SEATTLE — A little more than a year after Apple carved a
computer niche market we never knew existed, tablets are a hot
commodity this holiday season.
According to the National Retail Federation, 35.4 percent of
Americans would like consumer electronics this year.
And it seems like this winter, companies are listening. While the
bestseller remains Apple’s iPad 2, dozens of other slates are
looking to one-up Apple’s “magic” device, most of them running
Google’s Android operating system.
But even when it comes to Android, not all tablets are made
equal. The iPad may seem the gold standard, but ask anyone who
wishes it had a USB port how they feel.
It always comes down to one question, “How will you use it?”
TRAVELER: Paul Calver — “For fun.”
Calver is a Seattle area real estate broker who was looking for a
tablet on which to download travel guides. He already uses an
older model Amazon Kindle, but was looking at the new
Android-based Kindle Fire because he felt a backlit color screen
would help him navigate the streets of Paris better than his old
To reach the $199 price point everyone is talking about, Amazon
stripped away a lot you’d normally expect on a slate. No camera.
No Bluetooth. Smaller screen. Some tech experts even call the
Fire an “e-reader with extras” as opposed to a full-blown tablet.
But it can stream movies, television, as well as access common
apps like Facebook and Twitter. And the price — $300 less than
the cheapest iPad — is likely why so many competitors are
offering up holiday deals (like the Barnes and Noble Nook Simple
Touch e-reader , which is available on Black Friday for $79).
Said Calver: “This will work fine for shorter trips because I can
get on the web and I can read my books and stuff.”
ENTERTAINMENT: Erica Peterson — “It fits in my purse.”
Peterson is an education director at a local nonprofit
organization, but she bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab last year in
order to have something on which to read and play Sudoku. Now,
Samsung is updating the line with various models with screens up
to 10 inches.
“I’m interested in updating to a larger screen,” said Peterson.
Samsung is known for its bright, high resolution displays on both
smartphones and tablets.
“Samsung does also manufacture the iPad screens so they’re very
comparable,” said Micah Wells, a Geek Squad Agent with the
Northgate Best Buy, who added that the Galaxy series, at 14 hours
a charge, claims the longest battery life too.
HOME CASUAL: Bob — “Something that I can use around home.”
Bob, who declined to give his full name, was exploring all his
options before he put a tablet on his holiday wishlist.
“Something that I can use around home…surfing the web,” he
said, adding he plans to use the tablet as, “somewhere in between
the phone and the laptop.”
In an informal survey conducted on KING-5’s Facebook page, “ease
of use” ranked third behind screen size/resolution and operating
system as qualities most desired in a tablet.
Most tech experts will say the iPad still has the easiest and
slickest interface, with the largest app market and the most
But Google’s Android phones exploded in popularity this year, and
Wells said one’s smartphone often dictates which tablet a
“Apple is great because they do manufacture the hardware and the
software,” Wells said, “Android is typically more open and more
Even among Android tablets, though, there is variation. The Asus
Transformer has several slots for memory cards and USB drives, as
well an attachable keyboard that is supposed to add 8 hours of
battery life. The Toshiba thrive has more full-sized ports, as
opposed to microSD slots. And Sony’s Tablet S claims to be shaped
best for one-handed reading (the other hand, presumably, to hold
Ultimately — and yes this may seem like a cop-out — Wells
suggests people try before they buy.
“We do ask people to sort of pick it up and play with it, just to
get the feel of it and what they prefer,” he said.
(Okay, okay, just so this is not a cop-out, this reporter’s
tablet is an Asus Transformer on which he gladly plays Angry
Birds and reads Google Books.)