The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

Editorial Tech

Consumer tablets are useless

Or at least they’re wasted potential…

I always want to love these thing’s but they’re like the bad boyfriend of tech. You expect so much, yet receive so little.

 

Tablets have always been devices that tend to have a certain allure to them for some reason. They can seem like a laptop without the keyboard, or a phone without a relatively small screen. There’s a futuristic element to them, as if we all somehow know that these are going to be our main computers one day. But consumer focused tablets, like the iPad, Galaxy tab series or many other accompanying products, are a really huge let down, so much so that I honestly consider them useless. And before you close this page, allow me to explain why.

Now before we begin, a quick disclaimer. If your main mobile device is a tablet, 7 inch or 10 inch, and you don’t use a smartphone, then we totally understand where you are and will say that we don’t want you to throw away your tablet either. The content in this article is more about anyone who has a smartphone already and perhaps wants to choose between buying a laptop or a tablet like an iPad, or even someone who has a laptop and smartphone but thinks a tablet is necessary.

The Grand Daddy that started it all.We’re glad the iPad exists. We just wish it and it’s compatriots would have evolved more.

Tablets in general blew up in 2010 when Apple’s iPad came out. Tablets did exist before that, but like the iPhone it was how Apple approached the iPad that made it so appealing to the everyday person. Apple’s demo for the iPad even emphasized how great it was for watching videos, viewing pictures and browsing the web. Simply put, it emphasized how the iPad was a great media consumption device, and every tablet especially from Google that came after that followed the iPad’s model to a T (though many failed to replicate it well enough to displace Apple’s product). And the iPad, along with all it’s copycat competitors, are what I personally call consumer tablets, and all of these have failed to really evolve into useful or pivotal products in all the devices we own. Especially when we start talking about any tablets that have a screen size larger than 8 inches. Now again, before you start thinking about all the things your tablet can do for you allow me to bring you back to another device you may own; your phone. We already did a whole article about how smartphones are basically PCs now like your laptop or desktop and that’s because ever since the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007, smartphones went from being phones with some Personal computer capabilities, to Personal computers with some phone capabilities. The power, interface improvements and software capabilities in smartphones moved at a crazy rapid pace in the past ten years alone. It has made your smartphone an incredibly capable device, and while you would think that tablets would be on the same trajectory of rapid innovation, they’re not. In fact, consumer tablets have sort of been a lazy device category, because for most of them, the company manufacturing just takes a smartphone operating system, and blows it up to fit a much larger screen. Economic? Definitely. Innovative? No. Tablets are the second-class citizen of mobile computing devices and for me, if a tablet is above 8 inches, it honestly feels like a waste of resources and space on such a big screen.

Look, it’s Microsoft Edge on your tablet…except it doesn’t work exactly like it does on your PC. Neither does Chrome, or Firefox, or Opera(you see where I’m going with this?)

You see, what makes consumer tablets disappointing is the fact that they are built solely for media consumption and information consumption, and while that tends to be fun, let’s be honest, for most of us who have ever owned a PC especially, there is always an occasional instance where you try to do something on your tablet that you can do on your PC, then realize that you can’t. It could be running a web app like Google Docs or the full version of YouTube in a browser, trying to do something on Photoshop mobile that you can do on desktop Photoshop, or worse yet , any version of offline video editing or importing certain files you can open on your PC. If you’re using an iPad you’ll find you’re stuck pretty early, even on the new “professional focused” iPad Pro.

I get angry every time I see this thing. Beautiful device, impressive performance too, but it runs (sigh) iOS. This means for all that so called power this thing is still essentially a blown up iPhone, with all the limitations of one.

