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Summary:

After nine months with the iPad, I’ve sold it. Yes, it’s amazing and has single-handedly redefined the tablet market. But I didn’t sell my iPad because a new iPad is coming soon. Instead, I found a device that meets the same needs yet offers increased portability.

Man holding iPad

Like a surrogate child carried in the womb and then given to loving parents, I just sold the iPad I’ve owned for the last nine months. Don’t get me wrong; there’s much to admire about the iPad with its long battery life, touch-optimized user interface and support for thousands of excellent applications. The problem is that I simply don’t use it any more. Actually, let me re-phrase that; I stopped using the iPad about a month ago, after I bought a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab running Google Android.

Before I even continue with the discussion on why I did this, let me pre-empt some assumptions by clarifying a few points:

  • Apple is doing a phenomenal job with iOS in general and as someone who has used tablets of all kinds since 2004, I acknowledge that Apple has re-invented the tablet market.
  • I bought my iPad at launch and couldn’t put it down when I was on the couch, in bed, etc. It’s a great sit-down device.
  • I’m not suggesting Android is a better mobile operating system than iOS. Both have merits and challenges. Generally, I find iOS to provide a better user experience, although I think Android is slowly catching up.
  • I’m also not leading any charge against the iPad or Apple here. I use an iMac, MacBook Air and 4th generation iPod touch in addition to an Android smartphone and Android tablet.
  • I don’t assume my mobile computing needs are the same as yours. In fact, they’re likely not.
  • The Galaxy Tab has plenty of room for improvement. Here’s a smart list of 50 items that ought to be incorporated into or fixed on future Tab models.

The Best Tablet Is the One You Have With You

The Tab is roughly the same size as, but thicker than Amazon’s Kindle, which ironically I sold when I got my iPad. Prior to iPad ownership, my Kindle would go everywhere with me because of its small size, light weight, stellar battery life and integrated connectivity. And I do mean everywhere: the device would fit in my jacket pocket or could be thrown — figuratively, not literally — in the car or in a gear bag. The Galaxy Tab offers me that same level of portability, while the iPad doesn’t.

Here’s a perfect example: I purchased the Tab on a weekend at the local T-Mobile store and my family wanted to hit the mall afterwards. I either carried the device in hand or placed it in my back jeans pocket while cruising the mall for hours. As my wife or daughter stopped to browse for clothes, I quickly whipped out the small tablet to manage email, web-surf, and watch YouTube videos. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with the iPad for one simple reason: the iPad wouldn’t have come with me on a trip to the mall in the first place.

If you look at the Tab and compare the screen size to the iPad, it’s easy to think there’s little difference between the two: one has a 7-inch display and one has a 9.7-inch display, right? But in actuality, the Galaxy Tab is half the size of an iPad (as shown below), making it far easier to tote around and use while standing or walking. As an aside: the difference in icon size is negligible and icons on my iPod touch are actually smaller than those of the Tab, so Apple’s “sandpaper down your fingers” to use a 7-inch tablet argument is a fallacy in my opinion.

Compromises Must Be Made

As I alluded earlier in this post, the iPad surely wins out on the breadth of application choices, media content availability and overall polish of the user interface. But it’s difficult to quantify that advantage. Is the iPad twice as good as the Tab or is it just a little better? Obviously, the answer will vary for each person, but after a month with the Tab, I find that what it lacks in functionality or ease-of-use is more than offset by the portability for me. And in some cases, the Tab has more functionality than the current iPad; it acts as a mobile hotspot to share the 3G data connection and can accept the microSD card filled with music from my smartphone, for example.

For my needs, both devices work perfectly fine for email, web surfing, occasional gaming, using social networks and other bite-sized activities that don’t require a full-blown desktop operating system. Yes, there are more apps for iOS and even when an app is available on both platforms, I often like the iOS version slightly more than its Android equivalent. But to think the Tab is unusable as compared to an iOS device is overstating the difference.

I’m willing to give up a smidge of usability or a wider array of software to gain the ability to easily use the device everywhere I go. It’s this very concept that makes the smartphone so enabling, regardless of make, model or platform: the ability to be connected everywhere is what’s driving the mobile revolution forward. In fact, I’m actually using my Android smartphone less as well. The Tab does all of the same things as my Nexus One, but on a larger, higher-resolution screen, making for a better overall experience.

What About the New Honeycomb Tablets?

