In the years since Apple unveiled in first iPad, there’s been a surge in tablets of a sizes and costs. Microsoft’s Surface and Surface Pro are vying to take the enterprise and business market away from the iPad, while Google and Amazon continue to trade blows in the fight for the home market, with competing seven-inch tablets priced at margin, both tied to vast media libraries. While the Clash of the Tablets rages on, how are consumers actually using the devices? There has to be a more practical use for a tablet than Angry Birds and Netflix.
The larger tablets—the iPad and Surface—are definitely claiming to be work devices, as supplements to or replacements for laptops. At last year’s NTC, it seemed that in every breakout session, at least two or three people were taking notes on an iPad, and the market is flooded with cases featuring built-in keyboards. Microsoft even ships its tablet with a keyboard in the cover. But how much work can you get done on a device loaded up with games, apps, widgets, and other distractions?
First, there are work-friendly apps that can help with productivity, note-taking, or just working while traveling. Tools like Simplenote (for Apple) and Flicknote (for Android) let you take plain text notes, while others, like Evernote (both) let you combine notes, photos—basically everything—and move seamlessly between desktop, tablet, and smartphone. Even VoIP apps, like Skype, can be useful by letting you make calls from your tablet.
You’ll notice that these apps don’t have to work independent of your regular computer. As many have suggested before me, a tablet can work like a second screen for your computer, one that you use for plain text notes, quick reference, etc., while working on your desktop. Lifehacker even suggests services like Site to Phone and MyPhoneDesktop to send links and text between your desktop, smartphone, and tablet.
Aside from those apps, a tablet can still be used for checking email, if you use Gmail, or accessing shared documents through Google Drive. Tablets could also fill the same purpose as a second monitor for your computer—extra real estate for reference, email, etc.
Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with keeping a little distraction nearby. Especially when traveling, it can help to shut your brain off and relax (just not at work).