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Here's why we never needed tablets

The first iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Millions were spent convincing us that it was a life-changing device, and a plague of tablets followed. But now that the dust has settled, quite literally on many devices, it's hard not to see the whole thing as a fad, which is now fading. Here's why I think we never needed tablets and their demise is inevitable.

androidpit tablets 2
These are all tablets, and they're useless. / © ANDROIDPIT

We were told so many things: tablets would make laptops redundant; they would change the way we work, read and entertain ourselves; they would make everything OK. But what do we do with our tablets? For anecdotal purposes, I asked around the AndroidPIT offices, and the most common answer was that they were used to watch films in bed. Hardly the technological awakening we had been led to expect.

Tablets were forced from the start into a niche that never existed: the more-compact-than-a-laptop, larger-than-a-phone niche. The vast majority of people have no use for a tablet, or, at least, no use that warrants spending hundreds of dollars. The claim that they would replace laptops can now be written off as a shameless joke made at the expense of our wallets.

No one uses a tablet for work

Many people I know who bought tablets now find them stowed in drawers or languishing on coffee tables, offering nothing worth the arduous task of lifting them up. People don't want to carry a tablet around, not even a slim, lightweight tablet. They're perennially awkward and inconvenient.

android m vs ios 9 hero
This illustrates how seriously I feel about tablets. / © ANDROIDPIT

I bought a tablet because I thought it would make me read more, and, for a little while, it did. But then it didn't. The screen is too bright to use for prolonged periods at night, even with a dimmer, and when I'm travelling, it's far easier to use my phone, which I will have on me anyway.

The increase in phone sizes means that some devices, such as the Nexus 6P or Samsung Galaxy Note 5, are approaching the size of a small tablet anyway. When I'm at home, I can even pick up an actual book. I haven't read a thing on my tablet in months.

Worldwide shipments of tablets fell for the first time in Q4 2014, and they continued to fall through 2015

No one uses a tablet for work. They lack physical keyboards, so you either buy an attachment or struggle with the software version, which takes up half the screen. They're not powerful enough for demanding tasks, and wherever you are, it's easier to just use a laptop or desktop.

And if you're into gaming, the tablet control mechanisms are too clunky, necessitating an external controller, and even then the quality of games (both visually and gameplay-wise) just doesn't come close to console or PC gaming.

androidpit tablets 4
No matter how you stack them, tablets are the worst. / © ANDROIDPIT

And what has even happened to tablets in the past five years? Apple seems keen to release a new one every month, and their sizes and weights are different, but they're essentially the same otherwise. And what more could possibly be done to make them more interesting or useful? I argue that nothing can be done, because they're inherently boring and useless.

Thankfully, I don't appear to be alone in this thinking. Canalys, a market research firm, found that worldwide shipments of tablets fell for the first time in Q4 2014. They fell by 12 percent. And they continued to fall through 2015.

Essentially, tablets are pretty good at a few things, but they're great at nothing. If I want to play games, I'll get a console. If I want to read, I will get a book. If I want to do design work, I'll get a Macbook Pro. If I want to watch movies in bed, I'll get a US$600 tab... No, wait. I won't.

Do you think tablets are useless or are they just yet to fulfil their promise? Let us know in the comments.


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  • To some extent, I agree, Tablets have not replaced Laptops in my space or that of my colleagues, but Tablets are not useless.
    It's my primary NotePad for any type of meeting or discussion, taking notes on Google Docs (after retiring Evernote and OneNote).
    It's my daily platform for reading Bible and
    dealing with personal emails.
    For me, it works far better for a quick game as relaxer than settling in front of a Console (where console ends up eating more of my time than anticipated)
    Thus, for me, a Tablet is a multi functional device but not my Laptop killer.

  • I used to be a fanatic tablet supporter. Bought a total of six tablets over the years and still have two left (the rest have been sold or given away). I even hooked up a Nexus 10 to a keyboard case and tried to use it like a laptop (this was years before the iPad Pro and Pixel C). Now, I rarely touch them and they're mostly collecting dust.

