Tablets, Smartphones, and Laptops: Who Will Win the Mobile Wars?

In the 1990s, a typical household had maybe one computer and one member with a cell phone. The rich kids would proudly tout brand-new mobiles the size of a foot. Today, it’s not unusual for even a preteen to have a mobile phone, a laptop, an iPad, and a car to lug it all around in. Mobile technology is now so readily available that the issue for most of us isn’t getting our hands on one device–it’s choosing from the handful or so that we already own.

The main competitors are smartphones, laptops, and tablets. It’s too much hassle to bring them all on the road, so which one is the most practical? There’s no single answer–it really depends on how much of your life you put into which device–but here’s a quick guide to help you make your choice.

Which replaces what?

In your arsenal, there’s likely to be one gadget that can replace another, if only for emergencies. If you have a tablet, chances are you’re able to use it in the absence of your laptop; for example, you can send a quick email or draft a letter for later revision. You probably won’t be writing a doctoral dissertation on your iPad, but its size, weight, and battery life make it a good on-the-road companion. However, if you have a good smartphone, it’s a tossup between the two–and it’s a question of how much typing time or call time you need.

Reinventing the laptop

Keyboard attachments for tablets hit the market not long after the tablets themselves, highlighting one of the touch screen’s most obvious weaknesses. But as one internet meme has wittily asked, what’s the difference between buying a laptop and buying a tablet plus a keyboard? Not much, according to most experts. If you rely a lot on your keyboard, then you’re better off with a netbook or laptop, depending on your portability requirements. Otherwise, you might find more appeal in the sleek, light, and very 2012 look of a tablet.

Ultrabooks and ultraportables

These are mostly fancy words for the thinnest and lightest laptops on the market. Ultrabooks, the newer of the two, are the PC’s answer to the tablet market, offering packing as much computing power as they can into sizes that more or less match that of the tablet. If you do anything heavier than Web browsing and office work, then it might be worth the $1,000+ price tag (although Intel promises to make them more affordable this year). But if we’re talking graphic design and thousand-page spreadsheets, your best bet is still the tried, tested, and relatively bulky PC.

 

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