Apple iPads vs Android tablets vs Windows tablets
By Adam Marshall
Apple iPads vs Android tablets vs Windows tablets
There are three main types of tablet operating system - Apple iOS, Android and Microsoft Windows. While all tablets can perform the same tasks, there are some key differences between Apple, Android and Windows tablets.
One of the most notable contrasts is cost. Plenty of Android tablets undercut Apple iPads on price, for example. Windows tablets aren’t always the cheapest, but they can offer an experience almost identical to the Windows you get on your laptop or PC.
Take a look at our special tablet operating system choosing tool below to help make a decision on which is best for you. If that's not enough then we've also outlined some of the key strengths and weaknesses of each OS beneath it.
Apple iPad pros and cons
Pros: Being first out of the gate in the tablet race, Apple has set the pace, and its iPad Air and iPad mini are the models to beat.
Apple uses its own operating system called iOS, designed specifically for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. It's a powerful, easy-to-use OS that has largely set the benchmark for how tablets are expected to behave. Even if you are new to tablet computers, you'll find this system simple to pick up, thanks to its intuitive design.
The latest version is designed to keep all your Apple devices in sync. So if you're writing a Notes document on your MacBook, you can seamlessly pick up on your tablet from where you left off. Productivity apps, such as Pages (word processing) and Numbers (spreadsheet), are also free to use on iOS - which is handy if you like working on your tablet.
The other good news is that Apple vets all apps first, meaning you won't accidentally download a malicious app containing a virus, trojan or other 'malware'.
Cons: The Apple iOS looks good and works well, but you can't customise it as you can with Android tablets. Changing background colours and the order of your apps is about the limit of what you can do.
The Apple operating system doesn't support online Flash content (used for animation and video on many websites), although this has become less of a concern as more websites use Apple-compatible HTML5 instead.
The latest Apple iPads have hefty price tags. If that puts you off, it might be worth considering a cheaper Android or Windows alternative.
Want to take a bite out of Apple? Find the tablet for you with our guide to which iPad you should buy.
Android tablet pros and cons
Pros: Big brands such as Amazon, Lenovo and Samsung all make tablets that use the Android operating system from Google.
Android OS is frequently updated and highly customisable – which is good if you like to alter the look and feel of your tablet. You are free to move your apps about, make major changes to the look of your homescreens and enable things such as shortcut access to your email.
Each manufacturer can tweak the Android system. Amazon with its Kindle range, for example, uses a modified version of Android that gives you full access to the Amazon app store, but limits the access you have to the Google Play store, the standard app store found on Android tablets.
A big plus for Android tablets is that they range massively in price. There are certainly plenty of high-end products from the likes of Samsung and Google, but there are lots of cheaper options available too – such as the popular Amazon Fire HD 6 which can now be bought for less than £100.
Cons: Although still relatively easy to use, the Android system is arguably not quite as intuitive as Apple's iOS.
And the Google Play store doesn't vet apps in the same way as Apple. Therefore it is possible (although unlikely) to download a malicious app when using an Android tablet.
Check out the array of Android devices on the market with our pick of the best Android tablets.
Windows tablet pros and cons
Pros: Microsoft's famous Windows operating system is a growing force in the mobile world. The company is producing a greater number of tablets itself, and other manufacturers are also beginning to adopt Windows. So, as with Android, you have the choice of high-powered and lofty-priced premium models, as well as cheaper options.
Windows tablets run their own version of Windows 10 and are compatible with almost all of the same software that you find on your PC or laptop, meaning they're well suited for work use. You can use a Windows tablet in a style that replicates your computer desktop, or in a simplified tablet-style layout that looks a lot like Windows 8.
Cons: Navigating Windows 10 in its desktop-style layout can be difficult with just your fingers, while using it in tablet mode isn't as slick or intuitive as iOS or Android.
When it comes to apps, the Microsoft Store still has far fewer than are available for iOS or Android.
If you want a pure Microsoft tablet experience, you'll have to spend a lot. The tech giant's own tablets are pricey, with the Surface 4 starting at more than £700, and versions of the Surface Pro 4 edging into the thousands.
Find out the finest tablets to run Microsoft's operating system with the best Windows tablets.