Kevin C. Tofel of GigaOM thinks that, eventually, tablets will replace smartphones in our mobile digital lives. This is contrary to what I’m used to hearing from tech bloggers and analysts: that tablets will replace PCs. You hear it all the time — “We’re in a post-PC world! We’re one step closer to the post-PC world! I can see the post-PC world from my house!”

Kevin Tofel tries to use the Galaxy Tab as a phone
Kevin Tofel tries to use the Galaxy Tab as a phone…

But what if that’s not the trend? What if the PC isn’t going away, just the smartphone?

Kevin makes some great points, including the observation that people are consuming more and more mobile data on larger and larger screens with interfaces that look better at 7 inches than 4. He also sweeps aside the idea that folks can’t get used to talking on their tablets. Hello, this is what wired and Bluetooth headsets are for.

Plus, I have to agree with this: “I can’t think of a single digital activity that’s better on a smartphone than on a tablet.” I love my phone and I find it a convenient tool for reading email, posting to social networks, doing a quick browse and keeping up with my calendar. I can do all of that with a tablet plus play games and read on a more reasonably-sized screen.

Do you think Kevin is completely off the mark here? Given the nature of tablets built around mobile operating systems, I just don’t see a world without a PC. I can imagine a world where my tablet is the only communication device I carry around.

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15 replies on “Will tablets eventually replace smartphones?”

  1. Personally, I expect that until the large display/compact device problem to be resolved, there will be a tablet/phone ecosystem in the interim. I think a good idea would be like the reverse of the ASUS Padfone, where the thing inside the tablet isn’t the main processing device but a much simpler one that offloads its heavier duties to the tablet by interacting remotely, like a dockable version of their MeMic.

  2. I can see this happening. I carry an iphone for work(4) and one for personal use(3GS) (don’t want to mix my data), and I use a headset paired to both. Except for dialing a number(rare for me), I don’t take either out of my pockets. As soon as they can get reliable voice dialing, I would never need to take them out so a swap to a tablet would then make no difference. I’m hoping for an Android tablet/phone.

  3. This will happen when smart phones get the ability to project hard-light touchscreens…. oh wait that hasn’t happened yet never mind LOL

  4. “The Post-PC World” is just like “The Paperless Office” A technologists observation of a trend which management and marketing turned into a crusade. This is abetted by the “There can only be one!” doctrine of tech journalists, in which each new technology must replace all previous instances however weakly related, “now that we have sporks it’s a post Chopstick world!”

    My view is more along the line of the recurring archetype. Good designs are resurrected with new tech. We will always have some computing solution with big displays, keyboards and mice. We will always have a clamshell laptop in some form. We will always have tablets of different sizes. My suspicion is that the phone will evolve into a “bluetooth” com-badge similar to a modern MiFi. It will tether with tablets of any size, TVs, or visors or simply operate by voice command. Larger tablets will simplify contact management and provide video conferencing.

  5. The G Note looks great, which it was 7″ though.

    More universal Phone access like in EU should be mandated, thanks wimpy congress ($uck ups).

  6. I think it all depends on future power source technology. If we figure out a way to power our devices with our own bodies or discover some drastically improved type of battery, I think it would be very possible to have a single small cellular like device (no screen, no input peripherals) that you would keep on your body at all times, which would be used to facilitate the usage of whatever other devices you have in your possession (tablet, phone, watch, glasses) and whatever devices you come in contact with (home/work desktop, car, television, stereo, garage door, microwave, etc). It would communicate with these devices on a low power Zigbee like network while it would be your primary connection to the internet, as many peoples’ cell phones are today; although, self routing through local area networks would be as beneficial as they are today.

    Think of this small personal computing device as your “Identify Disc” from TRON. Ideally, you’d keep it near or on something you are never without–for me it’d be my wallet or my keys. And if you think about it, it could easily replace even those two devices. Of course, just implant it into the back of your neck and you’ll never be without it.

  7. I think the direction of the personal computing device is based largely around future power source technology. If we figured out how to power our devices with our own bodies or discovered some kind of drastically improved battery, I think there would be the possibility to carry a cellular-like device that exists purely to keep you (literally) connected to not only other devices in your possession (tablet, watch, glasses, etc) but other devices you come in contact with (home/work computer, television, car, stereo, garage door, microwave, etc).

    Think of this small screen-less / input device-less computer as your “Identity Disc” from TRON.

  8. We are moving to the age of the Personal Network. I agree bluetooth and wifi direct smart watches and headsets will allow a tablet carried in your bag or docked in your home be easily accessed. I do see the end of the PC though. Replaced by the stick PC that will be able to plug into desktop or laptop docks, HD TVs using wireless keyboards or with tablets acting as keyboard.

    1. The PC won’t come to a end, it’ll just evolve!

      A PC Stick or even a Tablet PC, is still a PC as long as it doesn’t overly limit its usage and continues to serve as a Personal Computer.

      Convergence may start lumping tablets with phones but we’re also getting to the point our devices form factors can be changed as needed.

      Like the Asus Padfone has both a tablet dock and a keyboard dock for the tablet dock.

      Future devices will only push this further and either let you reconfigure as needed or the device itself can literally change form factor as needed.

      Flexible screens for example could allow a phone sized device to fold out or unroll into a larger form factor.

      Or devices could go the augmented reality route and our devices will become less visible.

      These changes won’t happen over night but we’re probably only a decade away from some major changes in the way we use technology.

  9. I’d have to agree. I’ve been trying to justify an android tablet for some time. My phone is due for an upgrade and I thought instead of getting a new phone and a new tablet, I should just get something like the Samsung note. Why carry two devices around? I usually take my phone out of my pocket anyway when I’m at home or work. I really don’t like bluetooth headsets though so I think the Note would be the perfect size, especially since I use my phone for 2/3 internet and 1/3 talking anyway.

  10. I think tablets are just too big. the 4+” size phone is reaching the limits of what most guys can easily carry in their pockets or on their belt. 5″ is probably the absolute limit. Yes, tablets might be nicer to browse on, watch videos, etc… but it is too big to carry and not think about it which I think will limit it as a smart-phone replacement.

  11. Wow, I remember following Kevin on JK On The Run, way back when!

    What a great guy. Those were the days…

    I don’t know, though; phones are just more subtle. Then again, if my Nexus 7 had a sim card, I’d probably try it.

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