Is it the tablet, or the phone?

Blackberry Playbook1 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

2011 is clearly the year of the tablet.  Everyone and their grandmother has one launching in the next several months.  This of course is mainly due to the popularity of the iPad, but clearly this is the direction the market was heading.  HP just announced the Touchpad, LG the G Slate, the Galaxy Tab II is coming soon (albeit with the original Galaxy on its deathbed), Blackberry has been teasing their Playbook for awhile, Toshiba, iPad 2, and so on.  Andreas recently had an article talking about how saturated the market will be, and mainly with similar specs and looks.  So the next deciding factor when all the hardware is relatively equal is the OS.  And that might be where things get interesting.

Let’s be honest here.  There are going to be very few people in the market for a tablet that do not have a smartphone.  It is clearly the early stages of the product life cycle, so the potential buyers will be folks that are already up to date with their own technology.  The Apple fanboys will be touting the iPad 2 as the next best thing, while the Fandroids do the same.  Crackberry fanatics will be tethering their Playbook to their heart’s content.  But what does this all come down to?

In HP’s recent announcement of their Touchpad, they heavily promoted the combination of their new Pre working with the Touchpad.  They will both be completely synced together in the HP ecosystem.  They will also be able to push notifications and content back and forth to each other.  Pretty cool stuff.  The same idea is going along with the Playbook from Blackberry.  Heck, to access some of the information on the Playbook, you must be tethered to your Blackberry.  I see that as a hindrance rather than an advantage, but to each their own.   These manufacturer’s want to draw you into the entire ecosystem and keep you for life.  I don’t blame them, there is plenty of money in that strategy. Ask Apple.

So with all of these choices between operating systems and screen sizes and hardware, is there really even a choice?  Sure sure, Android is a choice.  They have 7″ers and 10″  as well as the G Slate coming in at just under 9.”  But what kind of phone do you have?  Are you a proud owner of that retina display?  The qwerty Blackberry?  Any flavor or combination of Android?  Or one of the left out Pre owners?

It really doesn’t matter what choice we have in the market.  It all comes down to what phone we have.  That was the supreme choice we made.  Whether you have stuck with Android since the G1 or have been that corporate Blackberry user.  That is the deciding factor in the tablet wars.  Let’s think about it.  Can you be an iOS user, and then pick up that Playbook and use it to your hearts content?  You might like it and see the benefit in it, but you’re already in the Apple ecosystem.  You will always be thinking about the iPad that has all of your apps and music in sync.  Why bother with iTunes for your phone, and then a whole other management setup for the Playbook?  That Android tablet will be in complete sync with that Droid from Verizon you’re toting around.  Why even look at the Touchpad when I don’t have a Pre phone to pair it with?

Of course this is all speculation.  I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of Android users toting around iPads even when they have Honeycomb available.  Apple doesn’t only have a loyal following, so those phone users will probably all be checking out the Touchpads and the Playbooks.  Anyone that has stuck with Palm, errr HP will surely not be tied to the new Touchpad, iPad for them.  And tomorrow’s forecast looks to be cloudy with a chance of raining donuts.

Now of course there will be a couple people out there that don’t mind any ecosystem and simply go for the tablet or phone they like at the moment.  But the more these tablets mimic and work with their partnering phones, the more we simply see an extension of the entire ecosystem.  We will be tied with one brand or OS no matter what.  Ask anyone that started with Apple in the early days.  How are those DRM iTunes tracks doing in your library?  Did you pay for the “upgrade” to get the non DRM tracks?  Probably not.  Most stayed with Apple.  And that’s the point.

So when you are checking out all of these options at CES and MWC, don’t worry about it.  Put your hand in your pocket and pull out that shiny device that got you all excited in the first place.  That is what you will get for your next tablet.  As it stands for me, I don’t have a dog in the fight.  I am a recent (and incredibly happy) convert to Windows Phone from being a long time Android owner (G1, N1, G2).  I’m just going to sit back and watch it all shake out. It’s harder for me, but easier for you.

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Allen Schmidt

Allen is a former contributing editor at Nothing But Tablets, which was merged with Pocketables in 2012.

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15 thoughts on “Is it the tablet, or the phone?

