Mobile Trends: Will Tablets Replace Smartphones?

Mobile technology has advanced significantly since the first cell phone hit the market in the 1980s. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X weighed 2 pounds, the cell phone brick offered 30 minutes of talk time before it had to be recharged and had a price tag of $3,995.

Over the last three decades, mobile phones have become smaller, more affordable and capable of far more than just being a telephone.  Consumers can now choose among diverse smartphones and advanced mobile apps that allow them to do everything from following coverage of the 2012 summer Olympics in real time to making purchases without taking out their wallets.

Since the first-generation iPad entered the mobile technology scene in 2010, tablets have grown enormously in popularity for personal, business and educational use. The iPad has so far dominated the tablet market, but recent research  shows that it is losing some of its market share to competitors. Research firm Frank N. Magid Associates predicts that Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Microsoft’s Surface and Google’s Nexus 7 will offer solid competition to the iPad. Magid also expects that the tablet audience will more than double in the coming year, from 51 million users to 106 million users.

Compared to mobile phones, tablet computers are still the new kids on the block and are not yet as ubiquitous. And yet, tablets offer features consumers love: high-resolution screens for better reading, media viewing and video chatting and fast, functional mobile apps with a user experience that may surpass the smartphone equivalent.

GigaOM writer Kevin C. Tofel makes this bold prediction: “Thanks to the pace of mobile-network expansion, new audio and video technologies, the expansion of Wi-Fi, and more-capable hardware that runs longer on a single charge, I expect the tablet to begin replacing the smartphone within the next half a dozen years.”

He claims that tablet computers are becoming (and will continue to become) the go-to, on-the-go mobile device of the future:

The tablet experience is simply better for browsing, apps, email and nearly everything else I can think of. Much like we’re shifting computer tasks to mobile apps on devices, our smartphone activities can easily shift over to tablets for this reason…

In fact, I can’t think of a single digital activity that’s better on a smartphone than on a tablet. You could reasonably argue that voice calling is, but my suspicion is that most who say that haven’t yet tried to use a tablet for such communication. But GPS navigation? Web browsing? Gaming? Reading? With few exceptions — say, capturing photos or video — I think most will say these are better on tablets.

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Filed under: Product Engineering | Topics: apps, mobile, platforms

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