In case you spent the last 24 hours living under a rock or in a coma, Apple announced its new iPad yesterday, and it’s got all the speeds and feeds one might have expected. But Apple being what it is, there wasn’t much talk about the numbers. Instead, Apple showed the new iPad actually doing things, something Android OEMs still struggle with. When the iPad was first released, it was billed as a content consumption device, but that’s starting to change.
Apple showed off content creation experiences like GarageBand, Autodesk, iMovie, and more. Android tablets have yet to take off, but this is an area the platform can compete in. Let’s check out the state of content creation on Android tablets.
Writing and editing
Android’s strongest angle for creative types is most likely that of the written word. Android has a stake here due to both hardware and software. Typing on a screen is fine for short bursts, but there are multiple options for anyone that wants to get some real writing done on their Android tablets.
Like the iPad, Android tablets universally support Bluetooth keyboard input. You just can’t beat the tactile experience of typing on a real keyboard when you need to get some work done. Where Android has the iPad beat is with the hardware ecosystem around Android keyboards. Products like the Asus Transformer and Padfone offer attachable keyboards that make the tablet like a laptop. Apple’s early keyboard dock experiment was awkward, and eventually fell by the wayside.
The ergonomics of writing with most tablets are not the best, as you have to reach out and touch the screen to move the cursor, or mess with settings. With Android devices, a Bluetooth mouse can be added to the keyboard, and you get a cursor, making it more of a desktop experience.
On the software side of things, Android has Google Docs. In the past, we were definitely not smitten with the Docs app, but that has changed. Google Docs got an update not long ago, and it’s a sight to behold now. It’s faster, has a much easier to use UI, and added essential features. The single app scales and renders itself differently for phones and tablets.
When you combine robust input support with the great Google Docs app, you can get some real writing done on an Android tablet.
Sketching and painting is something people have been doing with tablets for years, but it’s always limited by the inaccurate nature of a capacitive screen. Of course, any device can be used with a capacitive stylus for a slight increase in accuracy, but some Android devices go a step further.
Samsung licensed stylus technology from Wacom for its S-Pen input system, which debuted on the Galaxy Note last year. At Mobile World Congress 2012, Samsung announced a 10.1-inch version of the device that will be taking the place of the Galaxy Tab as the company’s flagship tablet product. The Note 10.1 comes with an S-Pen inductive stylus for more precise drawing and writing input. Samsung is even bundling the new Adobe Photoshop Touch with the device.
The sheer fact that Adobe was willing to release Photoshop on Android at the same time as the iPad version is a good thing. Although, the fact that it was the iPad edition that made all the news says something about the relative popularity of Android tablets. Anyone that gets Photoshop Touch from the Play Store will have to drop $10. Photoshop Touch is a great app, and we suspect it’s going to be even better with the S-Pen, but there are more artistic apps out there for Android.
SketchBook Pro is the tablet-optimized version of SketchBook Mobile, and it’s actually been on the scene for over 8-months. It’s cheaper at just $5 and has a lot of the same features as Photoshop like layers, a ton of brushes, and filters. So you’ve got options on Android to make some lovely art with or without a stylus. Though, Samsung’s S-Pen might be the best thing for artists that don’t want to shell out $1000 for a Wacom Cintiq.
Apple has GarageBand on OSX, so it was a no-brainer to bring that over to iOS. On Android, there really isn’t an equivalent. This is definitely Android’s weak spot when it comes to content creation. The really advanced editing features from GarageBand are just not on Android tablets, but there is a nice synth simulator called Caustic.
This app lets you build a virtual rack-mount system for making music. You can load your own loops, make effects, add samples, and more. The drawback is that the app is terribly complicated, and it costs $8 for the full version. The interface scales well to tablets, and it actually makes the cramped controls much more usable. Someone more familiar with music and drum machines will benefit from Caustic, but most users won’t even scratch the surface.
Where Apple has iMovie, Android has Movie Studio. This is a bundled app that comes with Android 3.0 and higher. It scales correctly to a tablet interface, as you might expect from a bundled app. It doesn’t get a lot of press, but Movie Studio is actually quite good for whipping up a quick video montage.
Movie Studio lets you take a new video, or import an existing one. You can join multiple video together with transitions, add filters, a music track, text, and even still images. The resulting file can be exported as an MP4, and we’re thus far impressed with what the app is capable of quality-wise on Android 4.0.
This is far and away the best of video manipulation on Android. It might not be professional quality, but neither is iMovie. The difference is that iMovie includes more effects that can make your project look a little more professional at first glance. While limited, iMovie has a better interface than Movie Studio on Android.
In some areas, content creation is doing well on Android. Writing is excellent as long as you have the right tools, and are willing to use Google Docs. Sketching and painting is good with the rollout of Photoshop Touch, and could be phenomenal when the Samsung Note 10.1 comes out. Making beautiful music and dynamic films are still a little outside Android’s wheelhouse for the time being, though. For Android to really become a content creation platform, developers are going to have to step up and make some more compelling tablet apps.