Posted Sep 14, 2012 - 8:43 am
2012 is going to be a great year to buy a tablet -- it's ALREADY been a great year. Nexus was a welcome open entry. Now, with Amazon taking on Apple with a bigger 4g tab, Apple allegedly challenging the Fire with a mini, and Microsoft entering the fray with Windows tabs, 2012 promises to be a competitive market place with great products at great prices. Of course there will be 'other' tablets and leftovers, but I think the value will be found in these products. Choosing the right tablet will be difficult, but making a mistake will be nearly impossible. Yea for us!
We bought four Fires last year and, after a year, are totally delighted. I have learned a little about tablets and how four people use them, so I thought I'd post some tips...
1) If you are buying a tablet for a student, be sure to check in with your school system to see if they are using or are planning to use tablets or e-texts. Ask about how they are using the tablets and what support there will be for student owned tablets. If your kid is going to be carrying a tablet five days a week and using it for classwork and homework, that's probably the one to use for play as well. If the school is handing out iPads, get your kid a TV. There are some terrific academic apps -- flash cards, graphing calculators, foreign language tutors, and even a metronome. Our whole family uses Cozi to keep track of our schedule. I have my youngest put his homework assignments and projects in the To Do list.
2) If you are thinking of using a tablet for work or school, consider the new Windows 8 tablets. They come with Office and promise better integration with your personal computer.
3) Size DOES matter. My 7" Fire slips into my back pocket. So, if I want to use the bathroom or grab a bite to eat at the airport, I can slide the Fire into my pocket and use both hands. People say that magazines and comics work best on the larger screens. I don't look at magazines and comics much.
4) Apps matter. Just like with a PC, start with a list of things you want to do with the tablet, assemble a list of apps that will perform those tasks, then look for a tablet that will run those apps. Even though popular apps tend to find their way to popular tablets, there are exclusives (mostly to iPad) and some apps require specific hardware (camera, gps). A shopping app that uses a camera may not be very useful, if you do not have 3g or 4g service. If your 'killer app' requires flash, then you are going to want to wait for a Windows tab as neither Apple nor the little green monster will support flash going forward.
5) Ecosystem matters. If you already own iTunes or Amazon content, you do not want to have to buy that content again. If you are already a Prime member, Amazon devices can borrow books from the lending library or watch prime videos for no additional charge. Amazon also offers free books and apps everyday.
You're going to be surprised at all the uses you find for your slate. We have Netflix and I enjoy watching a movie when I am working outside or in the basement. I think it would be very cool to plug a Fire HD into a hotel TV to watch Netflix. If you do not want to subscribe to a service, there's a Crackle app which has commercial supported TV and movies. My wife and I each have favorite radio apps. Living in New Hampshire, we have poor radio reception. Internet radio fills that void. I listen to sports and talk radio and she listens to music. My kids listen to Spotify and Pandora. My Fire does not have 3g, but I use Amazon's 'send to kindle' app to store shopping lists and product research. My wife has moved all of her recipes from notecards to a database app. When I travel, I send all my documents to the Fire as well as my itinerary and restaurant information. I put two or three movies on the Fire when I fly. And lots of books. Some I buy, some I download from free sources, and a lot that Amazon offers for free. I probably have a hundred free cookbooks and as many self help and finance books. I used to get stressed when I was stuck somewhere waiting for something. Now, I just read a book.
I'm probably not going to buy a tablet this year. I'm hoping Amazon releases a 7" 4g model soon.