Open thread: is your tablet love affair over?

by: Jonathan FeistFebruary 12, 2014

Various Tablets

Our love affair with the tablet is over.” This, according to an opinionated article by Zal Bilimoria over on the CNBC partner site Re/code. Immediately my senses go off, what does he know that I do not? Oh God, what if he is right. I take a deep breath and pause from reading his article on my Nexus 7, I clutch my tablet tightly, protecting it from an unimaginable and unexpected force that is ill intent on taking my tablet away from me.

After checking under the bed for this terrible monster, I overcome the fear and continue reading – Bilimoria paints a picture of tablets around the world being tossed into the corner to collect dust. Too large to be mobile and not powerful nor capable enough to perform PC functions.

Bilimoria explains that he was a part of the mobile team at Netflix during the boom of Android tablets starting in 2011. Many devices were launched in attempt to overthrow the iPad, which at the time had a clear marketing led. He mentions the Android powered Kindle Fire and Nook, the HP Touchpad running webOS and even BlackBerry’s PlayBook.

In seeing this growth, Netflix launched their own tablet optimized app to much success. Bilimoria takes the liberty of saying it was beautiful, and I must agree. Then, the story shifts.

As phone apps improved in terms of quality and speed, users abandoned their tablets for the device in their pocket that could access the Web anywhere and anytime from Wi-Fi or cellular connections.

Netflix witnessed a dramatic increase in phone usage for their streaming service and eventually merged their phone and tablet apps back into one offering. Bilimoria then references a stat that only 12% of tablets have cellular connections, “instantly making [tablets] non-mobile devices.” Furthering that conclusion, he mentions his own iPad, iPad mini, Kindle Fire and Motorola Xoom acting as paperweights as he sits comfortably with a five-inch phone in hand.

The final summary of Bilimoria’s article is that tablets will have a home as single purpose devices and for enterprise use, such as a dedicated flight companion for pilots. In the personal computing market, he believes that users may keep a tablet on the side, but a well equipped smart phone in pocket and a powerful laptop on the desk will be enough for most users.

android fragmentation boogie monster

Good news, the monster still has not come for my tablet.

I let it all sink in, I try to see all aspects of the story and how things are constantly changing for personal computing. Just before I come to terms with Bilimoria’s conclusions, it hits me, the limitations of his personal experiences prevent him from seeing that tablets are not dead.

I look through user comments on the article, many of them do not see the demise of the tablet either – they offer opinions and stories of their own for the bright and successful future of tablets and about amazing, and resourceful, ways that tablet usage continues to change their lives.

The two key concepts that I believe Mr. Bilimoria uses to validate his opinion are the exact two that I think he has overlooked, size and capabilities. These two things evaluated as one will absolutely determine the use of a tablet. Starting with size:
sony xperia z ultra aa design in pocket

Pocket Test

This is pretty straight forward: Does the tablet fit into your pocket? I reference the back pocket of a typical pair of men’s jeans, the typical woman’s purse handles about the same size of tablet. Most of Mr. Bilimoria’s tablets are not used as mobile devices because they do not fit in his pocket, it’s that simple.

Although the iPad Mini will fit for some, 8+ inch devices are slightly too big for the average pocket. The one device remaining that could fit in most your pockets, the Kindle Fire, does not pass the next test.

Device Capabilities

When I say capabilities, I refer not only to the horsepower of the device, but also to what the device is capable of connecting to and the ecosystem behind it. Let me start at the end – the sole device in Mr. Bilimoria’s list that passes the back pocket test is a first generation, altogether low performance device that connects to one of the smaller ecosystems available. The Kindle Fire is not a bad device and Amazon has a wonderful ecosystem, but neither fares well when directly compared to a powerful tablet like the Nexus 7 and Google’s full selection of apps and services.

The tablet continue to live on as a high usage personal device, if only in the ~7 inch size range.

My conclusion is that I believe the tablet continue to live on as a high usage personal device, if only in the ~7 inch size range. Large tablets will be the tools of the trade, non-personal devices generally available for co-workers or family members to share, alongside, or in replacement of, the standard PC.

