Government // Mobile & Wireless
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12/17/2012
02:46 PM
Mike Feibus
Mike Feibus
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Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?

Hear me out on this one, tablet shoppers: You should buy a 7-inch tablet and a 10-inch tablet.

The battle lines between tablet vendors were so clear a year ago. Heading into the holiday season, suppliers for the most part believed that consumers wanted either a 7-inch tablet or a 10-inch tablet. This year, though, they're offering one of each.

Apple and Amazon, two of the more visible champions for 10-inch and 7-inch devices, respectively, have since come to appreciate the other's perspective, as they've rounded out their 2012 holiday lineups with tablets targeting the other's wheelhouse. But why? Do they view size as a matter of taste, as it is with mobile phones and motor vehicles? Or do they think that the same consumers want both?

I'm here to tell you that before long, you'll want one of each -- even if you don't right now. And tablet makers who don't understand that emerging dynamic today will figure it out soon enough.

Now wait a minute, you may be saying. Aren't you the guy who preaches that the natural number of personal electronics devices is two? What about that? Huh?

Just let it go, OK? Nobody likes a smart aleck.

In all seriousness, holding yourself to two portable systems remains a valid use-case model. A tweener phone like Samsung's Galaxy Note series paired with a chameleon-like Ultrabook such as Lenovo's Thinkpad Twist or Asus' Taichi can make the two-device model compelling for consumers who want to travel light.

[ There are plenty of tablets and smartphones on the market. Does Microsoft Really Need To Make Its Own Hardware? ]

If you buy into the logic behind limiting yourself to two devices -- I still do -- then doubling the number may seem counterintuitive. But it's not. You can still lighten the load with four devices in your quiver. Remember, tablets are siphoning activities from a swath that's far wider than just our smartphones and laptops. They're pulling in books and magazines. Portable gaming systems and DVD players. Camcorders and point-and-shoot cameras. Oh yes, and pads of paper.

Think of it this way: what would you say to someone who asked which you prefer: smaller 5 x 8 pads of paper or 8.5 x 11 pads? You'd likely say, prefer for what? Right?

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We can do the same tasks on either size. But most of us would rather jot notes -- shopping lists, agenda items and other reminders -- on smaller pads, and turn to the letterhead-sized pads for more comprehensive tasks, such as meeting notes and design ideas.

It's the same for our battery-powered devices. We can browse the Web on our smartphones -- and we'll turn to them for quick fact-finding searches around town. But we're far more likely to hop onto the laptop if we're doing more complex, detail-oriented activities.

Google released a study in August which found exactly that: When consumers have a choice, they're more likely to turn to the display that most closely meets their needs. I know I'd rather read a book on a 7-inch tablet than a 10-inch device. Interestingly, the study's publication was sandwiched between the release of Google's two branded tablets: the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

I invariably hear a couple of objections to the four-device model. The first comes from people who suffer from device overload. They just refuse to lug all those devices around with them. That's fine, don't. The 7-inch tablet, loaded with a book or two, would tide you over for a weekend escape.

The second issue has to do with cost. It's a valid point. I could argue that, from a TCO point of view, a 7-inch tablet is a whole lot more cost-effective than a wall full of books. But if money's tight, that argument falls on deaf ears. Buying a tablet demands too much of an upfront investment, like paying for the paper today for all the books you'll read in the future.

Here's an argument that plays better: buy used devices. The market for second-hand tablets is vibrant. If you can force yourself to get by with a last-generation tablet, you can pick a pair up for less than you'd spend on one new device. Consumers who have to have the latest thing are replacing their tablets more quickly than even their smartphones, so there's plenty of supply. And a bonus: Consumers typically treat their tablets with more care than their smartphones, so they're usually in pretty good shape.

However you decide to overcome these issues, it's important that you do, even if you don't intend to buy two tablets today. Because you will want two. Soon. You'll see.

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MR-expert
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MR-expert,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/18/2012 | 4:14:45 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
While most of your points are valid, you have neglected an important issue. Eyesight. As people get older, they want bigger screens. A second point is IT people. They always want more screen real estate. These are also going to be key drivers in the future.
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
12/18/2012 | 5:53:44 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
MR-expert, I would like to clarify your first point. Older people don't really want bigger screens, they want bigger fonts. I am approaching the mid-century mark and appreciate that I can increase the font on my Kobo Touch (soon Glo). So what if I have to change pages more often?
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2012 | 6:57:44 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
Four devices? That's four chargers to lose, Mike. Hard enough not to lose 2. Now if i could have a universal charger...

