Maybe a better question is: did you ever need one? Don’t get me wrong, as some readers will know, I have a tablet myself, the LG GPad, and while I don’t use it too often anymore (since my wife has assumed ownership of it) it still does see a lot of use. So it might seem silly that I would even ask the question of anyone needing a tablet, when I myself still do. But I think there have been a few changes in the smartphone market (and elsewhere) that have maybe, just maybe, diminished the need for this once thriving tech segment.
The line between smartphone and tablet has been starting to blur for years now. My original tablet purchase was a Nexus 7, which sported a 7″ display. And when I had a Galaxy Nexus and its 4.65″ display, the purchase of the Nexus tablet seemed like a great idea. Then I got the LG G2 – which sported a whopping 5.2″ display and then after that my LG G3 had a 5.5″ display. Other phones like the Nexus 6 debuted with an an all but 6″ display – the iPhone 6S+ has a 5.5″ display – the new Nexus 6P has a 5.7″ display – and none of these are perhaps the most popular of the large screen phones, the Note series from Samsung, which has sold in the tens of millions of devices, and has had a 5.5″ and above screen size for multiple generations. Tablets, especially in the value Android space (like my Nexus 7), traditionally started in the 7″ size range, which isn’t that much larger than the Note and Nexus devices.
And as the saying goes “the best camera is the one you have with you” and so the best mobile device is the one you have with you. While we are out and about, its much more likely that we’ve got our mobile smartphone with us than a tablet – as its primary function is to serve as a communication device to begin with. The shift towards larger screen phones is a recent phenomenon, and only lately have our devices been large enough to make things other than calling and texting on them an option. Even when we are home or at a place where WiFi would make a tablet fully functional, we tend to gravitate towards our phones, simply because they DO do so much more than surf the web. We can send and receive text messages, make and receive phone calls, listen to music, post and review social media accounts, and watch video of any length.
The flip side of this argument is that why not go big or go home – the laptop option. So if you are home or in public and don’t want to use your phone for any reason, chances are good you’re going the other direction and using an actual computer. Again are seen the great advantages of mobile phones: you can watch video, listen to music and surf web content, and even text message (using an option like iMessage or Pushbullet) and you’re doing it on generally a larger display, with a more powerful set of computing guidelines. A large portion of Americans are now replacing their home PCs with portable laptop options, and Apple is doing things like making a new Macbook that is both powerful and portable and all of a sudden you have a device that does pretty much everything you need it to do from both an entertainment and productivity standpoint. It would seem that most consumers now have a choice between a few devices that can serve as a web appliance as well as a host of other things, and increasingly in our modern society, convenience is king. The phone you whip out of your pocket or the laptop you already have in your bag for work seems a much better option than the tablet you have that’s not quite as handy as your phone and doesn’t quite have the same keyboard options as your laptop has. The tablet is the odd man out in a household of tech that all basically do the same things.
Tablets are great, for certain things – and in the past when the average display size on mobile phones was between 3.7″ and 4.3″, we probably felt a need for something bigger that could render web content more readable and heck, probably even more enjoyable. But now that most major OEMs are offering a mobile device choice starting around 5″ – this need doesn’t seem so great so more. And with laptops making a move towards being lighter, faster, thinner, and more powerful, they are more convenient to use than ever before. Whereas in a previous era, portable computers were clunky heavy beasts designed to be used by the ubiquitous business road warrior out in the field, now they are modern sleek machines designed to be beautiful, functional, and most importantly available when needed both at work and at home.
Now need is a pretty strong word – and you may still want to have a tablet handy where you live. But with mobile phones getting bigger, and mobile computers getting smaller and lighter, it doesn’t seem to me that many people really need a tablet any longer. And maybe they never really did to begin with.