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It’s been over six years since Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPad. Since then, we have seen tablets running all kinds of operating systems, tablets of different sizes, and tablets at various price points. But the big question is, do you really need a tablet anymore?
Research firm IDC’s recent study shows that tablet sales are on the decline worldwide. Early adopters of tablets often talk about how little use they have for these devices any more. For several, their tablets sit on the coffee table in the same position for days.
So before you put down hard-earned cash for a new tablet, ask yourself if you really need it. Here are a few reasons you might want to skip it for something else.
1. Phone Screens Are Getting Bigger
Tablets usually come in 7-inch, 8-inch, or 10-inch screen sizes. But recently, smartphones have also been getting bigger.
From fantastic Android phablets to the Plus series of iPhones, when your smartphone has a 5.5-inch screen, your need for a bigger touchscreen device pretty much becomes non-existent except in the most specific of cases.
Since your phone is with you all the time, you end up using it a lot more than a tablet too. More and more, you get comfortable using it. Your muscle memory builds up, you get used to how apps work, you know the speed at which it will perform certain tasks — all of this comes together to make the phone “faster” for you than a tablet.
Plus, tablets don’t support all the same apps that phones do. For example, if you use WhatsApp, you can’t use it simultaneously on your tablet and mobile, even with WhatsApp Web mirroring the messages.
A faster device, a big screen, and one-handed operation? If you thought the tablet can be a “bigger and better phone”, you’re wrong. Tablets are starting to lose in the one area where they used to dominate phones.
2. Laptops Are Getting Lighter
The big change in the world of laptops recently is their shrinking in size and weight. Manufacturers are trending towards notebooks with 11- to 13-inch screens that focus on being lightweight.
And that used to be the big advantage of tablets.
For a few years, it made more sense to carry a tablet with you when you’re moving around because a laptop was too big, bulky, and weighed down your bag. But modern, lightweight, small-size laptops make it easy to carry them no matter where you go.
Let’s face it, when you’re on the go, you will always carry your smartphone with you, so the second device is the one you have to decide. Do you want a tablet, which has the same apps and restrictions as your smartphone, or do you want a laptop, which has a keyboard and a full-fledged desktop operating system?
The choice is pretty clear.
3. Battery Life Isn’t an Issue
Even now, tablets have longer battery life than laptops or smartphones, but the question isn’t, “Which of these lasts the longest?” The question is, “Which one do I actually need?”
The MacBook Air, which is the best value-for-money laptop right now, lasts for about 10 hours of work on a single charge. That’s plenty for most users, who will be able to get to a charger before that gets close to running out.
As for smartphones, these days they’re packing upwards of 3,000 mAh batteries, and with technologies like Quick Charging, it makes your battery problems even less of a worry.
So yes, while tablets do last longer, ask yourself if you are likely to actually need that kind of battery life when you can find a place to charge your notebook or phone almost anywhere. When’s the last time you were more than 10 hours away from an outlet?
Worst case scenario, don’t forget that backup battery packs exist too.
4. 2-in-1 Laptops, Best of Both Worlds
Apart from big-screen phones and lightweight laptops, one other recent trend is most indicative of whether you need a tablet or not. As IDC found for two quarters in a row, while tablet sales are shrinking, sales are growing for 2-in-1 tablets that mimic PCs.
From the Microsoft Surface to iPad Pro, people are buying tablets that come with a detachable keyboard because they can be replacements for PCs or laptops. Tablets have one big problem right now, which is writing and input. As good as virtual keyboards and touch gestures are, they still don’t match up to a physical keyboard and mouse or trackpad for pinpoint accuracy and speed.
More importantly, 2-in-1s give you the best of both worlds. A tablet that can be used as a tablet, and a laptop that can be used as a laptop, both shifting into their own roles as required.
5. E-Readers > Tablets for Ebooks
If the primary use of your tablet is going to be to read ebooks, you need to rethink this. E-readers are better for your eyes due to e-ink, can store all the ebooks you could ever need at a time, and are much lighter and therefore more comfortable.
In fact, the lightness of e-readers matters a lot. You are going to hold this device in your hand for a long time as you flip through the pages, and even 7-inch tablets are heavy enough that your arm will feel strained after a few minutes. That’s not the case with most e-readers.
In fact, a Kindle will get you to read more, so if you’re a bibliophile, forget about using a tablet. The one exception to this rule is when reading comics, for which tablets are still better than e-readers.
6. Tablet Gaming Is Disappointing
A bigger screen does make it more pleasant to play games like Infinity Blade 3 or Dead Trigger. If you’re a serious gamer, then getting a tablet to play games makes sense.
But if you’re a serious gamer, ask yourself if you are going to enjoy tablet games over a PS4, Xbox, or a better graphics card for your PC. Unless you’re already covered with all your other gaming needs, your money will probably be better spent elsewhere.
For casual gamers, buying a tablet for the games alone isn’t the best option. Games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds are no more enjoyable on an iPad than on a smartphone. There are some games so beautiful you’ll forget they’re played on phones.
So if you have a big-screen phone, you don’t need to put down money for a tablet. In fact, several serious gamers I know abhor playing games on a tablet, mainly because the phone is with them at all times and they can squeeze in a game whenever and wherever.
7. “I’ll Find Uses Once I Get It”
Uhh no, you won’t. That’s the flawed thinking of several tablet buyers, for whom the iPad is now a wonderful paper-weight on their coffee tablet. Be clear about what you need it for before you get it.
Also, unless you use it every day, be prepared for the “pending updates” nightmare. Keep your tablet aside for a few days and as soon as you switch it on, you will be bombarded with all the notifications and pending updates you missed.
Did you fire up your iPad to listen to Apple Music? Wait, you need to update the Music app before you can do that. Did you want to open that PDF from the email you just checked? Hold on, update the PDF viewer first.
It’s the most annoying part of owning a tablet. If you don’t use it every day, those updates will force their way to grasp your attention first, pestering you to download them before you do anything else. Your dream of “pick it up and start using” is just a dream.
More and more, people are using tablets less and less. We’d like to hear from you if you still use your tablet or if it has become an ornamental gizmo lying around somewhere. And if you still use it, what do you use it for?