Ever since the iPad was launched, I've heard people ask the same question countless number of times; what can you do with it and why would anyone need it? Initially I wasn't sure about it myself but after spending some time with the iPad I got a fair idea of what one could do with the device, and more specifically what I could do with the device.
Now the iPad is no longer the only tablet around with several variants from the Android camp crawling out of the woodwork almost every other day. Even BlackBerry announced its very own tablet, the PlayBook, which plans to take the iPad head on. All this is good reason for people to know what these devices are meant for and what they can be used for. So here are a few things that you can do with a tablet.
Note that many of the things here can be one on a smartphone as well as on a notebook PC. But what sets a tablet apart is the way it does those same things. Also, contrary to what some people might think, the tablet is not a replacement for the notebook PC but rather is a device that complements it.
Browse the Web
When Steve Jobs announced the iPad, he described browsing the web on the iPad as "magical". Knowing Apple, I was quick to dismiss it as one of their marketing tactics but when I used the iPad myself I must say I was blown away. I have a smartphone, notebook and a desktop computer at home, and I love to browse the web on all of them. But there's something amazing about browsing the web on the tablet. I could just sit on my couch or anywhere else and have this device in my hand, which was almost as portable as a smartphone and provided a browsing experience that could put a notebook to shame.
Scrolling through images with your fingers, tapping on the links, pinching to zoom is way better than using a mouse or a trackpad. The tablet quickly became my favorite medium to browse the web. Of course, the iPad lacks Flash support, which is a rather big omission, considering how much of the online content is in that format, but that's something the new crop of tablets have taken care of, with full Flash 10.1 support.
Trust me; unless you are a hardcore PC nut, you would not want to browse the web on any other device once you experience it on a tablet.
A notebook has a keyboard that sticks around even when you are not using it. Do you really need to have a keyboard around when you are watching a movie on it? Well, that problem is solved in a tablet, since you are basically just holding the screen in your hand. Tablets like the iPad have a display large enough to enjoy your movies with high quality IPS panels, which most notebooks, even the expensive ones, lack.
The iPad has a battery life of around ten hours, which has been proven good countless number of times. A notebook can give you three hours. Imagine the number of movies you can watch on the iPad in that time compared to that on a notebook.
Format support was initially an issue on the iPad, but now, thanks to apps like VLC, that has been taken care of. Tablets like Galaxy Tab support 1080p playback out of the box for AVI files. Try doing that on a netbook without getting a slideshow.
It's best to leave the smartphones out of this as even the ones with the biggest displays won't provide you with the kind of experience that a tablet will.
Gaming on notebooks is still a half-baked experience. Most computer games are designed for powerful desktop computers and run badly on notebooks unless you turn the settings down all the way. Even then you don't get the best experience, thanks to the keyboard layout and the trackpad. You need a mouse for most of them, which means you cannot use it on the move.
But that's not an issue on the tablets. The iPad has one of the best libraries of games that you can find anywhere which have been designed specifically with that hardware in mind. The touchscreen makes interacting with the games a lot more fun than with a keyboard or trackpad. Then there is also an accelerometer to make things even more interesting.
Most tablets have a fairly powerful hardware, so you get some amazing graphics and visuals. And if you find a buddy with the same tablet as yours then you can also play multiplayer games over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. On a notebook you would need a constant (and fast) Internet connection to do the same.
You can do all this on a smartphone as well, but again with their smaller displays, the experience is just not the same.
I'm not just talking books here; the Internet is filled with excellent articles that everyone should take time out to read. I personally do a lot of reading online. But sitting in front of a computer screen for reading just doesn't seem right. You can do it on the notebook but it's still not convenient. A smartphone is too small to read anything for an extended duration. But a tablet, now that's just perfect.
Most tablets are about the size of a magazine or a book, which instantly makes them the right size to read. You can hold them in your hand just like you would a book or a magazine. There are several excellent online reading apps available. Two such examples on the iPad are Instapaper and Reeder. The former is for reading web articles that you stumble upon while browsing the web. You can keep adding articles to your Instapaper account from your tablet, iPhone/iPod touch or your desktop computer and then open the Instapaper app on your iPad and find all your marked articles there.
Thanks to the excellent interface, you don't feel like you are reading an article from a website but more like a book or magazine. It is by far the best way to read online articles that I ever came across. As far as Reeder is concerned, it is an RSS reader which syncs with your Google Reader account. It once again has a beautiful interface and presents your feeds in a way you have never seen before.
Then of course there are eBooks. The iPad has the iBook Store as well as the Amazon Store app. The Galaxy Tab has Kobo eBook reader and I'm sure BlackBerry will have something for their PlayBook as well (not to mention third party apps). Thanks to the tablets, you don't need to invest in an eBook reader like the Kindle which can only be used to read books, unlike the tablets, which can do so much more.
Comic lovers will also enjoy the Marvel Comics app that is available for the iPad. Then you have news apps such as NYTimes, Wall Street Journal, FOX News, BBC News, CNN App and Reeder available for the iPad. Even NDTV has its own iPad app now! As far as magazines are concerned, you have the excellent Popular Science+ for now but things will only get better as other magazines also come with their iPad apps.
As with web browsing, I firmly believe that reading is something that can best be experienced on a tablet of all the electronic devices out there.
Infotainment for Kids:
The iPad has a pretty good collection of applications available for kids. Not only do they keep them busy for a while, they also help them learn while they are having fun. If you are a parent, you might want to consider getting one for your child. Just don't forget to put it in a protective case.
The things that I mentioned so far are all for consuming content on the device. But what about creating it? Unlike what many people think, you can use tablets for creation of content as well. Here are some of the things that you can do with tablets.
In the time I spent with the iPad, I was unable to get any serious writing done. However, I did realize that the keyboard on the iPad was good enough to type comfortably on. Besides, Apple also sells a Bluetooth keyboard specifically for the iPad and so will Samsung when the Galaxy Tab is launched.
A lot of people I know use their iPads for writing. And I'm not just talking about bloggers. Serious writers doing serious writing, for which they get serious money. They find it far simpler to just take out their iPads wherever they are and start writing instead of being at home or office in front of their computers. Being a writer myself, I completely understand that. At times you get the urge to write when you least expect it and it is easier to take out the iPad and put things down quickly than turning on your notebook or desktop PC.
The iPad also comes with some amazing writing applications, such as iA Writer and Simplenote. Then there is Apple's Pages app as well, not to mention the built-in Notes app, which can also do the trick at a pinch. All these prove that tablets can be great for writing on.
For this, I think I'll let the video do the talking.
Presentations and Worksheets:
Keynote and Numbers; two apps that prove that tablets can be used for serious work as well.
Yes, you can not only listen to music on your iPad but create it as well.