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Why I Just Dumped the iPad (Hint: Size Matters)

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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 (s aapl) 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 (s goog).

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 (s amzn), 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.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

218 Responses to “Why I Just Dumped the iPad (Hint: Size Matters)”

  1. I tried the Galaxy Tab, partly due to this post, but I just returned it to Sprint after 2 weeks of daily use. Yes, I loved the 7″ size. And, there were many activities that were just as good and even better than the iPad. But, at the end of the day there were still apps that I used regularly on my iPad (like Netflix) that aren’t available yet on Android. Call me an Apple Fanboi because I am, but I’m also a fan of gadgets running every OS.

  2. I just sold my iPad and grabbed the Galaxy Tab, I couldn’t agree more as I now plan to sell my incredible and get a basic phone this little sucke goes everywhere with me.

    It is an awesome device and I very much recommend it to anyone that truly wants to be portable with their tablet. Seriously it does everything well!

  3. The reason I use tablet is mobility. It really doesn’t bother me as a business user whether the size is 7″ or 10″. It should just be handy. If it is bulky then features should outweigh that bulkiness.
    I think iPad is so far successful in offering better ratio of features (applications, speed, UX etc) to size so there is no immediate need for iPad to trim down its screen size.
    But future iPhone can be 6″ device that will fill the gap.

  4. Michael Klein

    I just can’t decide on what tablet size I want. But: doesn’t the smaller screen size and resolution bother you while webbrowsing? I imagine constantly having to scroll left and right, up and down and having to zoom a lot would be a hazzle-

    • There’s a definite trade-off to be made, Michael, and each of us can make a different decision in that regard. Here’s my take: on the tablet, I have far less scrolling and zooming than I do on my smartphone, so I’m using the tablet more than my phone. I did even less scrolling and zooming on the iPad, but I wasn’t taking the iPad everywhere, so the benefit was lost on me. That doesn’t mean a smaller tablet is right for you, of course. I’m just sharing my point of view and decision making process. I think it largely depends on where, how often and what you plan to use the tablet for.

  5. I like the Tab, but where I live it’s massively overpriced for what it offers. However, being a tech nerd I could probably overcome that, but there is still one big stumbling block (or at least, irritation) with the current tablets – grain-o-matic screens. I’m used to 800×480 on a 3.5 inch screen and once you’ve seen that (or Apple’s “Retina” which is even denser) it gets hard to do XGA on 10 inches. 1024×600 on 7 inches is denser, but it’s still not enough to read with superior comfort. So once a Tab or equivalent that massively jacks up screen density shows up, I’ll buy. Or indeed if the next iPad turns out to have 260+PPI it will seduce me – I plan to use it at home only anyway, my phone will do for on-the run computing.

  6. Must be nice to have the money to dump the iPad then get a Galaxy, they be looking for something else>…………How’s your marriage going or are you on the look out?

  7. Please update that photo. Show both devices with their keyboards enabled.

    Also, for those of us not familiar with the Android market place, please explain the process of renting or buying movies and/or TV shows.

    Is Netflix available for the Tab? I haven’t seen anything saying so. How about Hulu?

    Looks like the major “killer apps” are only on iOS for now. I’ve looked at screen shots for the Tab and the narrow portrait width makes them render like a slightly larger Phone. The fonts look hard to read when viewing a full web page.

    Thanks, but I’ll take my iPhone to the mall and bring my iPad places where I’ll be stationary for long periods of time.

  8. Even if I was that much into “social-networking” my wife won’t let me browse that while she is looking at clothes. She wants my full involvment as she drags me in her tow from JC Penny’s to Macy’s to candle stores to shoe stores.

    However, any of the reasons you’s stated above would not prompt me to buy either a Tab or an iPad. It simply does not do what what I want to do with it!

    I’m better of sight-seeing at the mall (…ahem when I’m not providing expert’s opinion to my wife)

  9. PN sequence

    “…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…”

    Bloody loser…you shouldn’t be allowed to procreate. Spend some f***ing time with your family instead of watching nasty sh** on YouTube!!

