Understand the iPad and other Tablets

Mar 23, 2011 View Comments by Steve

An iPad is in the category of Tablet Computers, but because Apple are so damn good at marketing compared to most companies, you are more likely to know of the category in terms of iPads and iPad alternatives. It’s just like when most people stopped referring to mp3 players and starting saying iPod. Anyway, here we are going to take closer look at the iPad and see if it could be the right product for you. We’ll also look at the competition and see how it compares. As ever you’ll find a simple, to the point expert choice at the end of the article.

Meet the iPad

There is so much written out there about the iPad, plenty of reviews and plenty of opinion, so I’m not going to add to that. Instead I’ll try and explain why you should care and why it could be just what you need.

The iPad is designed to make those basic computing tasks dead easy and fun too. If you are in the majority of home computer users, who only really jump on their computer to use email, internet and social media, then you might find that the iPad offers a much easier and more fun product for this than a laptop or PC. All PC’s and laptops have evolved from business machines that fit nicely on a desk and are optimised for typing documents and spreadsheets. Our computer behaviour is changing, especially for home use. With the vast amount of information out there, we spend more time browsing, reading and buying than we do typing. We also do most of this thanks to the internet so as long as the machine offers a great online experience, you don’t need lots of processor power, memory or disk space. So Apple went and built a tool optimized for the home user, better for reading than typing, better for using on the sofa than at a desk. The iPad is also a great option for our ever more mobile life. Smaller and lighter than most laptops and netbooks, 9 hours battery life and the option of mobile broadband via 3G, make it an always-on, always-connected computer.

On the downside the iPad only has an onscreen keyboard. It can take time to get used to this and if you do a lot of typing perhaps it’s not for you. The multi-touch screen however does make browsing and reading much more intuitive than the monitor and mouse combination. In summary tablets are great for reading, web surfing, emailing, watching video, and organising and viewing photos.

So, if you are thinking of buying a netbook or laptop for home or travel, I would strongly recommend you think carefully about exactly what you want. Netbooks are generally low specification small laptops with all the same maintenance problems you would expect with a PC, but without the power. If you use your laptop for more business focussed tasks like word processing and spreadsheets and are happy sitting at a desk, then an iPad is probably not for you. However, if you are one of the growing number of people who sit on the sofa and browse the web, or at least you want to do that, then take a serious look at the tablets, especially the iPad. The simplicity of the iPads hardware and software means there is less to go wrong, less to understand, less to update and less to boot up when you switch it on. It’s also worth noting that you have the option of using it at a table with an external keyboard too. You just need an iPad dock or stand and a bluetooth (wireless) keyboard.

The Main Competition

The iPad really did seem to take the likes of Microsoft and Google by surprise and they now have a lot of catching up to do. There is a lack of good competition to the iPad right now because Apple have by far the best software for running on a tablet device. Software takes time to build and rest assured Microsoft and Google both have their heads down building special tablet software right now.

  • Samsung Galaxy has been the biggest and most popular tablet to follow the iPad. It has a smaller screen so comes out the smaller, lighter device and has 2 important things the iPad doesn’t: a camera and expandable storage space. However, it is let down by its Google Android software which is not yet specifically designed for a tablet device and usability is not up to that of the iPad. If it was significantly cheaper than the iPad then you can see how it would attract a massive following however it is currently around the same price as the iPad and simply less desirable.
  • Archos 70 The best of the budget bunch right now is probably the Archos 101. At under £300 it has a 10″ multi-touch screen. If you are prepared to accept a limited viewing angle, only 3 hour battery life and the Google Android software then this is a decent cheap alternative.
      • Apple iPad

        Apple iPad 16GB Wi-Fi

        Expert RatingConsumer Rating10 hours battery life, fantastic build quality. 9.7″ screen. 300,000 apps in App Store. Growing number of great quality iPad specific appsMost of the 300,000 apps are written for the iPhone so not optimised for the larger screen. No camera.

        prices
      • Samsung Galaxy Tab

        Samsung P1000 Galaxy Tab

        Expert RatingConsumer RatingCamera, expandable memory, ultra portableScreen size only 7″, battery life is less than iPad, at 7 hours.

        prices
      • Archos 70

        Archos 70 8GB Internet Tablet

        Expert RatingConsumer RatingWell liked budget tablet. Expandable storage, just buy a bigger memory card. Smaller 7″ version also available and cheaper too. Poor viewing angle and only 4 hour battery life.

        prices
    • Wait! 2011 Will Bring Much Better Tablets

      In 2011 we can expect a new version of the iPad with cameras, much higher quality screen and a few surprises. We’ll also get a version of Google Android software designed for tablets so the iPad alternatives are likely to be far better. I personally am looking forward to the Blackberry Playbook too because although I have never been a Blackberry fan in the past, it looks like they have built some very well designed tablet software. It’s going to be a good year for tablets so if you are in the market for a tablet in 2011, I would wait until the second half of the year and you’ll get a whole lot more for your money. It’s going to remain difficult for anyone to compete with the iPad which has the highly regarded App Store with over 300,000 apps, but this year the competition will definitely hot up.

      Experts Choice

      2011 is going to be a big year for the tablet with all the big names bringing out some exciting devices and a new iPad on the way too. That’s great for the consumer with more competition bringing prices down and choice, giving us the chance to buy exactly the device we need. Let me know in the comments section below, what you think.

 

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