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The goal of the Internet of Things (IoT) is to make it possible for devices to talk to each other remotely to work better and be more convenient. An IoT platform connects the sensors in devices to computer networks. It’s helpful because it shows how the backend software stores and uses data. With the help of an Internet of Things (IoT) platform, programmers can send apps to various endpoints, gather data from far away, keep connections safe, and control sensors. An IoT platform handles how the devices connect to the network and gives developers a place to start when making new mobile apps.

Here, we look at the top IoT platforms of 2023 and try to figure out why they will be so popular.

Google Cloud IoT Platform

Google Cloud IoT is the company’s way of putting together services that improve the quality of products that are already linked. It helps make business operations run more efficiently. It can track assets in real-time, help cities and buildings become smarter, and predict when equipment needs to be fixed.

Google Cloud IoT also helps the devices be more useful in other ways. This system uses the cloud to cut costs and has built-in location awareness to make it work better. Their main focus is on quick, simple, and effective ways to run your business.

Also, the Google Cloud platform gives real-time information about the devices being used worldwide. The Google platform makes it easier to share files and work together. This IoT platform doesn’t need a certain OS to work.

Features

Adaptive machine learning for any IoT needs.

Devices all over the world that can access business intelligence in real time.

Artificial intelligence-based logic.

Help is provided for several embedded operating systems.

Geography and map skills.

Amazon Web Services Platform for IoT

Amazon is the only company in the home consumer cloud market. In 2004, they were the first to turn cloud computing into a business.

Since then, they’ve invested much money into research and development and making new features. This has led to what may be the most feature-packed toolkit in the industry.

It’s a platform that can support many devices and interactions.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) charges per message sent and received regarding the Internet of Things (IoT). Every time a device talks to a server in the IoT, it’s like a message being sent between two computers. 

Features

It can handle a very high number of messages at the same time.

It’s a safe and reliable way to send data to AWS nodes and other devices.

Even when you are not online, your programs will still work and share data.

You can use several other AWS services, such as AWS Lambda, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon QuickSight, etc.

ThingWorx

The IIoT solution ThingWorx is both powerful and complete. It can be used for many production, service, and engineering tasks because it has full-stack auto-provisioning and device administration. ThingWorx’s main features are remote monitoring, remote repair and support, predictive capabilities, and other features that can be used on-site or in the cloud.

It makes it easier to manage the development lifecycle of IoT apps. There is support for on-premise, cloud, and hybrid environments, which gives you the most flexibility. Using ThingWorx will increase your uptime, lower costs, give you insight and control depending on your roles, and make it easier to stay compliant.

It also makes the technological world more flexible and able to grow. A machine learning system makes it easier for people to use their gadgets. It also gives real-time IoT insights into the business world. Users are given the tools they need to improve business operations more effectively.

Features

Remote monitoring.

Remote repair and support.

Make fixes and get them out there.

You can access information from industrial Internet of Things (IoT) apps through local web servers, public cloud services, or hybrid setups.

Oracle IoT

Oracle is an important IoT platform as well. Its innovative approach to cloud computing and data management is a big reason so many people use it. Oracle has a lot of information and details about IoT devices. The cloud-based platform is meant to help with smart production, connected assets, connected logistics, and initiatives to make the workplace safer. It makes it possible for data to be displayed, mapped, and automated in real time.

Using Oracle’s IoT cloud, you can analyze data from your connected devices in real time, connect your devices to the cloud, and integrate that data with corporate applications and online services. The REST APt can connect to Oracle and non-Oracle programs and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Features

It works with JavaScript, Android, iOS, Java, and C POSIX, so you can build an IoT app and connect it to a device.

It can help business software like ERP, HR, and customer experience management grow.

Both worker output and the efficiency of operations will go up.

Devicevirtualisationn, instant messaging, and endpoint control are all included.

Among the analytical tools it gives you are stream processing and data enrichment.

Oracle and non-Oracle apps and IoT devices can connect with the help of REST API.

Conclusion

In the data-driven digital world of today, everything revolves around the internet. With IoT systems, we can use this information to help our business grow. With the help of IoT apps, we might also gain a competitive edge. Different projects have different needs for scalability, safety, and availability. You can choose the best IoT development platforms based on your needs and tastes.

