ANNE GILDEA

Will a ph­ablet solve life’s headaches?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENT - anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

I’ve been re­search­ing ‘hy­brid de­vices’ and I’m flum­moxed. When I say ‘re­search­ing’ I mean stand­ing in shops hold­ing bits of new tech­nol­ogy and ask­ing pass­ing as­sis­tants ques­tions like: ‘Sorry, can you just tell me, what does this mean?’ And, ‘Ex­cuse me, don’t know what to ask, but could you tell me any­way?’ Ev­ery­thing’s chang­ing so fast.

When mo­bile phones first be­came ubiq­ui­tous, the fo­cus seemed to be on mak­ing them smaller and smaller, un­til some got so small, you needed the fin­gers of an elf just to dial a num­ber. Then com­put­ing on the go came into the equa­tion and the mo­bile started ex­pand­ing again. Now you have, for ex­am­ple, the huge-as-a-phone, tiny-asa-com­puter thing like the Sam­sung Galaxy Note. I have a smart­phone of the same brand — I’m won­der­ing if I should ‘up­grade’ to it.

But what is it, ac­tu­ally? A phone, a com­puter or an Anadin — sorry, I mean tablet ( just be­ing hi­lar­i­ous). Then I stum­bled across the word ‘ph­ablet’ on a tech­nol­ogy web­site. I con­sulted the font of all wis­dom for an ex­pla­na­tion of the name and Wikipedia says: ‘Ph­ablet is an in­for­mal term for con­sumer-grade touch-screen de­vices that are equal to and greater than five inches but less than seven inches, com­bin­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a smart­phone and mini-tablet with the op­tional in­te­gra­tion of a sty­lus. A ph­ablet is larger than most smart­phones but not large enough to be con­sid­ered an ac­tual tablet or even mini-tablet.’

That’s it! A ph­ablet. Doesn’t it sound phab! That’s what I’m think­ing I might ‘need’, and the more I think about it, the more I think I can­not live with­out it, and that’s what’s known as hu­man progress. I think. I took one gi­ant step for my­self last De­cem­ber when I up­graded to the smart­phone. Oh lordy, how was I ex­tant on this planet pre­vi­ously with­out in­stant ac­cess to emails, the

ANNE

GILDEA abil­ity to in­stantly re­ply to them, on a mo­bile de­vice that — apart from the now ac­cepted norm of ubiq­ui­tous tele­phonic con­nec­tiv­ity and the afore­men­tioned email — also en­ables me to global-po­si­tion wher­ever I am, wher­ever I want to go, and in­forms me what might be of in­ter­est to me nearby when I get there. It also takes snaps and videos and in­ter­con­nects with Face­book, Twit­ter, YouTube and the in­ter­web in gen­eral, and I can down­load a tril­lion apps that go from gam­ing to I don’t know what... The ‘I don’t know what’ be­ing the per­ti­nent part of all that.

‘A smart­phone now has more com­put­ing power than Nasa had when it sent Neil Arm­strong to the

‘My phone has more com­put­ing power than Nasa had to send men to the moon... and I use it to tweet funny snaps’

moon,’ I read in a pa­per last week. And be­ing a good (lapsed) Catholic girl, I felt in­stant guilt — that all I was do­ing with this enor­mous power in my hand was to text the like of, ‘Run­ning late, or­der me a Mer­lot if you’re at the bar’ and check­ing emails, most of which say things like, ‘It’s you lucky day! You long lost Hong Kong un­cle die and leave you mil­lion. Re­ply, send bank ac­count de­tails, quickie.’ And tweet pho­tos of ‘funny things’ with com­ments like, ‘Look at this! Funny Thing!’ All the while, gee whiz, this thing in my hand could en­able me to give hu­man­ity a dig-out in go­ing boldly where we’ve never been be­fore. Some­how.

And now I might want that ‘Note’ de­vice. Or ‘Note II’ ac­tu­ally; it’s al­ready on its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion and it’s only been around five min­utes. Why now? In a word, ‘Christ­mas’. Usu­ally I get books as gifts but I’m out of shelf space, so why not pre- empt the prob­lem by go­ing elec­tronic and sug­gest­ing down­loads (or what­ever they’re called) in­stead. Yes, that is why I was ex­plor­ing the ph­ablet fron­tier — be­cause I went look­ing to buy some­thing else: an e-reader. And I dis­cov­ered the new-gen­er­a­tion e-read­ers are veer­ing to­wards be­ing tablet-like de­vices; so, I rea­soned, should I get a tablet, such as an iPad, in­stead?

No, I fig­ured, too ex­pen­sive, and I don’t re­ally need its com­put­ing power — that’s cov­ered by my lap­top. And in so far as I re­quire a tablet’s other ca­pa­bil­i­ties, they’re cov­ered by the smart­phone. So in­stead of hav­ing a lap­top, a phone and an­other de­vice for books etc, I de­cided I should com­bine the mo­bile phone with the e-read­ing re­quire­ment. That’s when I heard of the ph­ablet. But the next ques­tion was: is it ac­tu­ally any good as an e-reader, which is where all of this be­gan?

That’s what I asked Cather­ine, the nicest, most in­for­ma­tive and pa­tient tech­nol­ogy shop as­sis­tant ever. She tolf me it would work as such by down­load­ing an e-reader app, which I can al­ready do, us­ing my cur­rent smart­phone. Which she sug­gested I do, to fig­ure out what I’m look­ing for in an e-reader. This is so ob­vi­ous to some of you, it’s like say­ing, ‘Have you heard of the knife and fork? Wow, they make eat­ing so easy!’ For the rest of you, I thought I’d share my ‘dis­cov­er­ies’ be­cause Christ­mas is com­ing and you may have found it in­for­ma­tive. In sum­mary: I dis­cov­ered I al­ready have what I wanted — yet ended up feel­ing I still haven’t found what I’m look­ing for.

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