It’s not likely I’ll jump on one of the new Honeycomb tablets coming soon, however. Android 3.0 looks great, but all the announced slates are still 10 inches in size, which means these devices will have the same limited use to me as my iPad. I’ll likely hold off until we see Honeycomb on smaller devices, which I don’t expect until mid-year at best. For the same reason, I can’t think of any feature of function that might get me interested in the next iPad either, although I reserve the right to change my mind: especially if Apple backtracks on its stated strategy and opts to offer a smaller iPad model. Yup, it’s doubtful, but I’m an optimist. Besides, this is the same company that said people don’t read books and then entered the market with iBooks.

Is Apple Missing a Market?

Again, what works for me may not work for you: I’m not suggesting everyone dump their iPads; I’m simply explaining my own decision making process to help you make your own. And aside from our own Darrell Etherington at the GigaOM Apple channel who tried, and then returned a Tab, I’ve heard from at least a dozen Tab owners who are also finding less use for the iPad (and other devices) based on the 7-inch form factor. Darrell’s experience with the Tab ironically made him realize that he wants a 7-inch iPad. I’m inclined to agree and would consider dumping my Tab if Apple were to sell such a device. It would be the best of both worlds, regardless of Steve Jobs’s insinuation that it will never happen.

Darrell’s sentiment highlights a key point I’m trying to make here: We often look at the features of a device, but I contend that form is just as much a feature as the CPU clock cycle or the amount of memory in a mobile device. Of course, you never know that until you try a new form factor to see how it fits in your lifestyle. I’m glad I did that with the Tab.

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  1. 1. The Tab stutters when using the browser on pages like Engadget.

    2. There are very few decent programs still for Android.

    3. The Tab is about to be discontinued.

    Why would you basically recommend it to people at this stage of it’s life cycle?

    I just took two back to T-Mobile after a weeks usage. Even trying a custom ROM yielded so so results, not enough to keep them and they were buy one get one free at that.

    Still waiting for something better to be released here.

    1. “Why would you basically recommend it to people at this stage of it’s life cycle?”

      Because it works for him. Also it is his personal opinion. How hard is that to understand?
      There is nothing wrong to recommend people to look at the size of a device in combination with their needs before buying something.

      1. Marc, it’s ManwellC’s opinion that the author is missing a few key details. How hard is that to understand?

        If we’re all going to write, “Great Post”, then comments are pretty useless.

    2. Manwell, good point in terms of browser performance; I find the iPad to be slightly better in a few cases. Engadget is a great example: it’s a very “heavy” page for mobile browsing. Using the DolphinHD browser on the Tab has helped – it does a better job than the Samsung customized browser IMO.

      To your second point: no argument in the comparison of overall apps between iOS and Android – I stated that up front in the article quite clearly. Obviously, I find enough good apps to use the Tab (and a Nexus One), but as I said: all of us have different needs.

      You sort of lost me on the third point because I haven’t recommended any product in this post. The article isn’t about a particular product, per se, but more about the size and portability of tablets. I thought that the intent of the article was pretty clear in that regard.

    3. I have an iPad and my fiance has the Tab. His Tab renders pages much more quickly than my iPad. I love the iPad for the apps (specifically Netflix) but his Tab definitely performs better. Did you try the Opera browser?

      I’m not sure why you feel that it’s future discontinuance precludes it from being a good choice. The second gen iPad is in the works. Does that mean we should avoid purchasing the iPad as well?

      The fact that you think there are very few decent programs for Android makes me think your view might be a bit biased or that you are unfamiliar with the OS.

      The Galaxy Tab is great for those who want a portable android tablet and don’t want to wait for the new tablets coming out (especially since they are priced quite a bit higher than the Tab). That’s why he recommended it.

  2. I didn’t want portability, but I recently dumped my iPad also – because of APP FATIGUE. Too many apps are no beter than their web site version, which brings up the major iPad problem: lack of a good browser, rather than Mobile Safari! Other irritations included poor printing support.
    I guess what I really want is touchscreen MacBook; the closest thing to that is a MacBook Air which I bought. Although the iPad is a great $500-700 computer, it is not enough.

    1. Touchscreen MacBook = ARM FATIGUE. Also, what’s wrong with Mobile Safari? WebKit is great, and, if the app itself lacks features, go with a custom browser like Atomic or Perfect.

      1. 1. No Flash support. Granted, many Apple enthusiasts don’t want it, but other people do.

        2. Terrible for blogging, since Mobile Safari can’t insert a cursor in WordPress’ WYSIWYG fields. You have to use the HTML tab. Even the WordPress iOS app forces you to write in HTML. I don’t have a problem with writing in HTML per se, but the iPad keyboard requires you to toggle layouts each time you need to access a special character, which is a pain considering the number of tags you have to type.

        The iPad is fantastic for ebook reading and general purpose web browsing, but it’s clearly not optimized for production work.