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Smart Government And The Internet Of Things

The use of technology and innovation to assist and promote improved decision-making and planning inside governing bodies is known as smart governance, sometimes known as smart e-governance. It is frequently linked to enhancing democratic procedures and modernizing the delivery of public services.  The Internet of Technology has greatly helped the government achieve various goals in the technological and development sectors.

Spheres Influenced by IoT

Irrespective of their category, there are various spheres that the Internet of Things touches. Looking at them from a broader perspective, one can count them as −

Management and City Planning

IoT helps cities manage their resources by integrating into critical infrastructure and services like transportation and healthcare. It also supports other crucial areas like emergency management, waste management, and water control. Carrying out decisions in an effective and organised manner is the aim. In contrast to the conventional procedure, which is hampered by information lag, it allows for more rapid decision-making, which can be crucial in emergency management.

IoT also contributes to improving cities by offering useful information on how to make cities more efficient. As a result, changes happen more quickly and significantly.

National Defense Creating Smart Cities

The growth of inexpensive Internet-connected gadgets that make it simple to monitor and manage governmental operations, including parking, traffic, lighting, security, and environmental management, has led to an increase in “smart cities.” In the city, video can be easily recorded. Real-time access to actionable data on how the government functions are provided via smartphones. By maximizing energy use, smart cities can cut costs. New services involving infrastructure, buildings, and public transit are made possible by sensors for parking, traffic, lighting, environmental control,potholes, and transportation.

Optimisation of Energy

Using IoT to manage lighting, heating, and cooling resources effectively is a key component of smart governance. Through the use of hundreds of IoT sensors and controllers, smart buildings optimise energy use. Each device must be simple to add to the network and secure from unauthorized use. Smart buildings frequently include delicate medical equipment, thousands of analytical instruments, and sensitive research equipment that necessitates tightly restricted and closely monitored network access.

A wide range of applications is being driven by IoT’s capacity to enable and deliver sensor data and device-to-device communication.

What are the Perks of Smart Government? Smart Government, IoT and Job Opportunities

One of the most significant governmental IoT applications is this one. IoT provides in-depth economic analysis. It helps improve financial tracking and modelling and reveals previously hidden blind spots. It examines the market and the industry to identify growth opportunities and roadblocks. Job opportunities employ people, improving their standard of living. Also, this brings about a revolution in the structure and functioning of the IoT.  IoT is a rapidly expanding industry. The professional chances in IoT that are currently available have never even been conceived of. You can currently choose from a wide range of topics and specialise in security, UI design, or other subsystems like embedded software. You have a plethora of options. Moreover, a person gets to explore the realms of IoT in this way thoroughly.

How can Emergencies be Dealt with IoT?

IoT applications can quickly analyses data regarding an event, assisting first responders in better becoming aware of situations, choosing how to react, and communicating decisions (and crucial steps) to individuals involved. Environmental sensors can register and report any early crisis or criminal activity indications. Gadgets like ShotSpotter can detect the sound of a gunshot and determine its location.

Building the Future with IoT Usage by the Smart Government

Even seemingly straightforward choices in governance often have many implications, and choosing what to do is rarely simple. Using technology to obtain more information from the real world is one way to make better-informed judgments. IoT has greatly helped in learning a great deal about the future, or rather, having an idea about it, helping different organisations to plan their ways accordingly. It unifies all of the government’s resources, enhancing the value of data and enabling more effective planning.

The Use of IoT has greatly fueled progress in various sectors. That might imply a greater comprehension of the best renewable energy projects to invest in, how to include senior citizens in online activities, or practically any other difficulty.

Conclusion

The Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem comprises web-enabled smart devices that use embedded systems, such as processors, sensors, and communication gear, to gather, send, and act on the data they get from their surroundings. By connecting to an IoT gateway or other edge device, which either sends data to the cloud for analysis or analyses it locally, IoT devices exchange the sensor data they collect.

Which Is The Best Spotify Premium Account For You?

We’ve compared the four different Spotify Premium options – Individual, Duo, Family and Student – to help you choose the right subscription to suit your finances and listening habits. We also have a similar guide on which Netflix plan is the right one for you, and you can also find out how much mobile data Spotify uses here. 

If you’ve not done so already, you can sign up for an account for free over on the Spotify website, and then pick the plan you want from there.