    • Yeah, this dude lost my respect with those statements too. Back in the mid 90’s, we called kids who were on the computer all the time “Squids” because their fingers became their tentacles and they never were in the sunlight or came out for air. Sounds like this dude is always more concerned with what internet people are doing than his family and real friends.

      • Sorry to disappoint, Robbo, but yes, I actually do disconnect on a daily basis. Doing things like taking the kids to the movies (my son and I just enjoyed Tron: Legacy – highly recommended, BTW), training for a marathon, dining out with my wife, reading 2 to 3 books a week, and…. well…. there’s really no point to go on, even though I could.

        The post is actually about the size of devices and how that affects mobility; not about me, even though you’ve tried to derail an otherwise very productive and useful conversation about the tech.

    • Appreciate the lesson in Darwin’s theory of evolution, although saying someone shouldn’t be allowed to procreate is one of the most audacious and arrogant things one can say. But, you have to live with your words out there, not me. ;)

      And here’s a little food for thought: the use case of the Tab while in the mall is what we in the writing industry call “an example.” Most people in the world probably understand what an example actually is, but I wanted to be sure you did too. Thx!

  10. Taxman45

    I love a post that gets people talking. I have a iPad WIFI that I bought on day 1. I love this device. At the same time, I like my gadgets to be as small as possible and to be connected. I have a MIFI but I’m wishing I’d waited for an iPad with 3G. I visited my local Sprint store last night and played with the $299 Galaxy Tab (with 2 YR contract). It seems like a no-brainer to take the subsidy because if you bail before 2 YR you’ll just pay the extra $200 you’d have paid if you didn’t take the subsidy and still get the device for $499.

    The screen is beautiful and it’s a nice size. I read the umpty ump million comments on this thread at the Sprint Store and the browser just zing’ed through them.

    The device is a nice size. I just wish I could watch my Netflix on it. Of course, there is a Dish Network app, so it’s not a total loss. I came so close to walking out of the store with one last night. I’m not past temptation yet. Thanks for prompting such a useful discussion.

  11. Kudos for a great opinion piece. These kind of devices are like cameras. In photography, the best camera is the one you are WILLING to haul around.

    … and I really miss getting files on and off the iPad easily.

  12. This is a great article with some very good comments. I’ve been using the Tab for about a month now and my Captivate usage has gone way down to the point of almost using it exclusivy for *GASP* phone calls :)

    Has anyone here thought of flashing the European ROM to their Tab and popping in their SIM from a smart phone and using it for calls and SMS thus emlinating the need for a smartphone?

    Thoughts?

    • ” I’ve been using the Tab for about a month now and my Captivate usage has gone way down to the point of almost using it exclusivy for *GASP* phone calls :)”

      Exactly what I found: my Nexus One was barely getting used after buying the Tab.

      I’ve been nosing around the custom ROMs available for the Tab and I’m sure to try the ROMs that enable cellular voice once they stabilize and don’t impact the 3G data function. Stay tuned! ;)

  13. I mean, you make a point dude, but the iPad isn’t meant to be a large phone. I have an iPhone which worked wonderfully for me for years, then I won an iPad and I fell in love with the differences between it and an iPhone. My wife was soon jealous, and lucky enough I won a second iPad so she has one as well. The point of the iPad is that many of us WANT a bigger screen. I love the fact that we can both watch 30 Rock in bed on one pad. I love the fact that the iPad is literally easy enough for a 2 year old to use (my 2 year old know where his favorite apps are and how to load them and run them). I love the fact that I can view full web pages with full sized fonts.

    People shouldn’t need to be connected ALL of the time. If you’re out shopping with you family, enjoy your time with them instead of worrying about blogging or facebook. If you absoutely MUST check, use your phone. If that’s not good enough for you, tell your family that the interwebz are more important than they are, go home and play on your computer.

