As of now, I’ve been carrying the Samsung Galaxy Tab for a month, using it every day; this has included two major road trips. I suppose there are a few other humans who’ve had this much hands-on with a 7" form-factor tablet, but I don’t know of any others with a blog and a free hand to write what they think.

My experience with an iPad is much less, but non-zero. Also, anyone who hangs out in cafés in Pacific time and scores upgrades on a few international flights has lots of chances for iPad field observation. (Early finding: On airplanes, iPads are used for reading magazines and playing lightweight games.)

Meta · I consider both the iPad (by general agreement) and the Tab (by personal experience) good products. Thus, the world now contains one good instance each of a 10" and a 7" tablet, and it’s reasonable to start drawing conclusions as their strengths and weaknesses.

I’m going to throw the term “tablet” around pretty freely without bothering to define it. It’s obvious to me that the iPad and Tab qualify, while the iPhone and its direct Android competitors don’t. I haven’t ever touched a Dell Streak.

Finally, by way of disclosure: I’m an Android partisan by choice and professionally. But I think this discussion is independent of Apple/Android issues.

1. Pocket Phones Aren’t Going Away · Size matters. fitting into any pocket, being operable with one hand, and presenting no perceptible burden; these are hugely important features. Thus, while tablets are seductive, the chance of them crowding out the standard phone form factor is approximately zero. Here are some more reasons:

  • Holding a phone to the side of your head works very well for the common case where you want neither to walk around with an earphone, nor to share both sides of a conversation with the room.

  • A pocket phone is the right size for use as a camera.

  • I got totally lost in the wrong part of Copenhagan, I mean really the wrong part, and felt kind of nervous about unpocketing the Tab to find my way out of it; there’s a discretion factor that favors small devices.

2. Pocket Creep · I’m increasingly convinced that the common 3.5"-or-so form factor, as in the iPhones and the Nexus One, is unnecessarily small. While I totally love the high pixel density of both those devices, I think that the extra real estate offered by current products like the new Droids, HTCs and Samsungs trumps that.

Based on my hands-on with Evos and Droid X’s, even a little unsqueezing of web pages and emails really makes a big difference. This is particularly true when you’ve gotten used a tablet; your phone display starts to feel cruelly small and stupid.

I’d be surprised if the iPhone form factor didn’t start to creep up a bit next year. Where does it stop? Might the standard pocket phone of the future look like the Dell Streak?

3. For Sharing, 10" · A really common use for a tablet is sharing: passing it back and forth along the sofa or across the table while you give a pitch or giggle at a funny picture or take turns at a game. For this kind of thing, bigger is better, and I think the iPad form factor hits a major sweet spot.

Having said that, I’ve been demoing like a demon on the Tab these last few weeks, and it’s not bad at all.

4. For Sustained Use, 7" · On those occasions when I’ve used an iPad for more than a few minutes (once on a 2½-hour plane flight, and once watching a ball game on TV) I found it started to wear on my wrists pretty soon; I was switching it around, balancing it on this & that, and really having a hard time getting comfy.

On the 7" Tab, I’ve read 4½ books and watched a few movies and played lots of games, one way or another using it continuously on a couple of major transcontinental flights. Yes, your wrist gets tired, but you’re only using one at a time; switching back and forth is easy and natural.

5. No Bigger · There’s a bit of history repeating itself here. In the early days of printed books, the Folio format was popular, which resulted in books that were 15" tall, which is to say immense by modern standards. As history moved on, standard book sizes moved down through the quarto and octavo; today’s drugstore-paperback form factor has been stable for a while and may represent the end of this trend.

There’s a similar story in the world of photography. Its early days featured view and large-format cameras; the world of film (except for professional magazine/poster photographers) stabilized at 35mm; there’s a nice visual summary over in the Wikimedia Commons.

This trend, where the first instance of a media format is the biggest, may not be that linear in tablets; but it seems unlikely to me that there’ll ever be one that’s commercially successful and larger than the iPad.

6. Battery Life · Evidence seems to suggest that tablet designers have an easier time of it packing in enough battery capacity to remove this as a day-to-day issue. The iPad is famous for battery life, and I’ve found the Tab very good too. The day of GDD Tokyo I spent literally hours demoing with it, letting strangers install and try out all sorts of apps, and play games. By the end of our late dinner, the battery was down to a sliver, but the Tab (just) made it to bedtime.

This matters, because what I hear is battery designers are up against the basic physics and nobody’s expecting any big breakthroughs. Apple has been maybe the best at battery engineering and I frankly don’t expect anybody to improve that much on the current state of the art in the near future.