The lowdown on Spotify plans

If all that sounds like too much of a compromise then Premium is absolutely the way to go. You can see a more detailed comparison between Spotify Free and Spotify Premium here.

To be clear, every Premium account on Spotify offers the following:

Ad-free music listening

Offline play

Unlimited skips

All of the plans also offer one month free trials, so you can try out the benefits of Spotify Premium without having to part with any money whatsoever.

Though Spotify offers joint accounts, you can only register one payment option. Therefore be sure to think about how you’d like to split the cost of your chosen Spotify Premium account. You can either get people to set up a simple standing order, pay via PayPal and split the cost through here, or use something such as Monzo. The max amount of people you can have one one account is six.

In addition, all these people will need your registered email address and password – so be certain these are details you’re comfortable sharing. For example, don’t use a sensitive password, such as one you use for internet banking.

We’ve also totted up the annual equivalent cost of each plan to help with your financial concerns. Most plans are monthly rolling and can be cancelled anytime – with the exception of Spotify Individual which offers both monthly and annual options (though paying for a year’s worth doesn’t get you any discount).

It’s worth noting that we’ve seen customers be emailed about these prices changing from 30 April, with most plans jumping up by £1 per month, and £2 per month for the Family plan. For existing customers, these prices will kick in from June onwards. 

Spotify Premium Individual Cost: £9.99/US$9.99 per month (adds up to £119.88 or US$119.88 per year)

Best for: Working professionals who don’t want to share an account

Don’t want to share your account with anyone and aren’t a student? Go for the standard Premium plan. With ad-free listening, unlimited skips, the ability to favourite and curate playlists and of course download tunes, you can keep this account all to yourself.

If you’re thinking about sharing your Premium benefits with a friend, then think again. Spotify detects when someone is logged into two devices, and will log you out if you try to listen simultaneously.

If you can coordinate your music time, then it’s worth trying. But if not, consider some other alternatives.

Spotify Premium Duo Cost: £12.99/US$12.99 per month (adds up to £155.88 or US$155.88 per year)

Best for: Couples or a pair of roommates – excluding students

Premium Duo is the newest Spotify account on the block, and is primarily geared towards two people living at the same address such as couples or close friends. Not only do you get a profile each for your own personalised tastes, but you also gain access to Duo Mix, a regularly updated curated playlist which incorporates both individuals music tastes.

Premium Duo only works for two people living at the same address, so don’t get a shared account with someone who you aren’t living with. Spotify conducts random GPS checks, and if it finds you flouting the rules you could be banned from your account.

Spotify Premium Duo is the natural cost-saving choice if you and another person you live with both want Premium, as it’ll only cost you £5.99 per month each rather than £9.99 each. The exception to this rule are students – who still fare better with their own dedicated Premium Student subscriptions.

Spotify Premium Family Cost: £14.99/US$14.99 per month (adds up to £179.88 or US$179.88 per year)

Best for: Families and between three to six roommates – including students

If you’re under a roof with up to five others, then the Premium Family option is by far be the most cost effective Spotify subscription. Like Spotify Duo, you get numerous accounts (up to six), an automatic Family Mix with mixed curated tunes as well as access to Spotify Kids. Spotify Kids is for children up to age 12, and includes an entire library that is family-friendly and free of expletive music.

It’s only worth getting Premium if you’re planning on splitting the account between three or more individuals, or if you desperately want access to Spotify Kids. Otherwise, Spotify Duo is the more cost-friendly alternative between two people. Again like Duo, this account is only for people living in the same address – not friends outside of it.

If you split this account evenly, at most you’ll be paying £4.99 if you’re in a team of three, and at the least £2.50 in a group of six. Therefore, the more sharers you can get on a family plan, the more cost-effective it will be. This plan is also a cheaper option for groups of three-to-six university roommates rather than individual student accounts.

Spotify Premium Student Cost: £5.99/US$5.99 per month (adds up to £71.88 or US$71.88 per year)

Best for: Individual university students

If you want to share, weigh up how many people you’re thinking about splitting with. If it’s more than two other people, go for Spotify Premium Family. Spotify Premium Duo isn’t worth it if you’re both students.

To get a student account, you’ll need to verify your status with your university email address and a document with proof of your enrollment status – see more in Spotify’s terms and conditions.

Which Spotify account is the best?

