Tablet Buyer’s Guide 2012: Smaller is Better

Tablets are the most coveted gifts for the holiday season in 2012.   For schools implementing 1:1 initiatives or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), tablets run ahead of notebook computers in terms of price and features.  Last year I stated five reasons  that tablets work well in schools.  For auld lang syne’s sake, here they are again:


1. Students/Teachers can view & share wide varieties of content from a tablet.

2. Tablets are virtually instant-on because they use flash memory as opposed to netbooks or notebooks that have to boot up a hard drive and are more prone to virus attacks and malware.

3. Battery life is excellent in most tablets, allowing them to be used for a full school day before needing a re-charge.

4. There is no barrier between collaboration with a tablet.  They are easy to share with someone sitting around you.

5. The price is right as Bob Barker….errr Drew Carey would say.



I keep this simple because I think for a tablet to succeed in a school it must have three important things.  It must have access to lots of content, be priced right, and be backed by names schools/parents can trust.


#1 Apple iPad Mini (16 gig-wifi only version, $329) – Better than 50% of all tablets sold right now are iPad’s.  Apple market share in the tablet market has gotten more competitive.  With Google, Samsung, and Amazon nipping away at what used to be a 70% share just last year.  The  7” version of the iPad was frowned upon by Steve Jobs, but it seems that students prefer the smaller version of tablets over the full size.  The mini sports both a front-facing camera for Facetime  and a rear camera for pictures. The form function of Apple devices is always top-notch.  The ability to browse the web on the Safari browser is smooth and with  multiple tabs within Safari, makes it uber-productive.  There are over 700,000 apps (not a typo) in the App Store.  Many of those are made specifically with the iPad in mind including thousands made just for school.  Some apps allow students to capture notes, use a graphic calculator, look up famous historical speeches, and to yes, playing with great physics games like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope.  Apple is a trusted brand among educators because of their long relationship in schools.  The price is the highest among the three I rank.


#2 Google Nexus 7 (16 gig, wifi only, $199) – The Nexus 7 has an early advantage over its other Android kin.  It’s made by the fine folks that write Android OS.  The Nexus 7 is sleek, thin, has a better resolution than iPad, and runs the latest version of Android (Jellybean).  Google claims there are over 700K apps now available in it’s Play market.  That is true, but like iTunes, some are optimized for tablets; most are not.  Still, a growing number of schools and students have gotten used to Google Docs.  This is a great device and at $199, they are flying off the shelves right now.  The Nexus 7, like most other tablets now has a front-facing camera that students/teachers can use for Google Hangouts.  If you hold the Nexus 7 in your hands it just feels right too.  The back side has a non-slip cover that is perfect in school settings.


#3 Amazon Kindle FireHD(16 gig, wifi only, $199) – Apple has dispensed tablet competitors faster than a champion cage fighter.  HP, Blackberry (RIM), Motorola can make great devices but the prices are so high and content so weak, it was inevitable that Apple would win.  Not with Amazon (and Google) though.  Similar to Apple, Amazon delivers lots of content.  From eTexts, books, movies, music, and apps they can hang with Apple.  At $200, students will be sporting an incredible display and speedy browser.  One feature they added after last year’s initial offering is a front-facing camera necessary for students who Skype.  The Amazon ecosystem drives users into its vast array of resources including their own Android app store.  I’m not keen on how Amazon locks down their version of Android, but I also don’t think the average user cares.


Whereas last year it was really Apple and then everyone else clumped in as distant 2nd and 3rd; I really feel like the market is more competitive.  I am surprised that the 7” variety of tablets is winning the tablet wars but when you think about the size of kids backpacks and then think about younger users with small hands, it makes sense.  Seven inches just works better in school settings.  I should also state that you could also find some great tablets that give these three a run for their money with makers like Samsung (whose Galaxy Tab 2 is very similar to Nexus 7), Barnes and Noble Nook HD, and let’s not forget Windows Surface.  Time will tell if any of those can reach up and snag a piece of the market for students.


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