It's not so long ago that when it came to tablets, Apple undeniably ruled the roost. Like writing with a Biro or picking up dust with a Hoover, if you wanted to browse the internet or watch movies on a slate-style gadget that looked like an overgrown smartphone, you used your iPad – regardless of whether or not it was actually an Apple.
But this being the tech world, times change fast, and these days, if you see someone on the train or in the park using a tablet, it's more likely to be one of the multitude of Android devices that have sprung up in the last year or so to try and wrestle dominance back from the fruit-based tech firm.
And new figures from Gartner show just how quickly the tablet landscape has changed. In 2012, when Android was gaining its stride, the battle was fairly even, with Apple's iOS devices (ie, the iPad family) claiming 52 per cent of the market compared with Android's 45.8 per cent.
But last year, Android overtook iOS and pulled out a big lead, with a share of 61.9 per cent of the market. At the same time, Apple's share dropped to 36 per cent of the market, even though it sold around nine million more devices than in the previous year. And if you're wondering, devices running Microsoft's Windows operating system shipped just four million units around the globe in 2013, giving it a paltry 2.1 per cent of the tablet market.
One reason for this may be the sheer variety of Android devices available. Want a cheap and cheerful piece of kit for reading e-books and checking your email? You can find one. Need a business powerhouse for complex 3D design work? Guess what, there's an Android for that, too.
But with so many options available, how do you know what's the best one for you? Well, we've put together our suggestions for the best of the bunch to help make your buying decision a little easier.
The Workmate – Asus Transformer TF701T
If you need to get things done, the Asus Transformer Pad has one key advantage over many other tablets – a keyboard. But hang on, isn't that a laptop, I hear you cry? Well no, because the great thing about this versatile device is the keyboard is detachable, so once you've finished work and need to unwind, just unclip it and use the touchscreen on its own. There are others that do the same thing, but the Asus boasts one of the best combos of power and portability.
The Doodler – Galaxy Note 10.1
For creative types, two things are necessary – a top-quality screen and precision input control – and the Galaxy Note 2 has both of these, thanks to its 2,560 x 1,600 pixel Super LCD screen and accurate Stylus accessory. If you miss that feel of pen and paper, but still need the latest tech, this is the choice for you.
The Film Buff – Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
One key thing Amazon's Kindle Fire line offers is its range of media options. Its customised version of Android – known as Fire OS – has been fully geared around making content viewing as easy as possible. As well as easy access to the online retailer's vast range of movies, music and books, you can even send content directly to your TV, so you can go straight from watching on the train to watching on the sofa.
The Compact – Google Nexus 7
If you find the range of ten-inch devices a little bulky for your tastes, Google's seven-inch Nexus is the perfect answer. Fitting everything you could ever ask from its bigger siblings into a smaller package – yet without compromising on performance – this is a great choice for those who place portability first.
The Penny-saver – Tesco Hudl
It may not have the scorching performance or huge storage space of some of the pricier options, but for the money, you can't find anything to match Tesco's first own-branded tablet. The best thing about this device is it never feels like a budget option, thanks to its solid build quality and full range of functionality – so it could be the perfect first step into the tablet market or a great choice for your kids.