If you’re in a group, then it depends how many of you there are. For between three to six people in the same household (students or not), the Spotify Premium Family account is by far the most cost-effective option. If you’re in a couple, then you should only go for Spotify Duo if you’re not students – as otherwise two individual student accounts still costs marginally less.

Roku Vs Chromecast: Which Streaming Platform Is Right For You?

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

While there are a lot of media streaming devices on the market, the chief rivalry in the budget space is arguably between Roku and Google’s Chromecast. You can have a great experience with either platform, so here’s what you need to know before making the leap.

On the surface, Roku seems to have a gigantic lineup compared with Google, but most of its standalone devices (we’re ignoring integrated Roku or Google TVs, here) are just variants of a few core products.

Roku streamers

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Roku Express (Amazon): The cheapest model at $30, it comes with an infrared (“simple”) remote, and lacks support for 4K HDR. You can’t do Dolby or DTS audio unless you use HDMI passthrough, and it lacks volume leveling or night mode options.

Roku Express 4K: This one is increasingly hard to find, but it’s the cheapest with both 4K and HDR, the latter in the form of HDR10 Plus. Audio format support is largely the same, but you do get volume leveling and night modes.

Roku Express 4K Plus (Amazon): The only difference versus the regular Express 4K is the addition of Roku’s voice remote, which makes search easier and includes its own power and volume buttons.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus (Amazon): Going with the Plus gets you the Voice Remote Pro. That includes a headphone jack for private listening, customizable shortcut buttons, and a finder function if you lose it in the couch cushions. The remote is rechargeable too, so you won’t burn through batteries.

Roku Ultra LT (Amazon): The main reason to go with an Ultra is performance — you get Roku’s fastest processor, its best Wi-Fi, best HDR compatibility, and an Ethernet port if you want maximum bandwidth. The Ultra LT only comes with Roku’s standard voice remote, though you do get the option of private listening through Bluetooth or the Roku mobile app. The LT is harder to find these days, but if you’re determined, you can still get one via Amazon or Walmart.

Roku Ultra (Amazon): This is the top of the line if you don’t want integrated speakers. Upgrades over the LT include the Voice Remote Pro, Dolby Atmos surround sound, and private listening via the remote as well as Bluetooth and the Roku app. If you’ve got media on a USB drive, you can plug it directly into the set-top.

Roku Streambar (Amazon): The Streambar is effectively an Ultra built into a soundbar, upgrading your TV’s audio and streaming tech simultaneously. Accordingly there are HDMI, USB, and optical ports, as well as improved audio options, namely speech enhancement and Dolby Audio processing. There are some odd sacrifices — you don’t get Dolby Atmos, and HDR is limited to HDR10 (not HDR10 Plus). You also only get Roku’s standard voice remote, limiting private listening to Bluetooth and the Roku app.

Roku Streambar Pro (Amazon): The major upgrade here is sound quality. Whereas the regular Streambar uses four 1.9-inch drivers, the ones in the Pro are sized at 2.5 inches, giving them more punch. An upgraded remote adds a headphone jack to private listening options, as well as customizable shortcut buttons and a finder function through the Roku app. Oddly enough the Pro doesn’t expand HDR support, or enable any form of surround sound. At least without buying additional Roku speakers, that is, but that’s true of the regular Streambar too.

Chromecast streamers

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Chromecast with Google TV HD (Amazon): Google TV is an enhanced version of Android TV. The base $30 Chromecast dongle limits resolution to 1080p, but does support HDR in the form of HDR10 Plus and HLG. Its remote offers built-in Google Assistant.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K (Amazon): Largely identical to the HD, this upgrade adds 4K and Dolby Vision for the best possible picture. You can also buy it in “sky” or “sunrise” colors, not just the “snow” (white) of the HD.

Roku vs Chromecast: Software

Roku

Roku devices are based on Roku OS, which is relatively simple-looking compared to other streaming platforms, but that’s actually a benefit — it’s easy to learn, and runs smoothly on any recent hardware. There are several key features:

The Channel Store is where you go to find apps, since Roku refers to everything as “channels” regardless of whether it involves video, audio, or gaming. Confusion aside, the Store hosts over 4,000 titles, covering most major services and many niche options.

