Monday, October 11, 2010

Is my iPad too big?

I have been an iPad user for over six months now. I went through all the phases: excitement (wow, this is cool), doubt (cool yes, but what am I going to do with it?), depression (really, it does not have a front camera?), acceptance (cool device, and useful, I am going to keep it and use it). I have left it in my bag for a few months, going back and forth from home to the office and to meetings in the Valley. Once I figured out I never took it out of the bag, I decided to leave it on the couch. Now it travels with me only when I take a plane.

Overall, I am quite happy with it. It is the perfect couch device. I rarely browse, I do some Twitter-Facebook-Linkedin (still wondering why the last two do not have an iPad application) and mostly email (95% reading, 5% writing). I have watched five YouTube videos - at most - and I have used FlipBoard for a while, although I am already bored with it (somehow, I end up reading only work-related stuff and it is not really what I want to do on the couch). It also comes with me to the bathroom, but only when I leave from the couch (I know, too much details, but I never walk to the couch just to grab the iPad before going to the restroom, and this is an interesting fact ;-)

When I travel, it is mostly a gaming machine. An amazing one, BTW. I play to kill time. I have watched a few movies, some rented, some found online (ehm...). I have read a few books. I have looked at the stars in the dark outside with my daughter using Star Walk (amazing app). I would not leave home to get on a plane without my iPad. It is the only thing that I take out of the bag on a plane. The laptop stays in the overhead bin these days, thankfully (in particular, if you fly economy or, worst, low-cost in Europe). I do love my iPad.

My family loves the iPad too, although for them it is just a gaming machine. WeRule is huge in my household. They cry when I leave for a trip and take away the device with me (and then they realize they should cry also because I am leaving).

Last week at CTIA I met for the first time the new Samsung Galaxy Tab(let). It runs Android 2.2. My first impression was extremely positive. I am not sure why, but I was expecting a slow tablet (maybe because Google said that 2.2 is not an OS for tablets, way to set expectations low I guess). Instead, it was very fast. The screen was great, the app I am used to (I also own a Nexus One) were there and looking even better. I downloaded the Funambol client and it worked right away. It just felt very natural, like the best of the iPad combined with the best of the Nexus One.

Once I put down the device, I was left with one major question: is my iPad too big?

It is an interesting question. I did not wonder whether the Galaxy Tab was too small, I wondered whether the iPad was too big. The iPad has a 10" display, the Galaxy 7". The difference is substantial. The Tab is almost half the weight of the iPad. It feels small, in a good way. And I never wondered if the iPad was too big, it felt just right before I tried the Galaxy.

It is fascinating to look at screen sizes and usability. The 4" screen is the way to go, for a pocketable device. I would not talk into anything bigger (the 5" Dell Streak makes you look ridiculous), take a picture (the camera on the tablets is only for video chats, in my opinion) or navigate a map while walking with anything bigger in my hands (a smartphone is just perfect). From 4" to 7", therefore, there seems to be a gap. Devices in the middle are too big to fit in a pocket and too small to deliver much more than a phone. At 7", apparently, the device seems big enough for my needs: email and browsing on a couch, gaming+movies+books on a plane. At 10", maybe it is even too much. I was surprised.

I was expecting a lot of tablets to challenge the iPad. I was expecting different UIs, USB ports and front cameras to be the big differentiators. And I was sure none had a chance. Instead, the challenge came from size. A smaller iPad is interesting in itself. It is different. And it definitely has a chance.

What's next from Apple? Let me guess: an iPad mini, at 7". They must be ready to ship it, I bet.