If you think the iPad is a nonessential item for overgrown kids—and one best left at home when you travel—think again. Apple’s groundbreaking tablet is about to have significant competition with the arrival of touch-screen devices powered by Google, Microsoft, and RIM (BlackBerry) technology—and loaded with even more travel-friendly features.
Samsung’s highly touted Galaxy Tab, expected to hit stores at holiday time, has a compact 7-inch screen (the iPad is 9.7 inches), along with expandable memory, support for Flash videos, and two built-in cameras for taking snapshots and video chatting—features the iPad doesn’t have. The Galaxy and the already-released Archos 101 (from $300; archos.com), a super-slim tablet that can output HD video and pictures to a TV via HDMI, are only the first (and most prominent) of the Android operating system tablets on the way—all of which will have access to the rapidly growing Android app market. RIM is also getting into the tablet game with the BlackBerry PlayBook (blackberry.com), coming in early 2011. It’ll have a 7-inch LCD touch screen, BlackBerry’s stellar e-mail functionality, and serious multitasking chops.
Even with this competition, the iPad’s still on top, if only for its formidable App Store, which gives you access to everything from books and magazines (Travel + Leisure now included) to travel resources and services. But expect Apple to roll out more functions and size options for its game-changing tablet in the coming year as it tries to keep the rivals at bay.