Voice search is deeply integrated into the platform, using either the Roku app or compatible remotes. It shows an array of viewing options in results, including subscriptions, purchases, and rentals.

In the US, UK, Canada, and Mexico, The Roku Channel offers a mix of live and on-demand programming, most of it free but ad-supported. In some cases you may be able to subscribe to outside services (like Showtime or Shudder) through the Channel, which are then centrally billed to your Roku account.

The Roku app serves many purposes, including finding and installing channels, and controlling devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It’s your best friend if you can’t find your physical remote.

In the US, Roku has partnered with Wyze to sell smart home accessories like lights, security cameras, and video doorbells. While you can use an app, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant for control, the novelty here is support within Roku OS. If someone rings the doorbell, for instance, you’ll get an alert on your TV and the ability to tune in directly.

There’s a limited amount of streaming control through third-party platforms including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant. If you link an Echo speaker to a Roku device, for example, saying “Alexa, open YouTube” will both turn the Roku on and launch the YouTube app.

A Live TV Zone directs you to live programming. New with Roku OS 12 is a US-only Local News option, and a Premium Subscriptions section for signing up to paid live services.

Another Roku OS 12 addition is an improved Continue Watching row (under What to Watch) that makes it easier to resume viewing titles on services like Netflix, Max, and Prime Video.

The homescreen automatically groups movies and shows according to your habits, likewise offering recommendations.

There’s a centralized watchlist, which makes it easy to add items from multiple services for later viewing. Roku has an equivalent feature called the Save List, but Google still has the edge, not the least because you can add items from any device signed into Google Search on the web.

Google Assistant is a big one. While Roku devices offer limited integration with Assistant, Alexa, and HomeKit, you get full control of a Chromecast from any device with Assistant installed, including smart speakers and displays. Accordingly, that maximizes possibilities in smart home automation — imagine a “Hey Google, it’s movie night” command triggering a search for action movies while simultaneously lowering the blinds, cranking speaker volume, and dimming the lights to a faint orange glow.

Google Cast was the original Chromecast’s raison d’être, and while that technology is now present on many other devices (Rokus included), you’re guaranteed to get full compatibility with Google hardware, including moving media from room to room with your voice.

Extensive parental controls will only matter to some people, but through tools like Family Link you can limit app and media activity, including setting bedtimes to keep kids from streaming all night.

As you’d expect, Chromecasts are designed with hooks for Google services such as Google Photos and YouTube TV. In fact they’re the only way you can get a dedicated YouTube Music app on non-Google TVs, though you can always just play tracks in the primary YouTube app.

Roku vs Chromecast: Content

Most things you want to watch on Roku can be found on a Chromecast, and vice versa. There are some notable exceptions — Twitch is available on Android/Google TV but not Roku, for example — but you’re not going to be wanting for major services like Netflix, Max, or Spotify. Check the availability of your favorites before committing to a purchase.

Both platforms have access to YouTube, YouTube TV, and YouTube Music, though as we indicated, listening to Music on Roku involves using the main YouTube app. Roku only really sets itself apart by way of the Roku Channel, as well as host of extremely niche apps for content like church services or old cartoons. You probably won’t miss those on a Chromecast, and even the Roku Channel can be hit-or-miss, sometimes forcing you to sift for a while to find quality material. We wouldn’t depend on it as our only source of video.

Neither platform is good for gaming. Google killed off Stadia cloud games in January 2023.

5 Of The Best Internet Speed Test Apps For Android

It can be frustrating when Internet speed is not up to par as expected. Slow internet makes us less productive and wastes a lot of our time. It is always best to check the Internet speed to ensure your Wi-Fi speed meets the threshold. Here we go through some of the best Internet speed test apps for Android that you can use to check your Internet speed.

Before We Begin

Whenever we experience slow Internet speeds, we tend to call our Internet provider for assistance. And very cleverly, they will redirect you to an ISP-made Internet speed testing website. Notably, such ISP-made speed test websites or sponsored apps always return high download/upload speeds.

As such, it is always best to run the speed test at least three times and get the average reading. You should also use different Internet speed testing apps to get a better understanding.

If you prefer not to install any more apps on your Android phone, you can also make use of these speed test sites.

1. Fast Speed Test

Fast Speed Test is one of my personal favorite Internet speed test apps. It is a simple app with a simple user interface. All you need to do is open the app, and that’s about it. The app will check your Internet connection speed and show you the result. For your info, this app is owned by Netflix.