  14. Wow. This is the most unbiased and frank reviews I’ve ever encountered. I like how the author clearly states the devices he uses. I think reviewers should always include a disclaimer and state their predilections when reviewing apps/devices.

    I also respect how he separates his own opinions from facts. That’s more of what I’d like to see in reviews. Perhaps the so called uber tech blog sites can take a cue from this.

    Well done.

  15. I sold mine too, I didn’t even realize i did.
    its too “in between” to be a truly useful product. Sure you have niches of professionals who could benefit from it, with certain specialized applications, but truth of the matter, in my experience – it was bulky, heavy, slippery, not-powerful enough to work, too powerful to casual web browse. I kept my laptop and iphone and literally, i forgot i sold it. i forgot i ever had it.

  16. I love how roughly 20% of this article is spent trying to diffuse the expected e-rioting of the Apple sheep.

    I’m looking forward to playing with all of the different tablet sizes and seeing which one fits my needs best.

    I only want to carry one device around. Since a phone is a must, the device must be small enough to use as a phone but large enough to comfortably browse, email, etc while standing in line, etc. The HTC EVO is the best of both worlds so far. Unfortunately it’s also stuck with Sprint so my next move is to find an Android device with the same screen size with Verizon.

    Right now the Motorola Xoom is looking great for a tablet to use around the house and light enough to take along on longer excursions that may call for something more robust than a phone.

    • “The HTC EVO is the best of both worlds so far. Unfortunately it’s also stuck with Sprint so my next move is to find an Android device with the same screen size with Verizon.”

      All four new LTE phones from Verizon are at least 4″; I think they’re all 4.3″ in fact. Not available yet, but coming in the first half of 2011.

  17. jleblanc01

    Most people appear to need some sort of case or holder for their electronic toys, more than just a screen protector. This adds to the overall dimensions of the device. In my opinion, these days, anything bigger than the current smartphones is too big to carry around. I definitely would not carry anything with a screen in my back pocket because eventually the stress of just walking could damage the screen. Carrying something in a coat is fine but a good part of the year most people don’t need to wear a coat.

    • Agreed on the need for cases / holders. I had a case for my iPad and I have one for the Tab. I tend to go for the lightest / thinnest cases so as not to add too much bulk. For the iPad, I went with a case from Macally, while I have a Scoche case for the Tab.

  18. I am looking forward the next generation iPad. I have been using the current one for a few months and I guess my use cases are a bit different. As an Enterprise Architect and one of the IT strategists for the company I work for I see great use for the iPad but also numerous things that could be improved upon.

    For my use I am a heavy Evernote user and there is no Android client for Evernote so the iPad is great for sitting in meetings taking notes on. When you are in meetings all day I am not particular or lugging around either my 17′ MacBook Pro or my Dell Latitude E6400 to take notes and have access to email.

    I really liked it when I took it to a conference, an had Evernote, Email, Twitter and Facebook right there and was able to lighten my load.

    Are there things to improve? ABSOLUTELY!!!

    First Printing. Come on Apple people still print. OS/X does a very eloquent job of pinting, even Windows does a good job at it. Let’s get it in iOS native. Second, better multitasking. I thought iOS was suppose o be a orm of OS/X (BSD UNIX). This OS multitasks and does it very well might I add. The current multitasking in my mind is apple’s way of giving us a taste of what we had been asking for in order to get the users to shut up. Third, and this will be my final one though there are more. Better notifications. What’s up Apple? We would like to put our own notifications on the thing (as well as the iPhone and iPod Touch) for email and text messages in the case of the iPhone.

    Over all people need to look at the iPad for what it is. It’s not the Messiah of devices, but I will say Apple set the standard or tablets with the iPad.

    Oh yeah and one more thing apple. Lighten up on the App Store. There are tons of great apps on Cydia that should be on the App Store.

  19. ‘I either carried the device in hand or placed it in my back jeans pocket while cruising the mall for hours.’

