When Are Tablets Better Than A Smartphone?

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Tablets are becoming quite the rage on the technical market, with seemingly everyone releasing their own version (and with a variety of operating systems). But in a lot of the cases the buyer of a new tablet device already owns a smart phone, more than capable of doing the same functions as the new tablet. So, is the purchase really warranted?

Well, it would depend on the situation, of course. In some cases it is more than justified, and in others it’s a convenience. And of course there are times when it just doesn’t make sense. Let’s take a look at the different areas where tablet and smartphone usage overlap, and see which one might be the best for the use at hand.

Text Only Books Are Not A Convincing Argument

First of all, let me buck the trend and throw this out – for books comprised of text (novels and short stories, if you will), a tablet is not really better than a smart phone. Now, this is based on a couple assumptions: 1) that you have a newer smartphone with a nice large display and 2) your eyesight is good. With those two stipulations in place, you can download a great reader for your smartphone that will allow you to adjust font sizes to a comfortable size, pick a theme that is easy on the eyes, and lets you browse and get books as desired.

The same size fonts on a back lit tablet is going to look very similar on your smartphone, plus it is easier to take with you. Sure, it looks nicer on a tablet, especially with a landscape display and two columns, but the act of reading text is arguably no different.

Most Comic Books Are Better On A Tablet

Tablets really shine when it comes to media designed for a page, and comic books are a great example of this. With a decent tablet you can usually read the page in its entirety, and you can easily zoom in to any areas that you want or need to see better. New tablets are great for existing digital comic book collections in a common format.

But tablets are not always that much better when it comes to the new interactive comics. A lot of the current comic offerings are designed to slide, zoom, and position themselves for you, making it a rather enjoyable experience on both styles of devices. In fact, for the latest Marvel digital comics, I find that I end up reading them on the smartphone because it is usually with me and more accessible.

One Word – PDFs

I mentioned above about media designed for a printed page, but nowhere is this more prevalent than in PDF collections. No matter how many different readers I try on a smartphone, the experience always comes back to a lot of zooming and panning to get through the simplest of documents. With the larger full page view of a tablet I am usually good to go, with only the occasional zoom and pan. Tablets win this handily, so to speak.

Video Consumption

Now this is a trade off. Do you give up easier portability for a bigger screen? To me that is the basic question here. Both device families are now more than capable of delivering a very satisfactory presentation, and it comes down to personal preferences. To be honest, to me it’s nicer to have the bigger screen, and as with most things of any length, I will wait to watch it on the tablet.

VNC And Other Forms Of Remote Computer Controlling

I keep more than one computer running at a time, and I usually control them via VNC from a given location. While I have VNC clients on both tablets and smart phones, I really like it best on the bigger screen of the tablet. In fact, this has become a major uses of the tablet for me, since it is such a great fit.

Now, in an pinch while I’m out, the smartphone wins. After all, in such a situation I usually don’t have the tablet with me, but the smartphone is in reach with LogMeIn at my disposal to hit my other machines. The experience is nowhere as nice as the tablet due to the smaller screen, but it beats nothing… hands down.

Sometimes No Carrier Hooks

I believe that a carrier should provide a data pipe, and you pay them for it. Beyond that, our relationship ends. I don’t want their non-removable apps on my devices, and I don’t want anything on he device disabled just so I can pay them for it. While their subsidies are nice, the service contracts and continued business more than make up for it.

So a tablet that is not tied to a carrier makes for a great device. I can do what I want without the carrier involvement, and if it happens to be wifi only,  I will make do just fine. This works great with a larger tablet, since I will tend to use it within range of a wifi signal in the first place.

A Tablet Is A Better Computer Replacement Than A Smartphone

For some people, the need for a laptop or desktop computer is no longer there. This is because a tablet makes a great alternative to check mail, gossip with friends online, and dig up recipes. The larger tablet can easily become the home computing device, with a form factor that is both pleasing and quite transportable between rooms.

A smartphone, on the other hand, is simply not as handy as the main computing device. The smaller screen is not as friendly on both the eyes and the fingers, and simultaneously sharing pictures and videos is difficult, to say the least. Plus you can forget about reading the recipe screen from across the kitchen on a smartphone.

In fact, this point may be what sells more tablets than any other reason. Already Netbook manufacturers are feeling the pressure from increased tablet sales, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

No matter how many things I list here, the final judgment comes down to the end user and their personal preferences and situation. For each of us the needs vary, but tablets are certainly becoming a popular alternative for a variety of computing uses. In fact, I wrote this article on a touch tablet without an external keyboard – something I simply would not attempt on a smartphone.

  • dkking

    so true! i can’t decide if i rather have a not so great phone + a new ipad or a new awesome phone + ipad 2 which will barely keep up in the coming years.

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