One Slab to Rule Them All

One Slab to Rule Them All January 13, 2013

The day I did not think I would see has come. Today I sold my iPad 3 (WiFi + LTE 16GB) in favor of my Nexus 7. I never did pick up my iPad again after purchasing the Nexus (and only handled my wife’s iPad to set up games and books for Toby to use, and he frankly doesn’t need my help). There are many ways in which the iPad is vastly superior to the Nexus, but in the end, the size and weight of the Nexus, factored with a screen that while inferior to the iPad-regular is miles ahead of the iPad mini, made it a surprisingly easy win. (See my previous posts on the Nexus 7 here and here.)
Niggles remain. I will miss the liquid-like smoothness of the iPad interface, as well as that gorgeous display, but not enough to choose it over this little gem. (And you know, a Retina iPad mini will exist eventually, I assume.) The app market for Android is still a shitshow, whereas it may be that there are as many great and powerful apps for this system as for iOS, boy, it sure doesn’t seem like it. Nonetheless, the Nexus 7, where it does not best the iPad, comes close enough, and in many ways that I’ve already written about, exceeds it. No regrets.

But I’m not wholly converted. I’d never want to leave the iOS ecosystem entirely, and I won’t have to, of course, as I retain my iPhone 5.

But here’s the bit that’s a new discovery for me since this change, and it’s one I did not really expect. Not only did I stop using my iPad once the Nexus 7 came into the picture, but I used my iPhone far less. Really, the reasons for this are quickly apparent. Obviously, when out and about or simply looking for a quick bit of information, the iPhone is the easy choice of the two devices. But now the Nexus not only fills in for the iPad in long-form reading and browsing, as well as writing and other work, but it’s small enough that it also suits a lot of the off-the-cuff, super-casual stuff that was once the exclusive provenance of the iPhone. In fact, most of the time I prefer to use the Nexus, if only because it’s a larger palate to work from or read on, but not so large as to be inconvenient or obtrusive. (It’s newness to me and this honeymoon period are also, no doubt, part of that.)

And what feeds into that, I think, is not just the Nexus 7’s larger size, but the fact the iPhone isn’t smaller than it is. This sounds a little counter-intuitive, I know, but bear with me. As you might know, the iPhone 5 was a big departure from previous models because it added a bit of height to the display, making it the first time the iPhone’s screen had ever gotten bigger. One of the things that was perfect about previous models of iPhone was that despite the fact that larger screens look cooler and are easier to read and work off of, the diminutive size of the classic iPhone screen meant that most folks could reach every spot on the display with their thumb, comfortably.

Now, I have pretty small hands for a guy, so this was something I really appreciated. The iPhone 5 changes this for me. Not everyone, but for me. As I noted in my first-impressions post about the phone, while I can just barely reach all the points on the screen with my thumb, it’s a stretch, and it often means repositioning the phone in my hand. A small thing, sure, but one you really, really notice when you’re just trying to make simple things happen like clicking a “back” button or what have you. If nothing else, it’s unfamiliar to me for any aspect of an iPhone to be physically uncomfortable. It almost makes me pine for my iPhone 4S, which remains a fantastic device, though appreciate the 5’s lightness, speed, and LTE connectivity enough to make it an upgrade worth the mild inconvenience to my thumbs.

John Gruber, on his podcast, speculated that Apple may very well have tested even a 5-inch or larger iPhone, but decided that if consumers had the choice between a 3.5/4 and a 5-inch phone, they’d always go for the 5, since it’s bigger, and Apple would rather you went for the phone size they think provides a better physical experience, the smaller one. So they make the choice for you. But it almost feels like with the size of the iPhone 5, they let other folks do a little more of the deciding for Apple, and I’m not so sure they should have.

I have no such expectations of thumb-access with a tablet, so when I pick up my Nexus 7, I know I’m going to have to use two hands to operate it. It doesn’t “fail” because that’s not what it’s trying to do. It instead exceeds expectations by being a tablet that is both powerful and very light and comfortable.

With the Nexus 7 encroaching now on territory once owned by the phone, it makes it pretty clear to me where this whole genre of computing is going, at least for many people. Take this anecdotal evidence and the growing popularity of 5-inch-plus phones (or “phablets”), and it sure looks like that for a lot of folks, and maybe me included, there will eventually be no reason to have both a phone and a tablet. Instead, you’ll have a 6 or 7-inch tablet with phone connectivity, either with a traditional carrier or through a service like Google Voice, which you’ll use mostly through headphones, and that’s it. No 10-inch slates for these folks, no pocketable phones, just one slab to rule them all. (Jason Howell on the TWiT network predicted as much for 2013, and his prophesying spurred me to this contemplation.)

This is a neat time, isn’t it? I know all this gadget-talk is very consumerist, as though I’m drunk on shiny objects, and perhaps I am, but I’m also sincerely enthusiastic about how this kind of technology is developing and what it can enable in me and others. It’s probably similar for you, too, if you’ve read this far. So, again: Neat, huh?

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