    Mobile tablets are basically just toys. They are nice-to-have devices but are not essential, like smartphones and PCs. For work they are almost completely useless (nobody would seriously use a toy for work) and they are only capable of the most casual media consumption and gaming (for serious media consumption and gaming you are much better off on a PC or console). The idea that they would replace PCs in a "post-PC" world was a pipe dream, and now it has turned into a nightmare as tablets decline by double digits.

    I think as Windows 2-in-1 hybrid devices mature and become popularized traditional tablets will fade away. I made this jump myself late last year by getting a Surface Pro 4, and it has effectively replaced both my laptop and my two remaining Nexus tablets (the ability to run a fast Android emulator like Bluestacks makes real Android tablets almost completely redundant). From where I am right now it's hard to imagine buying another mobile tablet again, whether iOS or Android.

    The (Android/iOS) tablet is dead. Long live the (Windows) tablet!

  • Chris Marshall you live in a bubble so small that it will fit on the tip of a needle. The fact that AndroidPIT`s geniuses don`t know what to do with tablets does not mean that tablets are dead. AndroidPIT`s people are only there to explore CURRENT and Future technology and write a lot of tripe about it.

    One day you extol the virtues of the UMI Touch and not 24 hours later it is forgotten as an upcoming device. Just goes to show that AndroidPIT`s so called geniuses have a very short attention span. Just because you are too limited to see the value of a certain piece of technology does not mean that it is not valuable to someone else. Be careful that that little bubble of your life does not burst in your face.

    I`m quite sure that with the speed of development most AndroidPIT geniuses will want a new phone or gadget every 10 minutes and just as quickly have a reason to forget the stuff older than 10 minutes.

  • Luka 8 months ago Link to comment

    Tablets are a great idea, yet they haven't come even close to their potential. For example Pixel C.
    I could never quite understand why Google never paid attention to tablets (ok I know they did, but not enough). There is MUCH work to be done to fix this. And the main thing is that currently in Android there is no real benefit from owning a tablet. Hopefully massive changes are on the way with Android N.

  • Except having bigger screens, there's nothing that a tablet can do and smartphone can't.

  • You obviously forgot students and more specifically university students! Tablet is a blessing in that you no longer need to carry kilos of books. An anti-glare screen protector makes a tablet perfect for reading and they have awesome battery life and are convenient to hold and carry! They're not dead, but instead have a much longer life cycle than phones!

  • Have an iPad 2. Definitely now a dust collector. Have been using a 8.4s. Was initially looking at 10 inch or bigger...but the the smaller size is way easier to handle. The perfect size for lounging at home - netflix/reading/kodi/general browsing etc. Fits easily into a carry bag, not taking up much space, for travel and really useful on a plane with ones own media. My Note3 is perfect for carrying around the office and catching up on emails etc. during meetings :) Tablet sits on my desk and I use it for banking/private applications etc.

  • I use an iPad for work. When I travel to other cities for meetings, it is my iPad that accompanies me, so that I have access to my emails (ave of 60 per day) and my department continues operating. I also have a connection to the company server via VPN, so I can perform most required functions.
    Previously, I had to lug a laptop around the country, which was a huge pain in the butt. So, contrary to popular belief, the tablet is very usefull for businesses. Just use it.

  • Jd

  • My nexus 7 serves me very well.I am happy with my tablet

  • Your views seem pretty one-dimensional. I've used a tablet for over a year as my main phone through Google Hangouts. It's not perfect, but saving $360 per year ($30 less to connect per month) makes it worth it. With Android OTG, I can plug in a real keyboard, mouse, and even flash drives. I'm pleased, especially living much of my computing life in the cloud and on the road.

    • Wow, I really like your take on this tech. But I personally fear that you may represent just a niche... Hangout for calling is not available in the same way in other countries than US.
      What's the size of your tablet? I wouldn't be curious to know how long the battery last and what's your average daily usage.

