I was in Best Buy the other day and overheard a conversation between the salesperson and a customer. Not once did I hear the questions that should have been asked. No surprise there, it was Best Buy. However, being in the Christmas spirit, I decided to assist the customer while the sales rep ran off to see if there were any Minis in stock.
Here were the questions I asked the customer to help them decide rather than have the salesperson pick for them.
1) How much do you want to spend?
Really a simple question, but there are hidden aspects to the question. Are you willing to have a monthly bill for 3G or LTE connectivity? Do you need to pay for that connectivity? If you have a hot spot option on you phone, you don’t need to add that monthly bill. Have you looked at the prices in the various app stores for the apps you are most likely to use? Which leads to question number 2…
2) Are you already heavily invested in a application market or e-book service?
For anyone who has owned an iSomething, Android device, Kindle or Nook. Chances are you have made some purchases. If you have dropped some serious coin into a specific vendor, start looking there unless you are fed up with that service. Also remember Amazon AppStore purchases can be loaded on any Android device by loading the Amazon AppStore application. If you have owned a Nook, but only purchased books, they can be read on Android or iOS by installing the Nook reader.
3) What are you planning to use the tablet for?
Remember, a tablet will not replace a desktop or laptop. However, from personal experience, I can use my tablet for 90% of what I would normally do on a PC. I have found I can use the tablet for almost everything I do at work. My situation is likely different than most as I work mostly from the command line on Unix systems. The office applications available on Android are very usable, some I find more intuitive than the latest release of Microsoft Office.
If you are looking for something you can take anywhere, look into the 7 inch form factor. If you are looking for a coffee table addition, something you wont take out of the house often, look into the 10 inch/larger tablets.
The 7 inch tablets, for the most part, fit into a jacket pocket, jeans pocket or cargo shorts/pants pockets easily. The one big exception is the iPad Mini. It is too large to fit in most pockets. Check the size of the device depending on what you are planning to use it for. Also remember, you will likely get a case which will add some size to the tablet. If it is a tight squeeze without a case, it won’t fit with one on.
4) Do you like to tinker and customize?
If you answer yes here, chances are you want Android.
If you answer no or are unsure, spend some quality time with the display unit. Make sure you feel comfortable with the layout. Ask questions on how to organize applications. This is one of my biggest gripes with the Fire, Nook and iDevices. Initially it is easy to find apps when not much is loaded. When you start adding to you devices portfolio of apps, things become quite cluttered and hard to find. Especially if it is a shared device among family members.
5) Storage options
While it is great to have cloud storage, it may not always be accessible. Local storage is a must. Even if you don’t think you will need all that space, spend the extra $30-$50 for a little more storage. Especially if the device does not have a SD card option. It is always better to have it available and not use it than realize you need more and can’t add it.
My personal taste?
I bought a Nexus 7 16GB, the 32GB wasn’t available when I purchased mine. I was heavily invested in the Play Store thanks to my large collection of Android devices. I own or have owned a Droid Incredible, Viewsonic G-Tab, Acer A100, Galaxy Nexus (Verizon), Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (Kids) and my Nexus 7. We also have an iPad 2 that was given to us for the kids to use. I rarely touch the iThing, except to plug it in/put it away when the kids leave it laying around.
I have found the battery life in my phone has improved greatly due to me using the tablet for everything. Rarely do I get on my PC at home since getting the N7. It makes a great second screen when viewing TV. It is the perfect size to read books on especially in bed. It is also great for watching Netflix or any other streaming service.
My biggest advice.
Think before you buy and avoid the no-name brands.
There is no sense in taking a chance on an offbrand when Asus, Acer, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and some others stand behind these devices pretty impressively. I have had repairs done by Acer on the A100 nearly a year after purchase still under warranty. Asus has just as awesome of hardware support on their devices. If you didn’t know they made tablets, chances are you don’t want that tablet. It doesn’t matter how good their toasters are.
If you are looking at Android, at a minimum look for something with Ice Cream Sandwich but preferably Jellybean.
If you are looking at a Mini, I would recommend waiting until Gen 2. I personally can’t justify the price tag for the right to own something with and Apple on it. (Sorry, I let my personal opinions sneak in.)
If you are looking at a Surface/Windows RT tablet. Remember it will not run the same programs you have on your PC. Wait for the “Pro” version if you are looking for a Windows tablet that runs programs you already own. Be prepared to spend some cash on a “Pro” version as it will be essentially a ultra book.
And the last thing, if the salesman says “it can run Flash”. Ask to speak to someone else. Flash went the way of the dodo on mobile devices. You would need to side load it in Android and load a browser that supports flash. Forget about it with an iPad. Thanks to Walmart for that piece of advice, from a different trip to a store.