I want to relate how I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as my main tablet to use for music-reading (and many, many other tasks). My point is not to tell you what tablet you should buy. It’s more to shed light on my own criteria and decision-making process, in order to help other musicians formulate their own criteria when considering a tablet purchase.
First, a little about myself: I’m a techie in my day job. Given a trade-off between ease-of-use versus advanced power-user features, I’m more likely than the average person to lean towards the latter. I have a higher (but not infinite) pain threshold for technology-induced frustration and don’t mind a certain amount of hacking around problems. Also, I don’t really have an allegiance to one platform. I have two Android devices (my phone and an HP TouchPad with Android installed), two iOS devices (iPad and iPod Touch), and Ubuntu on my laptop with a Windows virtual machine in the background. I say all this to give some context about how I make technology choices, because I realize not everyone has similar preferences or temperament.
I agonized for a long time about getting or not getting a tablet, especially for music reading. I had noticed a handful of my colleagues starting to use tablets, mostly iPads, in rehearsal. I’m a late adopter for a techie and I like to wait and make sure that a new gadget will really add value to my life before I drop a big chunk of change for it.
I’d also been wanting to go paperless. I’d been through a few printers, all of which broke or had other problems, and I didn’t bother replacing the last one that broke because I wasn’t making enough printouts for it to be worth the hassle. A tablet seemed like a promising alternative to paper.
I had a lucky break when my spouse, who is employed with HP, got a free TouchPad from work. That was my first chance to have some hands-on experience with a tablet – at no cost! I tried seven ways from Sunday to make that thing a viable music reader. (Viable = I can upload PDF files to it, view the files, and make freehand annotations on them.) The Acrobat Reader on the TouchPad’s WebOS was a rudimentary viewer with no annotation – and no hope of updates, after HP discontinued the tablet. Acrobat Reader was adequate for a perusal or read-through of a score, but not for rehearsal or serious study.
I even tried installing Ubuntu on the TouchPad. Now that was a geeky little side project. I imagined that I might find Linux-compatible PDF viewing software with annotation support. It turns out that, while such applications do exist, none of the ones I found could run on the TouchPad hardware.
At the time, the Android port for the HP TouchPad was in its infancy, and I had to wait for the better part of a year until it was available. When it was eventually released, I was able to install Android on the TouchPad, and it was a big improvement! I was able to install ezPDF Reader for Android, which lets you do just about everything you can do with a printed score and a pencil. And I did use the TouchPad (now TouchDroid) for some score study.
However, my search for a music-reading tablet was not yet over. I’d heard that the iPad had some feature-rich score-reading apps. I also knew there were some appealingly lightweight and thin Android tablets on the market. The TouchDroid was quite a tank, and while it was fine to perch on a music stand, I thought it was too heavy to hold in my hand for the duration of a rehearsal or concert.
(Continued in Part 2)
- How I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as a music reader: Part 2
- How I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as a music reader: Part 3