Will some folks turn to the 5+-inch handset to replace tablets? Absolutely, but for others phones will remain ultra-personal devices, the hub of personal mobile computing, the holder of files, but also the access point to the internet for the primary mobile device, the 7″ tablet — a device that effectively bridges the gap between 5-inch or lower handsets and a 10+-inch PC.

In the end, this debate will not be settled academically, it can only be determined by the personal preferences, and budgets, of the majority of users – users like you. I urge you to weigh in on this topic, comment below and participate in our polls.

[poll id=”458″]

[poll id=”460″]

  • Langdon Alger

    Yea, nah. Tablets have been somewhat limited by software, but the increased power on x86 chips in the Surface Pro models are a real game-changer, and you can be sure Android will up the ante to match. At the moment it’s an OS that’s had to survive in a low-power environment. Literally everything is change. Love affair over? It’s only just beginning.

  • gils001

    “Too large to be mobile and not powerful nor capable enough to perform PC functions””

    • skyrimmer

      +1 for full Windows 8 tablet.

  • Jaun Lombard

    I love my Tab 3 10.1″….I am using it for the purpose it was meant to be used for…entertainment and browsing the internet! Browsing on a Tab is fast and better user experience! Watching movies is awesome as my laptop’s sound suck! Clash of the clans works best on a Tab!!

  • Little Link

    My S4, and future Note 4, are exactly as stated, the ultra personal devices. My Nexus 10 is my home personal media device, I love the screen size and the resolution. My Razer laptop is gaming and school specific. I’d never bring my N10 to class.

    • Jonathan Feist

      Would you bring a 7″ size range tablet to class? The Note line is almost there in size as is, but would you carry two devices to school?

      • Little Link

        No, I don’t think so, a 7″ screen is too small. The screen size of my laptop is ideal for me.

  • mustbepbs

    Just because you don’t have an internet connection doesn’t mean the tablet doesn’t have a use. I use mine for studying and reading PDFs and EPUBs. I use it at meetings all the time. Some of the games that I play don’t require a connection. I use it all the time at home too. The only thing the PC gets turned on for is the occasional game and watching shows that I downloaded.

    This guy is trying to speak for way too many people.

    • Shubham Singh

      Dude its true that you can survive without internet but its nothing like having the internet. I bought nexus 7 32(non LTE) and love the tab but hate google for launching the LTE version so late.

      • mustbepbs

        Well the good thing is, nothing is stopping you from tethering your smartphone connection to your tablet, so you’re covered regardless.

        • Butts_McButts

          Ugh, the tethering discussion. It’s great if you have a phone plan with a tonne of data, but not every market on earth has good data and good sms/voice plans available on the same networks.

        • Arturo Raygoza

          I use to tether, its easy yes but its still a hassle so I just use my phone

        • tunglx

          Yeah, agreed, at least in my area :d. Never be happier having the nexus 7 2013 :d

        • Shubham Singh

          Bro battery of my phone

          • Jaime

            I had to bought a portable battery for this. It is cheaper only having one data plan however.

  • John Garlits

    It just depends on individual user case scenarios. I still like my N7, though I don’t use it as much since I upgraded my phone from a Gnex to a G2. A phone with a largish screen seems to be optimal with a lot of apps, especially games that use the gyroscope as it’s a little less easy to rotate the tablet around. Many things will always be better on a larger screen, though. Some of those things, like video, could however get replaced by projecting/mirroring to a large screen tv. I keep my tab at home most of the time, but it’s awesome for travel.

    • Jonathan Feist

      You bring up a great point John, one I dared not include in the story, Chromecast and other tv connection technology. If we could toss any screen to the tv, the size of device in hand makes little difference when at home. A pico projector for travel, I like it.

  • jrop

    I used to use my N7 (2013) a whole bunch before I got my N5. Basically I used it as my high performance Android device, because my phone at the time was really slow. Now that I have the Nexus 5, I pretty much use it and my PCs: PCs for involved web browsing, and my phone for media consumption (esp. in tandem with my Roku/Chromecast).

