Has the Tablet tapped it?

By Joash Wee


Photo: EFY

Are you an owner of a tablet device? How useful do you think it is to you? We at e27 seek to explore what are the main criteria that determines the usability of a tablet to the casual user.

So far, I have managed to try out a couple of tablets in the market. Own a BlackBerry PlayBook (thanks to the awesome people at BlackBerry DevCon Asia 2011), tried out the HP TouchPad, iPad and the Lenovo IdeaPad and have even managed to have a go at some Chinese production which runs on the Android OS and has USB ports on it.

What I have always been wondering is that, is there really a use for a tablet? I may not be a typical tablet user, but when I start using one, I can’t seem to find a tablet sticky enough for me to keep using it. I’m not a gamer, so gaming apps don’t keep me coming back for more, and if I really need to do something more complex that I can’t do on my smartphone, a tablet doesn’t cut it as convenient for me. I’ll usually head on to my laptop. This got me thinking, what matters in a tablet for a consumer like me?

Size matters, and weight

The tablet is suppose to fill in the gap between a laptop and a smartphone, to complement them. Some things are better done on a larger screen, yet require more portability than a laptop can offer, like gaming or consuming videos. A seven-inch tablet like the PlayBook and the Kindle Fire is probably the better choice when it comes to size itself. I tend to find 10-inch tablets like the iPad and IdeaPad aren’t comfortable for long periods of holding, could explain whey most iPad advertisements show the user curling up on a couch with it or typing away at a coffee table.

Number of apps

Like gaming consoles, the tablet is pretty much a two-sided market product. The manufacturer can pump the hardware with steroids but it still won’t be a success without the software side, especially apps. Ever walk into a beautiful store with little product choices? Kind of explains why shoppers love shopping along Orchard Road, variety. Here’s where the Android Marketplace and the Apple Appstore make a killing on their competitors. Other than just having a lot of apps, a nice mix of free (from crappy to fun to novelty) apps and cool paid apps also helps. Productivity apps adds value to the portability of the tablet by allowing users to work on the go more efficiently. I know of some people who code on their iPads, although I can’t really get use to excessive typing on a touch screen.

Device interconnectivity

A tablet needs to be able to be linked with the other devices in your workflow, basically your laptop and phone. This removes any need to duplicate certain simple but time consuming tasks like syncing media and documents and address books. So far, Apple is the only one that does this seamlessly between its own products. Microsoft has the opportunity to provide this same value since they already have their desktop/laptop, mobile and tablet OS too.

In my opinion, the tablet is a niche product in a diverse and demanding market. It is not able to satisfy all the requirements of the user but at the same time is still desired for it’s lifestyle contribution. The ideal tablet, from where I see it, needs to be small enough, light enough, connected and has a whole suite of apps. Where I see this going, the Samsung Note might be the beginnings of the ideal tablet. Anyone knows?

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