video calling – tap the FaceTime icon to make video calls to friends and family with a MacBook, iPhone, iPad or iMac
- Multi-task with split-view apps – stream Netflix while chatting to friends on Facebook
- Talk to your iPad with Siri digital assistant – set a reminder for your mum’s birthday or add milk to your shopping list
- Latest from iOS 10 – Portrait Mode photos, more widgets on the lock screen, seamless web browsing across devices and you can get rid of unwanted default apps
Android is an operating system designed by Google to run on devices made by many different manufacturers.
Google makes its own Android tablets called Nexus. But Asus and Samsung tablets are also popular Android choices.
There are loads of different versions of Android because manufacturers can tweak the design by running their own software on top of it – this is known as a ‘skin’.
But you’ll still get the best of Google’s services built-in. The latest version is Android Nougat.
Best bits of Android
- Sync your Android tablet and phone to share calendars, contacts and documents across devices
- Google Now on Tap – gives you latest sports scores, calendar updates and traffic information based on what you’re doing, where
- Google Play – browse over 1 million apps, from Facebook to Netflix. Check out the top apps
- Movies, Music and mags – get your hands on classic albums and the latest film releases with Google Play
- Essays and spreadsheets – add a wireless keyboard and work on Google Docs and sheets, or download Office for Android
- Customise your home screen – change colours, move layouts and add widgets for Twitter or BBC Weather. Top free widgets
- Battery saving – when you’re not using your tablet it goes into a low-power sleep mode and rarely-used apps are put into standby
- New for Nougat – VR mode, Notification Direct Reply, Data Saver to stop background apps draining your data and Multi-window view
Which Android Tablet should I buy?
With an incredibly sharp screen, fast processor and super-slim design, we love the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. love the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. Run multiple apps at once without any lag, and work on the go with the incredible 5.6mm thin design.
Windows 10 is an all-rounder – it works on tablets, smartphones, laptops and computers. And it’s designed for both keyboard/mouse and touchscreen controls.
Sticking to what they know best, Windows tablets are designed to work like a PC. 2 in 1s give you the best of both worlds, switching between laptop and tablet modes.
So Windows 10 on a tablet looks and feels the same as on a laptop, but resized to fit your tablet screen and with full-screen apps optimised for touch control.
Best bits of Windows
- Office apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint for working on the go – optimised for touchscreen
- Sync with your Windows laptop and share files across devices with OneDrive
- Annotate webpages – scrawl your notes on your tablet screen with a stylus pen then save as a PDF
- Your own personal assistant – talk to Cortana to ask questions, add calendar appointments and even search Netflix
- Skype video calling – stay in touch with your friends and family or dial into conference calls with built-in Skype
- Windows Store – find all your favourite apps from Facebook to Netflix, iPlayer to Spotify
- Latest from Windows 10 – Storage Sense automatically frees up disk space and the Night light setting reduces blue light. Plus there’s 3D apps and 4K game streaming
Which Windows tablet should I buy?
Stay productive on the go with the Surface Pro – the tablet that can replace your laptop for serious multitasking and creative work. Scribble notes directly onto the screen with the Surface Pen or add the Surface keyboard to type laptop-style (both sold separately).
Stay secure when you’re out and about with Windows Hello, allowing you to log in with your fingertip. And stay organised with digital assistant, Cortana.
Chosen your operating system? Now choose your tablet or laptop