Whether you use an iPad or a de­vice pow­ered by the An­droid or Win­dows sys­tem, tablets are get­ting big­ger, bet­ter and more like lap­tops. Here are some fea­tures to con­sider be­fore you buy

Investment Executive - - NEWS - BY DANNY BRADBURY

Is it time to up­grade your tablet? These de­vices are get­ting big­ger, bet­ter and more like lap­top com­put­ers. There are some fea­tures to con­sider be­fore you buy.

mod­ern tablet com­put­ers are seven years old this year, and your de­vice might be a few years old by now. Tablet users tend to up­grade these de­vices less fre­quently than they do their lap­top or desk­top com­put­ers, but you may be mulling a new pur­chase. What should you be look­ing for?

For most peo­ple, the iPad still reigns in the tablet world. Cu­per­tino, Calif.-based Ap­ple Inc. de­fined the tablet as a prod­uct cat­e­gory when the com­pany launched the iPad in 2010, and it still dom­i­nates the space. The iPad ac­counts for 30% of world­wide tablet ship­ments, ac­cord­ing to Framingham, Mass.-based IDC Re­search Inc., but the prod­uct space has flow­ered with of­fer­ings from other ven­dors.

Seoul-based Sam­sung Group sits i n sec­ond place, with 15.8% of the mar­ket, fol­lowed by Shen­zen, China-based Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co. Ltd., Seat­tle­based Ama­zon.com Inc. (whose Kin­dle Fire prod­uct is not avail­able in Canada) and Bei­jing-based Len­ovo Group Ltd., fol­low in that or­der.

In 2010, you could have any tablet you wanted, as long as it was 9.7 inches (24.6 cen­time­tres) on the di­ag­o­nal and had an Ap­ple logo on the back. In 2017, tablets are avail­able in var­i­ous form fac­tors (more about this be­low) and sport dif­fer­ent fea­tures. To help you choose the de­vice that’s best for you, fea­tures to con­sider in­clude: op­er­at­ing sys­tem The first point you should look at is the op­er­at­ing sys­tem (OS) the tablet runs on. Ap­ple may dom­i­nate the tablet mar­ket with its hard­ware, but An­droid, cre­ated by Google, a sub­sidiary of Moun­tain View, Calif.-based Al­pha­bet Inc., rules the tablet OS mar­ket be­cause it ships with many tablet ven­dors’ de­vices.

Google just un­veiled Ver­sion 8 of its soft­ware, nick­named Oreo. It fea­tures im­prove­ments such as pic­ture-in-pic­ture sup­port so users can view two apps at once, bet­ter bat­tery-man­age­ment tech­nol­ogy and faster boot-up speeds.

An­droid even­tu­ally up­dates it­self on all de­vices us­ing its OS, but Google’s Pixel tablet al­ways gets the first roll­outs.

Ap­ple will up­date its iOS to ver­sion 11 shortly. This OS of­fers more fea­tures that tie it into other prod­ucts in the same iOS ecosys­tem: the Ap­ple Watch, the iPhone and the MacBook. For ex­am­ple, Ap­ple’s mes­sag­ing app will sync across mul­ti­ple iOS-based de­vices. Ver­sion 11 also fea­tures pro­duc­tiv­ity im­prove­ments for the iPad, in­clud­ing sup­port for a larger app dock, dra­gand-drop sup­port and a new app switcher.

Im­prove­ments on all these OSes have some­thing in com­mon: they sup­port more pro­duc­tiv­ity and make your tablet more like your lap­top, en­abling you to switch be­tween apps more eas­ily. This move re­flects ven­dors’ ef­forts to lure users into buy­ing new de­vices.

En­hanced pro­duc­tiv­ity is some­thing that Red­mond, Wash.-based Mi­crosoft Corp. al­ready has in its tablet OS, be­cause it’s the same OS that is used on full-fledged PC lap­tops and desk­tops.

Win­dows has a built-in tablet mode that Mi­crosoft strug­gled to get right in Win­dows 8, but nailed well enough in Win­dows 10. Like both Ap­ple and Google, Mi­crosoft has its own tablet sys­tem in its Sur­face prod­uct line. The Sur­face Pro is Mi­crosoft’s flag­ship tablet prod­uct, while the Sur­face Book is a “con­vert­ible” that func­tions pri­mar­ily as a lap­top but con­verts eas­ily into a tablet.

form op­tions

To­day, tablets have both grown and shrunk in size. At the small end of the size spec­trum, the line has blurred be­tween tablets and smart­phones, with large form­fac­tor “ph­ablets” of­fer­ing both cell­phone

fac­tor and

sty­lus and tablet ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Tablet dis­plays go as low as seven inches (18 cm), and are use­ful when you’re on the go and want some­thing easy and light. Still, these de­vices are un­likely to slip into your pocket eas­ily.

