Small tablets are tailor-made for road warriors. They’re easy, light, portable, and have all the power you need to access the internet or write an email on the go. More functional than smartphones, less bulky than laptops, they’re quickly becoming a must-have in every go bag. Now the only question is: Which smaller tablet should you carry? For me, there are two serious contenders — the Nexus 7 that’s already in my go bag and the iPad Mini Apple shared with me to review.
The iPad Mini comes with a legacy advantage. Apple is the market leader in tablets, selling more than 100 million iPads in fewer than three years. By one recent analysis, iPads account for 98% of all web traffic originating from tablets — and 54% from all mobile devices, including smartphones. It’s not as if no other tablet comes close: It’s more like every other tablet combined doesn’t come close.
Still, the iPad Mini was only introduced last October, which meant that competitors could beat it to the small tablet market. The Nexus 7 was released earlier in 2012, and, for all intents and purposes, introduced the category*. Cheaper worthy tablets like the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook also joined the fray, creating need for Apple to create the iPad Mini, and the appealing chance for price pressure on the iPad premium.
So, which one is a smarter choice to toss in my go bag?
On one level, it comes down to the software, specifically the iPad’s iOS versus the Nexus 7′s Android platform. To note the obvious, app selection is vastly superior for Apple devices. The total number of apps available isn’t necessarily make or break, if the ones you need exist on your platform of choice. But the extent to which you need to be future proof is a factor. The Apple and Android development communities are both robust.
One of the simplest hardware decisions is one of the most powerful on the iPad: The placement of the iPad’s home button makes it possible to wake the device with one hand when it’s lying on a surface. On the Nexus 7 the wake-up key is on the recessed side and cannot even be accessed when laying flat. I often use a tablet right next to my laptop for quick reference, and being able to work it with one hand is big plus.