This month, it’s been all iPad-a-palooza on the tech webs. With its launch now upon us, some might even forget that there are other tablet options. The Android platform springs to mind, and indeed there are some entries worthy of your consideration. But if you’re the patient type, there’s also another competitor that will be entering the stadium in the not-too-distant future: Windows 8.
But is it worth waiting for? Depends on what you want from your tablet experience, but if you’re considering a Windows 8 tablet, you may be interested in the following. Wired summed its list of “5 Ways Windows 8 Is Better Than iOS and Android” after the Microsoft consumer preview, and it seems to be particularly salient now, as the new Apple tablet emerges.
Let’s take a quick look:
Tired of boring pin codes and touch-to-draw unlock interfaces? W8 lets you pick a photo and set three gestures over the image, to unlock the device. While perhaps not quite as a future-forward as a Face Unlock, it’s definitely creative. It might even be more secure. Although naysayers criticize the “telltale” smudge marks on the display as security risks, Microsoft begs to differ: “Because the order of gestures, their direction and location all matter, it makes the prospect of guessing the correct gesture set based on smudging very difficult, even in the completely clean screen case, let alone on a screen that sees regular touch use.”
Elegant App Switching Gestures
Yes, the iPad has four-finger gestures to switch between applications, but to be perfectly honest, I find it a bit clunky. Or maybe app switching is an art form that’s supposed to take practice, I’m not really sure. I just know that, for some reason, not all of my fingers register on the device consistently, making this gesture’s usefulness a little random. It’s simpler on Windows 8: Swipe the edge of the screen to open a list of preview windows for your open apps. Then just pick the one you want, easy peasy.
Joy For Sausage Fingers
Like the iPad, W8 will offer a split keyboard, plus an extra that’s pretty nifty: Resizable keys. There are three choices, so whether you’re rocking petite Vienna sausage digits, hotdog fingers or extraordinary Kielbasa thumbs, you should be able to find a size that works for you.
Clutter-free Fullscreen Goodness
People’s tastes differ, particularly when it comes to the Metro UI. Some like it, others don’t. I fall in the former camp. To me, it’s sophisticated, uncluttered and downright pretty. And it seems to really sing on tablets. There’s no junky pile of interface elements; no extraneous buttons, arrows or task bars; not even a signal, clock or battery meter — just a big, beautiful, fullscreen experience. People who have an incessant need to see their connection or power level constantly may find this streamlining upsetting, but those who don’t mind trading those off for a visually clean, distraction-free experience will love this. Not that these specifics are gone, mind you. Just swipe the Charms menu to bring them forth, and then tap anywhere on the screen when you’re done, to make them disappear.
Updating Home Screens, Thanks to Live Tiles
It’s no secret that I like widgets, but I do have to admit — when widgets come from different sources, at different sizes and stages of development, putting them together can make for some pretty chaotic screens. Then there’s the total opposite — the negation of them altogether, as iOS has done. While the iPad homescreen is uniform-looking and easy to navigate, it doesn’t really have much pizzazz (especially now, after nearly five years of the same grid. Yawn). Isn’t there some sort of compromise?
Yep, and it’s called Live Tiles. They all have the design aesthetic and squared (or rectangular) shape, but they also put regularly updated info directly in view, without having to launch the app. Simple, useful, brilliant.
Granted, these features may not be earth-shattering, but there’s a refinement and refreshing attention to detail here. Seems a lot of focus was put on the user experience, and in truth, aren’t the little things sometimes what separates a good experience from a great one? Whether it grabs the market share it needs to take on the Androids and the new iPad remains to be seen — and it will need to attract a decent chunk to court the developers necessary to give this platform some staying power — but in terms of creating a genuinely appealing OS that has rightfully gotten some buzz, it looks like it’s off to a great start.
Are you getting a new tablet? Which platform did you hop on? And if you’re a Windows 8 hopeful, tell us if these are your favorite features, or if there are others you can’t wait for.