Do I Need a Tablet?

Do I Need a Tablet?The tablet computer has come a long way since its early days running Windows XP and requiring a stylus to operate. What was once a tool for doctors and other medical professionals who needed to enter information while standing next to a patient’s bed has now become a best-selling platform for consumers and small businesses.

While visiting my local big-box electronics store the other day, I overheard a college student telling her parent, “I need an iPad so I can take notes in my classes.”

This phrasing struck me as unusual since almost every class I’ve seen either doesn’t allow computers or allows laptops. Surely a Windows laptop running $300-500 would cover the vast majority of a typical college student’s needs? Have tablet computers (like the iPad) become a staple for modern university attendees?

Do You Really Need One?

I have a tablet. In fact, I’ve bought several since the original iPad came out a few years ago. Currently, there is a Sony Tablet S (Android ICS) sitting on my coffee table in the living room. I use it to browse the Web while watching movies with my wife. It also comes in handy from time to time when I’m traveling as it lasts longer on battery power than my laptop and can be used just about everywhere.

What would my life be like without a tablet? Could I do what I do without one? Absolutely!

Tablet computers, while incredibly innovative and fun to use, are still a luxury for the vast majority of people using it. It’s not something you “need” so much as something you really want. A mobile phone is hardly a necessity when you think about it. Almost everything you could possibly want to do on a tablet can be done on either a laptop or a smartphone. The tablet space as it exists today is in its infancy. It still hasn’t decided exactly what it wants to be yet.

Tablet as a Primary Computer

For some users, the tablet has replaced their laptop and/or desktop. Carrying around an Android or iOS tablet is a great way to maintain easy access to your information, and the removal of any desktop sync requirements makes the transition from one to the other easier.

If you ask Microsoft, a tablet will eventually replace the laptop for most users. That’s obviously its target with the upcoming Surface tablets, complete with keyboard and USB ports for external storage and a mouse. This shift won’t happen overnight, despite the radical changes taking place on the Windows platform to accommodate it.

Apple, on the other hand, is still maintaining a degree of separation between tablets and desktops. The iPad can perform a variety of tasks from basic Web browsing to video editing, but it still isn’t capable of running full-featured desktop apps available on OS X. At least, not yet.

We may be five years away from the tablet becoming a truly viable primary computer for most normal users. At that point, I’d probably consider a tablet to be a necessity. Right now, though… not so much.

What do you think? Do you need a tablet computer? Is it a requirement for your day-to-day tasks or simply just a convenience? Is there anything you can do on a tablet that you can’t do on a smartphone or laptop?

Photo: Caesar Wong

29 comments On Do I Need a Tablet?

  • Personally i find ipad very useful for most of my needs, and as you have explained its def not a laptop replacement, the “only” thing i m waiting for is wacom like fine quality for professional artists/designers, still drawing stuff on ipad/tablet is less enticing and the “tactlie” feedback particularly for keyboard inputs, those two things will def push up the device’s viability atleast for me.

  • I find my Kindle Fire (running Jellybean via Jandycane) to be very helpful, I’d always said that if Amazon only included a Bluetooth module then I wouldn’t need a laptop as I could type better on a lighter device that also has a longer battery life than my laptop. However, with that said, I could just as easily take notes on old fashioned pen and paper costing about 2 bucks if you just go to the dollar store. I agree, tablets aren’t a necessity yet, but a great add on for a desktop/laptop.

  • I truly don’y know that tablets are necessary or needed though they are becoming way more then way more and more people reclaiming there fredom from the desk top while being able to stay connected and get work done..

    Like the cloud more and more businesses to are making the move and allowing BYOD ..

  • I actually tend to use my iPad as a TV! It is a great size for watching youtube videos and netflix content.

  • While not a literal necessity, I find that my tablet is my preferred secondary computing device behind my desktop PC. I do also have a smartphone, but for me the larger screen size means everything. I also find that I use my tablet and smartphone quite differently. If I had to give one up, I’d give up the smartphone.

  • While not a literal necessity, I find that my tablet is my preferred secondary computing device behind my desktop PC. I do also have a smartphone, but for me the larger screen size means everything. I also find that I use my tablet and smartphone quite differently. If I had to give one up, I’d give up the smartphone.

  • Tablets are not yet full computers. I like where Microsoft is going, making a full on operating system on a tablet. This will, in sometime, make desktops and laptops someday old technology. I think with the new surface tablets, a lot of people will like them, and maybe sometime find that it may replace their old computer.

  • My prediction is that tablets will only hit their potential when the screen capabilities eventually met the expectation
    As discussed previously – stylus capability with absolutely no lag, and excellent accuracy; equally a screen keyboard with fluid responsiveness/absolutely zero lag, and something that allows typing more than a few sentence a painless experience; and a full Office application which has been optimised for touch.
    When I am able to write an five page set of notes in a lecture, completely in handwriting with a stylus, with no lag, just as easily and painfree as writing that letter on paper, then the tablet has fulfilled its fundamental purpose. That is the acid test
    Until then, in the last decade, all tablet computing has permitted is allowing consumers to pay exhorbitant amounts of money for a glorified internet browser, media player, ebook reader and games player

  • I think you should ask “What would my *Wife* be like without a tablet” – much happier I suspect 😉 If she is like any woman I know she must be quietly smouldering at you browsing the web whilst watching a movie with her 😉

  • Can you tell me why the averge person has to have one, why they can’t wait until they get home to go on their desk top computer to play a game or go on an app? I heard one person playing with his smart phone say the temperature in Kentuky is so and so when we were in Florida. No one cared. Most of the information on those instruments is worthless. Now if one likes them and likes playing with them, just say so. You don’t have to make up a phony reason for owning one. Just admit that you like looking up coming TV shows which you just did.

