How I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as a music reader: Part 1

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Android, annotation, apps, iPad, sheet music, tablet

(This is Part 1 in a three-part series – read Part 2 and Part 3)

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)

Related Posts:

  1. […] How I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as a music reader: Part 1 […]

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  3. […] perspective in “How I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as a music reader, Parts 1, 2, and 3“.  The quality and availability of music-reading apps is an important […]

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