back to article Menage á tablet: Apple vs Amazon vs Google

The new tablet battleground is the seven-incher. The biggest names in the business are lining up to fight it out for dominance: Google, Amazon and Apple. It's Apple's focus on larger formats that has depressed the 7in tablet market to date - or at least until Amazon shipped the Kindle Fire late last year. Samsung's 7in Galaxy …


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  1. eSeM

    Size Matters

    I started with a 7" tablet. I then got a 10" tablet but found it a bit to big to be portable and discrete. I saw an 8.9" tablet and thought it the perfect compromise ....

    I was wrong, my every day tablet is now 7.7". The size and weight make it truly portable, it fits nicely in a suit or jacket pocket and it is the right size and shape to use as a book reader on a train.


    1. tmTM

      Use matters

      My tablet never leaves the lounge, and 10" is the perfect size to lazily browse the web, e-mail and watch the occasional video while loafing around in front of the telly.

      Having said that if I was an on the go, commuter type I would prefer the smaller size for portability.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Size Matters

      I have two 7" tablets. A really cheap (but not too nasty) Android tablet and a Playbook. I think the form factor is really quite good for casual browsing. I'm not sure I'd want to be hammering out a message without the aid of a physical keyboard with these devices, but they're good enough for browsing and games. The Playbook in particular has an excellent screen and speakers so it's just a shame it's running an OS that is on life support.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Size Matters

      Indeed. It is well known that women prefer bigger ones. Than men. In the case of e-book readers, anyway. Apparently that's because men want it to fit in a pocket but the women are happy for it to fit in a handbag. This sort of preference is bound to vary from person to person, from place to place, and from time to time, as fashions change. For example, I noticed that in the south of France, around 1998, lots of men carried (the functional equivalent of) handbags. That kind of thing is bound to affect the size of phone, tablet or e-book reader people want to own.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    The amazon fire - yes, it did very well before xmas. Since then? Sales totally collapsed. Either people realised it was a bad tablet, or realised they didn't want a 7" tablet. I'd say nobody's really proven that the 7" tablet market actually exists so far.

    Also, assuming apple won't change the iPad other than making it smaller? WTF! Tablets are a new category, we'll see all kinds of change over the coming years I expect (and hopefully from other companies than just apple!). I mean seriously, how many people said apple wouldn't improve much on existing product before or after say the iPod? And how similar is the current iPod range to the original iPod? Remember the clickwheel? :)

    I'd say the 7" tablet market, if it exists, is wide open.

    1. Brangdon

      Re: Hmm....

      I reckon wireless docking, and especially wireless charging, will be a killer tablet feature at some point in the next few years. It's probably a better fit with hybrid devices running Windows 8, but Apple or Google could do it too (and, historically, Apple are more likely to find a compelling design).

      Wireless charging may make more sense for larger, less portable/indoor devices, if they have to reduce battery size to make room for charging coils. If you have several charging mats, hidden in furniture, then charging becomes invisible, almost omnipresent (at least in your living room) and since the device is always recently-charged the battery life doesn't matter so much. Lots of after-sales money to be made from supplying the charging mats.

      Right now no-one cares about wireless charging. If Apple came out with a good solution, it will be huge; it will be like the iPad all over again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Hmm....

        iOS devices already sync wirelessly when they're powered and on the same network as the computer (or they sync via iCloud which makes docking somewhat redundant now). They have airplay to replace audio/video out too. So I'd say we're already there on that side.

        Wireless charging would be great though. I have a palm touchpad with the dock (bought in the firesale and used for watching video on flights mainly). To charge it I just stick it on the stand. Compared to my iPads it's brilliant, no fiddling with tiny cables! On the downside, to charge it anywhere else I need the custom cable + USB power.

        I think eventually that's the way it'll go. There won't be any physical connections, no USB or dock or anything else to plug in, and the unit can be pretty much totally sealed. Charging, syncing, playing audio + video over external devices can all be done wirelessly now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm....

        That's right, no-one cares about wireless charging now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm....

      None of these US-only products really go anywhere. Kindle fire, Zune, B&N Nook. With Apple market leader competing on the international stage, these products shout half-hearted when limited to one region, even one as large as US. Made Kindle fire look like a trial balloon, remains to be seen if Amazon decide to really make a play with the new model.

