Last year, 4G LTE was the future, and now it is here. Both Verizon and AT&T have 4G LTE tablets (the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Xoom on Verizon, and the HTC Jetstream on AT&T), but sales data of these and 3G tablets suggests that consumers are still cool on connected tablets owing to the additional monthly cost. That will probably be the case for the next gen, and more high-profile devices may launch sans carrier partner in a less expensive Wi-Fi-only form before coming to the cellular networks.
Design and Features
It’s hard to think tablets can get much thinner or lighter than the svelte Galaxy Tab 8.9 and upcoming Toshiba A200, but they may see some design improvements. Speakers have been the Achilles heel of the form factor, with virtually all tablets outputting horrible sound that is either low in fidelity or volume. Things can certainly improve on that front, and tablets may also see a boost in battery life.
Some tablets flirted with home theater integration in 2011, including the Sony Tablet S, VIZIO Via tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Tabs via the All Share feature. More may follow suit going forward, whether it is through an onboard IR blaster for universal remote functionality or media streaming technology similar to DLNA or Apple AirPlay.
Pen integration will probably be more ubiquitous on the next crop of at least Android tablets. Ice Cream Sandwich has a set of pen APIs for developers, and both Samsung and HTC have shown commitment to the active stylus with pen SDKs of their own.
Now a Good Time to Buy?
As stated earlier, there is no “right” time to buy a tablet. However, the holiday season is full of deals on older, current-gen devices, and those looking for an all-around tablet for consuming media and surfing the web can find some great deals they shouldn’t ignore. In fact, early Black Friday leaks suggest very capable models like the BlackBerry PlayBook and a handful of Honeycomb tablets will be on sale.
That said, those looking for a serious and productive machine may want to wait. The iPad and Honeycomb tablets, particularly the Lenovo ThinkPad tablet, are plenty productive, but are still not near PC or laptop levels. The next generation should help bridge that gap with more processing and features.
Finally, those in the market for the iPad may want to wait as well. True, the Apple iPad 2 is arguably the best mobile tablet on the market, but the iPad 3 is probably three or four months away, and that is expected to have the aforementioned quad-core processor. Given Apple’s pricing history, it will cost the same as the iPad 2 at launch, at which point the iPad 2 will be deeply discounted .
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