14/12/2012 06:40 GMT | Updated 12/02/2013 05:12 GMT

Why We'll All be Taking the Tablets This Christmas

By Ian Barker the author of The Instant Guide to Android

If early forecasts are anything to go by the nation looks set to go tablet mad this Christmas. No, we're not talking pharmaceuticals here but tablet computers. Those sleek, shiny devices that look like an overgrown mobile phone or a haunted picture frame are taking the leap from geek must have to mainstream gadget.

So what's the attraction? You might think that if you have a laptop computer or a smartphone you don't really need a tablet. Well, it's true that a tablet can't really do anything which isn't possible on these other devices but that's not the point. The two big advantages of a tablet are that it's more easily portable than a laptop and it has a bigger screen than a phone, these combine to make it uniquely versatile. You can use it in odd moments when you wouldn't have time to open and boot up a laptop. Tablets are ideal for checking the news and weather over breakfast or looking up a recipe in the kitchen. Thanks to the larger screen - the most popular sizes being seven- or ten-inch - you won't be squinting at microscopic text as you would if you tried to do these things on your phone.

In most households it's probable that Santa's budget won't stretch to an iPad. And since Windows 8 tablets haven't yet made it to the North Pole in significant numbers it's likely the tablet you find in your stocking will be running Android.

From the launch of the first Android phone in 2008 Google's mobile operating system has grown to a worldwide market of 500 million active devices. This popularity means that there are thousands of apps available to enhance the versatility of your tablet. Whilst some of these have serious intent, allowing you to get directions or access documents on the move, what tablets are really about is slumping on the sofa. A tablet is a great tool for reading an ebook, listening to music, watching videos or commenting on Facebook as you watch the Christmas special episode of Downton. Not having a keyboard makes them resistant to mince pie crumbs too.

This of course is likely to turn us all into even bigger couch potatoes than we normally are at this time of year. But don't worry, come the time for New Year's resolutions you'll find Android has plenty of fitness apps.

Ian Barker is author of The Instant Guide to Android published by Endeavour Press.