  3. Tom 38 Silver badge

    iOS has a good UI?

    Really? I've only got iOS devices - I'd describe the UI as 'simple', 'effective', 'easy to use', but it isn't particularly 'good', merely adequate. The best thing about it is how it gets out of your way.

    Comparing it with Android UIs, I'm distinctly unimpressed by iOS. They have much more control over how information is pushed and displayed, often you only have to look at the lock screen to get the info you need, where as on iOS you have to go hunting a little for it.

    The best thing about iOS UI is its consistency, which only happens because it is so simple.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: iOS has a good UI?

      By your own admission, yes, it does.

      The very definition of a good user interface is that it "gets out of your way".

      Apple's design philosophy is, basically, "KISS" so, yes, iOS is deliberately designed to be "simple".

      Choice is a means to an end, not an end in itself. This is something the Open Source communities seem particularly blind to. A choice that isn't meaningful or useful is of no interest to most people and can actually interfere with their tasks, so Apple's designers are very ruthless about paring their interfaces down to the absolute minimum necessary. Good design is as much about knowing what to leave out as it is about simply adding new features.

      For the vast majority of use cases, iOS is spot-on. Only a tiny minority of users will bump into the edges of its design hard enough to feel the urge to complain about it. The same can be said for Microsoft's "Metro" interface.

      Android is the exact opposite: it takes the traditional FOSS philosophy of "We include everything, including the kitchen sink, and damn the usability!" approach. That is going to bite Android in the arse hard. Already, we're seeing devices launched with versions of Android that are easily two generations ahead of the vast majority of the market. Why would I target ICS and Jelly Bean when fully 70-80% of Android users are still running the 2.x series? Android is already suffering from the Lowest Common Denominator Effect, where most developers target the largest market sector. As the 2.x series was intended for smartphones, almost every app you run on your tablet will be just a stretched phone app, with very, very few exceptions.

      Incidentally, the above is exactly why Apple deliberately chose to make iPhone apps look crap on the iPad. Yes, they're usable, but they're clearly not at home on that platform. This encourages developers to do the right thing and treat the iPad as a separate target, instead of just relying on the underlying OS to stretch their mobile phone user interfaces onto a 9" tablet display the way many Android developers do.

      Microsoft are taking a similar hard-line stance with their Windows Phone 7 / 8 and Windows 8 releases: you're expected to target the form-factor, not just the OS.

      Google used to be good at design once. Their original search website was a study in minimalism.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iOS has a good UI?

      Blimey, an Apple owner thats not a fanboy and not brainwashed by everything that Apple tells them....

      My problem with the tech media "gushing" of iOS, is they confused basic with easy to use.

      I USED to own an iPad, but soon grew out of it, it's far to limited for proper use (by proper, I mean anything thats not games, email or web browsing).

      I am SO much more productive on a decent Android 10in tablet.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: iOS has a good UI?

        To the anonymous one,

        Your use of language here betrays you. You've said 2 things

        "they confused basic with easy to use"

        I'd argue that you confuse truly easy to use with what you find easy to use. My Mum can use her iPad dead easily, and has only asked for help a couple of times. She had to ask me how to save a file on her PC the other day... Admittedly it was from Open Office as a Word file, but even so, she's been saving and attaching files to email since the 90s. It's just the UI wasn't all that obvious to her, and she's not done it in a while. My brother, who's obviously younger (and somewhat more tech savvy), has never asked me for help with his iPhone, but needs it with his PC every so often.

        "I USED to own an iPad, but soon grew out of it, it's far to limited for proper use (by proper, I mean anything thats not games, email or web browsing)."

        Apple designed the iPad for games, email and web browsing, plus media consumption. Those are it's 'proper' uses. If you want to do more then it can do, but it's not as flexible as Android. A lot of that's Apple's lock-in, but they do produce perfectly 'grown-up' kit, it's just they're aiming at a slightly different target to you.

        A lot of people confuse their own needs and desires with what everyone wants. And some don't seem to be able to see that they are actually part of a small minority in the market, which not all suppliers choose to cater for.

        I'd also suggest that a lot of techies over-estimate how easy most people find it to use computer kit. Partly because they don't care, so they've never learned stuff. But also, if people only do something once a year, they'll probably forget that skill the next time they need it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Blimey, an Android owner that is a fanboy and brainwashed by everything that Google PR tells them....

