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Senior-Friendly Buying Guide to Tablets

Senior-friendly guide to tablets

Computers are slowly being supplanted by mobile devices. Phones are great for most of it, but sometimes you want a larger screen to browse the web, read the news, play games, or read your email. For that, you’ll need a tablet. The larger screen and sometimes longer battery life makes these perfect for all those tasks.

It’s a larger screen without the bulk of a full laptop computer. And depending on the brand and model you choose, it can be cheaper than a laptop.

Tablets also make amazing cameras for photos and videos. That viewfinder is now MASSIVE. It really makes it easy to compose your shots, and many of them have very capable built-in cameras. And with a front-facing camera, it’s a very easy way to talk to friends and loved ones via Skype or Facetime. You don’t even have to get out of bed to do it!

If you already have a tablet and are looking to upgrade, you can often just go to your retailer and pick up the latest version of the device you already have. If you’re happy with the one you already had. If not, think about what you didn’t like about your current tablet. Was it too big? Too small? Too heavy?Hard to use?

If you had one and dropped it or lost it, here’s your opportunity to upgrade. If you dropped it and the screen is cracked, but it still works, you may not need to replace it. Often, on tablets and phones, it’s much cheaper to take it to a repair shop (they are springing up in cities everywhere in the country) and have the glass replaced.

If this is your first tablet, you’re in for a treat.

CHOICES

Your first choice is which operating system you prefer. The largest number of devices run Google’s Android OS. Next in line is Apple’s iOS, and finally there’s Windows 10. There are advantages to all three.

If you already have a smartphone running one of those three operating systems, you will likely want to stay with the OS (Operating System) you already have, as it will be familiar and you won’t have to learn a new one. They’re all very similar and easy to use, but there are some differences.

Also, if you’re already on one OS, you know how to back it up to the computer or the cloud. Your new tablet will be easy. If all your friends are on one particular OS, you’ll also want to consider that, since you can trade tips and tricks on using them and their apps.

If you haven’t decided on an OS, or you aren’t satisfied with your current one, check out the others. You can often go into a retailer who carries all three, like Best Buy, to try them. Some tablets are made for power users who like to do a lot of work on a tablet, requiring the fastest processors and best multi-tasking abilities. If you’re just browsing the web, almost any tablet will do.

There are a tremendous number of apps on both iOS and Android, less for Windows 10 and the Amazon app store.

Number of apps for Android vs iOS vs Windows vs Amazon 2015

Statistics from http://www.statista.com

If you buy one of the Amazon Fire tablets, though it runs a version of Android, Amazon restricts the number of apps you can use on it, and all have to be downloaded via the Amazon app store, not the Google Play store like on all other Android devices. In the Amazon app store, many apps that are free on Google Play actually cost money on Amazon. Fire tablets are inexpensive and solid, and pretty good for reading (if you do a lot of reading, Amazon’s Kindle is far better for that), but in our experience not as good as the real Android experience of a straight Android tablet.

Android tablets also come from many manufacturers and in many different sizes and prices. There are some really cheap, off-brand Android tablets. These are usually unreliable and provide a poor tablet experience, not to mention having no recourse or support if something doesn’t work. Stick to name brands, like Samsung, Lenovo, Google, LG, Asus or Sony.

Same goes for Windows tablets. Stick to name brands like Dell, Toshiba, Acer, Asus or Microsoft. They will back up their tablets with good service, and you can be assured that the updates to the OS will be made available quickly.

For Apple’s iOS tablets, you have only one brand to choose. Apple. Apple is the only one that is a closed system, meaning Apple makes the hardware and software. There is full compatibility for all devices, and a VERY similar user interface between devices. They support their hardware with updates for quite a while. Apple’s iOS 9, the current version as of this writing, works on all iPads back to the iPad 2 from 2011. Nearly five years, an aeon in technology.

Syncing is easy on iOS, as is communication between devices.

SIZE MATTERS

The next thing to consider is size. Both screen size, measured diagonally, and overall size and weight. If you’ll be holding this mostly in your hand, instead of on a table, you will want something comfortably lightweight if you’ll spend any length of time holding it.

There are screen sizes from the smallest Amazon Fire HD 6 at 6” across (barely bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note series) to the new iPad Pro at 12.9”. Bigger screens mean that web pages are larger and easier to read, and more fits on a given page. Often, that means a heavier device, but sometimes that’s well worth the trade. With smartphone screens getting bigger, you can use that for quick browsing and email, then switch to a larger tablet to see how the kids and grandkids are doing in pictures on Facebook.

KEYBOARD

If you’re just using your tablet for browsing the web, the virtual keyboard on the screen will suffice. If you’re more of a power user and handle your email or typing documents, a keyboard is very handy. Many new tablets have an optional cover with a keyboard built in, such as the Microsoft Surface or the new iPad Pro. There are also third-party keyboard stand/cases like the Belkin case for Android tablets that work as both a stand and a keyboard, making your tablet resemble a small laptop.

Bluetooth keyboards can also be used, like Apple’s standard wireless keyboard that can be used easily with an iPad. Using a physical keyboard takes the virtual keyboard off of the screen and lets you see more of your email, document, etc. while you type.

DATA CONNECTIONS

All tablets have Wi-Fi connectivity. If you’re consistently away from your home Wi-Fi connection and often find yourself without, you may want a tablet with cellular data capability. These will cost a little more, and you’ll have a monthly payment from a wireless provider like Verizon or AT&T. Often, you can simply use your smartphone to provide the wireless connection when you need it. Make sure you have your provider’s app on your phone to keep an eye on how much data you’re using. Going over your alloted data plan can be very expensive.

SECURITY

As a whole, mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets are very secure. There are a few viruses that have been discovered for Android, which is why it’s important to update the Android OS as soon as possible since these patch any vulnerabilities. Overall, as long as you are on secure Wi-Fi connections, you are safe. Browsing the web at the local coffee shop’s open Wi-Fi is generally safe, but that may not be the ideal place to handle your banking and stocks.

OPTIONS AND ACCESSORIES

Other options to consider for your new tablet include a case. Many cases are smart cases, meaning that when you open the flap that covers your screen, it turns on the screen. Those also usually fold back in such a way as to provide a stand to hold it upright, great for watching movies.

Spare charge cables are always good. You can have one at home, and keep one in a bag that you carry your tablet in. A padded bag is also a good option, as is a microfiber cleaning cloth for the screen.

Fingers are great for tablets, it’s what they’re designed for, but often a stylus will help with accuracy for clicking on links, etc. Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s iPad Pro have specifically designed styli to allow extremely precise input, including pressure-sensitive controls that can be great for drawing.

A carefully selected tablet will give you years of good use, entertainment and productivity. Stay tuned here for reviews of the latest tablets and other technology. We’d love to hear your comments, and please follow us on Facebook.

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