  • I only buy flagship smartphones, but I've never bought a tablet. Don't find them useful enough. And I've had a few laptops. Now, when a tablet can "totally" replace a laptop, I'll be the first in line.

  • Tablet market would be dead in a few years totally useless why should i carry two thing that can do the same thing im sorry but stupid

  • They won't reach full potential until we get some that can actually replace a laptop at the $300-$400 price range or less. Even the non-pro surfaces and ipads aren't a good laptop replacement. The aren't powerful enough and the software just doesn't compare. It just isn't worth the investment. I spent approx. $400 on an Acer Iconia a500 and would never spend that much on a tablet again. Granted I did get plenty of use out of it (it lasted about 4 years), tablets just aren't worth that kind of money anymore. Just bought the cheapest Fire and it does the same as that Acer did. Now I am also a PC gamer - have a 4 year old alienware that works like new still - so I am looking for different things out of a "laptop replacer" than most.

  • "And what more could possibly be done to make them more interesting or useful?"... Well, the only way I can imagine is if they will begin eventually be able to substitute paper. This means that they should be much thinner and lighter, flexible and with non-reflective screens.
    Online when the technology will achieve that, maybe the tablet will be interesting AND useful. LG is actually performs lot of R&D on flexible screens and they are not alone. Batteries will be a major problem, but in the end this is just a geeky dream.
    Why world it be better to have tablet instead of paper? Because of the cool stuff like automated OCR, for the possibility of really substituting printed sheets et cetera.

    • But what you're describing there is essentially a different product to a tablet. What you're describing would be called "e-paper" and sure it would be good and useful, but its a completely different entity to a tablet. It wouldn't be seen as an interesting take on a tablet, but seen as something entirely different, aimed at a different demographic to serve a different purpose.

      Regarding whats been said in this article - I agree to a point. I don't think there was ever a great need for tablets, unless they were to eventually evolve into something more useful, which they ultimately haven't. Compare tablets to mobile phones. Take a tablet from a couple of years ago and it won't be much different to the tablets you can buy today. Mobile phones, on the other hand are constantly and quickly evolving with new features and improved specs. A phone that is a couple of years old is well out of date these days. Tablets are just a way of doing what you can do on a phone, but with a bigger screen - that's all your essentially paying for, the extra screen real estate. And that extra real estate is useful for some things, but the tablet has hardly revolutionised our lives as was touted by various people when they were first introduced.

      • Yes, you are (almost) right :-) a different demographic indeed, but it essentially depends on two main factors: 1) how flexible the screen will be and 2) what you can install on it.
        In my very personal vision, once you have a flat device in which you can install apps and that's bigger than a phone, then you have a tablet: if it can be bent and if it can actually replace paper, then it's just a plus, but an additional feature of a tablet (no justice a reading device as e-papers are conceived today).
        If instead it has a physical keyboard attached by default and runs an OS that allows more than installing apps (as programming or playing computational intensive games), than you have a laptop.

        You are completely right by saying that "the tablet has hardly revolutionised our lives". The extra real estate without a killing feature that everyone wants is just a gimmick and not a must-have. Even designers often find awkward to work with special pens on high-end tablets (Apple is now in the same failing pattern... Jobs would have ashamed of such an increase of products lines and of the addition of detachable objects).
        Another problem that affects tablet sales is their price: it's usually too high for a device that is used occasionally and that in average doesn't last much longer than a couple of days of use. Finally, as you point out, the good aging of tablets also makes buying new ones an expensive and merely useless activity, without a plus.

        Btw, I'm writing from a Nvidia Shield Tablet, that I bought for few main reasons: 1) affordable, 2) larger than a smartphone for better reading or video watching when home, 3) enough powerful to be used as a test device for apps that I wouldn't otherwise try using on my phone, 4) a body resistant to most events which make it a battle-device ^_^

    • And trees can be left to produce oxygen.

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