    My tablet has pretty much been sitting on a shelf for the most part, but I keep it for one use: Garmin Pilot. It really does shine as a supplemental navigation system in the airplane, and I wouldn’t want to substitute my phone for this role because it’s much too small when I could be using my tablet. The phone could also fall off my lap easier and get lost under seats in the cockpit, etc.

    My sister does not have a smartphone, and she ends up using her tablet for everything except homework (she does writing assignments on her old netbook, probably because it’s easier to type on).

    My brother just got the Moto G, and it will be interesting to see how usage shifts (or not) from his N7 (2012). So far he has been using the phone a lot more, but that could be because it’s been his first week with the device.

    • tunglx

      Love the chromecast, but only at home :d. Nice gadgets you have there :d

  • Teryl Todd

    I think this guy is failing at watching the present state of tech. My tablet is my laptop (convertible Windows model).

    In short order the traditional laptop will start to go away and be replaced with various tablets that have keyboard docks, Chrome OS, Windows, Android and iOS will all go that way. Probably even Mac OS, in time.

    • Jonathan Feist

      You think keyboards will remain the dominant input method? I can’t disagree the power of the physical keyboard, but I think the younger generation growing up on virtual keyboards and voice inputs and such won’t care for the extra weight and hassle of that ‘old technology.’

      • Teryl Todd

        I think your right, my kids don’t require a physical keyboard for anything. However there will be keyboards for a while yet, they have to keep us older folks happy, we have the $$$.

        Also until battery life on 10+ inch devices are measured in days the extra battery in the keyboard will be necessary for many.

  • Matt Dean

    My nexus 7 2013 32gb is used for media content. Reading and gaming. I only use my laptop for swtor and streaming through the TV. I even use the nexus to control it. My phone is used when I am out of the house 6-7 then evening is tablet time. And thanks to nexus media importer it even reads my 1tb external so plenty of media consumption to be had!

  • Cole Raney

    My tablet replaced my laptop. My tablet is more portable, and can do most things my laptop could. If i need more computing power I have a desktop.

  • districtjack

    Looks like the voting results are accurate to me. I like my tablet so much I bought an expensive leather bookcase for it.

  • William E Evans

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Burgundy with Otter Case

    PDF’s floorplans of my work (UCLA Campus) Offline maps, Preloaded Flip-board…. Carmageddon Mobile, Gmote, Evernote,myVegas, xconstruct, LoLa’s ABCs (for my son) Youtube, Autodesk Sketchbook pro, yahoo messenger, Pandora, Wunderlist…..WOW my tablet IS a really useful tablet!!!

  • apurimaz

    They must be kidding. I still use my tablet all the time. I bought a smart phone, but the small screen real estate makes it uncomfortable and awkward for prolonged use. And I am very much excited to get a new nexus 8? tablet for t-mobile when they come out with the always connected 4g lte model.

  • Amadeus Klein

    My tablets at home act as web surfing/facebooking devices that double as media remotes to control my media server and media devices, but nothing will replace my laptop for gaming and hardcore work. My phone serves as my connection to the world when not at home though, my tablets never leave the house…

  • richy

    Galaxy note 2 is good enough for my needs and tablets are not much bigger

  • Southall87

    I just downsized to the sony xperia z1 compact and it was the best discioson i’ve made. Its small and powerful,exactly what i need in a phone. When at home on the sofa my sony tablet z is perfect for web browsing and other tasks, I find 7-8inch tablets a bit small. My laptop is pritty much just reserved for work. Each device has its place and even though each could in theory replace the other I feel it would be a compromise.

    • Little Link

      Couldn’t agree more

    • EvenInTheDarkestHour

      That sounds about right.

  • Matt Dowdy

    I haven’t used my nexus 7 since I got my note 2 and now a note 3, I gave my iPad to my daughter as I have absolutely no use for it

    • Little Link

      I think you’d be surprised how much more use you’d get out of a 10″ tablet. The Note 3 is enough for a phone but, enough screen size difference between a 10 incher and your Note.

      • Matt Dowdy

        I completely get where you’re coming from but for me personally I’ve no use for a tablet. I don’t really play that many games and watching Netflix for me is done on my TV. If I need to do any word processing then I use my laptop because I am more productive with physical keys. I used to be all over my iPad but these days I’m more “over it”. Probably a sign of getting old!

