Mobile Monday London – Tablets Come of Age

mobilemondaylondon.gifLast night’s Mobile Monday was titled "Tablets Come of Age". Marek Pawlowski of PMN chaired a panel consisting of Claudia Romanini (Director Developer Relations, Barnes and Noble), Ben Scott Robinson (Creative Director, We Love Mobile), Hesham Al-Jehani (Product Manager, Mobile, ComScore) and Stuart Dredge (Freelance Journalist writing for Guardian apps).

The panel started talking about how tablets have changed user behaviour. Older people are more confident using tablets (as opposed to PCs) and kids are now starting to ask for tablets. Tablets are being used by more than one person in a family – by each person on their own and also collaboratively for activities such as learning and shopping.

The distinction between e-ink e-readers vs backlit tablets was discussed. Claudia mentioned how e-readers are sometimes better. People don’t necessarily want to re-charge the device regularly nor want distractions of other apps and notifications. Conversely, colour provides for more compelling magazines.

Hesham told us how 92% of tablet use is over over WiFi as opposed to over over the cellular connection. This might be because most tablets are WiFi only anyway. However, this is one area where Android and iOS differ. Android has 75% of people using over the cellular connection while iOS has 70% over wifi. Compared to other devices (PC, Smartphone), tablets see relatively low use during the day but use eclipses other devices between 9pm and 10pm. There was talk on how tablets can be difficult to hold and use is most comfortable when the user is horizontal (and in bed).

70% of Barns and Noble’s customers are women between 25 and 45 years of age. Consequently, the Nook targets children, education and lifestyle apps.

There was a brief discussion on apps vs web for tablets and why the FT has been able to create an online (web) newspaper with much better usability than that provided by any other app based newspaper. Taptu and Flipboard were given as examples of multi-source news apps that do indeed have great UIs. There was also mention how people are wrapping html-based news within apps in order to gain the advantages of app discoverability via app stores.

There was a question why apps are immitating magazines instead of creating something better and whether tablets might one day compete with existing channels. The consensus was that tablets will always complement existing channels. For example, people are already using the tablet while watching the tv and there are opportunities here to provide a more compelling joined-up experience.

Much of the discussion had been framed within the context of the iPad and someone asked what’s inhibiting competition to the iPad. Even though Apple didn’t invent the tablet, they had a first mover advantage with first successful commercial implementation. Over time this will erode due to cheaper tablets for the mass market. Competitors to the iPad should look at what the iPad can’t do (e.g. access to file system, USB etc) to attract buyers. Related to this is the available software. The current competitors have flaws in that they make it more difficult for developers to make money. For example, the Amazon Fire has strange T&Cs that allow Amazon to change the app price however they see fit and the Android Market (Play store) is renowned for not making money through paid apps. There are opportunities this year for Windows 8 to disrupt the tablet market, possibly in collaboration with Nokia.

There was brief talk about whether pens (stylus) might make a comeback. They potentially provide a better input mechanism for drawing and note taking apps. Ironically, the capacitive screens used today aren’t that good for use with pens compared with older resistive screens.

Will tablets replace the PC? Yes, it already does for some people who find it hard to use a PC. No, not for productivity apps unless tablet keyboard use becomes more prevalent.