GN Focus | Tablets

Underneath the Surface

We use the calm before the storm to take a peek at what wonder devices, applications and specifications await us in the coming months

  • By Gareth Kurt Warren, Features Writer
  • Published: 15:48 September 2, 2012
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Corbis
  • The Surface tablet by Microsoft

Despite the silence, a lot has been going on behind the scenes in the tablet market. Many journalists are lauding the yet-to-be-released Microsoft Surface as the new ‘iPad killer’, and based on leaked information, the Sony Xperia tab is all set to alter Android-based tablets as we know them.


Operating systems (OS)

Apple reportedly sold 17 million iPads during the third quarter of 2012 — a mind-blowing 84 per cent increase on the same period last year. With a new OS update around the corner, there are no signs of the company slowing down. The next system upgrade for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods — iOS6 — revamps the entire Apple experience. A new map application will offer a ‘flyover mode’, which allows users to see entire cities from the air and Apple’s virtual assistant Siri will be able to tweet, open applications and feed you statistics and scores from your favourite sports teams.

Along with iOS6, the other much-awaited operating system is Windows 8. The Microsoft Surface, which will operate on Windows 8 Pro, seems to have the potential to be the next ‘iPad killer’. Several other tablets such as a handful of Android-powered tablets and BlackBerry’s PlayBook have tried to take the iPad’s place over the past few years and failed. For now, we will just have to wait and see what Windows 8 will bring to the tablet party.


Reinvention

The ever-persistent BlackBerry PlayBook is the underdog of the tablet market. The original PlayBook did create noise when it launched early last year. However, that quietened after the lack of applications and the limitations of the tablet itself. The PlayBook’s OS2 update in February this year did not do much to redeem its desirability but what’s planned for the coming few weeks might just do that — the BlackBerry PlayBook 4G LTE. This PlayBook supports high-speed cellular networks and has a faster 1.5GHz processor compared to the 1GHz processor in the previous model. Besides the processor and 4G capabilities, the new tab retains its seven-inch, 1024x600 resolution display, dual high-definition cameras, HDMI port and stereo speakers.


Innovation

Not to be left behind, Samsung has a few tricks up its sleeve. The new Galaxy Note 10.1 was released in the UAE last month and has already gained a fan following due to the numerous similarities it shares with the much raved about Samsung Galaxy S3. The tablet is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and includes a 5-megapixel main camera and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera. Besides the usual features, the new 10.1 comes with Adobe Photoshop Touch and allows users to use two apps simultaneously with its multiscreen feature. The 10.1 is one of the few tablets that can take the fight to the white Apple.


Rumour has it

In the midst of all the excitement is Sony; the only gadget that everyone is talking about is the rumoured Sony Xperia Tablet. Images and specifications of the tablet were leaked online and are now heavily featured on numerous technology-related websites. If the rumours are to be believed, the Sony Xperia Tablet will be released at the ongoing IFA 2012 show in Berlin. Based on available information, the tablet will run on Android Ice Cream Sandwich and an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Other specifications are an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1-megapixel (or 1.3-megapixel) front-facing camera. The screen would be a 9.4-inch touchscreen with a 1280x800-pixel resolution. The device would weigh 570gm, which would make it lighter than the new iPad at 652gm.


The little fish

Powering through, regardless of the hype surrounding big players, are two tablets that have carved out a niche for themselves. Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook have almost replaced the traditional book. To go with the foray into new markets, Barnes & Noble has also reduced Nook prices by almost 20 per cent to compete with the Kindle Fire.

It will not be long until other manufacturers infiltrate the affordable–priced, mini-tablet market. With Google’s far superior Nexus 7 retailing for almost the same price as the Amazon Kindle DX and Kindle Fire, and Apple’s iPad Mini set to debut in October, this segment will get very interesting.

The never-ending debate - 3G/4G or Wi-Fi?

A 3G/4G equipped tablet can cost Dh300-Dh500 more than its Wi-Fi-only counterpart, and that is just the beginning. Customers in the UAE will have to shell out upwards of Dh200-Dh500 a month for voice-only iPad data plans that range from 5GB to 20GB. Is the extra money worth having internet everywhere? Data based on Jadopado.com’s iPad sales say yes. The online shopping website has sold more Wi-Fi-only iPad2s (125) than their 3G counterparts ever since the launch of the website in March 2011. However, with the launch of the new iPad and lightning-fast 4G connections, sales numbers for the new iPad are neck and neck.

— G.K.W.

GN Focus