What tablet to buy?

It’s sometimes difficult to think that the tablet that has spawned so many imitators this year, Apple’s iPad, was only released last year. At this year’s MWC there were tablets everywhere – Samsung, Motorola, HTC and HP to name but a few are all coming out with their new offerings this year, as well as Apple’s new sequel tablet that was announced last week. What tablet to buy?

I, like a few people I know, have come to the point where I am going to take the plunge and buy a tablet, but which one?
(the answer may surprise you – or not!) 


There are now a variety of sizes, operating systems, and manufacturers to choose from, with some distinct differences between them.

For me the most important thing to consider, is what I intend to use the tablet for. There do seem to be some manufactures that have just jumped on the tablet bandwagon, and not given thought to how the tablet will be used (or if they have, I just can’t see what they’re seeing).

One of the great things tablets do, is allow for the easy consumption of media. I remember getting excited when I realised I could watch a video on the tiny 2″ish screen on my original SPV, but that looks a bit silly now, compared to watching a film on a modern tablet. But media is not just pre-recorded video – in fact, it can be much more traditional. I am a huge fan of Amazon’s Kindle Apps and have them installed on every device I can. I love being able to carry multiple books around with me so easily, and it remembering where I was, no matter which device I pick up. To me that’s what technology should be about – enable us to do what we do more easily, as well as adding twists that bring new life existing mediums. Traditional print is one medium I see as really benefiting from the rise of tablets. T3 is a magazine I read regularly, and I love what they have done in turning their magazine into an app for the iPad. Not only is it cheaper than buying the hard copy, but they have woven additional content into the app that really does enhance the experience. The Times (and Sunday Times) are more titles that have gone digital, and are the better for it. As well as enhanced content, the convenience factor is huge. Broadsheets have always been unwieldy things, they got print on your fingers and anything else they came into contact with, and they’re harder to get hold of now. Gone are the days when you had a choice of shops offering to deliver the morning paper before you left for work – its pretty hard to find anyone to do it now. But with digital publishing, you can just press the button on  your tablet, and hey presto, there’s your morning paper. It even up dates during the day and you get additional “evening editions” on big news days.

So that’s media, but there are other things tablets do of course – the internet, games and of course, apps. Now I’ll confess, I don’t use the internet browser too often on mobile devices. I find that for my needs, apps cover most things, and only end up on the browser if there isn’t an app instead, which is actually quite rare. That of course makes the apps very important. From a phone perspective my main device is an HTC Desire HD and I have an iPod Touch (latest version) as well. That gives me a large spectrum of apps for Android and iOS, which covers most things. However, there are some apps you can only get on a tablet. All the print media I mentioned above are currently only available on the iPad, and there is another area the iPad has quietly gained a niche in – music making applications.

As a part time musician, I’ve loved what technology has done to ease making music. When I was 21 I got a 4 track portastudio for recording demos, which was cutting edge then, but looking back, it was a real pain! On top of that I had rack system for my guitar that took 2 people to carry to get all the sounds I wanted just for my guitar. Roll forward, ahem, a few years, and all of that can be packed into an iPad, and for massively less cost. It’s hard to believe frankly, but all the guitar amps and pedals I want I currently carry round in my iPod Touch (using Agile Partner’s fantastic Ampkit),What tablet to buy? and everything cost me under £20!! There are lots of exciting synthesisers for the iPad too, and the announcement of Garageband at the iPad 2 launch to me was the most exciting part of the event. An 8 track sequencer with multiple instruments built in for £3 is absolutely staggering.

 

So after all that, you may have guessed which tablet I’m going to go for. Yes, an iPad. But surprisingly, an original iPad, not an iPad 2. And I’m going to get it a on contract too.

The offering of tablets on contract sparked some debate on Coolsmartphone.com, with not too many fans. The launch of the iPad 2 was one of the reasons cited for not getting locked into a 2 year contract, but actually is just that that has encouraged me. The iPad 2 does look like a great evolution of the iPad, but I don’t need Facetime, and I think it will be some time for the apps are available that take full advantage of the hardware. With the price drop on the original, I think it look really attractive now. I’m going with 3’s deal on a 32gb iPad – £149 upfront and £20 a month with 15gb of data included. 3’s iPad data deals are hugely better than any other networks (more than 7x the data allowance), and 15gb should be plenty for nearly everyone.

