Once the go-to device for those who needed something more powerful than a smartphone, but more portable than a laptop, tablets have seen a drop in favour in 2013 as other devices became leaner, faster and more customisable than this ‘third category’ piece of kit.
In 2010, Apple released its first generation iPad, which is widely recognised as the first major tablet release since the likes of Nokia and Palm, Inc debuted similar technology during the early 2000s with mixed success. Since then, almost 200 million of these Apple devices have been sold around the world, cementing the tablet as an integral technological advancement for the twenty-first century population.
Following Apple’s release, BlackBerry, Samsung, Google, Hewlett Packard, Amazon and more developed their own tablet offerings, capitalising on the public’s insatiable desire for the latest and greatest technologies. Over 225 million tablets have been sold in the last 3 and a half years, with at least 170 million of those originating from Apple stores worldwide.
However, the boom in sales and popularity of tablets has had two very different effects on the digital industry. On the one hand, website and app developers refreshed the way in which sites, games and content were designed, laid-out and viewed on a new screen size in order to maximise tablet usage for browsing the internet, playing games and streaming video, resulting in smoother and more advanced user experiences across tablet devices. Conversely, smartphone makers were forced to drastically improve the speed, quality and usability of streaming and video capabilities of their phones to compete with this new technology, and by doing this, and taking advantage of the fact that less than 20% of tablets in use have an activated mobile connection, smartphones re-established their position as the go-to device for streaming, downloading, watching and playing.
The digital arena for competitive advancements of this kind has sparked the birth of the aptly nicknamed ‘phablet’ – a hybrid with the ease of mobility of a smartphone, but the power and added functionality of a tablet, housed in a device closer to the size of the former than the latter. However, if the modern user already owns – and uses daily – a smartphone, a laptop and a previous iteration of a tablet, can this this new device ever be relevant and necessary to their life or work? PCs are reported to have taken up to 30 years to be replaced by a genuinely better device, yet tablets may appear to have reached this point after just 4.
So whilst some may declare that the current digital climate signals the decline of the tablet as we know it, it can instead be argued that it in fact heralds the beginning of technological advances that will push tablets back into the forefront of the portable device market. The Kindle Fire HDX, a well received hybrid of an e-reader and a traditional tablet, for example, features compatibility and functionality that cannot be found in a Nexus 7, and vice-versa, allowing developers to constantly advance and evolve their devices in order to stay current, stay popular, and stay desirable.
The core selling point behind tablets is their mobility. Performing almost all of the functions of laptop but at half – or less – the size and weight of one, the tablet is a useful tool in a business and leisure world that is becoming more mobile, transient and modernised. In order to survive in this developing technological landscape, as well as ensuring that existing devices remain usable for all, agencies such as Matter Of Form must place their design and development priorities firmly on small screen usability for mobile and tablet. Once this core aspect is in place, build, functionality and extras can be integrated for optimum user experience, instead of building a beautiful site or app and then trying to make it work for smaller screens afterwards.
The fact that agencies are continuously developing new and exciting apps for tablet, utilising the latest and most innovative technology to ensure optimal user experience and functionality, prove that despite the clamour of new kids on the block, the tablet is steadfastly here to stay.