7. As Cameras · Tablets suck. I feel like a complete idiot brandishing these things at startled potential subjects. They need to have cameras, for augmented-reality and a few other kinds of apps, but when you say “cameraphone” you’re talking about something that fits in a jeans pocket.

8. Creativity · I was one of those who, when the iPad arrived, dissed it as a consume-only platform, saying: For creative people, this device is nothing.

Clearly, I was at least partially wrong. There are now successful drawing and painting apps, good enough to get on magazine covers. I’ve also read pieces by bloggers I respect, saying they were able to write this or that on their iPad.

Also, it occurs to me that a touch interface might be just fine for photo-editing in a tool like Lightroom; and see Ctein’s take on using it as a Photoshop ancillary (iPad fans should really follow that link).

What I haven’t heard seriously proposed is any tablet as a serious writing or programming platform. I’m not saying that a touch interface can’t equal a physical keyboard for professional-grade text wrangling, but I bet it’s going to take a while to catch up with the literally centuries worth of iterative refinement that’s gone into keyboard technology.

Of course, there are always outboard keyboards, but if you have to lug one of those around you might find a laptop more convenient.

9. Aspect Ratio · The iPad has a lot more screen space than the Tab, but the 1.707 aspect ratio of the Tab’s 1024x600 screen is a lot closer to the 1.778 of movie-standard 16x9 than the 1024x768 of the iPad. So for high-production-value movies, the iPad doesn’t get much use out of those extra pixels; and I can testify that the Tab is just fine for watching them.

The iPad’s screen is physically larger, which is nice for movies; thus the pixel density is lower, but that doesn’t seem to hurt. So I’d be really unsurprised to see someone make a tablet about as tall as an iPad, but narrower.

10. Games · I haven’t played any on an iPad, but I have to say that the 7" Tab feels brilliant, because the screen is pretty big and you can so easily hold it on hand and bang away at it with the other. Tilt/shake controls are excellent, but I’ve never played a really compelling game that didn’t require some control-tapping.

I really must spend some quality time with Fruit Ninja or Need for Speed on an iPad so I can come back and add to this section.

What You Gonna Do? · Seriously, will you end up with a handy little no-fuss pocket phone and a 7" tablet for books and email and games and a 10" big-screen for sales calls and family time? I’m sure some people will.

It’s way too early to be making any large-scale predictions. My guesses are that everyone will probably still have a pocket phone, that the 7" form factor might hit a real middle-of-the-road personal-device sweet spot, and that the big tablets will find lots of friendly niches.

So how does that translate into sales? I haven’t the faintest idea.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Lemon (Oct 10 2010, at 16:47)

I was _really_ surprised when iPhone was announced at 3.5". I can only assume Jobs finds it the optimum screen size and stubbornly sticks to it, while backhandedly ragging on anything slightly bigger.

I'm moving from a 3.7" NexOne to a 4.3" Desire HD this month... :)


From: Henning Hoefer (Oct 10 2010, at 17:13)

Note that the magazine cover you mentioned under "Creativity" was not done on an iPad, but on an iPhone: -- I guess, creativity can use anything...


From: Daniel Gasienica (Oct 10 2010, at 17:25)

Good overview. Curious: The Copenhagen episode must have been in Christiania, right?




From: Janne (Oct 10 2010, at 17:45)

The Tab is intriguing - I agree that it seems to hit a size sweet spot better than the iPad - but right now I don't see a space for it between my phone on the small end and my small-format notebook on the large one. I have a weight, space and mental budget for only so many devices after all. If I need the notebook anyway (and for any work-related trips I do) another small screen doesn't feel very compelling.

An e-book reader feels a little different; it doesn't try to muscle in on the same use-cases as the devices I already own, but does something qualitatively different. Now, if there was an e-book reader with proper support for storing and indexing pdf research papers - and could sync with my Zotero archive - I would be running, not walking, to get it right now.


From: Phil Ringnalda (Oct 10 2010, at 18:13)

I'm not sure what, if any, effect this has on your thesis, but in the last few years, the size of mass-market paperbacks has in fact become unstable again. They used to be a little smaller, before and during WWII, then for fifty years they were the size we're used to, but lately, possibly because more big fat thrillers are being published in mass-market or possibly because of aging baby boomer eyes, more and more are being published in a size that's the same width, but a height closer to that of trade paperbacks.


From: david (Oct 10 2010, at 18:20)

I sincerely hope you are wrong about size creep - the iPhone is just about as large as I want to go. It fits in my shirt or vest pocket perfectly. Any larger and I'd have to move to the Geek Belt Wallet. No thanks.

