Classes of tablet


A few years ago I found myself saying ‘with the iPad everyone flys first class’. My thinking at the time was that Apple had levelled the playing field by creating a device that delivered the same excellent user experience whether you were the CEO of a global company, a regular user, or a kid who’d sold a kidney to buy one.

At the time there was a great deal of attention being paid to iPad’s in the boardroom and C-suite, but the point was that there was bottom up demand for tablets in the workplace, not just top down. This was brought home to me one day whilst I was waiting to meet some vendors – I was checking emails on my iPad 2, and the tea lady was telling me how she’d queued up to get an iPad 2 from the Oxford Street Apple Store on the UK launch day.

In light of my recent posts about abandoning Apple and what people are doing with cheap tablets I thought it would be worth taking a look at the tablet class system…

First Class – iPads

The iPad is still the first class option, and despite my personal reservations regarding iOS 7 it’s still much loved for the user experience it delivers.

With the top end model still below $1000[1], and an entry level of $299 I think it’s still an egalitarian first class – you’d do well to buy first class flights to anywhere for that sort of money.

Business Class – Nexus etc.

I’d consider most of the top brand Android tablets in amongst this group, though there’s not much out there that meaningfully adds to what’s in the Nexus lineup – perhaps the Galaxy Notes. The Kindle Fire range probably belongs here too, though I haven’t had the hands on time to confirm that to myself. One feature that I would call out here is the option to have 3G/LTE connectivity.

When you fly business class you get all the important things of first class – lie flat beds for a good sleep on those night flights, priority boarding etc. What’s missing are the ephemera of luxury, and the price tag that goes along with that.

Tablets like the Nexus get the job done[2], they’re just not priced or marketed as luxury items.

Premium economy

There is an emergent bunch of tablets that are presently around the £119 price point that lack some of the sophistication of the Nexus etc. (e.g. no 3G/LTE option), but that are still pretty decent for regular day to day use. The Tesco Hudl looks like a good example, and I’m sure there’s similar stuff popping off the lines of a multitude of Far East manufacturers.


This is the land of the £99 (and below) tablet. They can all ostensibly do the same stuff as any other tablet – run apps, browse the web, play music, read ebooks, watch videos. They just do a terrible job of it because the hardware bill of materials has been pared to the minimum – beyond sensible compromises on user experience versus cost. Poor screens and laggy user interfaces are the cramped legroom of the tablet world. The Argos MyTablet provides a perfect example of everything that’s wrong here.


12 Nov 2013 – Joe asked ‘iPad mini?’ I replied ‘lumped in with the iPad. Consider screen size to be something like flight distance => iPad mini is 1st class short haul’. I probably should have figure out the screen size to flight distance comparison sooner, but it helps refine the model.


[1] I briefly got my hands on an iPad Air last week at London Cloudcamp, and it’s everything that I expected it to be, which is mostly pretty good. I can’t say I like the new smart cover – the dimensions just feel wrong having moved from a 4 fold design to 3 folds to adapt to the new narrower body.
[2] I’d argue that my Nexus 7 is better for my day to day workflows than my iPad. My HDMI adapter arrived today from China, which means I now have the ability to watch videos on hotel TVs – and it’s even smaller (and thus more convenient for travel) than the old iPad one.

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