Do you really need a tablet?

Date:8 October 2012 Author: Alan Duggan Tags:,

Having recently emerged from an impassioned discussion about the relative merits (and demerits) of tablets, notebooks and other interesting hardware, I thought it worth citing a few reasons for my own conversion to ultra-portability (that is, tablets). Not that I need to justify anything… it’s not as if I’m feeling guilty.

A couple of months ago, I was appalled to learn from another journalist (and close friend) that he’d returned his company-loaned iPad on the grounds that he didn’t need it. “But, but…” I spluttered. He was unperturbed, explaining that he could just as easily catch up on breaking news by turning on the TV or browsing through various news sites at the office, assuming that any urgent communications would be delivered by the ubiquitous cellphone.

Since he wasn’t into pointless apps, preferred “real” to electronic books and didn’t really care how many birds’ eggs were stolen by evil pigs, he didn’t see the point. Whereas my friend – no Luddite, mind you – is quite entitled to reject what he regards as over-hyped, technological fluff (my words), I feel differently. I think tablets are great, and here’s why:

First, and most important, a tablet is thin, light and deliciously portable. You can keep it on your bedside table, beside the coffee cup and stack of old speeding tickets, and if you wake at 3.20 am with a compelling need to look up next week’s weather in Kazan, Russia (it happens), you simply reach over, switch it on and connect to the Web within seconds (we’ll assume that as a PM reader, your home is equipped with Wi-Fi). Try that with your laptop.

Aha! you respond. Surely you could do the same with your smartphone? Sure you could, but once you’ve established that it will be bitterly cold in Kazan, you’ll probably want to check out the local attractions (you know, like the Kremlin, and that place on the river where someone cut a hole in the ice to catch fish). Large and impressive though they are, the screens on today’s smartphones do not always do justice to their visual subject matter. Once you start typing, the superiority of a tablet becomes even more apparent; the smartphone simply doesn’t cut it (against that, of course, the laptop is streets ahead).

Then there’s battery life. Even with vigorous use, a tablet’s battery lasts much longer than a laptop’s. How about video-Skyping your relatives in Australia? And reading the latest book in the 634-volume Jack Reacher series? Or watching YouTube’s 10 funniest videos ever? Or streaming movies to your bedside, courtesy of Wi-Fi, Air Video software and a 2-terabyte external hard drive upstairs? Or using the integrated camera to take a picture of your cute niece and post it to your Facebook page within seconds? Or Playing Angry Birds Space with earphones while the rest of the household is sleeping? Or reviewing your presentation for the next day’s strategy meeting? Or checking out your own house via Google’s Street View? (And discovering that it’s way overdue for a lick of paint.)

I saw my reflection in a shop window the other day and was alarmed to notice a distinct list to starboard – a phenomenon directly attributable to the weight of my shoulder bag, a commodious and darkly masculine accessory that I carry to work every day. Unpacking it for my biannual audit, I discovered an iPad, a smaller Android tablet, a notebook computer, a Kindle ebook reader, a compact camera, a solar charger, a Bluetooth car speaker kit and an assortment of cables and chargers. Oh, and a fossilised sandwich.

My first therapy session is scheduled for next week…