There are different types of operating systems for tablets. It’s important to know the differences between them so you can make an informed decision about which tablet operating system is the best for you.
There are 5 popular operating systems for tablets. There are others, but these have the majority of the market, and they are iPad OS, Android, Windows, Fire OS, and Chrome OS.
There are others like Linux OS, Huawei HarmonyOS, and other custom operating systems, but tablets with these operating systems are rarely available, especially in the North American market.
iPadOS is a specialized operating system developed by Apple for its line of iPad tablets. It’s based on iOS, the operating system used in iPhones, but iPadOS is optimized to take full advantage of the larger screen and additional features that are only found in their iPads.
- Multitasking – allows you to split the screen in half.
- Customizable Home Screen – allows you to organize your iPad as you need. You can add widgets and organize apps in folders. Making it more organized.
- App Store – all iPads come with a built-in App Store where you can download media apps, games, photo editing apps, reading apps, etc.
- Apple Pencil Support – you can take notes and draw on the screen.
- Files App – allows to organize files and add external files to your device.
- Browsing – you can browse the web in tablet view and you can switch to desktop mode.
- Gestures – multiple hand gestures that make navigation simpler and faster.
- Gaming – exclusive gaming apps and the ability to connect with Bluetooth controllers.
- Augmented Reality (AR) – iPadOS includes ARKit, a framework for developing augmented reality applications.
- Voice Controls – you have a built-in voice assistant that helps you control your device just with the voice. It’s called “Siri.”
Verdict: The biggest advantage of iPadOS is how simple it is. Even a person who has never used an iPad knows how to navigate it from the get-go. It’s a free operating system that comes with any iPad you buy, and all its upgrades are free. On average, each iPad is supported for 7-years. After that, you can no longer upgrade to the latest iPadOS but you can still use the device.
iPads are very simple for the reason that only one company makes them. There are 4 models: iPad, iPad Mini, iPad Air, iPad Pro. The iPads come in different sizes with different features. You can get an 8-inch iPad and a 12.9-inch iPad.
Android is an open-source operating system developed by Google. It’s used on a wide range of tablets from various manufacturers. Android offers a high level of customization and a vast app ecosystem.
Android OS is used by many popular tech brands like Lenovo, Samsung, Asus, Xiaomi, and Huawei.
- Variety of Manufacturers – the diversity provides consumers with many options in different price ranges and sizes.
- Customizability – Android users can personalize their tablets by choosing widgets, wallpapers, and app arrangements to create a unique home screen.
- Google Play Store – Android tablets come with access to the Google Play Store, which offers a vast selection of apps, games, and media content. This provides users with plenty of options for what to do on the tablet.
- Multi-Tasking – Android tablets support multitasking, allowing users to run multiple apps simultaneously, switch between them, and even use split-screen mode to view two apps side by side.
- Google Services – Android OS integrates seamlessly with Google services like Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. This can be convenient if you’re already using these services. Usually, these apps come pre-installed on Android tablets.
- Device Compatibility: Android tablets support a variety of external hardware devices, such as keyboards, mice, styluses, and game controllers, making them versatile for different use cases.
- Expandable Storage: Many Android tablets have microSD card slots, allowing users to expand their device’s storage capacity.
Verdict: While Android tablets offer a lot of flexibility and versatility, it’s important to be aware that the user experience can vary depending on the manufacturer and the specific Android version used. Also, Android Tablets are supported only for a few years, 2-5. On average, depending on the manufacturer, Samsung support is the longest.
Android is the second most popular operating system for tablets right after iPad OS and they are similar, but still different. If you are indecisive, I suggest taking a closer look at the key differences between iPad and Android Tablets.
Chrome OS is Google’s operating system primarily used in Chromebooks, but some 2-in-1 Chrome OS tablets are available. It’s known for its simplicity and affordable pricing. Chrome OS relies heavily on cloud-based applications.
- Google Integration – Just like Android, Chrome OS tablets seamlessly integrate with Google services like Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. This makes it easy to access your online files and content.
- Web-Centric – Chrome OS is centered around web applications and Google Chrome extensions. It is the only tablet operating system that allows you to use the web and have a desktop experience with all the Chrome extensions.
- Offline Mode – While Chrome OS relies on web apps, it’s designed to work offline as well. You can use many of your apps and access files without an internet connection.
- Multi-Tasking – Chrome OS supports multi-tasking, similar to Android and iPadOS. You can have multiple apps or browser tabs open simultaneously, making it ideal for productivity.
- Google Play Store – Chrome OS tablets can access the Google Play Store, which means you can run various Android apps on them. This extends the range of software available on your tablet.
- Keyboard and Stylus Support – Many Chrome OS tablets come with detachable keyboards and support stylus input.
- Manageability – Chrome OS is well-suited for educational institutions and businesses because it can be centrally managed and offers robust security features.
- Affordable Options – Chrome OS tablets are often budget-friendly.
