As 2012 approaches we wouldn’t be wrong in calling 2011 the year of the tablet. There have been launches from every known device manufacturer and even some unknown brands jumped into the arena this year.
But a wide range of smartphones too was released this year.
Mobile devices — whether they are smartphones or tablets, can do almost the same type of tasks. The only difference between the two is that tablets have a bigger display, but that too is at the cost of mobility, which is crucial for most users. It seems natural to conclude that both devices are quite similar in most ways, but, that being said, they do have some differentiating features.
“A tablet is considered as a leisure device, it is basically used for multimedia, internet browsing and many such uses because of its bigger screen as compared to smartphones,” according to S Rajendran, chief marketing officer at Acer India.
He further added, “The bigger display of the tablet is the USP and they will continue to have bigger screens to meet customers’ expectations in the future as well.”
However, a crucial factor is what the user actually wants. For instance, if mobility is the prime concern then the user will obviously opt for the smaller of the two devices, but if he is unaffected by the constraint in mobility and wants a large screen and more computing power, a tablet would be the right choice for him.
Google, incidentally, will soon release a new mobile operating software that integrates functionalities of both tablets and smartphone devices. This OS would be right for hybrid devices — that combine tablets and smartphones. And, presumably, that’s what Google is betting on.
Ajay Sharma, country head at ViewSonic, India, agrees, “Just like the hybrid operating system we will soon see hybrid devices that offer utility for both tablet as well as smartphone users.”
“A smartphone based device with a 5+ inch screen offers better utility as a smartphone but at the same time tries to cover the gap created by tablets as far as portability is concerned,” Sharma concluded.
Technology used to make the two devices cannot help us choose between them. Be it smartphones or tablets, both devices as of today share the same hardware configurations with multi GHz processors. In terms of performance, therefore, both devices offer almost identical performance but the user experience differs from devices to device due to the difference in screen size. But this size difference will likely diminish over time.
We have seen numerous tablets that measure 7 inches — a size that maximises their portability. With bigger tablets the problem is that you cannot use them on the go, you have to be seated to work comfortably on a 10 inch device.
“Smartphones offer the one basic thing that tablets can never offer and that is portability. There are experiments going on in the mobile device domain to understand customers’ mindsets and devices like the Acer Iconia Smart, which is a hybrid device with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 4.8 inch widescreen display, offers better viewing experience as compared to any other smartphone, and such devices will continue to come in the future as well,” said Rajendran of Acer India.
Another big reason in the buying decision is the availability of applications. Also, users prefer devices that easily slide into the pocket, but that still does not guarantee what the user’s preference might be in future.
“As both the smartphone and tablet are independent, we foresee both categories co-existing without any dominance of one on the other,” said Varghese Thomas, director of corporate communication, Research In Motion India.
Echoing similar views, Rajendran said, “Smartphones in the future will continue to dominate the market and tablets will be there mainly because of the utility they offer”.
So although the future is unclear we broadly see devices evolving, but not so much that they would affect the existence of other formats. That being said, it is probably not unreasonable to expect more hybrid devices from big brands, particularly since it seems that that’s what Android will soon enable.