Try using a pre-2010 “smartphone” on a day to day basis. Almost all the technology that we have now is already there, most of the features are present also. But nothing really works.
You can see how you can take notes with it, you have the maps with you everywhere, you can surf the net on the go and so on. But it feels like a pre-release, the potential is there but you’re not going to use any of these features unless you have to. It’s too small, too slow, too clumsy, too pixelated. Whilst even a 2014-2015 midrange smartphone just works. Well, most of the time; but importantly, often enough that we can use most of the “smart” features. It is, really, the swiss knife it promised to be from the beginning.
Tablets have followed a similar path, given the nearly identical technology residing in them. Maybe the usability threshold was crossed a little earlier because they tend to have fewer chips (many models miss telephony modem, GPS, 3/4G modem) and, consequently, they tend to have fewer functions. More space for the chips may also contribute to the explanation, as the processors won’t have to throttle so much to keep the temperatures in check.
But if arguably everything you do on the larger screen is better, be it gaming, browsing, reading, writing – hence the larger and larger phones – why don’t we see tablets everywhere? We know that the market for tablets is quite large, but the images with people reading in the parks or cafes seem to make more advertisement real estate than what we see around us.
Tablets sit at home.
It seems that the added problem of carrying them with us more often than not outweighs the benefit of their conveniences. How come, given the fact that people carry heavy laptops all the time? One answer is that they are not nearly as productive as laptops and only marginally better than smartphones. That may be true, but I suspect it is only part of the answer. The other part is, of course, portability. If you have a purse, a bag, a backpack you can already pack the more productive laptop.
Tablet technology is mature, the accessories around the hardware are not. They are repurposed containers that traditionally served other functions. If there is a niche between smartphone and laptop, currently we are just starting to explore intermediaries between pockets and bags/backpacks. You can make a purse smaller, same for a backpack, but the usability case is the same. You do the same moves. You make the same compromises of carrying capacity vs. freedom of movement and weight.
continuation on part 2