Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Trade-offs I Made To Use Tablets as Phones 

... and some other important things to know.

In the previous parts, we’ve talked about how I came to decide to use tablets as both my primary mobile computing device as well as my only smartphone.

One thing that I still have yet to discuss however, are the concessions I had to make to accommodate using tablets as my phone.

The first time I switched from carrying a smartphone – and its charger, and a power bank to charge the phone on the go, and a 13 inch laptop, and its associated charger, and a 15 feet extension cord to allow me to charge both devices when I’m at the café and, the huge bag to stuff all those stuffs in – to the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, one of the first adjustment I did was to get myself a small post man bag to carry the tablet around. Since then, the man bag is an integral part of me as I almost never leave the house without carrying it.

Almost. See, one of the best things about the 7 inch form factor is that I can still stuff it inside the pockets of my trousers, or Bermuda shorts if I wanted to. Well, provided that the trousers were baggy enough. So when I only plan to do a quick walk outside, I can occasionally choose to leave my man bag in the car. It was not an ideal solution as the thing bulges under my trousers like I was carrying a copy of the Reader’s Digest in my pocket, but still the choice was there.

Another thing that the relatively slim profile of the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 afforded was fitting inside a jacket’s pocket. This was how I carry my phone-slash-tablet to wedding receptions and such events. I just tuck it inside my suit or blazer pocket.

My second tablet, the Galaxy Note 8.0, however, does not share the same trait as its older sibling. Even though one might think that the jump in screen size is marginal, the extra inch eradicated any hope for me to slip it into any kind of pocket. Not the baggy shorts and trousers, not the jacket nor the blazers. With the bigger tablet, I simply have no choice but to have my man bag around with me all the time.

Mind you, I’m still waiting for cargo pants to be back in fashion so I can see if those would fit.

Speaking about size, I have to point out that in terms or ergonomics, 7 inch tablets like the GTab2, the Nexus 7, or the Fonepad really hit the sweet spot.
It’s big alright, but I can still wrap my hands around the back comfortably for extended periods without tiring my hand. That is not the case with the Note 8.0 as although it is thinner than even the Note 2 smartphone, it is just a tad too wide to be used for extended periods without having to change the way I hold it every once in a while to avoid areas some of my hands from getting numb.

Let’s compare the following picture,

This is how I mostly hold the Galaxy Tab 2. From the front you can see that my fingers can wrap around it comfortably.

With no extra strain on the back of my hand as you can see from the second picture.

Meanwhile, this is me holding the Note 8.0. As you can see my fingers do not wrap across it as securely as I did with the 7 inch tablet.

I hope you can see the strain on the back of my hand in this picture.

So while the 8 inch screen allow for enhanced productivity as I have showed in Part 3 of the series, it also comes with a drawback. However, I still consider it  a decent trade off for the benefits I get.

Another thing I bought the moment I got my G Tab 2 7.0 was a faux leather book case. Since it was my first time with a small tablet, I look for a model that I thought would give a much protection as possible, in as inconspicuous color as possible.

That turned out to be a bad idea. While the thick and unassuming case provided a lot of protection, it added so much bulk to the tablet; it made me feel like I’m holding a hard cover novel instead of a paper back. Not ideal for prolonged use, particularly when I’m lying down and holding the tablet one-handedly above my head.

I then got an original Samsung folder case, this time in white. This comes with a rather brilliant piece of design. See, unlike most third party cases, Samsung’s fold on the right hand side. So for a right hander like myself, it allows me to have a more secure hold with my left index finger tucked in between the folded flip cover and the back.

If that sounds confusing, let’s just check out the following pictures:

This is how I hold the tablet with the third party cover.

While this is how I do it with Samsung’s reverse folding case. It feels a lot more secure and comfortable.

However, Samsung’s bright white case did not stand very well against wear and tear. As you can see in the following picture.

It took less than a year to look this ragged. However, this is probably okay if you’re trying to get that shabby chick look.

For my second tablet, the Note 8.0, I went for the thinnest case possible. My choice went for one made by a Chinese company called Rock. What I like about it is the fact that with the Note 8 inside and the cover closed, it’s only marginally thicker than a bare GTab 2. The cover is also magnetized so I can utilize the built in magnetic sensor of the Tablet. The screen instantly turns on when I open the cover and vice versa. Thus maximizing battery life.

A note about book style covers is that if you’re planning on also using your tablet as your only phone, you’d hate them. Why?

When you have one of these book covers on and you have tablet tablet inside your bag, there are too many steps involved to simply access the screen either to check for incoming notifications, or answering phone calls.

You have to open up your bag, get your tablet out, use your other hand to open the cover, do a little maneuver with both hands to have the cover folded behind the back, and then attempt to unlock the tablet.
This is challenging to do when you’re walking on a crowded sidewalk and life threatening when you’re driving.

That’s why, unless I feel like I needed the extra protection, I mostly leave my book case in the car.
Of course this problem could be solved by going for a TPU sleeve instead of a book case, but unfortunately, people selling those for tablets are few and far between where I live.

Another necessary item to adopt the tablet-as-phone lifestyle is a Bluetooth dongle. Personally, I rarely make any phone calls so I’m not that apprehensive towards the idea of putting a book sized device against my head, it’s not like I’m working my way to get on the cover of GQ am I?

Even if I did, God knows that there are a lot of other sartorial conundrums for me to tackle before I had to worry about how I look with a tablet against my face.

With that said, some kind of a hands free system is still a must have for when you’re driving (just like any other phone in this case) or for moments where it’s not wise to attract too much attention such as, in a crowded street, a funeral, or a wedding ceremony.

So there you go; the trade-offs I needed to make and things I needed to get to adopt tablets as my smartphone. When it’s all said and done, IMO, the hassle is nothing compared to the amount of bang for the buck I get.