This may be a year late for many people, but I am finally at the point that I can clearly review the tablets. Why so long? To put it simply, I needed real experience with the devices. The logic used here should carry to other tablets.
This isn’t about Apple versus Android versus BlackBerry. That isn’t what I found to be the big differences. It was all about the form factor and how the device can be incorporated into your life.
Enter the Galaxy Tab
It was just over a year ago that I got my Samsung Galaxy Tab, the seven inch model. I loved it. I could throw it in my pocket, freeing my hands to carry other items like a child, food, or a drink. If I was on the Metro, I didn’t have to throw it back into my bag to navigate the subway platforms. If I didn’t have a bag, I didn’t have to worry about leaving it behind because it was in my pocket.
As for apps, there were more than enough. I heard that Apple had more apps, but I was always able to find an app to meet any need. Heck, Angry Birds is free on Android. Yes, there are more apps for Apple, but I never felt deprived.
Timeout for the PlayBook
As if it wasn’t a good enough year, I won a BlackBerry PlayBook from Fierce Content Management. When I got it, I noticed several things. While the same size as the Tab, the screen was much nicer, the case was less slick so it slid less, and I could interact with the device by swiping in the margins. It was great, especially as it came with Tetris.
There weren’t a lot of apps though. I never really explored that because of the lack of email. That’s right, no native email support.
This was unfathomable. Here was a device that appeared superior, but my most important application was missing. Sure, I could hook it up to my BlackBerry phone, but as that was slated to be replaced, it wasn’t a real option.
Besides, what if I wanted to check email when my phone wasn’t online? Annoying.
So I gave it to my brother who has been using it fairly happily since. I know because I asked him just the other week. He is a big Apple person and he likes it. That is saying something.
Apple Gets it’s Shot
I finally came into possession of an iPad 2 last month. I’ve been using it regularly since that day. The ability to find an app for anything is pretty nice. At times there are almost too many apps. Twitter and Facebook are better because of the increased screen space. The lack of flash support is extremely annoying as flash is still widespread on the Web.
I haven’t dropped my Tab. In fact, the main reason I use the iPad as much as I do is because it has some currently useful apps missing from the Android market and the increased screen size.
The iPad also seems more fragile. The other tablets have a little lip to the casing over the display. If you put it face down on a desk, the glass doesn’t touch the desk. In an iPad, you constantly feel the urge to have an additional case (I’m still trying to pick the “right” one). I never had that urge with the other tablets.
Three Inches, A World of Difference
A couple weeks ago, I finally nailed down the key difference. It is the size. It’s the size even before I break down and make the iPad larger with a case. The size difference may seem obvious, but hear me out.
When I use the iPad, 80% of the time I am doing things that I have primarily done with my laptop in the past. My laptop doesn’t shift around the house or office anymore. It usually docks and sits until it is time to change locales.
When I need to be mobile, I use my Tab. If I want to read, I use my Tab. When I went on a Metro ride, I took my Tab. When I went to the doctor, I took my Tab. It still fits in my pocket. It is also easier to use with one hand so I can grab on to something in the Metro car.
The only exception is when I want data service. I have it on my iPad, not my Tab. That isn’t a capability issue though, just a subscription thing. I could get service for my Tab if I felt wireless wasn’t ubiquitous enough.
My Tab is my TRUE mobile device. My iPad is my laptop substitute. My laptop has basically replaced my desktop.
This logic applies to other tablets. Those three inches make these completely different devices. The Kindle, seven inches. It is a true mobile device. The Motorola Xoom, just a poor competitor to a market owned by the iPad.
If Apple decides to come out with the mythical seven inch version of the iPad, they win.