Tablets seem to be everywhere right now. From the launch of the iPad last year, a huge amount of attention has been focussed on tablets. Where Apple lead, others normally follow, and just as Google are snapping at Apple’s heels with their Android smartphone operating system, they are now doing so with tablets too. The latest version of Android – Honeycomb – is designed specifically to support tablets. So if you’ve been swept up in the tablet excitement, but can’t quite decide whether you should take the plunge, read on.
What’s the point?
Well, to be honest, there isn’t one. Just as there isn’t really a point of owning a laptop or a smartphone, when you could just do everything on your home PC. But that is spectacularly missing the point. Tablets aren’t for everyone, but for many they can be a highly useful way to bridge the gap between a laptop and a smartphone. A tablet allows you to watch and share videos and articles very easily, and because it’s so portable, you’re much more likely to have it with you at exactly the times when you’d want to do those things – such as long train journeys or when you’re in the pub with friends. You can easily send emails and use social media on it, and while of course, you can do those easily on your smartphone too, the larger screen and keyboard make it simpler. It is with these kinds of social applications that tablets really come into their own. A smartphone is useful as a personal device for emailing and surfing, but it is not easy to share. A laptop allows you to work on the company accounts and type using a proper keyboard, but it doesn’t have the easy responsiveness and small size that a tablet does. A tablet can also be used to ‘level up’ or ‘level down’ in terms of functionality. A keyboard case can help transform a tablet into a mini laptop, and they can be used to make calls like a phone – especially video calls.
What to look for
There is a bewildering choice of tablets now on the market. The main decision when buying is really whether to go for the iPad, one of the Android tablets, or something else.
The iPad is still the top dog as far as many people are concerned. It works brilliantly well, is easy to use and has a wealth of applications available for it via the Apple store. Like everything Apple make, it is a slick and powerful product which is hard to criticise. However, where it falls down for some users is its lack of flexibility. For example, you can’t choose to use common browsers such as Chrome or Firefox. As with smartphones and computers, this is the choice Apple give you: go for their well-tested, well-designed product but be stuck with their choices, unable to customise.
If customisation is important to you, then an Android device might suit you better. Android are masters at allowing people to make the user experience their own. The difficulty with that is that Android tablets are not as stable as iPads. There’s no right or wrong answer here: it really does just come down to personal preference. The Samsung Galaxy is generally thought of as the best of the Android tablets. It’s very sleek and light, and hard to fault for flexibility. The Motorola Xoom is up there with it too.
The most popular of the other tablets on the market are the Blackberry Playbook and the Kindle Fire. Both have 7 inch screens, rather than the 10 inch of most of the other top models. The Blackberry is powerful and useful, and the small size means that it is more portable than some of the bigger models. However, it simply doesn’t have the range of apps the other tablets do. The Kindle is designed both to replace the current Kindle reader, and to offer something different: the ability to surf and download, just like a standard tablet. It is more basic than the other tablets, but it is also much cheaper. It is intended for people who want a simple tablet without all the bells and whistles, and that’s what it does very well.