While using an Android tab, you may find some apps that allow some workarounds to tablet limitations, simply due to how flexible Android is, but at some point, you’ll also hit a wall. Google has even recently revealed Chrome OS tablets, which at least bring the web apps problem to a halt , but considering the software mess those still are, again it’s another case of expecting too much from something that offers too little. For me, a tablet should literally just be a full PC , just as capable as your desktop .It shouldn’t just me a device for content consumption, but also one for content creation. And thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Don’t let anyone tell you any different, the Surface Pro is a full PC powerhouse(and so are many of it’s Windows 10 copycats). The newest ones are probably more powerful than the PC you’re reading this on

We live in a world where devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro device range and Windows Always Connected PC tablets like the Hp Envy x2 exist. While the Surface is relatively chunky compared to the slimmest consumer tablets, the Envy is just as thin, yet both it and the Surface range run full Windows, all the capabilities of a laptop, all the programs, games , support for things like flashes and hard drives, you name it.

You’re not seeing things, the HP Envy x2 is really this thin

And some of those devices are even half the price of an iPad Pro yet a lot more capable. And that’s what makes me scratch my head at consumer tablets, because in a time where almost every other category in tech is moving forward, they seem either stuck or even moving backward. Soon we’ll have foldable phones introduced to the mainstream, and those almost seem poised to kill tablets in some ways, with screens that can support most unique tablet functions while still folding back up into your phone. Not everyone will use a foldable phone of course, but some people who buy say, a one thousand dollar iPhone and an iPad mini, may wonder why they didn’t just buy a foldable instead. And that’s without counting that with how big normal smartphones are, with some phones reaching up to 6.8 , basically the same size as 7 inch tablets, which do the same things as their 10 inch older brothers, the point of tablets again begins to come back into question. Again, we’ll reiterate this , we’re not saying throw away your tablet, and in fact if you’re at a point where your tablet is your primary mobile device, then definitely keep using it if it works for you, but especially if you live in a situation where you already have a laptop and a phone, buying a consumer tablet doesn’t exactly seem necessary anymore, especially when that tablet for some reason is crazy expensive. In that case I would honestly consider buying a Windows 10 tablet instead. You still get all the media functionality of devices like the iPad, but every time you want to do that extra little thing you want, you aren’t stopped by something as crazy as being unable to copy certain files. And while the availability of Windows Tabs isn’t as widespread in Zim, I would honestly say if you want to spend anything around or over $400 USD on a tablet, then you could probably afford to look a little deeper or even sort something out to order one from outside of Zim. The point we always try to drive home hear is functionality and usefulness. And if you want to buy yourself a tablet especially for your own use, then buying the option that gives you the most value for your money is probably what you should go for.

 

The Exception.

These guys make a little more sense to me

Now I’ve been wailing on tablets pretty hard here but I’ll even personally admit that a certain category of them deserves a little more praise: the 7-8-inch tablet. These tablets like the iPad mini, Huawei Mediapad M5, Amazon Kindle fire and so on tend to seem more like slightly bigger phones now, especially with our aforementioned 6.8 beasts of mobile phones. But unlike phones they also come with a pretty great reading experience too, one that’s usually worth their comparatively smaller price tags. Buying something like this just to lounge around the house or watch movies makes a lot more sense. Now to be fair the Amazon Kindles are the really cheap option here, with you able to find them for around $100 USD if you find them in the right place, but even the iPad Mini and Huawei MediaPad tend to cost a lot less in comparison to their bigger 10 inch brothers, and thus offer much more bang for your buck. And while larger tablets like the Galaxy Tab S and iPad Pro get criticized for not offering enough PC like functionality for their sizes, their smaller brothers get away with a lot more since , essentially, their ideal only for reading and light media consumption. So buying one of these to add to your phone and PC doesn’t seem like that crazy an idea.

The 2019 iPad mini has been getting pretty great reviews and we get why. It makes sense for its value proposition. However the 2015 version still offers almost the exact same features and can be found for much cheaper too.

Either way, you heard my personal opinion of tablets, and I’m sure a lot of you have your own. Tell me what you think of my analysis and share your thoughts on where you think I’m right (and more importantly, wrong). Let’s just keep the comments civilized please.

 

 

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