Time for a Change in Roles
Back in January, I couldn't wait to get a new smartphone. As soon as June came around and I was eligible for a new device, my Evo would be a thing of the past. I wanted more power, a better screen and a sexier package. CES and MWC brought a slew of new dual-core handsets that met my every need. I fell in love with the Galaxy S 2, and the few months between its reveal and launch seemed to be an interminable wait.
And then came the iPad 2:
As soon as I bought my iPad, that burning urge for a new smartphone started to dry up. Everything I used to do on my Evo- reading ebooks and browsing the Internet from my couch and researching on-the-go, was so much more satisfying on my tablet. Browsing, chatting, typing and reading are all better on the iPad than my phone. And it isn't just iOS.
My Evo wouldn't have kept a classroom of Guatemalan kids enthralled for hours.
The More, the Merrier:
I currently have three tablets in my possession: the iPad 2, the PlayBook and the Acer A500 Android tablet. I prefer all three to any handset I've yet used. The PlayBook is small enough to fit in a pants pocket or a jacket. The A500 is my new favorite content platform. It's as easy to load media on as my smartphone, but immensely more pleasant to view it with. At this point, my laptop only exists due to my need for Photoshop.
At this point, I'd prefer any of my three tablets to every smartphone I've ever played with. In fact, these days I find I hardly need a smartphone at all...
Before and After:
Before my first tablet, I used my smartphone constantly when away from the house. If I needed to handle some email or do a brief chunk of research or jot down notes, out it came. I put up with the lag and the painfully small display because it was convenient and provided functionality my laptop couldn't.
In the last month though, I've almost forgotten about my poor Evo. I use it for navigation, texting, and the WiFi hotspot feature. I don't need speed or RAM for any of those tasks, nor do I need a huge screen. My next smartphone purchase will be made with this in mind. I'll buy something simple that compliments my tablets. At this point, I can't help but feel that a high-end smartphone like the S 2 would be wasted in my pocket.
Sure, it's sexy. But why do I need all that horsepower if I have a tablet?
Tablets and Smartphones are Complementary Devices:
The iPad has spread rapidly across the consumer electronics market, and other tablets are slowly starting to catch up. The PlayBook has been a moderate success and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1" is poised to be the first commercially viable Android tablet. The tablet market grows every day, which means more and more people are starting to experience the same thing I have. There's a reason Apple pushed the iOS hotspot feature alongside the iPad 2 launch.
The tablet compliments the smartphone- and vice versa. And I think future generations of both will play to this fact. The TouchPad/Pre integration is a great example of this. Allowing people to drive content from their handset to their tablet helps to maximize the usefulness of both. In the near future, I see smartphones and tablets being marketed together. WebOS and iOS are well on their way to embracing this.
Motorola's Atrix Was a Good Idea with the Wrong Form-Factor:
The Atrix hit upon something brilliant. We want the ability to connect our primary computing device to our smartphone. This way you can share content, contact data, notes, saved documents- without needing to take the time to transfer them via email or USB. The problem with the Atrix laptop dock is that the laptop is a fundamentally inferior platform for the kind of computing people want to do these days.
Going from the freedom of a touchscreen to a traditional display / touchpad layout feels confining, cramped. Mobile operating systems feel weird crammed into a traditional PC. A much better idea would have been a smartphone with a tablet dock. The tablet might even be the "primary" device in that arrangement. You could use the smartphone for the handful of tasks it is better at, and then plug it in to the tablet to get some real work done.
The tablet form factor is a natural evolution for the smartphone, and 'scaling up' feels natural in a way that scaling laterally to a notebook doesn't.
Focus is Important:
Because the tablet fulfils so many needs I once relied on my smartphone for, I've become more aware of my Evo's shortcomings as a phone. A combined smartphone/tablet would allow my handset to focus more on being a phone- with better battery life and more support for practical "on the go" features like navigation and augmented reality. There will always be folks who prefer a powerful smartphone, but I think most of us would be happy with a division of labor that better suits the strengths of our mobile devices.
The tablet will always be more comfortable for content consumption and creation than the smartphone. There will always be a demand for video or browsing on a handset, but most of us would benefit from being able to switch over to a more comfortable form-factor the instant it becomes convenient.