Are 10-inch tablets going the way of the dinosaurs?

May 12, 2013
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Sony Xperia Tablet Z vs Google Nexus 10 aa 600px (4)

The 7-inch tablet has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence even though it was publicly blasted by Steve Jobs at a certain point. The Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire have both accelerated the growth of the 7-inch tablet, with many manufacturers jumping in on the act. Now there are a plethora of small tablets that were made by a variety of manufacturers. But is the success of 7-inch tablets a threat to their 10-inch brothers?

Portability is king

The digital world has always driven to make devices thinner and lighter. Computers went from taking up a whole room, to sitting inconspicuously on a desk, to fitting into your backpack. And now they fit in our pockets. This all occurred in a such a short space of time, some would be forgiven for forgetting our 27 tonne Halcyon days.

FIrst computer

Eniac: The first computer

A 10-inch tablet would become uncomfortable to hold suspended in the air after a few minutes, while a 7-inch tablet remains easy to hold for hours. You can also fit a 7-inch tablet in a coat pocket and even in large pants pockets (albeit uncomfortably), something impossible to do with a 10-inch tablet.

The comfort 7-inch devices can offer is, for most people, enough to buy them. So while a 10-inch tablet is your “couch buddy,” a 7-inch tablet is your “everywhere” buddy.

When the price is right, people will buy

At $200 the Nexus 7 is a safe bet for some, and within the price range of many. Convincing people to let go of $200 of their hard earned cash is a lot easier than convincing somebody to shell out $500 for an iPad. When you couple it with brilliant hardware, the latest software and a beautiful design you know you’ve got a winner on your hands.

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For the $500 that an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 costs, you can buy a Nexus 7 32GB ($250) and a Samsung Chromebook ($250), meaning you get all of the features of a tablet with the bonus of a full browser (and more).

All of the features, none of the drawbacks

When you can get a tablet that is cheap, powerful and does everything that a 10-inch tablet can do, then these tablets are sure to take up some market share, but how much? Well according to a report released in April by Animoca, an app publisher for Android, the best selling Android tablets measure 7 inches in size.

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GigaOM: “The figures come from Animoca users around the world for one month, ending March 20, with a sample size of 978,000.”

When 7-inch tablets hold 5 of the top 7 Android tablet spots, then it is obvious that they are a clear favourite among Android users, but like all products, there are drawbacks.

The “race to the bottom” effect

With all the manufacturers looking to break the magic $200 barrier, innovation is in danger of getting buried underneath it all. When you are selling your device at break-even, or even at a loss, it is hard to keep pushing the greatest innovations and that means 7-inch tablets would always be a step behind their 10-inch brethren.

Luckily (even if you don’t realise it), both Apple and Samsung have chosen not to partake in this “race to the bottom,” as both have introduced smaller tablets that cost much more than their 7-inch counterparts, at $330 for the iPad mini and $400 for the Note 8.0. This means that we will continue to see innovation in the 7-inch (or thereabouts) market.

Making your tablet a “tablet PC”

With a 10-inch tablet, all you need to do is hit the net and choose one of the many bluetooth keyboard-case combo and you can transform your tablet into a clamshell laptop.

Lenovo-ThinkPad-Tablet-Portfolio-Keyboard-Case

This allows you to type those long emails, or punch out a novella on the train. Even though you can grab a bluetooth keyboard-case combo for a 7-inch tablet, the lack of vertical screen space means you are severely limited. So in this case, a 7-inch tablet loses out to the larger 10-inch tablet.

The market moves quickly

Even as 7-inch tablets replace 10-inch tablets, a new trend is appearing on the radar. The market that was popularized with the Galaxy Note has exploded into smartphones spanning dozens of sizes and even recently hitting 7 inches in size, with the ASUS FonePad.

asus fonepad in da face aa

These devices (yep, we aren’t using the “ph” word here), can combine the tablet and phone into one, getting rid of the need for a second device. 7-inch tablets are within touching distance of these smartphones, so could they be swallowed whole by this emerging trend?

Wrap up

The mobile market is a funny business. While the smartphone market is upscaling, the tablet market is downscaling and now they are on a collision course that seems unavoidable. The market has seemed to take a liking to both trends, so it will be interesting to see which emerges victorious. The cheap and cheerful 7-inch tablet or the all-in one phablet (I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself).

Do you think 10-inch tablets have been made irrelevant? Are 5-inch (and bigger) smartphones the future? Still going to buy the new Nexus 7? Let us know in the comments.

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