    2. Just as in any artform, most software is junk, but there are a lot of great apps.

      On the browser side, Perfect Browser, Skyfire, Downloads HD and Atomic all offer features (like always visible tabs) not available in Safari. There are some great magazine apps like The Economist (which also includes audio versions) and The Wire. For video, Netflix, Hulu, ABC and PBS give you plenty to play with.
      A lot of great music listening apps are “Universal” (i.e. optimized for iPhone, not iPad) but shouldn’t be ignored since they’re mostly used in the background or over Apple’s Airplay – MOG, Rdio, Pandora, etc are all fantastic.

      And of course, games. Dead Space HD, Infinity Blade, Angry Birds, crossword apps… there’s tons of worthwhile, console-grade content.

  3. I tried a 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab, and came to the conclusion that a Windows 7 slate would work better for me. Getting the form factor right is not always enough if the device is still mostly useless.

    http://lgponthemove.blogspot.com/2010/12/quick-look-samsung-galaxy-tab.html

    1. Given that your needs are better met with a netbook over an iPad, I’m not surprised and totally respect that viewpoint. But you forgot two words in your second sentence: should have ended the “still mostly useless” with “for me.” Clearly the device isn’t mostly useless to the 1.5 million that have bought it, right? ;)

      To your point though: I wished for a usable 7″ Windows slate since the 2006 Origami Project. That’s why I’ve spent around $3k on different Samsung UMPCs over the past several years. Sad those investments didn’t really pay off, although I did get some good use out the devices.

      1. ditto. If Windows 7 was remotely fingerable and if there was a 1.5 slate, and if it would last 8-10 hours, I would be there. This might be our year tho.

  4. Burn the witch!

    Actually I’m very happy having both an iPad and and iPhone with no desire for an inbetweener.

    Apple might still come out with a slightly larger iPod Touch if they want a piece of that smaller tablet market without admitting they were wrong.

    Come to think of it, they never technically refer to the iPad as a “tablet,” do they?

    1. Joe, I think many folks feel the same way: no desire for an inbetweener. But, after getting some solid time with the form factor, I’ve seen many change their mind. It’s a matter of not knowing you might want something until you actually try it. Not suggesting that playing with a Tab would change your mind, but it’s something to consider.

      And I’m really starting to wonder if Apple will zig when everyone else is zagging, as they often do. All of the major players are focused on the 10″ space right now, which Apple clearly owns. Outing a 7″ Apple tablet would have them one step ahead of the competition again – aside from Samsung, that is, in terms of form factor. ;)

  5. Using the Tab to write this comment…
    Yes, it’s not as fluid as the iPad but size matters…I find it totally sufficient for my needs: browsing (any web site, flash, desktop or mobile version), email, texting via Google Voice, calling via Sipdroid or 3CX, navigation. It goes everywhere I go, including at the mall where I now have a pleasant experience. I would even venture to say that a 5″ Tab with the same resolution – 1024 x 768 – would be even better. So far I am extremely happy with the Tab.

    1. Correction: 1024 x 600.

    2. Good insights into the experience Mircea. I used to think a 5″ screen would be interesting, but there are plenty of 4″ and 4.3″ smartphones, so it doesn’t seem like a big enough jump for me in terms of improving the experience. On the other hand it’s a more pocketable device…. tough call!

    3. Dell Streak is what you need. It has 5-inch display and WVGA resolution. I think WSVGA would be a bit too much for a mobile device even if you have 20/20 vision.

      1. +1 for the Dell Streak….

        Have had mine for a few months now and love it…very nice sharp 5″ display and very slim and trim, so, easily fits in a pants pocket, even with my Dell Streak wallet case on it…

        Even better with DJ_Steve’s custom FroYo ROM’s that he updates on a very frequent basis….

        Find the 5″ display is quite usable even with my ol’ eyes…

        Check it out!

  6. I can see your reasoning here, but I’m inclined to disagree.

    For me, the iPad is a great device, as you said, for reading or browsing while lounging around the house. Mine doesn’t go with me when I just go “out” very often, if at all. But for me, the iPhone is more than enough in those instances.

    I do, however, take my iPad with me on trips when I don’t want to lug along my Macbook.

    Perhaps you’re right, and Apple is missing out on a market here, but I’m happy with just having my iPhone 4 and iPad with no in between. I don’t think the smaller Tab would be enough for me while at home and lounging, or in a hotel room; the main instances in which I use my iPad, so even if Apple did offer a similarly sized device, I wouldn’t own one.

    And I’m not sure Apple would risk a smaller, cheaper device cannibalizing sales from the iPad.

