Friday, 9 September 2011

Tablet v smartphone


I'm always intrigued at how technology blends together in real life. "The street has its own use for technology," as William Gibson said.

My cheapo LG smartphone died. Battery was getting tired anyway, so I switched to the backup: a bog standard Nokia X2 17-button phone. Sure it has data (GPRS, here in the Caribbean), but the screen's tiny and these days I'm about as good at typing on a numeric keypad as I am at sharpening a quill.

Luckily I have a 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab (yes, the one that is now illegal in Germany - all offers around the price of a 7.7" Tab considered!). It has a waterproof wallet (living on an island it's best to have every portable electronic device waterproofed) with a shoulder strap. I didn't realise it came with a shoulder strap when I ordered the Beachbouy wallet, but am now glad it does because it is effectively my briefcase. I'm typing this blog entry on it now. No, it doesn't replace a laptop, but if I need to sit down and do some proper work I'll use my laptop because I'll work faster with a 15" screen and a keyboard. You see, with a 7" Galaxy Tab you can type fast standing up, unlike bigger tablets. Just try it with an iPad - preferably someone else's, just in case you drop it.

But you can type fast on a smartphone standing up too, right?  Especially one with a keyboard.  Yes you can, but the screen is too small for seriously productive correspondence because the keyboard takes up too much of the screen, or, in the case of blackberries, the screen is a bit too small. And the apps are crap, but that's another post.

Since switching to the small dumb phone and the tablet I have realised a few things:-

1. Fewer distractions: instant email is distracting. If I need to check email, I'll pull out my tablet. Otherwise I'm instantly reachable by phone if its urgent. "Urgent" emails are usually simply a reflection of the sender's self-importance or poor communication skills, unless the sender is willing to follow them up with a phone call - the real urgent bit.

2. Better organisation: the power feature of Android is actually the 'Share' menu option. Unlike other mobile OSes this is not app-specific, but an OS service that exposes apps that subscribe to it. So when I download a new app it automatically can share to any other apps on my phone that support sharing. This means I can share the Blogaway post with my Twitter app, my Facebook app and, say, Evernote. I can add webpages and emails directly to my Gtask list or my calendar for dealing with later. I could do this on my smartphone but the trouble with that is that I would, wherever I happened to be, as soon as I got that distracting email or other beep. With my tablet I can still do the organising anywhere but at a time that suits me.

3. Media: just because you can watch TV on your smartphone doesn't mean you want to. Same with ebooks. I've actually read several books on my smartphone, and switching to a Tab was a revelation: its paperback book size and after dark readability was lovely. Similar for movies: holding the 7" screen at book distance is as good as a wide screen TV.

In summary, there's only one important interruption in life: somebody calling you, either in person or via phone. The rest should be received whenever and wherever you're ready to process it.  Basic phone + book sized tablet is the perfect combination. 
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