Android 2.3, 3G, Better Screens: 10 Features Tablets Need in 2011

News Analysis: With more tablets coming into the market, their omissions are becoming more apparent. That's why there are some features that should make their way to all tablets by 2011.

Tablets are quickly becoming important to both consumers and enterprise customers. And as time goes on, they will only be improved with more and more features that customers want. However, the tablet market, led by Apple's iPad, is still missing out on some features that folks really want to get their hands on. At this point, there simply isn't a single device that achieves all the value that customers are looking for.

But next year is a fresh start. And companies both big and small--from Apple to Archos--have the ability to achieve new heights with their products by delivering features that customers are still hoping for. Some of the things customers are looking for from the tablet space next year are quite simple to implement. Others might take some serious cash and time. But in either case, there are several features that need to come to tablets in 2011.

Take a look:

1. iPad video conferencing

One of the biggest complaints with the iPad is that it doesn't feature video conferencing. In fact, the device lacks a camera to accommodate any kind of video or photo capturing from the device. Hopefully in the next version of the iPad, Apple will deliver the ability to snap photos and video conference (through FaceTime) with others. Much of the competition seems to be going that way, so it would only make sense for Apple to follow suit.

2. A different Android version

Android 2.2 is running on Samsung's Galaxy Tab. But Google itself has said that the operating system version isn't designed with tablets in mind. Instead, Google has cautioned vendors to wait for the next version of Android-Android 2.3. Because of that comment, a different Android version running on tablets would be most appreciate in 2011. It will not only help vendors compete more effectively against the iPad, but it will also improve the experience of using an Android-based tablet.

3. Better printer support

With the release of iOS 4.2, Apple has added AirPrint support. The only problem is, there are currently very few printers that work with the new software. Going forward, it would be nice to see more printer support, both for the iPad and for several other tablets that don't necessarily deliver the kind of printing capabilities that consumers have come to expect from netbooks and other mobile computers.

4. Enterprise-friendly options

The enterprise has been largely ignored by tablet makers in 2010. Although Apple's iPad does deliver some administrative controls, thanks to iOS, there aren't any tablets other than the HP Slate 500 that adequately delivers an enterprise-focused experience. That's a problem. And in 2011, it would be nice to see more enterprise-friendly options hit store shelves. Luckily, that seems probable with the RIM PlayBook and the Cisco Cius slated for release next year.

5. A dedication to large screen sizes

Apple's iPad features a 9.7-inch display, making it the best choice for tablet consumers right now who want bigger displays. However, several companies have been offering smaller screens, including Dell, which offers a 5-inch display in its Streak tablet. In 2011, companies should find a way to deliver 9.7-inch tablets or bigger. Luckily, it seems that Acer will be doing just that. In a series of tablets Acer announced on Nov. 23, the company said that it will offer a 10.1-inch tablet. Hopefully others will follow suit.

6. A Chrome tablet?

When Google first announced its cloud-based Chrome OS, the company said that it would be designed for netbooks. But over the past year, netbooks have been decimated by tablets. And the chances of that changing are slim. Realizing that, next year would be a fine year for Google to unveil Chrome OS-based tablets. It would deliver a different experience to consumers that they might just like.

7. iPad built-in Verizon 3G connectivity

Although consumers and enterprise customers can get their hands on an iPad at Verizon right now that offers 3G connectivity, that's only possible with the help of an add-on, the MiFi 2200 hotspot. Next year, it would be nice to see Apple announce a new iPad that features access to Verizon's 3G network built-in. It simply makes it easier to use the device.

8. A bigger Galaxy Tab display

As noted above, bigger display sizes are important in the tablet space. But Samsung currently delivers the best competitor to the iPad in the Galaxy Tab, and that device only has a 7-inch display. Next year, Samsung should follow Acer's lead and offer a 10.1-inch display in its Galaxy Tab follow-up to really put the pressure on Apple.

9. 3G in the RIM PlayBook

When RIM announced its PlayBook tablet, the company said that it would not include 3G connectivity out of the box. If that's true and the PlayBook ships without 3G, it will be in for trouble. Tablets are designed specifically for those want to be mobile. And the best way to be productive while on-the-go is with the help of 3G. Every tablet maker, including RIM, must understand that next year.

10. SD across the board

Although tablets come with on-board memory, having the ability to quickly transfer content to or from the devices with an SD slot would be a welcome addition to any tablet available next year. It's one of the glaring omissions with the iPad, especially since the device doesn't have a USB port, which would also make it easy to add content to the tablet. SD support is something that would add some value to just about every tablet on the market next year.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...