At the larger end of the spec­trum, Ap­ple’s iPad Pro is a be­he­moth, avail­able in 10.5-inch (26.7 cm) or 12.9-inch (33.8 cm) ver­sions that the com­pany touts as a po­ten­tial lap­top re­place­ment with its re­mov­able key­board/cover. These sizes make the read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence far more plea­sur­able, and the de­vice also has some­thing else go­ing for it: a sty­lus.

Ap­ple co-founder Steve Jobs once said that he wouldn’t ship a de­vice with a sty­lus, but suc­ces­sor Tim Cook thought dif­fer­ently. The iPad Pro fea­tures the Ap­ple Pen­cil, an at­trac­tive if costly add-on that al­lows you to write or draw on the screen and re­sponds to vary­ing pres­sure like a real pen­cil. This new tablet will in­te­grate more closely with iOS 11, en­abling you to write notes di­rectly on the lock screen, for ex­am­ple.

Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face line fea­tures a sty­lus. Google’s Pixel C tablet, an­nounced in 2015 and ar­guably ready for an up­date, doesn’t. dis­play tech­nol­ogy As the tablet mar­ket be­comes sat­u­rated, ven­dors are on the look­out for ways to en­tice users into an up­grade. One way to do this is to fo­cus on the most vis­i­ble and im­por­tant as­pect of the de­vice: the screen. Ap­ple’s dis­play uses LCD, a rel­a­tively old tech­nol­ogy that’s still the mar­ket stan­dard. The com­pany has built new fea­tures into its dis­play tech­nol­ogy, such as a faster re­fresh rate and a wider colour dis­play. The iPad also fea­tures tech­nol­ogy that senses the light in the room and ad­justs the dis­play’s colour in­ten­sity ac­cord­ingly.

Sam­sung has taken a leap of faith with its S tablet prod­uct line, us­ing dis­plays based on Ac­tive Ma­trix Or­ganic LED (AMOLED). This dis­play tech­nol­ogy en­ables pix­els — the in­di­vid­ual dots on the screen — to dis­play their own light rather than re­ly­ing on a back­light in the unit. This tech en­ables in­di­vid­ual pix­els to be brighter than those on most LCD dis­plays and also lets dark pix­els be truly black be­cause they’re not af­fected by a back­light. This makes AMOLED ex­cel­lent for watch­ing video.

Dis­play res­o­lu­tion (the num­ber of pix­els on the screen) will be an im­por­tant fac­tor in your choice of tablet. Lower-end tablets, typ­i­cally run­ning on the An­droid OS, still fea­ture sup­port for lower res­o­lu­tion, while higher-end de­vices bump up the pixel count. This res­o­lu­tion level be­comes in­creas­ingly im­por­tant when read­ing printed ma­te­rial on page-sized screens. con­vert­ibles Fi­nally, con­sider a con­vert­ible in­stead of a straight-out tablet. Al­though Ap­ple has stuck to add-on key­boards that dou­ble as cov­ers, Win­dows and An­droid ven­dors have pro­duced lap­top com­put­ers that flip around quickly into tablet mode. These units give you more pro­cess­ing power and, in some cases, higher-end graph­ics ca­pa­bil­ity, ef­fec­tively mar­ry­ing con­ven­tional com­put­ing power with the con­ve­nience of a touch-and-swipe tablet ex­pe­ri­ence.

Con­vert­ibles, also known as 2-in-1 de­vices, stretch in screen size from 11 inches (27.9 cm) to 15.6 inches (39.6 cm). Be aware that the lat­ter will be con­sid­er­ably bulkier than a thin, ded­i­cated tablet.

So, is it worth re­plac­ing that iPad you bought in 2013? A lot de­pends on how much time you spend work­ing on your de­vice. Bet­ter screen tech­nol­ogy, faster pro­cess­ing power and more mem­ory ca­pac­ity mean you’ll no­tice the dif­fer­ence when mov­ing to a new de­vice.

An in­vest­ment now could make your tablet ex­pe­ri­ence a lot more en­joy­able — both in the of­fice and at the lake.

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