Hitting the “Show More Info” button gives you all the information about your Internet speed, such as latency uploaded/loaded, upload speed, client information, servers used, and your public IP address. Users can also save the speed results as records.

Pros

Cons

Cannot manually select which servers to run the speed test on

Primarily focused on download speeds

2. SpeedTest by Ookla

When it comes to Internet speed test apps, SpeedTest by Ookla is the most popular around. SpeedTest by Ookla is the go-to app for many users checking Internet speed.

Though the app looks similar to the website, there are some key features embedded into the app. You can test your ping, download, and upload speed; the app keeps a record of the test results; you can perform a speed test from different servers; real-time graphs to show connection consistency; etc.

Pros

Easy to use

Detailed information

Offers an option to speed test from a different server location

Cons

3. SpeedTest Master

SpeedTest Master is another powerful Internet speed testing app available for Android devices. Apart from letting you test Internet speed, it also features a Wi-Fi detector, ping test, Wi-Fi signal strength, Wi-Fi channel analysis, and data usage.

In order to speed test, open the app and hit the Start button. Once completed, it will show details such as upload/download speed, ping, jitter, and data loss percentage. After every speed test session, an ad will pop up, which is kind of annoying.

Pros

Simple to use

Some additional features

Detailed information

Cons

4. Simple Speedcheck

Simple Speedcheck is another Internet speed testing app that offers accurate results. The app features a clean user interface. Simple Speedcheck offers information about your Internet speed in the form of charts.

It shows you outright the connected Wi-Fi signal strength. Hit the Test button, and it will show you all the standard details. The app also keeps a track of all of your previous speed tests and tells you if you performed a speed test over Wi-Fi or mobile data. Ads are everywhere, but you can get rid of them by making a $2.49 payment.

Pros

Accurate speed results

Colored charts

Cons

Ads may ruin your experience

Some users claim this app runs in the background

5. Meteor

Meteor is a free speed testing app for those who are just looking for an app that can show them Internet speed test results. Meteor will show you information such as upload/download speed and ping. Notably, it can also show you how your Internet speed will work with the apps installed on your device.

App performance details are shown with clarity. You can also perform tests at multiple locations and compare the test results – for example: work, home, etc.

Pros

Cons

None so far

Wrapping Up

You can make use of Internet speed testing apps to check whether your Internet connection is behind issues you have with any app. Meanwhile, you can also display Internet speed on the taskbar in Windows.

Sagar Naresh

My work has been published on Android Authority, Android Police, Android Central, BGR, Gadgets360, GSMArena, and more. A Six Sigma and Google Certified Digital Marketer who is covering tech-related content for the past 2 years.

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Which Tablet Is Best For You?

For this comparison, I set aside raw hardware specs. Processor speed, RAM, and ports certainly matter, but a tablet can have great specs and still be awkward and unpleasant to use. What makes or breaks a tablet is its operating system, which determines whether answering e-mail, watching video, and surfing the Web will be a pleasure or a frustration.

Several tablet operating systems are poised to battle it out. While most tablet OSs come on only one brand of tablet each, Google’s Android 3.0 is the choice of a growing number of manufacturers, some of which add their own custom interface as HTC does with Sense UI and Samsung does with TouchWiz.

For this article I tried the iOS 4.3-based Apple iPad 2, the BlackBerry Tablet OS-based RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, and the Android 3.0-based Acer Iconia Tab A500, Motorola Xoom, and T-Mobile G-Slate. I didn’t have a final version of the WebOS-based HP TouchPad (due out this summer) for unlimited testing, but I was able to spend some time with a preproduction unit.

Home Screen

Advantage: BlackBerry Tablet OS, Android 3.0

You’ll go to your tablet’s home screen again and again, so it’s critical for the screen to look good and work efficiently.

Android 3.0‘s home screens (you get six of them) are very different from the BlackBerry offering, but perfect for people who want detailed control over how their tools are organized and presented. The new home-screen design is cleaner than that of previous Android versions, and it makes moving app icons and widgets across the six screens easy. Widgets are a compelling addition to Android, too: Google and app developers can use them to put regularly refreshed information–such as your calendar, your most recent e-mail messages, or the latest weather–directly on your screen. Tap the widget, and you’ll proceed directly to the related app itself. These shortcuts are finger friendly, but the frequently winking updates could become more clutter than convenience.

