What happened to tablets?

I remember back when the first iPad came out, I missed the actual announcement due to high school, but I managed to see the SNL skit about it later on that week. The skit, making fun of the device for sounding like a horrible digital abomination of a Maxi Pad, was hilarious. I thought the device was odd, seeing as it had limited functionality compared to a laptop, and it seemed like an oversized iPhone.

Then, my family got one. My brother is severely autistic, so we thought it’d be helpful for him to use it to communicate, and also be more mobile than a laptop. We all gathered around that 10.9″ screen that night, and downloaded free apps. We were fascinated by it, and I began to think that it had some potential. As a budding tech enthusiast at the time, I was excited to see what people would come up with for the iPad.

Years later, and you can still see iPads in a lot of places, store checkout lines, waiver form stations, contract signing stations, and other similar locations. The problem is, that is only one use of an iPad among many, and yet, it’s the dominant location for the devices. I see less and less people using them everyday, opting for larger and larger phones. I personally am guilty of this phenomenon, I had an iPad all the way through my time using Apple products, and after I saw to the Android side, I ditched the iPad and iPhone for 6″ phones. (I now currently am rocking a Nexus 6P).

So what happened? Are they just not good enough for personal use anymore? Sort of. My family still uses iPads primarily. My brother, being severely autistic, has no need for a cell phone and a data plan he could, (and would) run over every month. My parents find the larger screen handy, especially my mother, who still uses a pink iPhone 5C. My father has a iPhone 6S Plus from work, and uses his iPad less and less these days, primarily to listen to music or play poker, as he doesn’t want to do it on his company phone. But my own family is an exception to the rule. Many people have found that economically, it made no sense to keep iPads. Phones are getting big enough to easily see no matter what, but still be more portable than a tablet, and tablets aren’t getting the apps and optimization that phones are. Even more than that, as Android, especially with companies such as Samsung, LG, and Huawei, eats chunks of the market, no manufacturer has provided a true iPad competitor for Android.

The arguably best tablet on the market for Android today is Google’s Pixel C. The Pixel is a solid piece of hardware. The problem is not that it’s not well built, it’s as polished a device as we have come to expect from Google. The problem is the lack of developer support for tablets in the Android ecosystem. This problem also applies to iOS. As phones grew larger and larger, and tablets shrunk, developers faced a dilemma. To build for tablets, or not to build for tablets? Many developers answered “no” to that question, and found the smartphone’s dominance of the touchscreen market to be where their focus should be directed. Also to be noted is the fact that most people always are connected to their phone in some form or another, whereas they may not necessarily bring a tablet device along, especially if they already have smartphone.

It’s these reasons, the growing size of smartphones, the lack of good tablets, and the lack of developer support, that have relegated iPads and their Android peers to the realm of glorified cash register units and signature pads. There may be a time where tablets find a resurgence with the general public, but for now, smartphones rule the world.

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