But what of the other tablets?
Well for me, its Apple’s apps that have swung me. I am much more interested in what technology can do, rather than technology for the sake of  itself. An iPad will enable me to read everything I want (books, magazines and newspapers), create music, write blogs, play games, watch TV and much more. I’m afraid there isn’t another OS/market that can do that at the moment. I would not consider myself an Apple fanboy (the iPhone is  not for me & I use PC’s), but I think Steve Jobs had a point when he said no-one else is near them for content. And for me, a device without content is useless.

If Android developers can get some killers apps out for tablets this year and if media organisations can make the leap to Android as well, then that will help the cause of Honeycomb tablets, but they have an uphill struggle. Android Honeycomb looks really good – I personally prefer Android to iOS from an OS perspective, but an OS is useless on its own. HTC have realised this I think, and their integration with Evernote gives the Flyer real purpose; for notetaking. For business meetings I’d use it, but that’s too narrow a purpose – and for me 7″ is too small for a tablet. I think 10″ is a minimum frankly and I’d like to see 11″ tablets.

Finally I will comment on Flash, as I haven’t above. The reason I hadn’t above, is I don’t think its an issue to not have flash on a tablet – it’s absence might even be a bonus. For starters it will remove all those annoying flash adverts that take over webpages, but plugin use in general seems to be on the decrease. Microsoft have all but abandoned Silverlight for PCs as HTML 5 seems to be gaining real ground. So thanks, but not bothered frankly.

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  • Cobue

    You’ve gone mad!
    You and your site are close to losing all credibility.

  • Howard

    “So after all that, you may have guessed which tablet I’m going to go for. Yes, an iPad. But surprisingly, an original iPad, not an iPad 2”

    ..

    Are you an Idiot.

  • Cant believe it, id have had the Xoom, in fact anything above the Apple Product.

    • The Xoom is nice, but there are no digital magazines or music products for Android yet (my personal requirements). I have a feeling music software has become popular on the iPad due Apple’s prevalence in the music industry, which is a shame I think. All my current music software is PC based, not Mac, but I can replace it all with an iPad. I have no preference regarding who makes my tech – I just want what works best for me.

      Incidentally, I do hope digital publishing takes off on Android. Google are making the right noises by going for only 10% commission, rather than Apple’s 30%, but publishing is another Mac dominated world, which may hold things back unfortunately.

  • Moo Moo Head

    Have you gone potty, the original ipad, but you say that the apps cant use the new hardware yet, they will in 6 months time, but you will still have 1 and half years left of the old ipad, but it will be over 2 years old then……?????

    You gone bananas, although that aside your argument for choosing the ipad is a good point, the alot of apps out there you just cant get on Android (yet). If Apple improve the camera and reception on the Iphone 5 I might be a converter…. but will never get the old iphone now

    • Ah, but I never said I’d keep the iPad for the full 2 year contract :)

      I may, but I’m often to be found putting devices on Ebay mid contract. Apple products hold their value phenomenally well (especially for tech gear), so if the iPad 2 (or iPad 3), or another tablet of different origin better suits me, then I’ll trade up (and I’d have a data SIM with 15gb a month still).

      I think it will be at least year before there are enough Apps using the new hardware to warrant an iPad 2-if you don’t need the cameras that is. For lots of people the cameras will be the killer feature they have been waiting for, but personally I don’t need them.

  • i totally understand your viewpoint but i think it’s still early days to say the android tablets don’t have the content. I’ve had my advent vega a few months now and have been totally happy.

    I will admit some of the quality of apps has yet to catch up but it’s getting there.

    pricing of apps is my biggest gripe. The 59p base app price (or whatever it is) can be a bargain for some apps but there’s such a variation in prices on the vega.

    • There is horrible variation in Android app pricing and the platform has huge potential, but companies seem reticent to develop for Android, which is such a shame. I hope the huge growth of Android helps encourage big businesses into App development to push it forward and stabilise prices, but we haven’t seen it yet unfortunately.

      I’m expecting the iPad to last me around 18 months, so will be keenly watching all platforms progress in the meantime.

  • Jonnyp

    I agree with you. I’m a total fan boi hater, but its all about the apps.
    If Android had more decent and consistant apps then it would be the better platform. My only bug in the ass about the iPad is lack of external storage. Phones however, Android all the way.

    • Would definitely love to see external storage on Apple devices, but can’t see it happening sadly :(

  • ItemSize

    lol. “Not bothered about flash” IS the statement of a fanboi. This whole article is biased from the very get-go, and there’s no reason for this article other than to fan your feathers, like every other Apple fan.

    How do you know somebody’s got an iPad? They tell you.