You and all the other pundits who began dissing the iPad before it ever came out, and in the first weeks afterwards, were wrong. Glad to see you fess up. The iPad isn't going to become a programming environment natively because Apple isn't going that route, at least not yet. But web based programming environments are potentially possible. I'll have to see if any of them work with the iPad.

I can't use FileMaker Go to create a database on the iPad but I'm using my databases on it. Great app. Last week I was at a conference and took my notes on it - I used DropText and SundryNotes depending on whether I needed more than just text. Exported SundryNotes to my DropBox, my text notes were there immediately, and when I returned home pulled it all together into a comprehensive Word file as a report.

I don't blog with it but I have written quite a few press releases and news articles. Some I've emailed directly from the iPad and others I've cleaned up and added photos at my computer.

Far from being the "Emperor's New Clothes" as one moronic analyst suggested, the iPad is turning out to be the "Little Engine that Could".


From: Sharat Buddhavarapu (Oct 10 2010, at 18:34)

I think that the evolution in battery technology may be closer than you think, though certainly not imminent. Avenues such as bacteria powered batteries are really being thoroughly researched, and I think it could be closer than anyone expects.


From: Ben Bennett (Oct 10 2010, at 19:45)

"As Cameras" -- The camera is in the wrong place. Perhaps they could put it in the top of the tablet and then it would let you look down on the tablet whilst presenting a less intimidating profile to the subjects. Even better, there may be more room for stacked lenses allowing better optics.


From: Rory mccune (Oct 10 2010, at 23:22)

One point on the difference in form factor. For books and web browsing I think that the ipads setup works really well. On most modern monitors with a 16:10 ratio, web content tends to leave large areas of the screen unused. The ipads screen works really well for that and also for books, so I'd tend to say that the iPad works well as an ebook reader.

It'll be interesting to see how many of the legion of tablets that are coming over the next 6 months go for the movie friendly 16:10 and how may go for 4:3.


From: JulesLt (Oct 10 2010, at 23:48)

A key question on 7-vs-10 is whether it's the weight, or the form, of the iPad. My guess is that it's the weight, which is likely to improve.

Where I would agree is that the iPad form is too big for 'paperback' ebook reading (but what I do want from an ebook reader is something that is 'all display').

It feels like it hits the sweet spot for magazines, comics and reference books though.

My guess is that as these things get cheaper and cheaper, people are going to stop saying things like 'I already have a phone and a laptop' and instead just grab the right sized screen for the job.

As for the suitability of tablets for coding - it will be interesting to see. I don't think my coding speed is particularly linked to my (far faster) typing speed, and as we all know the best camera is the one you have with you. Laptops are still difficult to use on planes and trains due to seat angles.


From: Jose (Oct 11 2010, at 01:22)

The Ipad and the new "touch computing" is the new mouse. You need apps to support multitouch, but they will.

I was skeptic of the Iphone utility until I bought a touch. Touch is one of the primary human senses, Jobs know that.


From: Eas (Oct 11 2010, at 01:45)

Judging the aspect ratio based on how it works for movies seems odd to me, but that's probably because I've watched very little video on my iPad. I usually watch video at home, where my TVs (still both 4:3) are a better choice.

When the iPhone came out, people accused Apple of using an enormous hand model to make the phone seem small. Now we have these huge android phones. I'm sure some people prefer them, but they remind me of the ginormous iPaqs that people tried to convince me were a better choice than Palm's increasingly svelte offerings.

A lot of commentators seem to forget that women are half the market for these devices. They tend to have smaller hands, which generally favor smaller phones. At the same time, many women carry purses, which would hold a 7" tablet rather nicely.


From: Will Schenk (Oct 11 2010, at 01:46)

I've only used the iPad, and from your impressions it sounds a lot like you've never really used one at all. I think mainly its that you've never given it a chance -- your 2 1/2 hour experience doesn't sound like mine, or anyone that I know of. I've never noticed the limp wrist problem that you describe, though propping it up can be a bit of a contortionist act. I've gone through a 10 hour battery after a day/night/lifetime of single leg of international connecting flights.

(I'm not normally a big fan of scifi tv shows, but the greatest thing to watch on those monster flights is stargate universe where they are trapped on the spaceship, especially if you are in the middle seat of the airplane. So many levels!)

Strange also that you don't think that tv/movies is the dominent use of the iPad on long flights. That statement seems willfully incorrect, especially as it highlights the advantage of the additional 3" diagonal. I see a lot of instapaper and kindle app use, some games, but overwhelmingly it video consumption. Which of course does make the choice of aspect ratios stupid.


From: Mark Morrison (Oct 11 2010, at 02:05)

While comparing features, screen sizes, battery life and aspect ratios may be important for technocrats, these things are of only marginal importance for success.

