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VOL. 126 | NO. 234 | Thursday, December 01, 2011

Choice of Tablets Depends on User

By Sarah Baker

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With the holiday season in full swing, ads touting the latest and greatest tablet and smartphone devices abound.

The iPad 2, Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are racing for the top of the tablet food chain, while smartphones like the iPhone 4S and comparable Androids often subtly badger each other on television and Web marketing.

But the device with the latest bells and whistles doesn’t always work for everyone. Rather, it’s more of what the consumer is planning to accomplish through the platform.

Jacob Savage, founder of Speak Creative, recommends Apple products to his clients “hands down, every time.”

“Apple has created the best product because of the way that they control the hardware, the software, the app store – it’s all very well executed,” Savage said. “Whether you’re buying it for yourself or someone else, it’s very easy to get invested in those devices, whereas, if you were to buy an Android device off the shelf somewhere, there’s going to be a learning curve that comes with getting to know those devices and trying to figure out how to incorporate those devices into your life.”

Androids actually exceed Apple in sales volume, Savage said, but not in app sales. In fact, Speak Creative has found that in its total number of installations for any particular app for a client, about 70 percent will be from iPhone users compared with about 30 percent from Android devices.

“The takeaway that we find in that is … the developers know this information and they may be deciding to only invest in building apps for iPhone because there’s a larger pool of people buying apps,” Savage said.

Another important factor to keep in mind when deciding what product to buy – especially to be given as a gift – is the contract. Apple sells the iPhone without a contract, for instance. And auction sites such as eBay often sell gently used smartphones at inexpensive price points.

For tablets, Apple seems to shine again with its iPad 2 for Web, email and app capabilities. But depending on the user, there are other options to consider, said Cory Hymel, CEO of Prime Notion Technologies Inc.

“A lot of people, when they think of tablet, they think of iPad because that’s what’s kind of flooded the market, but the Kindle Fire is great if you’re looking just to strictly read articles,” Hymel said. “The price is great for what you get, they have a ton of content, a ton of books, magazines – and it’s really lightweight and durable.”

The iPad uses a backlight that can make for a slightly more difficult reading experience on the eyes, Hymel said, while lighting on the Nook or Kindle appears more like a digital clock.

“(The Kindle and Nooks are) a lot softer, not as bright,” Hymel said. “The iPad also has a glossy screen. If you’re looking to read outside, reflections do become an issue, whereas with the Kindle, there are no reflections on there, so that’s kind of nice.”

When looking to use a tablet as one’s only computer, it boils down to price, size, durability and accessory options, said Steve Phipps, director of client experience at LunaWeb Inc. Apple has created a loyal following and has the “cool factor,” he said, but the new Kindle Fire is giving the iPad a run for its money.

Apple still doesn’t have Adobe Flash capabilities, and it has a shaky history with syncing and backup services. That’s where Amazon is hoping to capitalize with its Kindle Fire.

“I don’t think it’s going to be iPad killer, but what it does do is give a good alternative to people that want a tablet that are interested in consuming media and content,” Phipps said. “Amazon’s done a very smart thing because what they’ve done is they’ve basically given this device access to their content. I think a lot of people that are interested will make the jump toward the Fire to at least get their foot in the water with tablets.”

The Kindle Fire is priced at $199, compared with $499 for the smallest iPad. But the Kindle measures seven inches versus the iPad’s 10.1-inch screen.

The iPad also has more internal memory, as well as Wi-Fi capabilities and front- and rear-facing cameras. And while both Apple and Amazon are pushing their own variations of the cloud storage – where media can be stored and accessed through the device – if one is purchasing solely for entertainment, the iPad takes the cake, Phipps said.

“One of the nice things with the iPad is you know what you’re getting,” Phipps said. “You know it’s going to be a good battery life, there’s probably about a 10-hour battery life with most iPads. But the different Android devices, you might have one that’s fairly comparable in specs that has maybe an eight- or 10-hour battery life and then have another one that’s very similar that comes from a different maker and has a six-hour battery life.”

All variables aside, it’s important for consumers to do their homework, Phipps said.

“When people are looking, make sure they look at some of the details,” Phipps said. “Read reviews. … There are differences that are worth noting beyond just the price point.”

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