The rise of tablets: Does the market need laptops or phones anymore? – Channel Asia Singapore

Credit: Apple

The tablet is a provocative beast. Make a big one, and people argue over whether it could replace a laptop. Make a small one, and some users want it to be a giant phone. These conversations have repeated themselves since then-CEO Steve Jobs announced Apple’s ground-breaking iPad in 2010.

It was a pointless conversation at the time. Only the most dedicated tech nerds with specific kinds of work could even contemplate a stunt like replacing a phone or laptop with a tablet. Despite all the talk, few even attempted it.

Neither the world, nor the tablets, were ready — so the iPad and other tablets were relegated to lean-back, content-consumption device status.

But suddenly, the idea of actually using a tablet as a work laptop or a tablet as a work phone makes sense for some users, and is possible for most. This is especially true with either this year’s 12.9-in. iPad Pro or the new 8.3-in. iPad Mini 6 unveiled recently.

The iPad Mini 6 conversation is hot right now, and raises some interesting questions about the phone network.

Why the iPad Mini 6 can replace a business smartphone

The iPad Mini 6 has 5G data functionality, but can’t make phone calls. (Also, unlike the iPhone, the iPad Mini 6 doesn’t work with an Apple Watch and can’t run apps that require a phone number, most conspicuously WhatsApp.)

The iPad Mini 6 is similar to an iPhone in important ways, however. For example, it’s powered by the same A15 Bionic system-on-chip processor used in the upcoming iPhone 13 line-up. It’s a fire-breathing monster with great battery life.

Unlike the iPhone, the iPad Mini runs both iPhone and iPad apps and supports the Apple Pencil. Its small size and Pencil support makes it the closest thing Apple has ever shipped to the Samsung Galaxy Note line.

The iPad Mini 6 can replace a phone, not because it can use the phone network. (It can’t.) It’s because we don’t need the phone network. We just need the data part of what mobile carriers offer.

During the pandemic, a huge number of both in-person meetings and business phone calls were replaced by Zoom and other video conferencing solutions. And throughout this crisis, the rise of unified communication tools continued and possibility accelerated.

Unified communications — where audio and video calling, call management, instant messaging, threaded messaging, collaboration tools, and mobile communications are integrated into a single solution — replaces the last vestiges of analog communication with digital communication and renders the device type irrelevant.

You don’t need the phone network to do voice calls, video calls, messaging, Slack, iMessage, FaceTime, Google Meet or any number of services that compose how most business communication actually happens now.

But wait, you might say. I do phone calls and text messages all the time! To which I say: Yes, but you don’t need to use it. It’s just a habit. And if a colleague, partner, or prospective customer doesn’t use the phone system, they’re still easy to reach and communicate with.

In fact, you can do without a phone without anyone else even knowing or caring. Virtual phone numbers are available from 5G and VoIP providers. Google Voice and Skype are mainstream apps you may already be using, and these will give you a phone number you can share and be reached at.

To illustrate my point, consider this basic thought experiment: Which would be more of a disadvantage in business — to never have access to the phone system or to never have access to Zoom? The answer is clear: Not having access to Zoom would be a much bigger disadvantage these days. While you could take and make phone calls on VoIP and other services, not having Zoom means you would have to turn down meetings.

In other words, we have an entire technology, system, and network devoted to functionality that is duplicated by apps. And while the best audio communication apps on any device sound better than mobile calls over the phone networks, Zoom works much better on a tablet than a phone, simply because on the tablet the front camera is the same but the screen is bigger.

The iPad Mini 6 is the best example yet of a small tablet that can replace a phone — because the world has moved on from relying on phone networks and the iPad Mini 6 is the best small tablet on the market.

What happened with the landline phone is happening with the mobile phone network: The evolution of how people communicate for business is evolving away from the mobile phone network. One day soon, we’ll wake up and realise that nobody is using it at all.

Why the iPad Pro can replace a business laptop


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