Do you need a tablet?

Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins recently made a pretty bold statement, claiming “in five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,”. A very bold statement, especially considering the latest statistics. The tablet market has increased by 142.4% since last year. A total of 49.2 million tablets were shipped in the year's 1st quarter, with Android now leading the tablet market for the first time ever with 56.5% market share. It is possible that in 5 years nobody will use tablets, we could all be using Google Glass by then. But at the moment, the market share tells a different story; tablets are becoming more and more popular.

The original iPad. An innovation
ahead of it's time. Image: Wikipedia
When the original iPad was released in 2010, I was extremely sceptical. To me it just seemed like a giant iPhone, without the phone, making it a giant iPod Touch. The world already had laptops for mobile computing, and was just starting to get used to smartphones, so a tablet at that time didn't make much sense, to me anyway. Times have changed though, and the statistics show that the world is indeed ready for tablets. I myself changed my stance on tablets and am currently rocking a Nexus 7. The decision making process of whether or not to buy one was tough for me. I already had a laptop and a One X, I wasn't sure if I needed a tablet at all. I'm sure many people went through the same thing too. Some might actually be going through that now, which is what this post is about. Helping you to decide if you should get a tablet or not.

The most important thing to remember is that a tablet is NOT meant to be a laptop replacement. In the past, the trilogy of computing use to be a desktop, a laptop, and a smartphone. Since sales of desktops have begun declining, I think the new trilogy consists of a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. Laptops have become quite powerful, powerful enough for any regular productivity task such as word processing and making presentations or spreadsheets. Even for leisurely activities such as Internet browsing, video playback and even average gaming. Laptops can in most cases, act as a desktop (unless you need heavy duty processing power like for video rendering or graphic intensive gaming). Tablets are no where near as powerful as laptops when it comes to productivity and processing power. A keyboard and mouse are still vital tools for productivity and will always beat a touchscreen. 

So if a tablet is not a laptop replacement, what can we use a tablet for? Laptops ushered in the era of mobile computing. Being able to take your work with you everywhere you went. But laptops are bulky. They are big, heavy and with accessories like a mouse and power adapter, you almost always have to carry around a bag with you. This is where a tablet beats a laptop. Mobility. 10" tablets are lighter, smaller and thus easier to carry around than a laptop. A 7" tablet even more so. What tablets lack in processing power, they make up for with extreme mobility. Being able to carry tablets around in your pocket or in your hand is convenient. And even with watered-down productivity apps, they are still highly functional tools we can use for word processing, reading, even making presentations and spreadsheets. The way tablets complement laptops is that we can work while on the move with our tablets and thanks to cloud computing, continue working from our laptop later.

Tablets also make great entertainment tools. You can easily watch videos, browse the Internet, play games and stay connected via social media on your tablet. Of course, you can also do all this on a laptop, but would you likely be using your laptop while waiting in line at the bank or while riding the bus? No you wouldn't.  

All do basically the same thing.
Only differently. Image: Google
Now that we have the laptop vs tablet argument settled, what about smartphones? Do you need a tablet if you already have a smartphone? A tablet is basically a large smartphone anyway. This is a more difficult argument, and entirely depends on your needs. If you only use your smartphone for social media, light browsing, some gaming and listening to music, you might not need a tablet. Although I will say this, everything is better on a larger screen. Everything except listening to music that is. The screen size makes no difference there. But for everything else, browsing, gaming, videos, reading and writing, a larger screen is more convenient. If you plan on doing a lot of writing and reading, a tablet is definitely better than a smartphone. Or if you regularly show documents/presentations/spreadsheets to a colleague or client, a tablet will most certainly be better than sharing a small smartphone screen.

Finally, lets say you have decided you do want a tablet. The next question is, what size? 7-8" or 10"? Again, this entirely depends on your planned usage of the tablet. In simplest terms, if you value mobility more than productivity, 7" is a nice size. If you however plan on doing a lot of writing and reading, a 10" screen is better. A larger keyboard is easier to type on, and a larger screen means larger text, which makes reading easier too.

That should be enough information to get you started. Hopefully this post helped you decide if you need a tablet or not. If you want more specific examples or want to ask any questions, feel free to do so.

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