When the first smart phones hit the street, they revolutionized the wireless industry and changed the way people communicated and stayed in touch. The emergence of the smart phone meant that the communication devices in our pockets could do far more than just make and receive phone calls – those devices could also surf the web, get real-time directions, send and receive email and even connect with computers back at the office. The impact was enormous, and it continues to be felt as more and more consumers replace their old basic cell phones with these newer and more capable smart devices.
The introduction of tablet computers had a similar impact on the market and on consumers. The computer industry had tried to introduce touch-screen devices in the past, particularly Windows CE based devices, but with limited success. When Apple introduced the first generation iPad, the public reaction was overwhelmingly positive – someone had finally created a useful tablet computer that consumers loved.
Those first tablet computers had many of the same capabilities of the smart phone, but they were quite a bit larger and heavier to carry around. Those large tablets may have been perfect for reading an electronic version of the local newspaper or browsing a new novel, but they were much too large to fit into a pocket or purse. Fortunately, consumers still had their smart phones, and those devices were becoming increasingly slim and lightweight.
Something changed along the way, however, and more and more consumers chose smart phones with larger screens, even if those devices were bulkier and heavier than the smaller ones they replaced. The wide availability of video applications, inclulding full-length movies and TV shows, for smart phones meant that consumers could now use their phones as entertainment devices as well as communication devices.
At the same time that smart phone screens were getting bigger, consumers were looking for smaller tablets – devices that could more easily fit into a purse or even a large pocket. The success of e-readers like the Nook and Kindle eReader showed that there was a market for these smaller devices, and several companies responded to the demand. Apple recently introduced the iPad Mini, a scaled-down version of the iPad with hardware similar to the specification of the iPad 2, but in a 7.9-inch display and less than half the weight of the current iPad 4. This made these smaller tablet devices far more more portable and easier to use.
It is still unclear where the convergence of smart phones and tablet computers will lead, but it already seems clear that many consumers use both devices to organize their daily lives, communicate with colleagues and keep themselves entertained. Application developers have certainly taken notice – and many of the same applications work equally well on smart phones and tablets. As smart phone screens get larger and larger and tablet computers get smaller and smaller, the already thin line between the two categories may continue to get blurrier still further.
The author beconrad has recently purchased a tablet phone and believes this is the way mobile phones will evolve.