    • I play games on mine – I read novels on mine – I watch HBO and cable TV on mine, I bank online – I refill prescriptions on mine (Walgreens) – I use TweetDeck on mine and Facebook – iTunes, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, Zite, CNET, and the list goes on and on. : )

  • i have many computers, a windows 7 laptop, a macbook air and a asus eeepad tf101. i use all of them to get things done without a not resonable RAM consumption. I have mail, chat and similar things on the tablet, heavy duty work on real computers. i work with cad softwares and tablets are not the real answer…beacuse on android there is not a real autocad or zbrush. on ipad there is a 123d sculpt for sculpting as for zbrush and i’m waiting for an android porting. for other things i use logmein or teamviewer to connet my tablet to my computers in order to bring me less weight but i still need them.

  • I believe tablets are very much still a novelty item. I mean seriously how many use the ipad for actual work? maybe a few doctors etc. but the average person can’t really do much on an ipad. don’t even try typing anything over a page in length on the ipad. “maybe” the surface tablets will help provide a transition from the purely novelty gaming, browsing videos/music kinda ipad into a laptop/ultrabook kind of device. I sure hope the surface is a success

  • I love how tablets are pushing companies to be more portable with “computing”. But I always love sitting at home on my desktop computer with my large display.

  • I think I can survive without a tablet but it’s nice to have one. I usually wake up in the morning and turn on my tablet. Then I read the news on my tablet while I eat breakfast. I could probably just read the news on my laptop but I find that it’s easier to hold a tablet and read than to read on my big laptop. I also find that reading on a tablet is easier for the eyes. I don’t like reading stuff on my smartphone since the screen is too small. I think tablets are good when I read books and watch videos. However, tablets can’t replace my laptop. Laptops can do so much more but I think it’s possible that tablets can one day replace them.

  • i don’t need one. My smartphone can do everything. A bigger screen does help so I got a Galaxy Note. One of my best decisions.

  • Tablets are a big thing now, portable, easier and faster to power up, and alot faster in browsing, thats why my parents use the hp touchpad and stopped using the laptop. Its more afficent and easier, also since they only go on the internet.

  • I do not have a tablet yet but I hope to get one soon. I don’t see it as a need but rather a a tool to improve my ease of access to the internet. I use the Android daily and my laptop for big projects. I feel it would be nice to have a tablet for better viewing of the web and some apps while home or on the go. I don’t know what tablet I will be getting but I do love the Nexus 7 and feel it would be a great fit for me with my knowledge of Android.

  • Got a Samsung Tab 2 7.0 and liked it, especially since it will fit in my trousers pocket unlike an iPad. However since have also upgraded my phone to the Samsung Galaxy S3 the Tab was laying on my desk virtually unused because the screen on the S3 is large enough to handle email and surf on the fly. So returned the Tab to Costco – summary is a phone with a larger screen is quite adequate

  • I love my iPad! Why buy a Kindle when the Kindle apps on the iPad and iPhone are fantastic!?

  • I’m a web developer and I depend on my iPad. When visiting a customer location, I can whip out my iPad, log into FTP and modify files on the fly. i can use my stylus and draw out web design ideas with Notability, and then when all is said and done, I can send them an invoice right from my iPad using Invoice2go and finish the deal by swiping their credit card through square, also on my iPad. For me toting around a laptop is a real pain sometimes and when I’m on the go I have a full blown web dev machine, notepad that I can draw on and a credit card terminal to take instant payment !

  • Yes. I don’t have a smartphone and my laptop is dying. I was convinced I needed a tablet. (Because I want one.) I mentioned to Chris a while ago about too many ads before the comments and the were reduced by 4. Now this is even better. Love the new layout. Great, great job. Great job. Slick!!!!!

  • I do not have a tablet or smart phone. My morning routine is to get my coffee and go to my desktop. For portability I use my laptop @ the tv location. I do not travel much at all but will take my laptop when I do. What I really like about tablets, however, is they have brought the cost of owning either a PC or a laptop way down because so many people have moved to using the tablet. Can you believe the price of a new PC or laptop these days!? Gotta luvit.

  • I have two laptops, a Nook e-reader, and a smartphone. One of my laptops stays at home, and I take the other laptop with me. It would be nice to have a tablet that can update spread sheets, surf the web, play games, and enable the reading of e-books. I would still need the smartphone to make phone calls. The tablet could possibly replace one of my laptops and my Nook e-reader. I have not researched the tablet market to see if such a tablet exists. If it doesn’t exist, I’ll bet one will be coming soon.

  • I have a desktop, a 10″ netbook, a 15″ notebook, and a 7″ android tablet. I mainly use the desktop to try out operating systems, like right now I’ve been using Ubuntu 12.04.1. I use the netbook for websurfing and watching movies. The notebook is something I haven’t used in months, and the tablet I use for playing games and watching youtube.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson