Why I will never buy another tablet

My brother was showing off his new iPad 2 the other day. He was most impressed with his latest purchase, and it is easy to see why. It was the first time I had been given an opportunity to play with the latest version of Apple's revolutionary device, and I give Apple full credit for transforming computers from dorky, esoteric devices into something cool and fashionable.

And then 5 minutes later I was over it.

I have to admit at this point that I own a Motorola Xoom - one of the first true Android tablets. I have had it for a good 9 months now, and in that time I have struggled to justify its existence, or the existence of any tablet for that matter.

For me tablets sit in the murky middle ground between a laptop/netbook/ultrabook (or whatever the kids are calling them these days) and a good quality mobile phone. Tablets do have advantages over these traditional form factors, but there is one glaring oversight that makes tablets almost useless in every situation: when do you make the effort to carry one around?

I carry my mobile phone everywhere. The morning check list that I run through before leaving the house is: mobile phone, pants, keys, wallet. And my mobile phone is a fairly high end one, with a generously sized screen and enough processing power to run everything that I can run on my tablet.

If I want or need to catch up on my email, play a game, watch a video, view a web site or consume my news feeds, my mobile phone is right there in my pocket ready to go.

Sure, I can do all these things on my tablet, but ironically I need to set up my phone as a wireless hotspot to get connectivity through my tablet on the go, so there is almost never a situation where I can make use of my tablet outside of the office or home without also having my mobile phone. So why would I make the effort to carry around a backpack, or have to physically hold the tablet, when I can do everything I would use a tablet for on the go with my mobile phone?

So lets assume that I do make the effort to carry a computing device around that I can't put in my pocket. Why would I choose to carry a tablet instead of a laptop?

Everything I can to on a tablet I can also do on a laptop. I mean that quite literally - Bluestacks can be used to run Android applications on a Windows PC. And then there are all the things that you can't do on a tablet, like any kind of real work. Yes, you may have a 10 inch screen on your tablet, but half of that is taken up by the keyboard if your are trying to do real work. Yes, you might be able to edit a word document on your tablet, but throw in a few macros and your tablet is useless.

Therein lies my dilemma. If I need to make the effort to carry a computing device around, the combination of mobile phone and laptop is much more powerful and flexible than a mobile phone and tablet. So unless I am watching movies in bed or idly surfing the web while watching TV (and both can be done with a laptop anyway), there really is no place for a tablet in my life.


Gene said…
well said,
but sadly working as a web developer i have to own one to test my work on it before publishing the site.
Simply because they are so many people like your brother, oh .. and my wife.
Gary said…
I have to agree with you 100%. People are stuck between what is useful and what is cool. Unfortunately the "murky middle" needs some work.

Apple has also realised how well 'cool' sells.

Great article.
producerism said…
I certainly agree with you for most tablets, but I feel it's more of an issue with larger tablets.

For example, I purchased a Nook Color, which is only 7" instead of the larger 10" format, and it makes a world of difference. I can fit my Nook Color into a back pocket and I use it so much more than my phone for most things. Reading ebooks on a phone is dreadful to me, so a 7" tablet fills the void.

Personally, I can't see a reason to get a larger format tablet because they really are awkward to carry. Don't hold it against all tablets thought!
Anonymous said…
People arent logical, millions of these tablet things have been sold, even though they are kinda useless.
Wilford said…

Thank you for article. I have been saying that I don't what I would use a tablet for if i got one around my colleagues and they look at me funny because of that. I work for an IT firm so everyone is always rushing for the latest piece of technology. I do too.... but on tablets...I'll pass.
Jay Jennings said…
I carry an iPad almost everywhere I go. Before gadgets I almost always had at least a notepad and/or book with me, so it's not a "cool" thing -- it's a "taking advantage of otherwise wasted time" thing.

There are about a billion (small amount of hyperbole) places where my iPad is handy that a laptop wouldn't be. Do I like the giant monitor on my desk? Oh yeah. But I've updated web sites, written full-length articles, spec'd games, etc., all on the go with my iPad. In places and during times where I wouldn't have taken a laptop -- even a small one.
Until you show how a larger screen phone can't do what you just explained an iPad can do you haven't said anything that adds to the discussion.
Edward Donovan said…
I think his point was that an iPad, with it's larger screen, makes many tasks, such as updating sites or spec'ing games, much easier and more enjoyable than with a phone which has a much smaller screen.

I have yet to see a phone with a 10" screen; imagine how silly you'd look with that up to your ear.

On the other hand, I don't see how a netbook or small laptop is any less convenient, if not more so.
coldpizza said…
I use both a phone and a tablet, and as the author points out, I hardly ever take the tablet out. Yet the tablet is perfect for stuff that does not fit on a phone screeen, e.g. movies, complex PDFs or news feeds (Google Currents is so much better on a tablet). For most other tasks the two are pretty interchangeable. They are both content-consuming devices (apart from emails, photos and videos), while the notebook is becoming more and more a content-creation device only (i.e. coding, other types of work, etc). Before I had the tablet I would often have moments like 'this is cool but I would like exactly the same thing on a bigger screen than the phone'. The sheer display size is what matters and that was the only reason for me.
Anonymous said…
For me I would say the smart phone is useless. I can't imagine using one to do anything that I do on a tablet for the simple reason that the small screen is very anoying to me. So, it's personal preferance, but as a gaming device, media consumption, browsing e-mail the tablet is the best at what it does. Of course the laptop is the best for working, writing, so I would say you should carry all of the devices plus a kindle for reading.

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