by Leo Jakobson | August 23, 2011

Apple's iPad is on fire, but a whole new generation of competing tablet computers is now on the market. The new tablets tout improvements from more complete web-browsing capabilities to highly robust operating systems, notably Google Android. 

Google developed the Honeycomb version of Android specifically for tablets, rather than using the operating system it originally designed for smartphones. BlackBerry and Microsoft also have created operating systems, though they command smaller market share.
One key product feature in the tablet world is apps—the programs that run on the devices. Here, Apple has a huge advantage; there are vastly more apps for the iPad than there are for Android tablets. 

Another major differentiator is screen quality and size. This is an area where some competitors are outdoing Apple’s iPad, with screens that are both larger and capable of displaying high-definition video. Most new tablets have front- and rear-facing cameras for video chat, taking pictures, and recording video.

Still, there are many similarities among tablets. All of them have touch-screen interfaces, are as thin and light as their manufacturers can muster, and connect to the web either through Wi-Fi or cell phone networks. 

While cell service often is available without long-term contracts nowadays, tablet users are still locked into using the networks of their service providers. For this reason, the incentive industry has long shied away from using cell phones as awards. 

Therefore, we focus on Wi-Fi-only tablets. Here are five worth considering for your incentive programs.

Memory: 16, 32, 64 gigabytes
Screen: 9.7 inches, 1024 x 768 resolution

When it comes to tablet computers, Apple has written the book. With a 9.7-inch screen, the iPad was the first successful tablet, and its successor, the iPad 2, is the standard against which all other tablets are measured. The iPad’s popularity has fueled record profits for Apple. Along with the huge number of apps available for the device, the iPad 2’s greatest strengths are its user-friendly interface, good looks, 10-hour battery life, and Smart Cover, which puts it to sleep and wakes it up as soon as the cover is closed and opened.

Memory: 32 gigabytes
Screen: 10.1 inches, 1280 x 800 resolution

One of the best-reviewed tablet computers, the Motorola Xoom runs on the Google Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system. It outdoes the 
iPad 2 on screen size with a 10.1-inch touch screen, which also boasts better resolution. Unlike the iPad 2, the Xoom can play video in 720p high-definition. Other product highlights include a flash for the rear-facing camera, a micro USB 2.0 port, and an HDMI port for connecting the tablet to an HDTV. These features leave the unit slightly thicker and heavier than its competitors. 

Memory: 16, 32 gigabytes
Screen: 10.1 inches, 1280 x 800 resolution

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is another Android 3.1 Honeycomb tablet. As its name suggests, it has a 10.1-inch touch screen that is compatible with HD video and is larger than the iPad 2’s display. Yet the Samsung model, at 0.34 inches deep, is just as thin as the iPad 2, and it is a bit lighter at 1.25 pounds. A seven-inch-screen version is available.

Memory: 16, 64 gigabytes
Screen: 7 inches, 1024 x 600 resolution

With a seven-inch touch screen, the BlackBerry PlayBook is smaller and lighter than the iPad and other tablets. It runs on the company’s own QNX operating system, and apps come from BlackBerry App World. It has a micro HDMI output for connecting to an HDTV. The PlayBook can tether to a BlackBerry phone to gain free network service. 

Memory: 4 gigabytes
Screen: 10.1 inches, 1024 x 768 resolution

Coby’s Kryos MID1126-4G was designed as an entry-level tablet. At a substantially lower price point, it is not as fully featured as its competitors. It runs on Android 2.3 (apps are available via Coby’s AppsLib marketplace) and has a 10.1-inch, 4:3 capacitive touch screen. Its 4 gigabytes of internal memory can be augmented to 32 gigabytes by using a microSD card. Coby makes seven- and eight-inch versions of the Kryos.