A consumer’s view: ‘No’ to tablet upgrade

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For the price you have to pay to get a decent quality tablet, you might as well add a bit more money and buy yourself a laptop, which is superior in almost every way except perhaps weight.For the price you have to pay to get a decent quality tablet, you might as well add a bit more money and buy yourself a laptop, which is superior in almost every way except perhaps weight.For the price you have to pay to get a decent quality tablet, you might as well add a bit more money and buy yourself a laptop, which is superior in almost every way except perhaps weight.

When the very first iPad came out in 2010, I was among those early adopters who couldn’t wait to get their hands on one, so I had a friend from the US send me one rather than wait for the device to be made available in Malaysia.

Since then, I’ve upgraded the iPad once. And I’ve also tried out Windows-based tablets or tablet hybrids to be precise (convertibles that can double as laptops). So far, I’ve not been impressed with any tablets, be it an iPad or a Windows-device.

For the price you have to pay to get a decent quality tablet, you might as well add a bit more money and buy yourself a laptop, which is superior in almost every way except perhaps weight (but it’s not like a laptop is a very heavy device).

Will Apple’s new iPad Air 2 turn me into a tablet fan? It’s an impressive device. The iPad Air was already an impressive, super lightweight tablet. The iPad Air 2 makes it even better by incorporating a new, faster microprocessor, the A8X (supposed to be 40% faster). It’s also slimmer and lighter than its predecessor. And, it features an anti-reflective display, making it easier to read e-books.

Its 8 megapixel rear-facing camera is supposed to be almost as good as what you’ll find on the latest iPhones, allowing you to shoot slow-motion videos and take many photographs in quick succession.

It’s worth mentioning that the iPad Air 2 also comes with a Touch ID sensor (fingerprint scanner) and Apple Pay (payment system). But for Malaysians, such features are not relevant as Apple Pay is only for the US.

I am not going to discuss the iPad Mini 3 because a tablet of that size is something I wouldn’t even consider since my phone is already approaching tablet size (it’s what you’d call a “phablet” or a cross between a phone and a tablet).

The iPad Air 2 is, without question, the best tablet around (and also the most expensive) but the question I have to ask myself is whether I need the best tablet around? In a word: No. In fact, I have doubts about whether I even need a tablet.

And the reason is simple. I have a laptop. Actually I have a few laptops, of varying sizes and processing powers. They provide me with all the functionalities of a tablet and more. Why would I want a device that can’t do quite as much as the devices I already have?

Yes, a tablet is handy for reading e-books and watching video clips or listening to music. But I can do all of that on a laptop and I’m happy to do so too.  What I can’t do with a tablet is serious content work. I can’t even really type articles properly unless I connect the tablet to a wireless keyboard, via Bluetooth. Don’t even talk about editing pictures, audio or video on a tablet. I know it can be done on tablets but only with a lot of hassle.

I’m not the only one no longer enamoured of tablets. When the iPad first emerged four years ago, people clamoured for it and it ushered in the tablet market, opening the door to other computer makers to introduce their own tablets. In the US, it’s been estimated that nearly half of the households there own at least one tablet. That’s an amazing statistic. But sales have plateaued and people really aren’t upgrading much anymore.

Overall tablet shipments worldwide grew by less than 5% in the first quarter and by only 11% in the second quarter according to research house, IDC. Apple has not been spared and its iPad shipments have been in decline in recent quarters.

I think the reason is that tablets are losing out to laptops and mobile phone. As a work device, it is not as good as a laptop. As a communications device, it is not as good as a phone.

So, is there any hope for tablets? Might I ever consider buying one in the future? Only if a company like Apple offers super-sized tablets that come equipped with covers that can turn into keyboards (perhaps like Microsoft’s Surface). If Apple were to do that, I might consider buying such a tablet. But it would have to be considerably cheaper than a laptop. Otherwise, I’d just buy a laptop.

Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.

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