Selecting a Tablet: 7 Inches vs. 10 Inches
For years I’ve been asked to help companies build their mobile device strategy: “Laptops or PDA’s?” was the most popular question back then, but things have changed. Smartphones and tablets took over, and following the release of the Nexus 7 (and the repeating rumors about the iPad mini) companies will soon start asking what is better for their field employees: a 7 or a 10 inch tablet?
Compared to laptops, a 10 inch tablet will give your field employees the ability to be truly mobile. The portability of it is amazing; no need to place it on a table, no need to sit next to it, no need to carry a mouse. Tablets can be used everywhere (and for long periods of time). They provide an amazing reading experience (emails, documents, schematics, large screen, and superb zoom-in/out functionality) and an (almost) perfect typing experience. This is not trivial when talking about devices without physical keyboards.
But, after using it for a while, your users will learn that a tablet is a bit… well… heavy. Not like a laptop of course, but enough to make you want to put it down somewhere, or sit and place it on your lap instead of using it when you stand.
7 inch tablets, on the other hand, have lighter weight and greater portability. They can be pocketed quite easily to free up the hands. It’s a huge advantage when carrying around equipment and tools.
The question is: do you really need those extra 3 inches?
If you are accessing information which is mostly data fields, maybe not. But if you are accessing complicated documents, schematics, maps, and more, you may find that a 7 inch tablet is just too small.
However, if the data used in the field is so complicated, you should rethink your tablet strategy, as both Android and iOS do not (yet) provide the same rich user experience with dealing with multiple apps, documents, and the likes. In such case, I would rethink the feasibility of laptops to your business.
If it looks like I’m trying to convince you that a 7 inch tablet is better than a 10 inch one, here comes the argument that might change it all: you can type with both hands when placing a 10 inch tablet on a table (landscape mode only). It takes a while to get used to, but once you do – the typing speed is close to a laptop. There is no such thing with a 7 inch tablet, so if your business requires a lot of typing – beware of it.
On the other hand, if the data capturing includes mostly drop down selection lists, and numbers, then 7 inch tablets will allow your users to actually walk around with them while capturing the data easily.
Eventually it comes down to portability. 7 inch tablets are truly mobile, almost like smartphones. 10 inch tablets, such as the iPad, are somewhere in between smartphones and laptops. You can carry them around like smartphones, but they don’t fit into your pocket, they are a bit too heavy, and too big to be easily used while standing, walking, or carrying stuff around.
The advantages of having a bigger screen (with more options and a large keyboard), do have their price and you will need to ask yourself if this price is one you are willing to pay.