What's the most anticipated gadget of 2011 that people are actually going to be willing to pay full price for? It's not the second-generation iPad, which wasn't even nominated for Engadget's Most Anticipated Gadget of 2011. According to dealnews readers, it's the Motorola Xoom tablet, due in stores on Feb. 24, priced at $600 for the Wi-Fi model and $800 with wireless connectivity through Verizon.
When it comes to digital buzz, this is light years ahead of the reception that greeted the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (now as low as $249 with a two-year T-Mobile contract), which can’t seem to hold a cyber candle to the eagerly awaited Motorola Xoom.
The biggest news about the Galaxy upon its release was that return rates are running at a dismal 16%, compared to just 2% for the iPad, according to Apple Insider, which cited data from ITG Investment Research.
Users and reviewers alike seem disappointed in the device, which Gizmodo reviewer Matt Buchanan went so far as to call "a pocketable train wreck," adding, "There is no way to not feel like a total dorkface while typing on this thing. In portrait, it’s like tapping on a massive, nerdy phone. ... The Tab feels like a grab bag of neglect, good intentions and poor execution."
So far, no Android tablet has been able to stack up as any kind of competition to Apple's iOS iPad, which is why the Xoom has so much riding on its release. Fully recovered from its post-Razr funk of 2007, Motorola is red hot, thanks to its Android phone, which more than holds its own against Apple’s almighty iPhone — and by some reviews, offers more flexibility and features,, such as Flash compatibility and an FM radio.
Just as Apple’s iPhone and iPad might be viewed as compatible cousins in a gadget hound’s arsenal, you can imagine how many Android users hope to add Xoom to their tech-savvy array.
That said, the Xoom shows every sign of becoming a game-changer, giving the iPad a much more serious run for its money. When respected authorities such as PC World call the Xoom "hands-on and awesome," you can bet a lot of tablet buyers are sitting up and taking notice. Melissa J. Perenson’s review showers the Xoom with praise that might make Steve Jobs jealous: "The good stuff, from [my] first impressions, is almost everything else about the tablet. ... I could move amongst the five home screens lickety-split, and even the 3D carousels for music, YouTube and Google Books moved smoothly and sharply." (No sign of "dorkface" in this review, folks.)
So if the forecasts are right, and Xoom builds on the sky-high benchmark Motorola set with the Android phone, it stands to reason that comparisons to the Galaxy Tab will fall by the wayside and that most consumers will stack it against the iPad. And this will likely lead to the same kinds of debates that Android and iPhone 4 users have engaged in for months now.
In fact, it’s already heating up, as TG Daily blogger Trent Nouveau opined Thursday: "Android is undoubtedly one of the coolest mobile operating systems coded in recent years. But it isn’t iOS, and the Xoom, for all its tricked-out and superior specs, isn’t an iPad" — and, he added, not worth $800+.
Not everyone agrees. Josh Smith, editor of Notebooks.com, believes that "the Motorola Xoom could have a chance at offering a good value to early adopters if Verizon can deliver a subsidized price around $500. But even then, users will be making up for that discount in data fees for years to come."
So when it comes to the $800 Xoom question, at the end of the day you might say the apps have it. At last count, the iPad boasts more than 60,000 iOS apps, while the Xoom and a third competitor, the HP TouchPad, have only a fraction of that amount and will likely lag behind for the foreseeable future.
As Smith puts it: "The real question of value comes from the apps. Apple arguably has a broader catalog of apps that average users love to use for work and play. Meanwhile, Android tablets will need to build up the same catalog of apps optimized for the tablet, which could take some time."
In other words, have a little bit of patience before you Xoom. "It’s worth it for early adopters to look at the Xoom," Smith says, "but general consumers may want to wait to see how the dust settles this summer."