Oddly, the back button doesn’t behave as you might expect: Nowhere does Android note that using the back button exits an app entirely, but that’s the action it performs. The button for recently accessed apps, often erroneously referred to as the multitasking button, brings up thumbnails of the five apps you’ve used most recently; but even though this is intended as a shortcut, it can make your finger travel more, not less, to return to an app.

The Apple iOS home screen is way behind the competition in many respects. It’s staid and consistent, but not at all dynamic. The bottom area has room for a maximum of six docked apps, while the rest of your apps spread across one of the multiple (up to 11) home screens. App icons are static, and unlike Android 3.0, iOS doesn’t allow for widgets. iOS has no set location for notifications, either; instead, it passes along alerts in intrusive pop-up boxes. Organizing apps on different screens or into folders is tiresome, whether you’re trying to do so on the iPad itself or in the iTunes desktop software. And unlike other mobile OSs, iOS buries oft-used settings under the layers of the settings menu; you’ll find no shortcut here.

Mail

Advantage: Android 3.0

Although Apple’s Mail app looks good and is easy to navigate, it annoyingly behaves in a different way based on whether you’re holding the tablet in landscape or portrait mode: In landscape, it shows you two panes, while in portrait it has a pop-up pane for moving through messages and inboxes. Compared with Android, iOS puts many more limitations on what you can download, and what you can do with a downloaded file. It will save JPEGs, PDFs, and Microsoft Office documents, but you can open those files only in specific apps that are written to hook into the Mail app (for example, Pages, iBooks, or Evernote). And you can’t attach a file directly to a message; to send a photo, for instance, you initiate the message from the image in the Photo Roll, not from the e-mail app.

BlackBerry Tablet OS stumbles due to the fact that it lacks an integrated e-mail app. The BlackBerry Bridge feature lets you pair a BlackBerry phone with the tablet, so you can view your phone’s BlackBerry Messenger e-mail, contacts, and chats on the PlayBook’s larger screen. When you decouple the tablet and phone, the Messenger data disappears from the PlayBook–a feature that might frustrate consumers but should appeal to corporate IT honchos who want to limit the spread of sensitive information.

The PlayBook ships with icons for AOL Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail (along with Facebook and Twitter), but these icons are misleading since they don’t bring you to actual apps–they’re merely shortcuts to those services in the Web browser. The browser interface for the mail services is a poor substitute for a mobile-optimized app. For example, I couldn’t add an attachment in Gmail, though I could do so–with some graphics issues–in AOL Mail. I could save attachments from Web-based e-mail, but finding those documents again was difficult, and sometimes they didn’t open properly.

Web

Advantage: Android 3.0

In comparison, iOS 4.3 and BlackBerry Tablet OS feel stuck in the dark ages of Web browsing. Since their respective native browsers access only one Web page at a time, you must exit one page before you browse to another. Switching among pages is much faster and smoother in Android’s tabbed design than it is on either iOS 4.3 or BlackBerry Tablet OS. And neither of those OSs updates a page dynamically.

The WebOS browser on the TouchPad works much as it does on WebOS cell phones. Each browser window behaves as its own activity card, and you can stack those cards together or view them individually.

Multimedia

Advantage: None

I didn’t pick an outright winner simply because no one mobile OS gets enough right in this respect. Which mobile OS you deem best for media management will depend in part on your shopping habits and on how you plan to use your tablet.

The iPad’s tight integration with the iTunes store makes buying new audio and video on Apple’s tablet exceedingly easy. Love it or hate it, iTunes is the dominant marketplace for digital media, and the iPad benefits greatly. iTunes desktop software remains fairly good at organizing and tracking your media, as well as at syncing that media onto your tablet. However, although you can add your own videos and music–as well as photos–to the iTunes library on your PC, in order to play that media on your iPad you have to sync the tablet with your PC’s iTunes library. You can’t just do a quick drag-and-drop file transfer, as you can with Android 3.0. Nonetheless, if you already have an iPod or iPhone, and you shop in iTunes, the iPad will fit in perfectly with how you buy music and video.

