OK – let me be upfront about it, I think the whole tablet concept is pretty naff. Firstly, because you can buy a pretty good laptop for the price of an iPad or a high-end Android device (or less), and secondly, because what many (most?), people do is go straight out and buy a case to protect the vulnerable screen, and a USB keyboard, often combined in one unit, so why not buy a laptop or, if size really matters, a Netbook, in the first place? No touch screen? So what? 2GB memory and a 160GB hard drive, coupled to a real keyboard and a very good screen that doesn’t get covered in fingermarks is a much better option in my view.
So why do people buy them? The answer, in large part, is that tablets, and especially iPads, are bling, pure and simple. They have pose value whereas laptops are now just passé. It’s certainly not for serious work, because at that, they suck, and that’s not just my view** – the idea of writing a several thousand word blog post on one fills me with horror – that’s really not what virtual keyboards are for. And only yesterday I saw someone, archiving loads of video clips using an iPad app, reduced to incoherent fury when the thing crashed, taking all her precious vids into oblivion. Doubtless a full-size machine, with adequate memory and vast hard drive would have coped without breaking sweat. By the way, when using tablets, with their limited memory, to do memory-hungry tasks, save your work often. That way when the crash comes, you shouldn’t lose everything. Hell, even on my desktop, with 6GB memory, everything that can be configured this way is set to save my work every minute – something I learned to do very early on.
**There’s always some bugger who’ll try and prove otherwise, but on the whole real work needs a full-size computer, whether it be a laptop or desktop model.
And by the way, Apple didn’t invent the word “app” much though they’d like to lay claim to it. An app(lication), in computer terms, has always referred to software as, indeed, it still does, even in a mobile context.
Do I really need a tablet? Well, I have a laptop, which is my backup if my desktop machine goes belly up, so it has a similar spec and the software is replicated, and data backed up to an external HDD. I also have a 10-inch Netbook but, to be honest it’s too big to be used as my slumped-on-the-couch device in the evenings (the main problem is I have trouble typing on the small keyboard while on the couch – it really needs a table, when it would be fine, but defeats the slobbed-out object).
However, looked at from a disabled, spoonie, perspective, I think tablets might play a genuinely useful role as a support device, not as a main machine.
I spend roughly 16-18 hours a day online, on my desktop machine, though I’m not present all the time I’m rarely far away, but in the evening I retreat to the couch and slob out, watching TV/listening to Radio Caroline and/or reading, while keeping one eye on Twitter and my email – a rather nifty Windows 7 feature allows me to overlay my Twitter app with a small window just big enough that I can see email if it arrives in Mailwasher; plus it beeps at me, but that’s easily missed during a loud TV show or music track, so a visual check is very useful (not its original use, but that – so you can see what the app is – is so naff it beggars belief. If you can’t remember what the icons mean, perhaps computers aren’t really your thing? This is one reason why I’ve referred to Win7 as Windows for people who don’t like computers – I still believe that.
Anyhow, the end result is that I’m getting up and down so bloody often, to check my mail or reply to it, and Twitter, that I get little rest during the course of the evening, and way too much additional pain (call me old-fashioned but I feel very strongly that it’s just basic courtesy to reply to email and, these days, tweets, promptly).
I’ve tried using my smart phone, which is just about tolerable for short responses to Twitter (and it’s OK for tweeting in the pub), but hopeless for email as, for reasons that elude me, it deletes mail from the server as it downloads (even though it’s configured not to, as is the server), which stops it being delivered to my main computer as well, and, in consequence, too often has me forwarding mail to myself.
The end result is that I find myself increasingly – despite still feeling they’re a bit toytown – looking at tablets as a viable spoonie tool, allowing me to stay sat on the couch, but carry on as normal. And cost dictates that it’s an Android device.
Even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t pay Apple’s absurdly inflated prices, nice though their toys are – I read an article in the Guardian last year saying that the factory-gate cost of an iPhone was £3.95. In addition, I spent much of my working life in shipping, where exporters and importers had to declare the actual value of goods, which were a universe away from retail prices, and I have no difficulty believing that iPhone price. iPad retail prices will be similarly inflated.
Anyway, I digress, and Misco have this tablet, running the bizarrely-named Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS (Android 4 in fact; very odd people, geeks, when it comes to naming things), for £99.98 plus delivery**, and I’m seriously tempted, not least because similar machines in the price range I can afford (and even prices way beyond that), run very much earlier versions of Android. I don’t understand the logic – it’s a bit like offering a new desktop machine running Windows 98, in competition with machines running Windows 7.
**Including a slipcase and next-day delivery, Amazon, despite a higher unit price, are cheaper so, hell, I’ve ordered one. Amazon also has a very positive review – just the one, but better than Misco, which has nothing. This is a 7” device; I’d have liked a 10”, but that takes the price way out of reach, and for what I want it for, 7” is OK.
So I think I shall have one and, in addition to the above use, with the appropriate app, I can read my Kindle books on it, making it a colour, touch-screen, reader. I rather like that idea. And while it doesn’t have 3G (it has wi-fi), I can connect it via my smart phone, which will expand its usefulness.
I don’t, though, I have to confess, like touch screens. Yes, OK, they’re convenient in some ways, but I spend half my life polishing the crap off my smart phone screen – thermal fleece is the ideal material for this – how much worse will a tablet be? Suppose there’s only one way to find out.
Watch this space…