As the holidays hit you see all of the commercials on Apple, Verizon, Samsung, and Amazon. Get this wonderful awesome do everything device that doesn’t require anything but your fingers! I’m talking about the onslaught of tablets that are now available on the market. The different features, hardware, and software running these devices are becoming daunting for you the consumer to decide which tablet to get. But it now comes down to this – which one should you get? It is my hope with this article to help you make a decision on which tablet to get… or if you should even purchase one to begin with!
What Are Tablets?
Tablets are great devices for doing the following:
- Browse the Web
- Checking Email
- Reviewing Documents
- Accessing Social Media Sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Reading e-books or listening to Audio Books
- Reading Digital Media (Newspapers, Magazines, Comics, etc.)
- Watching Movies
- Playing Games (Angry Birds!),
- Listening to Music
- Video Calls (For those with Front Facing Cameras)
They come in a variety of sizes from the 10.1″ Samsung Galaxy, to the 5″ Dell Streak, and virtually everything in between.
Some have the following features:
- Capacitive Touch Screen
- Front Facing Camera
- Rear Facing Camera
- Expansion Slot for additional Memory
- Ability to Connect to your Device to your Television (mini-HDMI) to view pictures or movies.
But there is a few things to be aware of to owning a tablet.
- Battery Life – Average battery life depends highly on the manufacturer, size of the screen, and what you are doing with the device. I’ve seen anywhere from 2 hours up to 6 hours. But, the more you do with it the shorter the battery life.
- Screen Size – As I stated before the screen size of tablets are all over the place. Anywhere from 4 inches to 10 inches
- Operating System – As of today you basicially have two options. Apples iOS or Android. Both have their good and bad points.
- iOS – Apple’s iPhone-esque interface is clean, intuitive, and very user friendly. Everything is right on the main screen and is ready for you at the touch of an application. The only negatives that iOS really is that you are locked into using iTunes to manage your device. That and it is locked down – meaning you are unable to access anything “under the hood”.
- Android – Your other alternative for any other tablet other than the iPad uses Google’s Android operating system. I am personally fond of it but the learning curve of it can be quite daunting for those entering into the Tablet foray. With manufacturers customizing it to their tastes it is all over the board on what type of experience you are going to get depending on the device you purchase. But with that you do get the benefits of having a highly customizable interface, a ton of options, and the ability to do what you want with the device (within limits of course).
- Hardware and Features – This is where it can get overwhelming quickly.You will need to do some research on what the latest and greatest is but I will go over the basics. A decent tablet will have a front and rear facing camera, have a display with a capacitive touch screen, built in accelerometer, at least 8 gigs worth of space, and 512 meg of RAM. Of course the more bells and whistles it has the more expensive it becomes. Also take note that a lot of tablets out there do not have options like expansion slots for external memory, usb ports, or pretty much ANYTHING external. So buyer beware!
- Available Applications – You will also need to consider depending on the tablet you get what applications are available. Android devices have the Android Market App while Apple iOS devices have iTunes and the Apple App Store. Both offer a literal ton of games, applications, and now music/books/movies. So either device is a great choice. Click on the links to see what they tend to offer to better assist you with your choice.
- Wireless Only or 3G (and LTE/4G)? – Tablets are also offered with Wireless only – meaning you can only access the internet through your home internet connection using a wireless router or wireless hot spot**. Or you can opt in for a 3G service plan through a cellphone provider (i.e. AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile etc..) The 3G service typically requires that you first purchase the tablet through the carrier and are required to sign a contact along with a monthly service fee. Although this can be expensive it can be better than trying to search for a suitable wireless hot spot** as you will have access to the internet at all times (well… as long as you are in the coverage area of the cellphone provider!)
What Tablets Are NOT
Tablets are not a replacement for your home computer – yet. Tablets are highly portable (although larger devices can be considered cumbersome by some people). And they are not to be confused with tablet computers… essentially laptops with screens that can flip around to be used as a tablet.
** Wireless Hot Spot – Like your home internet connection, companies are now offering internet wireless connections to users to try as a perk for frequenting their establishment. Starbuck’s is one of the first companies to do this. Most of the time these are free, but you might have to pay a nominal fee to connect to their wireless network.
So What Device Should I Get?
The magic question is then – What Device Should I Get? Well that is a tough decision to make. You need to ask yourself a few questions then make a decision based on the answers you get.
- Am I a Technical Guru or a Beginner? Do you have a great understanding of technology or are you just entering into the world of computers? If you have a decent understanding of computers and don’t mind taking the time to learn a little – then I would suggest getting an Android tablet vs. an iPad. If you are new or not very technical then I would suggest getting an iPad or even possibly getting a Kindle or Nook (these are great for reading e-books)
- What Am I Willing to Spend? This is probably the most important deciding factor for those wishing to purchase a new Tablet. iPads and Samsung’s Galaxy are probably the most expensive out on the market at around $500.00. But you can find tablets as low as $200.00 if you shop around, and if you go through a cellphone carrier you can get the more expensive models at a reasonable cost (but with the added on cost of a data plan and two year contract!) Figure out how much you have to spend and that should help you make a decision.
- What Do I Plan on Using it For? This is a huge factor to consider before purchasing a tablet. You need to ask yourself why do I want a Tablet? Do you need the portability if offers? Do you plan on transferring all of your current magazines, newspapers, and books to digital format? Do you understand the costs involved in doing this? Do you want to be connected to your social media sites wherever you go? Do you travel a lot and don’t need a full-fledged laptop as you just need to check on emails? Depending on your answers will determine what device you should get. Also beware that Tablets come in either just a wireless capability or you can get a SIM Card through a phone provider such as AT&T or Verizon so you can access the internet anywhere (they have coverage that is).
- What Size do I Want? Although this shouldn’t be THE deciding factor – it is important to decide on a screen size. Do you care if you’re carrying around a device that is almost as large as a laptop? Or do you wish to have something that can easily fit into a purse or your pocket? The iPad currently only comes in the one size – 10 inches. Although not huge it isn’t as easy to stow away as say the Samsung Galaxy 7 inch or even the Dell Streak’s 5 inch version.
Alternatives – And of course there is always alternatives. The predecessor to the tablet are e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. You can pick up one of these relatively cheap. The screen size makes it portable. And you can use them for more than just reading digital media. And just to make things even more complicated both are offering tablet versions of their products now too!
So, I apologize dear reader if all I did was cause even more confusion than when you started reading this article. But it doesn’t have to be too complicated a process. Decide how much you want to spend, figure out the screen size, decide if you need to go through a cellphone provider for 3G Service or not, and then start hunting for that bargain online. I would suggest sticking to brand names and those who have received a decent review – and possibly spending that extra buck just in case.
And finally, these are a few of my personal favorites choices to choose from. Mind you there are a literal TON of tablets out there so please don’t think that these are your only options available. Shop around and have fun! Feel free to post any questions you might have in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.
- iPad – The flagship of all tablets made by Apple running iOS. This only comes in the one size and what you see is what you get – but for the less technically savvy this is the tablet you should probably get.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab – Apple’s biggest direct competitor. This tablet comes in a variety of sizes. Running the Android OS this device has a gorgeous screen and is highly customizable.
- Kindle Fire – Amazon’s latest foray into the Tablet world. This smaller tablet is getting some great reviews. And its fairly cheap! (But not in quality just in price)
- Dell Streak 7 – I received one of these as a gift from my brother. Although not the greatest product on the market – the size and performance is decent enough. And Dell is pushing hard to sell these – usually giving a deal on one if you purchase a laptop.