What is most important the software ecosystem that surrounds the hardware. In this respect the iPad is years ahead of the competition.

How will this affect sales? The iPad will continue to dominate, while this Samsung knockoff will be lucky to get breadbrumbs.


From: Christoph (Oct 11 2010, at 03:11)

Concerning the aspect ration: The x768 width was the reason I settled for the iPad, not waiting for the android tablets that were all x600. Those extra pixels make it possible for me to read almost any website without zooming in on the main text column. Furthermore, A4/Letter PDFs are readable without zooming, so in the reader I don't scroll but turn pages. In general, having room for margins is good for readability. To me, this means improved usability. Never playing games or watching movies, my use cases are probably quite different from yours.


From: Chris Dent (Oct 11 2010, at 04:17)

I deeply hope the iPhone and other "smart" phones don't get larger. They are already much too large: filling or overflowing a pocket.

Clearly the goal is screen size, so why not a roll out or projection screen associated with a small round device which operates as the cpu and radio?

I'm considering getting rid of my iPhone because it is too large.


From: Dunx (Oct 11 2010, at 05:57)

I recently got a second hand iPod Touch to play with as a browsing device and I've found more and more ways to use it: project tracking, manuscript review, and book reading amongst others. It is a much more relevant device to me than I had expected.

But the screen is too small. Much too small. I agree about the iPad being too heavy - I got that sense from playing with it in the shop for about two minutes.

So I am very excited about the Galaxy Tab.


From: Ric (Oct 11 2010, at 07:33)

Charlie Stross, discusses the potential of an iPad for serious writing part way down here:

The software situation has improved somewhat since then.

He presumes using an add on keyboard, and AIUI, has been waiting on a fix for Dataviz's Documents-to-Go suite before using it for writing while travelling, rather than taking a laptop.


From: len (Oct 11 2010, at 11:33)

The one complaint I've seen seriously or semi-seriously came from women of fashion who say touch screens don't mesh with designer nails.

Our CEO uses his iPad a lot for demo work. The niche there is solid. The balance is still content consumption.

Do I want one? No. Not yet. There are no 'can't get it done better other way' applications. I think if I traveled a lot that might change.


From: Jacob (Oct 11 2010, at 13:24)

It will be interesting to see how the new Archos line fares; since they are introducing five Android tablets in sizes from 2.8 inch screen up to 10.1 inch screen, their sales may be a good laboratory for what form factors are desirable. On the other hand I think they missed a spot between their 4.3 inch and 7 inch models; a 4.8 or 5 inch might be more useable for real web browsing while still really being pocketable. (For what it's worth, I'm planning to get the 4.3 inch one anyway.)


From: Nathan (Oct 11 2010, at 14:16)

I was fully confident that I would buy the Streak up until Dell announced it carrier-locked to AT&T and running a heavily-customized 1.6. Call me crazy, but I like my open devices to be, you know, *open*. They've since released the source and upgraded to 2.1, but it's still locked and I still don't care.


From: John H (Oct 11 2010, at 16:56)

My wife and I have had iPads for three months now. A while before that my department got one to evaluate, and I played with it for a couple of hours. I wasn't that impressed, and didn't think it was something I needed. However, my wife persuaded me that it would be nicer if we sat next to each other on the sofa while catching up with emails, twitter, blogs, etc, rather than disappearing off to the computers in our respective dens. Neither of us like using laptops on our laps, so we decided to get iPads (at that point I wasn't even aware the Galaxy Tab was on its way). Our experience has been that the iPad works really well for this, especially the fact that we can pass our iPads to each other when we've seen something interesting. It's kind of like reading the Sunday papers together. I've also been using the iPad for an initial foray into reading novels in ebook form (seeing as we've run out of space for more book shelves), and I'm happy enough with it for that.

One of my initial impressions of the iPad was that it was too heavy, but in practice this has not been a problem. The Apple case helps a lot here by making the iPad easier to hold. I think there is room for 10in tablets to get a bit lighter, so I really wouldn't write them off for sustained use. I think the iPad screen aspect ratio is really good for books and documents, and just fine for games and other applications. I don't watch movies or TV on my iPad, but my wife really likes the iPad for this (and hasn't expressed any desire for a 16:9 aspect ratio).