Verdict: Chrome OS tablets are generic and offer a web-centric experience. It’s well-suited for people who rely on Google services and prefer a laptop-like interface on a tablet. Often chosen in corporate environments and schools due to the manageability. Usually, these devices are budget-friendly, and the biggest compromise they make is the processor. These tablets can’t handle heavy, demanding tasks. Similar to iPad OS, Chrome OS tablets receive long-term support, often more than 10-years.
Multiple manufacturers create tablets that run Chrome OS, I suggest you check out the best Chrome OS tablets, where I’ve completed a list of the best options based on the release date and specs.
Windows tablets run on the Windows operating system, which Microsoft develops. This OS allows tablets to seamlessly integrate with other Windows devices, providing a familiar interface for users. It supports a wide range of applications and is known for its productivity features, making Windows tablets suitable for work and entertainment alike.
Microsoft not only created the operating system, but they also created Microsoft Surface tablets. That are the most popular Windows tablets in the market.
- Applications – These tablets support a wide array of applications, both from the Microsoft Store and other third-party sources. Productivity apps, creative apps, games, etc.
- Productivity Features – Windows tablets are known for their productivity features, including multitasking capabilities, file management, and compatibility with popular Microsoft Office applications. This makes them suitable for work-related tasks and also for entertainment.
- Integration – Windows tablets seamlessly integrate with other Windows devices and services, providing a cohesive ecosystem for users who are already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem. This is why corporations often choose Windows tablets.
- Desktop Experience – Just like Chrome OS, Windows tablets offer a desktop-like experience. This is particularly advantageous for users who need the functionality of a traditional desktop or laptop in a portable tablet form.
- Stylus and Keyboard Support – Many Windows tablets come with stylus and keyboard support, enhancing their versatility for tasks like note-taking, drawing, and typing.
- Software Compatibility – Since Windows is a widely used operating system, these tablets have extensive software compatibility. Users can run a broad range of applications, from industry-standard software to casual games.
- Updates – Windows tablets receive regular updates from Microsoft, ensuring that the devices stay secure and up to date with the latest features and improvements.
Verdict: Windows tablets are often called as 2-in-1 devices. Providing a familiar and robust computing experience in a portable form. They are well-suited for users who value productivity, compatibility, and integration with the broader Windows ecosystem. Windows tablet are supported for 6-years on average.
Amazon’s Fire OS is a customized version of Android used on Amazon Fire tablets. It’s tightly integrated with Amazon services and content. It’s a unique operating system developed by amazon just for their tablets.
- Amazon Integration – Fire OS tablets seamlessly integrate with Amazon’s suite of services, including the Kindle Store, Amazon Prime Video, and the Amazon Appstore.
- Content-Centric – The interface of Fire OS is designed with a focus on content consumption. Whether it’s e-books, movies, or music, or light games the layout emphasizes easy access to Amazon’s extensive content library.
- Amazon Appstore – Instead of the Google Play Store, Fire OS devices use the Amazon Appstore. While it has a selection of popular apps, it may not have the same extensive catalog as the Google Play Store, like Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, etc.
- Parental Controls – Fire OS tablets come with robust parental controls, allowing parents to manage and monitor their children’s usage. This includes setting screen time limits, controlling content access, and more.
- Affordability – Amazon’s Fire tablets are often budget-friendly, providing an affordable entry point for users looking for a tablet primarily for entertainment purposes. You can but their tablets for under $100.
- Alexa Integration- Fire OS tablets come with Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant. Users can perform various tasks, ask questions, and control smart home devices using voice commands.
- Updates – Fire OS tablets receive regular updates from Amazon, ensuring that the devices remain secure and up to date with the latest features.
Verdict: Fire OS tablets are the cheapest tablets in the market, designed for content consumption, light games, and children. The biggest flaws are that you don’t have Google Play Store installed, and you can install it manually in order to get apps like YouTube, Gmail, etc.
Another flaw is on-tablet ads. You get ads on your tablet operating system. You need to pay extra for that in order to remove them.
The operating system is like fuel to your tablet. Without it, it can’t run. You have to choose the one that makes the most sense for you.
- If you are looking for a tablet for personal use, like browsing the web, taking notes, playing games, or reading, I recommend Android or iPadOS.
But which one is better for you? If you have an Android phone, I would recommend an Android tablet since you already know the ecosystem. On the other hand, if you have an iPhone, I recommend getting an iPad.
- For business and corporate people, I recommend getting Windows OS.
- For educational purposes or business management purposes where you don’t need any processing power, I recommend getting Chrome OS.
- For content consumption and kids, Fire OS is the best & also the cheapest option.
I'm a writer and editor in iPads & Android Tablets, Windows Tablet section. I'm passionate about technology, especially about tablets. I'm on a mission to assist people in discovering their ideal tablets. In addition, I'm dedicated to producing helpful how-to guides and sharing top-notch tips and tricks. In my early carrier I founded and became and editor at worldoftablet and have been a guest author at many other tech blogs. In wolfoftablet I'm focusing on iPads, Tablets, Apple Pencil, Apps, Reviews, Buyers Guides and Tablet Accessories. In free time I like to play games on my PS5 or iOS.