INSIDE MOBILE: What Tablet Should You Buy for the Holidays?

By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2010-12-09

INSIDE MOBILE: What Tablet Should You Buy for the Holidays?

I've had a number of friends and relatives ask me, "What tablet should you buy for the upcoming holidays?" The question is a good one to consider because there are so many choices this year. Remember that, just a year ago, the only "tablet" in high-volume production was the Kindle e-reader.

Now, the tablets on the market are the new, better (but still B&W) Kindle and the color Nook from Barnes & Noble (both really e-book readers). There's also the full-function Apple iPad, the Galaxy Tab from Samsung and products announced from Dell (Slate) and RIM (BlackBerry PlayBook). I'll focus on the first four products in this column, as I haven't yet seen the Slate or PlayBook (which are not yet shipping in volume).

Each one of these tablet devices may be right for you depending on your personal preferences. Of all the current tablets, Apple has created the most emotional appeal with its commercials emphasizing the "magical iPad."

Amazon's Kindle

First, if you only want to read a book, then the Kindle will adequately meet your needs. The latest offering includes a 6-inch B&W display that provides higher contrast than previous models. It includes Wi-Fi and free 3G to download books from any location in the world. It costs $189. There's a Wi-Fi only version for $139 but I recommend spending $50 more to get one with built-in 3G. Amazon has the largest book collection, so the Kindle is a great gift for someone who's an avid book reader and not likely to want the advanced features of a tablet.

Barnes & Noble's Nook

The next step up is Barnes & Noble's Nook. It now includes a color display. They have announced support for a number of magazines that predominantly include color diagrams and photos. This isn't a full tablet as it doesn't support an operating system such as Apple's iOS or Google's Android, but it greatly expands the classes of content that can be displayed on a tablet device. This first version of the color Nook only has Wi-Fi, but I expect you'll see a color Nook with 3G cellular wireless (since 3G is already provided in older Nook models).

Apples iPad

Apple's iPad

For the past six months, the full tablet arena was owned by Apple with the launch of the first version of the iPad. It has a larger 10-inch display, and the Apple App Store now includes thousands of applications that are designed specifically for the iPad. A good example is the application produced to provide a great experience for reading color-enhanced newspapers, magazines and periodicals.

I recently wrote a column (Sept. 15) that declared the death of the physical newspaper within 10 years as the number of color tablets grows to hundreds of millions. I expect publishers to offer a better tablet-based content reading and searching experience versus what can be provided on paper. Rupert Murdoch has announced plans to publish a new digital newspaper called "The Daily" which will be delivered overnight to tablets. That's the sign of the future.

The iPad has two great ways to read books: 1) iBooks (formatting method for just the iPad that is cool-pages flip graphically) and the iBook Store (library of iPad-enhanced books similar to how iTunes provides a library of music and videos) and 2) Amazon Kindle e-reader for the iPad so you can get all of Amazon's digital books (millions of them) on your iPad. All of the books I have read on the iPad came out of the Amazon/Kindle library because it has significantly more titles.

I have found the iPad to be a much different experience than I thought it would be. First, it's much more of a "pass around" kind of device that is different from an iPhone or a notebook or Mac. It's easy to access photos or other things and just pass it to someone. Pandora works well with the iPad (because it has good speakers). I sometimes just play background music since it creates channels based on the music you like.

E-mail is easier on the iPad than the iPhone simply because it's easier to see and much easier to type a reply. It doesn't replace Outlook on the Mac or PC notebook but still it's easier to manage than with a phone.

I like the Amazon bookstore on the iPad, as it has all of the books that are available with the Kindle. I suspect that you'll just find that you can get books from Amazon (by downloading the Amazon/Kindle application for the iPad) as well as some books from the iBook store and end up just not needing the Kindle. If you have an older Kindle and are getting a new tablet such as the iPad, give the Kindle to someone else who would enjoy reading books.

Just like with the iPhone, you sync up the iPad via "Apple connector" to your notebook (Windows or Mac). You can then transfer files, photos and videos through the connector and using iTunes. All of your iTunes content is immediately available on your iPad-which is nice (and not available on the Samsung Galaxy). You can also make phone calls with the iPad using Skype and Wi-Fi.

The iPad will display PDF documents, allowing you to view them when out with friends or business associates. I use it with other people, showing them PDF versions of presentations and documents or photos all the time. You'll be amazed that it becomes your group meeting, interactive, "pass around" device.

Samsungs Galaxy Tab

Samsung's Galaxy Tab

I just acquired a Galaxy Tab. The screen is smaller at seven inches, but it feels very comfortable to hold and carry around. It has a camera, a MicroSD slot for additional storage, and supports Adobe Flash-thus easily displaying any Website that utilizes Flash technology. It can also be used to set up a mobile hotspot.

The Galaxy Tab is definitely "better" (more features) than the iPad, but it's just coming out. Both have wireless with Wi-Fi built in, but I would recommend getting any tablet with 3G as I have found you need access at times when Wi-Fi isn't available. You can sign up for their least expensive wireless data plan, but make sure you use Wi-Fi for large downloads and applications such as Pandora (streaming music) which consume a lot of bandwidth.

It seems clear to me that tablets will become a "must-have" for technology-savvy individuals this year and then migrate into the enterprise market next year. By 2012, I expect tablets to be become part of what I refer to as "the three mobile device world", which includes a notebook PC or Mac, smartphone and tablet. You talk and review with the smartphone, think and reflect with a tablet, and create and explore with a notebook PC or Mac.

If you want to get that "Ooh" and "Aah" (along with some "Eeks" and "OMGs"), give someone you love an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab this holiday season. You'll be so cool and receive lots of love.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.

Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.

Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column.  If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time.

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