Having bought the iPad for use at home, I wasn't really expecting to use it for work, but I have found myself using it more and more. I currently split my work week between two locations, and often travel between them by train. I have long since tired of carrying a lot of stuff on these journeys, and the iPad has been really great for this. It started off with me loading some PDF documents I wanted to read on the train into the iPad. The iPad is a pretty good PDF reader, being able to display a readable full page, even for A4-size documents (I'd be interested to hear how you find the 7in screen works for PDFs). Then I started buying technical books in PDF format. Now I can read them on the train, or have them handy for reference no matter which office I'm in. Finally I ditched the paper notebooks that I used to take to meetings and conferences, and started using the iPad for that, using the "Notebooks" app for text and simple diagrams, or the "iThoughtsHD" app to create mind maps on the fly. Note that the iPad succeeded here where the laptop computer failed: I've never liked taking notes using a laptop in meetings. Again, the Apple iPad case helps a lot here by putting the iPad at a usable angle for typing. I still haven't tried doing full blown word-processing on the iPad, but I suspect it's just a matter of time. I've heard a number of serious writers say they're finding the iPad to be an excellent writing tool (although probably a better text creation device than a text editing device). I've used it for writing first drafts of documents, and it's cerainly workable.

The iPad is never going to replace my desktop computer, but I am now increasingly doubting whether I need a laptop computer. When travelling, the iPad does most of things a laptop does, it's better for reading PDFs and ebooks, it's lighter, and it has much better battery life. The only thing I can't do on the iPad right now is coding, and I'm not sure I do enough coding away from the office to justify the cost of a laptop.


From: john (Oct 11 2010, at 19:23)

The ten inch form factor is about the minimum for displaying paper-sized PDFs without zooming. And for reading comics.


From: bowerbird (Oct 11 2010, at 20:09)

> it seems unlikely to me that

> there’ll ever be one that’s

> commercially successful and

> larger than the iPad.

i think you're wrong, way wrong.

when apple makes a machine that

has a 9*12 screen, such that we

can map our 8.5*11/a4 world of

existing paper documents on it

1-to-1, it will be a blockbuster.

that's the size of a clipboard;

so it is _not_ unmanageable...



From: (Oct 12 2010, at 02:11)

I had to lol at the camera comment - I'm imagining people holding up their 10" tablets to their face like we did in the days of view finders!

I was keen to get a Tab but have been a little put off by the price (we'll see I guess!). However I just bought my first Android smart phone (the Orange San Fransico) and I've been left wondering whether I really need the Tab. The smart phone allows me to email, tweet, use maps, etc. I have a netbook for "proper" computing on the move (ie doing some coding).

Do I really need a larger device? Perhaps for reading docs, that would be nice. Maybe I should get a Kindle!


From: Tony Fisk (Oct 12 2010, at 05:44)

Your comments about battery life concentrate on battery form factor and leave out the possibility of reduced power demands eg from the new Pixel Qi screens. These claim a 10" full colour screen that is visible in broad daylight and draws only 1.5 W. The drawback may be resolution, however.


From: Stewart Midwinter (Oct 13 2010, at 20:59)

You say that the lower-aspect ratio of the iPad doesn't help with media consumption, so the higher-aspect ratio of the Samsung Tab may be better. That misses the point that the AR of the iPad is great for web browsing and emails and photos. I like it just the way it is.

Having said that, the higher AR of the Tab will help users hold it (not pinch it) in one hand, and that will give it more portability - which seems to be the use case that Samsung is promoting.

Interesting times!


From: Counsel Dew (Oct 14 2010, at 05:28)

This isn't about OS or platform. The article is about size-7" or 10"...

I'd like to know the size of movies on the 10" device. The main reason I woyld buy a tablet would be to watch content. Is the movie on the 10 bigger/smaller than on the 7"-due to ratio issues?

OS is not really an issue sibce iOS or Androud can do most of what most people will ever do... Just my opinion, and fanfolk will disagree...

Photos of movies on each? With a measurement of each?



From: Joshua Talley (Oct 18 2010, at 11:50)

I am a bit unsure of the portable tablet future. The 7" size seems to be pretty good, but the 10" just seems more normal - at least when looking at books and magazines. However, I agree that the 4:3 of the iPad doesn't seem as friendly to the HD aspects that are becoming increasingly common.

What I'm really looking forward to is a "DeskPad." The desktop-size (more powerful, more versatile, etc.) tablet that is capable of running my 3D CAD software, video and picture editing, layouts - real design work. It would be portable enough to move from room to room for meetings, or a quick swap from a living room to bedroom, but not meant for carrying around all over the place.

I anxiously await the day my 22" monitor becomes my work-life application hub.


From: Ivan Tam (Nov 14 2010, at 21:32)

I'm currently traveling in China with my wife and I talked with a couple retailers in Hong Kong about the Galaxy Tab. Though they don't know for sure, they anticipate selling the Tab for around 5800 HKD, which is around US$750.

This is without carrier subsidies.


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