The Mobile Indian

Your tablet as a smartphone

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There are at least three 7 inch tablets from major brands that support SIM cards and voice calling through mobile networks, but can they really be used in place of smartphones?

Beetel recently launched its first tablet in India, Beetel Magiq, which comes with a 7 inch screen, Android 2.2 and a 1 GHz processor. It also supports a SIM card and voice calling through mobile networks. And, it is not the only tablet to support a SIM: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 and Reliance 3G tab also support SIM cards and voice calling.

These devices, though, are not smartphones despite having everything that smartphones have with the added advantage of a bigger screen. Can they then be used as smartphones?

Well, technically speaking they can but for the size, which makes these devices too cumbersome for holding up to one's ear. But then who is stopping us from re-inventing the way we talk — at least technology isn't. All these tablets come with Bluetooth functionality and Bluetooth handsfree sets that offer good ergonomics and voice clarity are now available for less than Rs 1,000.

But why should we change our habits? The first reason that comes to mind is that using a tablet for calling will definitely cut down on the number of devices we carry — there would be no need to take a smartphone along because the tablet would be enough.

The second reason is that calling is just one of the things we use smartphones for - accessing and composing mails, navigation, gaming, watching videos and photos, and surfing the net are in fact the primary reasons why we buy smartphones.

For these tasks a tablet is much better because of its big screen. Most smartphones come with 3.5 to 4 inch screens, compared to the 7 inch display of the tablet.

Moreover, if you make a lot of video calls, a tablet is a much better choice. Even for voice calls a tablet has a better microphone in case a group wants to use it (the microphone used in tablets are designed to receive voice from all directions same as laptop mics; while smartphones have microphones for single users as they prevent ambient noise from disturbing the conversation. So, for group calling or conferencing, tablets are better devices.

People might argue that tablets are more expensive than smartphones, but this is not true. Consider Beetel Magiq, which costs Rs 9,000. At that price you will at best get a 3.2 inch smartphone running Android 2.2 on a 600 MHz processor. And Beetel beats these devices on all counts except that it doesn't have a capacitive screen.

Go a notch higher and there is the Reliance 3G tab which outdoes its smartphone competitors both in specs and in price. Even the higher end Galaxy Tab 7, at Rs 24,000, competes well with smartphones like Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, HTC Incredible S, and even its own stable mate Galaxy S in terms of price and specifications.

The negative aspects of using a tablet that doubles as a phone are that it would then be necessary to carry the device around wherever one goes. Another reason is that there are a limited number of tablets that can connect to mobile networks so there's a lack of choice.

However, for users who tend to carry around more than one device, a 7 inch tablet might work wonders as one of those devices.

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