  • Personally I see a tablet and a smart phone as very different devices and don’t see a massive advantage of having them linked up. I’d want the best smartphone and the best tablet, regardless of “ecosystem”.

    • Avatar of Calvin

      I agree.

      I remember reading somewhere that there was a person who wanted to stay open, and try to buy products from different manufacturers/OS classifications. I find this to be a great idea…when I start looking for a tablet (once more tablets enter the marketplace, that is), it’s becoming ever more important to expand my own comfort levels and explore the different options available to find the absolute best.

      Sure, people will naturally want to stick to their smartphone “grouping”, simply because they’re familiar with the OS. And I respect that. And I certainly wish that there were more opportunities to have cross-platform synchronization (for instance, letting BlackBerry Bridge be available to Android users). But for now, with all of this competition, I plan to see what the best actually is.

      • Avatar of copeys

        The good thing with staying with a certain type of ecosystem, as Allen has written, is that everything is in sync. I understand how both of you are open for different ideas, but to be honest here, most people here are looking for something different (you could call us gadget geeks :p). The majority of the people will want something that works with what they already have – and that is the market to whom manufacturers are targeting.

  • Avatar of arfan

    Agree with calvin over here. That is why i want to go open, so with the hardware context i can make a choice which fits my performance and budget requirements.

  • There are several advantages of staying within the same ecosystem, such as data transfer, app compatibility and already knowing where everything is. Can be a bit boring though. I think most people will stick to what they know however

    • As I see it though. With a smart phone I might have a few games, calendar, news, weather. And personally thats all I’d want. Just keeping up with date to day things.

      A tablet is more productive and I would have different apps on it for the most part.

  • Avatar of arfan

    yes, the idea behind creating an ecosystem by every manufacturer is to retain their current user base. But the interlink between tablets and smartphones is not so mandatory, as it is in some other cases like DSLRs used for photography. I own a sony dslr and it is mandatory for me to buy only sony/minolta lenses as their mounts dont support any other brands. Same is the case with nikon, canon and the likes. Such an interlink makes it mandatory for you to commit to their products, it is not a choice as it is here with tablets and phones, but it is mandatory. I can also see it the other way, i own a blackberry, but why i wouldn’t want to own an android tablet? It’ll help me enjoy best of both worlds. The android certainly has more usability quotient as compared to the playbook in the table segment, so ill go with the android in that case :)

  • I agree with Hisuwh, and at anyrate, presuming money isn’t a big issue, you can always change your phone down the line.

    Which is the point I was getting at, that the deciding factor will be the wallet. I think this is true for a lot of consumers, myself included.

  • Avatar of the larch

    Is HTC the grandmother because there new tab looks nice. Can’t wait to see what a new ipad will bring to the table. hopefully some good stuff so I won’t feel so bad about it crushing all other tabs.

    • I’ve just seen a video of over at Engadget. Am I the only one who just instantly decides never to buy when he sees lagging like that in the user interface? I just can’t get over it. If it’s like that in a controlled demo situation, what am I to think about it’s real life performance?

  • …I meant a video of the HTC Flyer.

    (sorry, I’m just realizing I’ve gone a bit off topic…)

  • Avatar of Barto

    I certainly see advantages in staying within an ecosystem, but I have to say it appeals to me more to have a variety of systems just to expand my knowledge and experience with different environments.

  • Avatar of Relyt

    Staying within the same ecosystem makes sense if it’s a popular one, as in Android or iOS. WebOS, as much as I love the OS, has not gone mainstream and I don’t really see the Pre3 singlehandedly changing that. With that being said, the continuous client is looking more and more appealing every day..!

  • Avatar of Matthew B.

    I don’t know, maybe the Playbook or the HP tablets do require you to have a smartphone of the same brand, but for the rest- not really. I have (very, very old) nokia smartphone and ipod touch, and they understand each other surprisingly well- thanks to google sync, all the contacts, emails, calendar events are nicely synced with absolutely no difficulty. So IMHO there is no reason to not not have an iTouch, a Galaxy tab II, and Nokia N8- they will work together nicely.

  • Avatar of JosephM

    Is it just me or do they keep blurring the line between phone and tablet?


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