  • jdanielcook

    I think one thing he is missing it technology generation. As we get faster phones, the older tablet is noticeably slower and that becomes annoying. I have a TF201 and I like the larger screen but the N5 is so fast that I only use it when I really care about being able to see something on a larger screen such as a pdf or when I want to conserve my phone’s battery such as listening to music.

  • gfacekilla01

    My Dell Venue 8 is with me all the time. I tether it to my Note2 for unlimited, always on web access. With its larger screen, its carries all my school e textbooks, novels, pictures and movies. Plus I get all my news and social updates on it. And I’ve got all of my music plus all of the web based music stations I listen to on it. My tablet will always be utilized, it is a complete media and news consumption device. Zal is a bit twisted….

  • lorenzo woodley

    8inch media tek tablet stock ics ,onlive desktop for productivity ,great on games(not the best) and modia consumtion cost me less then the Nexus7 I bought before that I havent lost any love for tablets .howhard is it to ho out and find bags,pants sweaters shirts etc for a tanlet to fit in…not at all its eassyly more mobilebtgen my laptop which ive never worn .if carried bags for it but I can actually shove my tab in my sweater pocket right now and be okay for the day

  • Alex James Simon

    I bought my Nexus 7 to save money, I’ve owned both generations, gonna get the third, and using a ten dollar tracphone.Nexus 7 is amazing for its price.

  • Luke Nesh

    For me a good 4.7 inch-5inch smartphone and a good ole lappy serves just well. Some phones are even better spec`ed compared to some tablets
    I leave the ipads and andro tablets to my parents since they are still old school Nokia fanatics.

  • AA :P

    ballmer, you can stop pretending to be bilimoria!

  • ichuck7

    Love using my Nexus 7 and G2. I mostly use my N7 at home to save battery life on my phone. I like it for reading and movies. I can agree about 10 inch tablets too big.

  • Arturo Raygoza

    ever since I got my nexus 5 my galaxy tab 2 was retired.

  • KB

    I use my tablet (10 inch) for school, taking notes, reading text books, or as media device for travel. My phone does what it does, and it’s in my pocket for sitting on the crapper and reading news. Then I have a desktop computer, when I want to pull up information quickly, doing research, looking for train tickets, playing video games. Each device has an extremely useful niche in my life. I would not like to be without any of these devices.

  • tunglx

    Maybe I’m a super lazy human being :d. I used my laptop for lots of entertainment. But now I stick with my tablet for web browsing, games (of course mobile game, I’m not a true gamer anw), and movies, since I don’t want a laptop on top of my lap no more :v. A bigger than 5 inch phones cause me so much inconveniences, so I get back to 5 inch, which is not good at all for my intense use of web browser, or game. So a 7 inch tablet goes with me to cafe, and my bed, as the main entertainment device. My phone is much like a pda, and laptop absolutely for work.

  • Frank Bales

    I use my tablet every single day, multiple times a day. Can’t imagine being without it. I’ve used an Asus Transformer since the TF101 days, and prefer that size, however, I just bought an EVGA Tegra Note 7 to try. I Haven’t spent enough time with it yet to really decide if I like the 7″ size, but I think I like a larger tablet better. It is nice holding it in one hand though. This Tegra Note is blazing fast (35300 on Antutu), and the stylus is awesome.

  • Shubham Singh

    I will disagree to the people who think a phone /tablet can replace a laptop/pc for general purpose like FB /Twitter they can but when it comes to productivity there is no competition to a mouse and keyboard powered laptop/pc.

    • Jaime

      Yes but a large portion of the population use their computer for surfing the Web and FB/G+/Twitter anyway

  • Jaime

    I used to used several resource intensive programs on school, so I needed a powerful laptop, but now my usage has change and I use my Note 8 for surfing the Web and Facebook/Google+, and I don’t use my laptop as much. Also I prefer an always on device, It is just faster to begin doing things.

  • Jayfeather787

    I will never give up my Nexus 7 2013. That thing is amazing.