    Excuse me, what? You place a 7′ tablet in your back jeans pocket? This just sounds too ridiculous, uncomfortable, and awkward for me. The main reason I would rather stick with a 9.7′ is that a 7′ wouldn’t bring any pocketability advantages, while eschewing tons of usability/comfort. Can you seriously advice people with s traightface that they can carry these in their back pockets? Serious question.

    Also, I find it humorous/ironic how Apple was bashed to hell and back when the iPad was first revealed, with 90% of commenters questioning Apple’s sanity and mocking them as there was no ‘market’ for tablets. Now, they’re being attacked just as hard (not by you) and mocked for not having a 7′ version and ‘giving that market away’.

  20. While Kevin is recommending the Galaxy Tab, you can extrapolate his reasons across the entire tablet market. There are plenty of tablets coming out (including a Tab 2, presumably) that will match the original Tab in size but include Android 3.0, a version of the OS specifically designed for tablets. Many of the shortcomings of Android pointed out in this article and by others will (probably) be addressed in 3.0, and it’s sure to stack up against iOS 4 better than Android 2.1/2.2.

  21. Jeff24kman

    I find the size of the iPad to be perfect. I was part of the Newton team (one of only a few beta testers). Even then, the thought was the Newton was a bit small(not to mention slow, lacking color and lacking a killer app to make it a hit). Then, as now, I use the device for business. I use it for field appraisal work; as a note pad in meetings; a reader (Nook, Kindle and iBooks); sound recording in sessions of music; newspaper; text messaging; working on my novel; watching movies; and a host of other functions. The size of it is one of its great advantages. Easily readable and very portable, especially when compared to schlepping a laptop (Powerbook then, MacBook Pro now). I would have to say that the design team did a spectacularly thoughtful job in choosing a size for the iPad. Granted, others may disagree. Such is life.

  22. According to your needs to smaller size tablet to manage email, browsing, etc… I believe those needs are covered by the iPhone, i like the big screen of the iPad, but smaller than most notebook… Is it necessary for apple to create “again” the product between the iPhone and iPad? I don’t think so…

    • Sure those needs are met by an iPhone, but I find the experience to be more enjoyable on a 7″ screen, not a 3.5″ screen. Less zooming in and scrolling due to the larger display for me. You could be right on your last point: Apple may not see the need for a product between iPhone/iPod and iPad. I do, but that doesn’t matter: it’s up to Apple.

  23. “For me”
    I wouldn’t buy any of these, I have a 14″ laptop and a kindle for the airplane. None of these devices do excel well or at all. I think when the industry gets behind business built a 2ghz processor, decent GPU and a small screen that does high resolution I would look again. but apple has really blown it with all the data being sent to developers and to apple itself.

    • Charles Higgins

      I agree- faster processor, hi-rez screen, which apparently is coming on the 2G iPad, better GPU and the already relatively small iPad screen, which complements my 13″ and 15″ 2010 MBPs will make a huge difference to the Pad’s place in the tablet ecosystem.

      But for as tablet to be truly something between a full laptop and an iPhone or similar device, it has to have a bigger screen than 7″, IMO. YMMV, and that’s cool. I just want to read more at a decent font size and scroll less.

  24. Charles Higgins

    Um, yeah… good luck with that. Did the same thing, but only to ‘iPad’ over to the 2G iPad when it arrives and still get top C-list scrilla for the 1G iPad… the SG is OK, but a different and far lesser beast. It’s nice to have a smaller form factor, but I’m returning to that again- it’s called an 4G Verizon iPhone. The iOS you have in your pocket is the one you have in your pocket… the SG 7″ and the iPad will both fit in junior high-school style cargo pocket pants, but that doesn’t mean anything except to a well-funded middle schooler. Go big or go pocket sized- they’re both portable. I can say from experience that the SG 7″ is in NO way good enough to justify its existence if an iPad’s available- period.

  25. Dude…try having a live that doesn’t involve being online every second of every day. That is just sad.

    I can’t even IMAGINE the sad pathetic feeling of being out with the wife and kids and thinkingb “I…MUST….GET….ONINE!”