Since the original iPad's launch in 2010, many other brands have brought competing tablet models to market. Whilst the iPad is currently the market leader with a 68% market share, there are a plethora of tablets running Google's Android operating system, offering a lot of choice for those looking for an iPad alternative. Some of the most well-known of these at the moment are Google's own Nexus 7 tablet, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Samsung's Galaxy Tab2 and Note 10.1. And the launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system brings touch to the laptop and desktop, so it's the perfect time to be looking to take your first taps with a tablet, invest in a second tablet to stop those family arguments.
Here are my tips on tablet buying:
It's understandable that many people may have not yet bought a tablet due to the sheer amount of choice, or have simply gone for the iPad option without considering anything else. Getting the wrong tablet can be a source of frustration simply because it doesn't work the way you want it to. Before deciding on a tablet, customers should take a good look at exactly what they'll be using it for, to get the tablet that fits both their budget and needs. At John Lewis, our partners are all fully trained to be able to offer the best independent advice to help customers make the right choice for them, and all our tablets come with a two year guarantee at no extra cost.
The platform: One of the major decisions when buying a tablet is deciding which platform you want to use. Once you've been able to settle on one, it helps to narrow down your options considerably. Out of the three operating systems, the iPad's iOS will be the most familiar to many people. It is a great choice for anyone who already has an Apple device, as the interface is very similar, and it is designed to seamlessly integrate with your existing Apple accounts via iCloud. The Apple Appstore is very well populated and you will find apps to suit most things you can imagine wanting to do on a tablet, and share certain app purchases with your iPhone or iPod Touch.
In the same way that committed Apple fans will already have an Apple account, Android tablets integrate well with existing Google accounts. For committed Google fans, especially those familiar with Android phones, then the Android platform is a solid choice. Android gives users a lot of freedom as to what they can do with device, with home-page widgets giving extra functionality without even having to launch an application. If you're more ambitious in how you use your tech, love all things Google, and want more freedom over how you use your tablet, then Android might be the choice for you.
The final operating system choice is the newly launched Microsoft Windows 8. Designed with touch screen interfaces and tablets in mind, but giving users the choice to alternate between the new-look tiled interface, or the more familiar Windows desktop look. This is a great choice if you currently have a computer running Windows and use Microsoft Office programmes regularly like Word, Excel or Powerpoint.
Once you've decided on your operating system, you can start thinking about the form factor of your tablet. Broadly speaking, there are two types of device, designed to be used in different ways. Smaller 7" devices, such as the Google Nexus 7 and the newly announced iPad Mini, are focussed around portability and entertainment. If you're looking to watch films or read books on your commute, or even a bit of internet browsing, then these are for you. Larger devices, such as the ASUS Transformer Pad or the iPad, while being a bit less portable, are much more capable of 'serious' tasks. Writing long emails, intensive browsing, or even a bit of work, is much easier to carry out on tablets of this size.
Samsung's Galaxy Note is a great choice for those who are heavy tablet users as it has a high definition screen and comes with a stylus pen which makes note taking and detailed work much as simple as if you were using paper and pen! It's worth pointing out that the functionality of whatever tablet you choose can be upgraded with the careful choice of the right type of accessory. Bluetooth keyboards, such as those from Microsoft, Apple or Logitech, can make it much easier to type out long emails, especially on smaller devices.
One of the last choices to make is whether you choose a model that only offers Wi-Fi connectivity, or one that also features mobile 3G data, like that on a mobile phone. If you're only planning on using your tablet at home or work, then a Wi-Fi model is your best bet, as it will keep the costs down. If you're planning on using your tablet on the go, whether for work or play, 3G will ensure you will always have access to the internet. While Apple's iPhone and some Android phones will allow you to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot that you could connect your tablet to, bear in mind that this could push you over your mobile phone's data allowance, so a dedicated 3G plan for your tablet would be the ideal solution.
A final point to remember is that although it is easy to find 10" Android tablets for a quarter of a price of an iPad, this type of deal is often too good to be true, as corners will have been cut to reduce costs. This will mean a less powerful, slower device, often running an older version of Android, using a less sensitive resistive touchscreen, compared to the highly accurate capacitive touchscreen which is standard on more expensive tablets.