    1. Yup, it all depends on your needs / use cases / etc…. if the iPad and iPhone are working for you, then who’s to argue?

    2. I am the exact same way. I love my iPad for around the house, casual, media consumption use. I rarely take it with me locally, but if I’m traveling it goes with me. And if I’m traveling far enough away, or for an extended period, then the MacBook Pro goes too. But out and about, around town, the iPhone is all I need.

      Now I think Kevin was hinting at using the Tab in place of a smartphone. I could see that. Meaning get a cheap dumb phone, a Tab and a laptop. I do feel that having both the iPhone and the iPad is a bit redundant, which I guess may be why I rarely carry both out in public.

      1. “Now I think Kevin was hinting at using the Tab in place of a smartphone. I could see that. Meaning get a cheap dumb phone, a Tab and a laptop. I do feel that having both the iPhone and the iPad is a bit redundant, which I guess may be why I rarely carry both out in public.”

        Spot on – I’m trying a little experiment right now: put the SIM from my Nexus One in a basic phone and using the Tab for all “smartphone” activities. I’m also starting to install custom ROMs on the Tab, some of which enable voice calling. Problem is that they disable 3G data, so still a work in progress.

  7. There is a smaller iPad available that I take everywhere with me. It’s called the iPhone.

    1. Not for everyone. I went from a 3GS to an EVO (mainly because I needed a phone to make calls with and ATT was not cutting it for me) and I got used to the screen size. Now the iPhone’s screen is just too small for me. Again, it is personal preference, but I like a bigger screen than the iPhone currently has. And yes, I have older, focus challenged eyes!

    2. Exactly! If I want portable, I take the phone. I was skeptical about buying the iPad after everyone saying “it’s just a big iPhone”, but after I got one, I found that is the very reason it is so fantastic! Even on a 7″ screen, reading books or watching movies seems like I’m squinting to watch one of those old “portable” TVs that were the size of a lunchbox with a 4″ screen. But with a screen that’s almost the size of a sheet of paper, I can comfortably do anything I like. I carry my iPad EVERYWHERE, and it has simply become an extension of myself, and the fact that I can’t put it in my pocket makes me give it the respect a $600 device deserves. Let me know when you sit on your Tab and have shards of shattered Gorilla Glass stuck in your butt!

  8. I think folks are missing the point here, Kevin’s use case (and my own) is for a preference for the largest pocketable slate possible.
    I love my iPad, but I’ve not brought it out of my house since I bought my Tab 9 weeks ago. I also use my smartphones differently, and less frequently, for anything except calls and music while on the move.
    My experience is as follows
    17″ MBP for photo and video editing, file management and large file creation.
    iPad, with BT keyboard, for 1-3 day business trips, for document editing, large scale email management, powerpoint and other demos.
    Tab for personal computing, social media, casual email, media consumption, web browsing.
    Smartphones for calling, music and light email or social media when I can’t use the Tab.
    YMMV

    1. Bingo! You hit the jackpot in the first sentence IMO, and it sounds like our use cases are pretty similar. I use a 13″ MB Air for creating long form content / work and the Tab for consumption / light content creation (email, texts, social networking, etc….) which is nearly everything I used to use my smartphone for.

  9. I bought a Tab for the same reason and it’s played out quite well. It does everything I need from a tablet, it plays Flash video so I can watch baseball and hockey games that are inaccessable to the iPad and it slips into a pocket of most of my pants which means it comes with me while the iPad continues to collect dust sitting at home on my desk. In addition, after using the Tab almost exclusively for the past couple of weeks, the iPad seems to weigh a TON. I haven’t sold the iPad yet because I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep the Galaxy Tab but I think the iPad’s end is inevitable here, the Tab is a clear winner because, as you wrote, the best tablet is the tablet you have with you.

    1. I think you nailed it, Mark: the smaller tablet is toted along while the software / functionality benefits of the larger one become irrelevant at the time / place because you don’t have it with you.

  10. I personally enjoy the form factor of my iPad and thought the Tab was too small. I do take my iPad with me almost everywhere and am glad to have the size it has when I need it. I have three cases to choose from so it can be taken with me easily. Man bags are cool!

    If I didn’t bring my iPad somewhere I wouldn’t have brought a tab either, just my smartphone, which is a blackberry.

    7 is too small to really get work done for me on the road, or anywhere outside of my office.

    Lichmd- thats a ton of devices there! Wow

    1. Completely understand – 7″ can be a little cramped if you’re looking for major mobile productivity. I prefer not to carry a bag with me, which is why the iPad started staying home – I figure if I’m going to carry a bag, I might as well put the MB Air in it at that point, but that’s just me.

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