Tablets are getting relevant again [OPINION]

All thanks to online classes, the surge of video conferencing and the pandemic.

The Galaxy Tab S7 on Samsung’s Website

Android tablets are usually seen as underperforming, garbage and unoptimized, even to this day. However, with the advent of the pandemic, the demand for tablets has gone higher in preparation for online classes and work-at-home environments. In fact, tablet sales performed much better last Q1 2021 than they were in 2019, when Android tablets are considered dead. So dead that even Google pulled out of the tablet market entirely, eventually cancelling the Pixel Slate line.

Galaxy Tab 7
The Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7in. tablet released in 2010

When the iPad first came out, it blew the world by storm, and because of the large hype, many other manufacturers are riding on the tablet bandwagon (that’s quite obvious). Samsung is one of the first manufacturers to release an Android tab called the Galaxy Tab, it ran on Android 2.2, which is unoptimized as all hell and is really made for smartphones.

So to support Android tab manufacturers, Google has released a tablet-only version of Android called Android Honeycomb, aka Android 3.0. After the lackluster performance of the software, as well as Google’s sudden shift in focus, the company tried to forget about Android tablets’ existence, and started releasing normal Android versions for smartphones instead. By 2016, Google isn’t supporting much about tablets, but manufacturers still made them, namely as an alternative to the very expensive iPad models.

When the Google Pixel smartphones were released, Google released a tablet version of it called Pixel C and later, Pixel Slate, which both run on ChromeOS instead of Android. So the tablets are handheld Chromebooks instead of Android Tablets, and as stated earlier, Google has abandoned the Pixel Slate entirely.

Wow, that’s an awfully long intro, if you don’t want to read this (too late, you probably did already). Then press Ctrl + F then type “So are tablets relevant again?” without quotation marks, as that’s the start of this opinion article.

So, are tablets relevant again this year?

In my opinion, Android tablets are getting more relevant again this year, all thanks to the pandemic, the rise of video conferencing and it can be considered a makeshift and a bridge between smartphones and laptops. Smartphone screens are too small, while laptops can be heavy and bulky to carry. Plus, most Android tablets today, even cheap quality ones, give you a free keyboard. Despite what many articles say (the articles mostly concern about North American regions, so it’s no surprise why they think it’s still dead), tablets aren’t dying. In fact, electronics giant BBK is getting interested in making their own tablets, as their brands Oppo, Vivo, Realme and OnePlus are preparing to manufacture tablets, while Xiaomi is bringing back the Mi Pad line, with the focus of competing against the iPad Pro but with a cheaper price.

The main problem with tablets according to MakeUseOf, is the awful selection and lackluster support and updates. While they are partially correct about the lack of selection, considering the cheapest officially released tablet in the Philippines that are still available for purchase this year is the Galaxy A7 Lite, which only has 3GB RAM, 32GB storage and Mediatek Helio P22T processor. Wherein you can get a better-performing smartphone for a similar price range like the Redmi Note 10 and the Infinix Zero 8.

If you’re thinking about updates, well, forget it on the cheapest tablet, cause you probably won’t get it. Lucky if it gets even one security updates. The Galaxy Tab S7 for instance, shipped with Android 10. It was released just a few weeks before Android 11 launched but it didn’t get the beta. It took them 5 months before it got updated to Android 11, and this is a flagship tablet too.

The Teclast M40SE+ is a great tablet for online classes, and it even comes with a FREE keyboard

However, I believe that most tablet users are casuals who want nothing more than a portable big screen. They might not care at all if it updates or not so as long it does the job they’ve demanded. The Galaxy S7 Tab has pen and stylus support, making it a worthy alternative to artists who don’t want the latest iPad Pro. There are other tablets sold online-only that is more than enough for casual gaming and online classes. One of these is the Teclast M40SE+ which comes with a free keyboard and that only costs Php 8,999 (Php7,798 on the upcoming 8/8 sale tomorrow). It also comes with a newer UNISOC Tiger T610 chipset which is comparable to the Helio G85 SoC.

Another thing tablets are great at is for reading, their bigger screen is easier on the eyes since text is larger. Gaming is also much more immersive thanks to the horizontally-aligned large screen as opposed to smartphones which are vertically-aligned. Also, they are cheaper to afford than even the most budget of laptops, and can perform better than them too.

Yes, tablets are relevant again

Overall, I think tablets are relevant again, and the pandemic made them that way. The need for a big screen for video conferencing as well as cheaper alternatives to the iPad and laptops is why the demand skyrocketed. Android tablets bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops in price, performance and size. Modern tablets now can compete with smartphones in performance. Though not perfectly polished, manufacturers such as Realme and Xiaomi are noticing them again, and this should influence Google to care about Android tablets again, and make their Android OS more polished for tablets once more.

Most tablet users would not probably care for technical things like updates or how good the screen is (apart from artists and multimedia users) so as long it gets the job done. If it can run Zoom or Google Meet properly, then it’s more than enough for them. If the tablet can handle their school or work projects, it’s also more than enough. People don’t need expensive tablet, people need a tablet that can function and do their jobs smoothly and as intended. Things like keyboards and pens are just extra peripherals, and is more likely not needed for casual day-to-day use.