How does HP's newly announced webOS-based TouchPad stack up against the market creator, Apple's iOS-based iPad?
To begin to find out, we take a look at how the technical specs for both devices compare, starting from the outside and working our way inside. And the relative value of their feature sets will depend in part on the TouchPad's price, which HP has not yet disclosed. (Then there's also the matter of an Apple iPad 2 reportedly being around the corner…not to mention a possible iPad 3)
TouchPad: 9.45 inches wide, 7.48 inches tall, 0.54 inches thick; weight: about 1.6 pounds.
iPad: 9.45 inches wide, 7.48 inches tall, 0.54 inches thick; weight: about 1.6 pounds (with Wi-Fi and 3G radios)
If the dimensions work for the market leader, why change them?
TouchPad: 9.7-inch XGA capacitive, multi-touch screen with a vibrant 18-bit color, 1024x768 resolution display
iPad: 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen multi-touch display with IPS technology; 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
The specs alone can't get at the quality of the display for the end user. Apple may have an edge here, because of its history of display innovation for its mobile products. For example, In-Plane Switching (IPS) is an LCD technology that gives the iPad a wide viewing-angle, up to 178 degrees.
TouchPad: virtual keyboard, with optional wireless hardware keyboard
iPad: virtual keyboard, with optional iPad Keyboard Dock, which combines a full-size keyboard with an iPad charging dock.
Apple bet big that the iPhone and iPod touch had made virtual keyboards viable for users of the tablet form factor. TouchPad's approach suggests HP thinks the same.
Touchpad: Digital camera, front-facing 1.3-megapixel webcam for live video calling
Whether the lack of an iPad camera is a problem depends perhaps on whether you want to use a tablet as a camera. There is speculation that iPad 2 will add a camera, in part to support Apple's FaceTime video calling.
TouchPad: initially only Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with WPA, WPA2, WEP, 802.1X authentication; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth; HP will eventually add 3G and 4G support.
iPad: the Wi-Fi only model has Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, and Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR ; the 3G model adds support for data-only 3G: multiband UMTS/HSDPA and GSM/EDGE.
TouchPad: light sensor, accelerometer, compass (magnetometer), and gyroscope
iPad: ambient light sensor, accelerometer
PROCESSOR AND INTERNAL STORAGE
TouchPad: Qualcomm 1.2GHz Snapdragon APQ8060 dual-core CPU; 16GB or 32GB storage
iPad: Apple's custom 1GHz A4 processor; 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drive
The dual-core Qualcomm chip may give TouchPad a performance edge, though Apple's custom A4 wowed reviewers with its speed when the iPad was unveiled. A year later, it's still not too shabby. The iPad 2 is expected to have an upgraded processor, though opinion is divided over whether it will be dual-core.
TouchPad: rechargeable 6300 mAh (typical) battery
iPad: built-in 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
Apple rates the iPad's battery life at 10 hours; which accords with the experience of many users. HP hasn't yet released information about battery life for its tablet.
HP acquired webOS when it bought Palm in 2010, and accelerated development of a tablet device running the OS first introduced in the Palm Pre smartphone. The UI was well reviewed on the Pre, although the phone failed to catch consumer interest or dollars.
Early and necessarily sketchy assessments of the TouchPad are generally favorable about the smoothness of the webOS user interface, the way the battery of core applications fully exploit the touch interface, and the integration with an array of social networking and other Web-based services.
TouchPad will have support for wireless printing built-in, and Pre smartphone users will be able to share content with the tablet just by touching the phone to it.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.”