Unfortunately, since Android 3.0 lacks a dedicated video player, your videos are meshed into the Gallery with your photos. And the version of Android 3.0 that ships on all of the tablets I tried has a major imaging bug: Android 3.0’s Gallery app doesn’t render images clearly–images look unsharp, and fuzzy. A Google rep told me that the company was aware of the problem, but offered no timeline for a fix. Sure, I like how the Gallery lets me view image EXIF data, but that information doesn’t do me much good if I can’t tell whether the image is actually sharp.

BlackBerry Tablet OS’s media handling is a mixed bag. It does some things extraordinarily well: For example, the OS can power two different graphics activities simultaneously, so you can output 1080p video via HDMI to a TV and still surf the Web on the PlayBook. In my hands-on tests, Flash video played fine inside a Web page, though it occasionally had sizing issues that made it difficult for the in-browser Flash player on YouTube (and chúng tôi video) to resize to the PlayBook’s screen.

You can buy music on a PlayBook through 7digital, the same DRM-free store you can use via a BlackBerry phone. RIM plans to offer a video store, but it isn’t ready just yet.

RIM makes getting content onto the PlayBook fairly easy. You have to install an app on your desktop, and then use it to transfer files to the device wirelessly (it acts as a wireless hard drive) or use the app’s guided sync and transfer options. Impressively, it grabbed music from my iTunes library, skipping over some songs only because those tracks were protected by digital rights management. The music player built in to BlackBerry Tablet OS looks fine and operates smoothly, though its layout took a little getting used to and building playlists on the fly wasn’t as easy as I’d like.

Apps

Advantage: IOS

RIM says it launched BlackBerry Tablet OS with 3000 apps in its AppWorld store. Unfortunately none of the apps I downloaded particularly impressed me–some appeared to be simple, almost DOS-like in their design. RIM says the PlayBook will be able to run Android 2.x apps, but not 3.0 apps, sold via its AppWorld store; but the Android Player emulator that will enable the function, as well as the emulator that will run BlackBerry phone apps, won’t be available until later this summer. At launch, the PlayBook lacks compelling apps to complement its (mostly) compelling hardware and mobile OS.

Best Overall Impression

I find a lot to like among all the contending tablet OSs, and wish I could cobble those appealing elements together into a single, awesome mobile OS.

But barring that, I believe that Apple’s iOS remains the best tablet operating system overall. That may be a surprise to you, given that I prefer other OSs for many of the individual functions I looked at. On the whole, however, iOS delivers the best-formed environment for both productivity and entertainment.

Meanwhile, businesspeople who already depend on BlackBerry phones should value the way those handsets will interact with the PlayBook, as well as the built-in security of the platform–and for that audience, such capabilities will outweigh many of the PlayBook’s other weaknesses.

Hardware Options

Galaxy Tab: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android 3.0 slate is 0.2mm thinner than the iPad 2. This 10.1-inch model, due in June, costs $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi unit (an 8.9-inch one is coming too). I like its thinness–and many of Samsung’s interface tweaks.

PlayBook: RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook gets a lot right, but it also feels like a work in progress. For now it’s constrained by a limited app selection, software glitches, and choices in functionality or design that might reduce the tablet’s popularity among consumers.

G-Slate: Also called the LG Optimus Pad, the 8.9-inch, Android 3.0-based G-Slate tablet for T-Mobile stands out thanks to its two rear cameras. The cameras enable 3D video capture; you can view the videos through the included anaglyph video glasses.

Flyer: HTC’s upcoming tablets–the Flyer for Best Buy and the EVO View 4G for Sprint–were unveiled with Android 2.3, but Sprint has hinted that its slate will carry Android 3.0. Support for HTC’s Scribe pen lets you capture notations digitally.

Iconia Tab: In early demos, Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 Android 3.0 tablet seemed promising. The Wi-Fi-only tablet has an aluminum build and carries familiar-sounding specs, including Adobe Flash 10.2 support and a 1280-by-800-pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

What About Windows?

Neither the default Windows interface nor the applications are finger friendly, and battery life is an issue. But the appeal of Windows on a tablet remains, as much for its novelty as for its interoperability with the software on a laptop or desktop.

The longer Microsoft waits on providing tablet optimization, the more ground it will cede as tablets steal the thunder from traditional PCs and consumers come to rely on mobile OSs instead of on Windows.

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