  • Anonymous

    I’d genuinely love an iPad 2, but I genuinely dont want to browse the web at 1024 x 768

  • Itgoodson

    You’ve sold out

  • I agree with a lot of your points. I also use an Android and iOS combo, a HTC Desire and 4G iPod Touch. I think right now in the tablet space the iPad is the best option for the vast majority of people.

    Let me clarfiy that by saying that Honeycomb does look great and it’s clear that Google have thought hard about how to make good use of the increased screen space that the form factor allows over mobiles. In that respect it does seem superior to iOS on the iPad which does just look like it’s been stretched to fit a larger screen with not much thought of how it can be improved to take advantage of it.

    But… From the reviews I’ve read it’s also clear that Honeycomb isn’t ready for prime time. In its current state it’s feature incomplete and buggy. Things like the SD card slot and Flash not yet working seem very sloppy. Give it six months and it could be a real winner. I’m in no hurry to buy a tablet and can happily wait for this to happen.

    There’s also the iPad’s 65,000 apps that everyone keeps going on about. I’m sure that the vast majority of these are garbage just like on Android but there are more than enough gems to persuade people to splash the cash in their millions. Garage Band does nothing for me personally but if you’re into your music making it might justify the cost of an iPad all on it’s own. And from experience I know that in general iOS normally gets big apps and games first. For some reason there seem to be countless multinationals who either don’t know or don’t care that Android exists.

    Given all that in the here and now to argue that a Honeycomb tablet is a better buy than an iPad seems to be a bit of a stretch. And that’s before even mentioning price. To the average (non techy) guy on the street Apple is THE premium brand. Therefore to price yourself above them (with or without a better product) just isn’t going to work. Right now it’s unclear whether manufacturers can’t match Apple’s pricing or are simply trying to make abnormal profits while tablets are the must have gadget.

    Given that Apple are known for their massive profit margins I personally wouldn’t be happy to spend more on an Android tablet than the price of an equivalent iPad regardless of whether or not it’s better.

    Finally I also agree that the original is the one to go for and not the iPad 2. For £329 while stocks last it seems like a bargain to me. The cameras on the new one do nothing for me and while the dual core is nice it’s not like the original is lacking power.

  • Jonny_palmer

    Splitter! :¬)

  • Mike

    Adrian I think you’re spot on. I owned a Galaxy Tab and thought it was great to a point, but unfortunately it took a tumble to it’s death and I’ve now replaced it with a 32gb wifi iPad.

    If it wasn’t for the price drops then I’d have gone for a Tab again, but you just can’t argue with £399 for the model I have. Nobody seems to have a 16gb in stock anymore so anyone with the same idea needs to buy quickly.

    Upsides to the decision? App quality, O/S quality (Froyo on the Tab crashed frequently) but above all I’m tired of waiting and guessing whether the Tab would have got a Gingerbread or Honeycomb update. At least buying an iPad now will guarantee some product and iOS support in the next 6 to 12 months.

    Downsides? I really, REALLY miss Flash. I used to use the Tab for Megavideo and watching TV shows online. Sky fire is offering a glimmer of hope but haven’t had much luck so far. Also, I disagree with you about size; 7 inch was spot on. The iPad is too big and heavy.

    Overall a happy bunny. I’m not really an Apple fan (android phone all the way) but you can’t argue with how much hardware you’re getting for the money.

    Surely the article should be called “which tablet to buy?”… :)

  • joeyD

    I realized how much I hate apple when I tried to put ubunuo onto an old iBook. the cd drive is designed to read only apple’s boot disks! What a crock. Fail

  • Urban Shaman

    I see where you are coming from with the ipad, the music is a real bonus if you are a musician and garageband is a great piece of software. The deal you mention is a good one and a friend of mine is considering it.

    However, for me the HTC flyer is the weapon of choice. That drawing package is unbelievable and with the notetaking plus the OS I am sorted. I use my netbook for composing as I can record vocally to it with my podcasting equipment.

    The only other option I am considering is the Dell Duo though not really decided at all.

  • dorien

    IPAD without Flash is USELESS video sites like putlocker will not work on it, steve job can turn around in his grave leaving out flash in an ipad is like walking on glass without shoes, just plain stupid, they should have added and make an option to turn it off, now again mac is just a loser with there shit

  • dorien

    what you goton an ipad surving the web…looking on youtube, you can all do it on your phone so why need an ipad, nice big screen to watch a movie on the wrote……WRONG NO FLASH VIDEO SITES DO NOT WORK USELESS IPAD

  • dorien

    want an apple , buy 1 in the fruit section of the market they nicer and cheaper