Kevin is quite forward-thinking in predicting a future when tablet replacing smartphone as our main mobile device on all applications, including cellular voice. I agree with most of his points. Just from a product designer point of view, I would like to explore where we are in the process and how well each party is doing right now.
To be the center of our digital life, I believe a real main mobile device needs to have the following treats:
- Powerful enough to cope to our daily needs
- When we need them, they need to hit the ground running instantly.
- When we don’t need them, they can get out-of-the-way with the least burden.
Let’s look at each treat and try to score it on both devices, smartphone and tablet.
1. Powerful Enough to cope to our daily needs.
Smartphones have become more and more powerful. It IS a mobile computer now. The only limitation is screen size, and that has been mitigated by great attention on UI/UX designs.
Performance wise, a tablet can pretty much do everything the smartphone can do, only faster and easier. The bigger screen size offer more freedom on user interactions and more immersive experience. If smartphones are only good for content consuming, tablet can handle some light weight content creating jobs already.
2. When we need them, they need to hit the ground running instantly.
For two major use cases, app launching and voice calls, smartphone handles them very well. Usually app launching is quick on most smartphones and tablets and mobile OS now all support ‘instant on’. Unlock your smartphone and hit the app icon, within seconds you’re already on the road. Cellular calls are easy too, user can pick up the call just be pulling the smartphone out and unlock, then place the phone near their ear.
This is where tablet is still struggling. Yes you can always use headset or Bluetooth, but who wants to wear a headset or Bluetooth all day just in case someone call them? Holding the big tablet near your ear to take the call is borderline ridiculous.
Another more subtle factor is how many hands user will have to use for the device. For smartphone is one hand most of the time, but for tablet it’s both hands. From my personal experience, if I can use one hand, I would prefer to not use two. Anyone shares the same feeling with me?
3. When we don’t need them, they can get out-of-the-way with the least burden.
Simple, putting the smartphone into your pocket will do. It become invisible and you are worry free. There is nearly no cost in carrying them around.
Tablet: For guys ♥♥ For gals: ♥♥♥♥
This is much less of an issue for purse carrying ladies. 7 inch tablet can easily fit into ladies’ purse and they carry them around all day anyway. For guys, it’s a bit harder since purse is not a necessary accessory for them. Wherever they go, they always have to think about not losing it. The weight might not be a problem for guys though.
Smartphone: 15 ♥
Tablet: 10 ♥
It’s very likely that smartphone will still be our main mobile device for a while, until we can find a better way to carry tablet around and picking up incoming calls.