When apple first announced its iPad tablet four years ago, plenty of critics predicted the device would fail horribly. The world’s first “tablet” seemed like a confused hybrid between computers and smart phones – too simple to run software and unable to make phone calls either. Who would buy something like that?
It turns out that everybody would. These days, tablets are one of the most popular personal electronic devices around, with sales of tablets expected to outpace sales of laptops by 2016. In addition to Apple, manufacturers like Google, Microsoft and Kindle have all introduced their own tablets in order to snag a share of the market. This competition is great for consumers, because it means a wider selection of products across a wider range of prices. However, it also means that anyone purchasing a tablet needs to do their research first in order to find the perfect device to fit their needs. So if you’re on the market for a tablet this season, here are some basic rules you should follow to ensure that you and your new device are a match made in heaven.
- Know How You’re Going to Use It. Before you start shopping for a tablet, you need to ask yourself “how am I planning on using this device?” Since every tablet has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, you should do your research beforehand to ensure that the device you’re buying is capable of fulfilling its intended purpose. For instance, if you simply plan on using a lot of apps, you should go with an iPad, but if you want a device with laptop functionality you might want to pick up a Windows Surface tablet instead. On the other hand, if you want a “jack of all trades” type of machines that’s good but not the best at everything, consider one of the new Galaxy tablets by Samsung.
- Make Sure You Have Enough Storage. Storage space comes at a steep premium on the tablet market, but unfortunately it’s not something you can afford to gloss over. Most base-model tablets come with 15 or 16 gigabytes of memory. This is enough space to handle a small library of music, photos and apps, but it will fill up more quickly than you realize and once you’ve exceeded 50% capacity your tablet may start slowing down. Given the increasing data requirements of “HD” tablet apps, it’s recommended that you invest in about 30 gigabytes of memory, as this will give you the most “bang” for your buck in terms of longevity and functionality. Larger memory options of 64 and 128 gigabytes are available on some tablets, but unless you plan on uploading your entire movie and music collections to your device they aren’t really worth the money.
- Data Plans Are Often a Waste of Money. Many tablets, such as the iPad and Galaxy, come with optional data plans that allow you to get 3g or 4g service anywhere for a monthly fee. While they may sound tempting, these plans are often a waste of money. Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere these days, and even if you’re in an area without it, you can simply tether your tablet to a smart phone and access the internet for free that way. While it’s true that some phone carriers will charge you a monthly fee for tethering a device to your phone, often these fees are much less than what you would pay for your tablet to have its own independent data plan.
- You Always Get What You Pay For. This is a simple rule of capitalism that many consumers tend to forget. When it comes to buying a tablet, remember that cheaper prices correlate with reduced functionality or cheaply made components. For example, the Kindle Fire starts off at only $159 for the 8 gigabyte base model. While this makes it ideal for anyone who simply wants an e-reader that can surf the web and download a few apps, the small memory and limited app selection make it inferior to the more expensive, higher-end tablets on the market. This isn’t to say that you should spend a fortune on a top-of-the-line device, but that you should be mindful that a good, mid-level tablet will probably last longer and make you much happier than a cheaper basic model.
Picking out the perfect tablet for your needs isn’t difficult. Just remember to keep these four basic rules in mind when you go out shopping. To make the most of your investment, research the models that best match your desired purpose, invest wisely in storage space and skip unnecessary add-ons like data plans. If you can do that, then you’ll be sure to get a device that will make you happy for years to come.