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
MFeibus
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MFeibus,
User Rank: Strategist
12/18/2012 | 10:00:25 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
Wireless charging has been developing fast, and it's now almost ready for prime-time. I'm anxious to see the new stuff at CES and MWC. I'm not sure whether it will go mainstream in 2013 or 2014. But I am sure that it's coming. So don't worry, Laurianne - the industry is solving your cable problem!.
whizje
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whizje,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/18/2012 | 9:24:07 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
I tried a 10 inch tablet for three weeks and I love the screen estate. But I prefer a 7 inch for the weight. Now a 10 inch tablet with the weight of a 7 inch tablet would be ideal.
ThePrisoner6
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ThePrisoner6,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/19/2012 | 10:07:25 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
Mike, for someone with an unlimited budget and oodles of storage capacity in their travel gear to carry chargers and cables, this all sounds well and good, however I would argue the simple point that not everyone needs to take notes or make a shopping list on a mobile device. Most shopping lists end up in the recycle bin, never to be seen again. A 7-inch tablet costs $200 minimum. I can by a whole stack of paper notepads at Staples for pennies apiece.

Sure, I'm a gadget geek, but I'm also a pragmatist. Before I buy another device, I damn well better justify the need. I personally consider it tremendously wasteful to spend $200 - $300 on something I could spend $0.50 on. You can't clip a tablet to your fridge, or stick it on the mirror to remind your wife to pick up your shirts at the dry-cleaners. I'm quite happy with my smartphone for most travel purposes, a larger tablet when I am more stationary (not stationery - that's a joke, son).

I'm as tempted as the next guy to buy things for myself, but I am constantly reminded that there are those who live with much less than I do. I can think of a lot of better ways to spend $200. There are far greater needs in this world - and for that matter, in our own communities - that could use that money for greater good than filling a pocket in our briefcases. For those who have excess cash burning a hole in their pocket, they might consider donating to a local charity to help the less fortunate in their community before they consider buying yet another toy (oh, excuse me, "business toy"). I would be willing to wager that there are kids in your own town who have never owned a computer, much less a tablet. Many charities have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy, and the money we might rather spend on ourselves could buy a lot more than another mobile device that we may or may not use.

GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2012 | 5:11:31 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
While I understand where you are coming from, your arguments are too limiting. You are saying "why buy a $200 to replace a $0.50 pad of paper?" You aren't replacing a %0.50 pad - you are replacing thousands of books, reams of paper, possibly even your home computer for the price of $200 (if all you do is email, Facebook and web surfing at home). If you take all that into consideration, $200 is a steal.
ThePrisoner6
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ThePrisoner6,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2012 | 8:17:26 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
I didn't say what you quoted me as saying. I don't deny that these devices are useful, and I do in fact use them myself. I was simply making the argument that adding yet another tablet or "smart device" to my collection seems a bit wasteful given the sorry state of the world, I think we could all "make do" with less and share the wealth with those less fortunate.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2012 | 5:13:39 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
I guess most people have weaker wrists than mine. Most of the complaints about reading on 10 inch tablets are that they are heavy (comparitively). I don't have any problem with my iPad + case (the case adds almost 2 lbs to my device) and I love it. I can't stand to read on 7 inch displays - give me a 10 inch any day!
iminmessaging
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iminmessaging,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/7/2013 | 4:36:57 PM
re: Should You Buy A 7-Inch Or 10-Inch Tablet?
7 inch tablets are truly mobile, almost like smartphones. 10 inch tablets, such as the iPad, are somewhere in between smartphones and laptops. You can carry them around like smartphones, but they donG«÷t fit into your pocket, they are a bit too heavy, and too big to be easily used while standing, walking, or carrying stuff around.

The advantages of having a bigger screen (with more options and a large keyboard), do have their price and you will need to ask yourself if this price is one you are willing to pay.
jamesthemac
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jamesthemac,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/8/2014 | 5:09:13 PM
Why not wait?
Still not sure about the whole tablet craze - most websites and programs are still way behind in terms of optimization for these devices. My website is a real estate site and I have little control over the platform the franchise requires us to use and it does not look great on tablets/mobile devices. I think most sites will transition to mobile-ready, retina-display websites, but for now I don't think I need either a 7-inch or a 10-inch, especially at the prices.

-James, Weston real estate agent
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