Tablet or smartphone ... or both?

Top row: Apple's iPad3 tablet has a 9.7-inch screen while the iPhone 4S smartphone has a 3.5-inch screen. Bottom row: Google's Nexus7 tablet has a 7-inch screen while Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone has a 4.8-inch screen.

Like using the correct type of knife to carve a turkey or making a garnish out of an orange peel, choosing between a tablet and a smartphone is about the “appropriateness” of the chosen tool.

Tablets and smartphones are genetically similar except smartphones also make phone calls and have smaller screens. Other than those traits, a smartphone does everything a tablet does.

However, basing your purchase decision solely on the above differentiating traits may give you buyer's remorse. For example a traveling salesman who wants to start answering emails while on the road may purchase a tablet because he didn’t like the aesthetics of a smartphone’s small screen, only to find out that connecting his tablet to the internet while on the road is not easy and it is cumbersome to carry around.

Or a retired gentleman may become frustrated with smartphone, finding that operating it is difficult due to its small screen, a problem exacerbated by his poor vision. So take a holistic approach to your purchasing decision by reviewing your budget, how you will be using it, and other unique situational parameters.

Just like there are “cost of ownership” differences depending on whether you buy a sedan, SUV or hybrid, tablets and smartphones have differing costs of ownership too. Being connected to the internet is a must for a tablet to be useful and if you already have a traditional computer connected to the internet you can share that connection wirelessly (i.e. through the air, just like radio waves) with your tablet. Even if you don’t have internet access at home you can use your tablet at libraries and other establishments that offer free wireless internet access – commonly advertised as “free” or “open wi-fi.”

On the other hand if you are buying a smartphone to replace your old cell phone you can expect to pay more a month for the service. Your monthly invoice will continue to have charges for making calls but a new kind of charge will appear related to the “smart” portion of the smartphone, itemized on the bill as “data”; the latter enables you to use your smartphone like a tablet while on the move and remain always connected.

Questions you may want to ask yourself are:

  • Can I afford the increase in monthly cell phone services fee?
  • Do I need to answer emails and use apps while on the go?
  • Can I see and tap the icons on a small screen?

If you answered “no” to the above, then you may be a candidate for a tablet. Always remember the “appropriateness” factor and follow the “holistic” approach to decision making.

The final question is, does anyone need both? Look no further than yours truly! Even when I have a traditional computer that does “everything but the kitchen sink,” I find myself reaching for the tablet to quickly check emails, read news or relax with a game of chess. And since my business requires me to be ubiquitous, I carry a smartphone. In fact I wrote this article from my comfortable couch using a tablet … in my jammies and bunny slippers.

Next issue’s topic: "Tips on security and privacy in the digital world"

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 20+ years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 10:18 AM, 01.21.2014