        My problem with the tech commentators "gushing" on Android, is they confused usable with Good.

  4. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Love this speculation

    So we are talking about 3 tablets only 1 of which we actually know exists.

    I would guess the best sign of an Apple 7 incher is that if LCD production lines are suddenly mysteriously tied up.

    For my bet - The 9.8" ipad will go All retina dropping the £329 ipad 2 and replacing it with a 7 incher.

    Shame really having owned both a 2 and 3 - I would say my own personal sweet spot is a 2. The lovelyness of the screen doesnt make up for the weight/thickness and increased charging time the battery needs. I know we are talking grams and millimeters here but on a tactile level the different is marked. Although just to prove contrary a 3 battery with a 2 screen would also tempt me.

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  6. jai

    new tablet battleground? really?

    This article talks about the 7" market being up for grabs...

    Playbook died on arrival.

    Fire was a big hit initially, but as mentioned above, how big has it really been in 2012? if it was doing that well, surely they'd have brought it to the uk by now.

    The Nexus 7 has only just appeared, we've no idea if it'll go the same way as the Playbook.

    And the iPad Mini is pure rumourware.

    I think it's a little early to be talking about a "new tablet battleground"

    You need more than one involved party for a battleground.

    Come back with this article in November or December - then we'll be able to see if there's a battleground over the 7" market, or if the Fire and the Nexus follow the Playbook into the long dark night...

    1. eSeM

      Re: new tablet battleground? really?

      Amazons Kindle Fire is tied to their Android Marketplace which still isn't available in the UK or Europe ... this is the reason why the Fire has not been released outside of the US.

      1. jai

        Re: new tablet battleground? really?

        If they thought there was going to be a big market for it they'd have done what was necessary to make the marketplace available in the UK and EU.

        But they haven't yet, which suggests they do not feel the market is there (yet?) to make it worth the effort at bringing the marketplace and the Fire to this side of the pond.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: new tablet battleground? really?

        Might be an issue for the UK but over in Europe, if you use a Kindle or Kindle app, you get pointed at the US store and there's nothing you can do about it, short of jiggery-pokery with UK proxies. Insult heaped upon injury here is that the US store only serves US editions. In dollars. Very bloody clever, I'm sure.

        If anyone knows Jeff Bezos, could you kick him firmly in the nuts for me and then, while he's reduced to an enforced immobile heap on the floor, explain what the EU is and what "Free movement of goods and services" means? Thanks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: new tablet battleground? really?

          Would that I could. Unfortunately, Jeff doesn't give a damn about Kindle use outside of the U.S. Yet.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    7" v 10"

    the 7" format is fine for those with fairly good eyesight. I tried one for a while but found that I was getting 3-4 page turns for every real page due to the font size I was having to use. Also have rather large bricklayers hands don't help. Dumped the 7" tablet (fortunately got more than I paid for it on ebay) and purchased a cut price Viewsonic Gtab, rooted and flashed it is now by my side at all times.

  8. the-it-slayer

    Not the god damn Apple 7" incher rumour again?

    Just another excuse to post a rumour about the non-existant 7" tablet from Apple. They will never do it on the grounds of it possibly hurting their current iPad's sales. No need to dilute the market with more pointless 7" tabs. I can quite happily port round my 10" iPad with no issues while on the go. Not too big, not too small and not too heavy.

    Anyway, the 7" tab market is small-play for everyone. Nobody particularly wants one, only people are control-freaks with their tech. Fandroids at their best because the all controlling wall-garden of Apple won't let you modify the smallest of things.

    Please put this article and rumour to bed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not the god damn Apple 7" incher rumour again?

      "They will never do it on the grounds of it possibly hurting their current iPad's sales."

      Didn't people say this about the iPod? That they would never come out with a smaller, cheaper version for fear of cannibalizing sales? And then Apple came out with the iPod Shuffle. Following Apple's standard product development cycle, they would next introduce an affordable version of the iPad, but with a lot fewer features. Might be 7", might not. The one thing Apple won't do is introduce a new product because everyone else is doing it--it has to have its own reason for being.

      And they would introduce a new souped-up iPad, for a higher price. The current iPad will then become the iPad Classic. It works for iPod - in fact, Apple still sells iPod Classics, and takes potential cannibalism in stride. They have 3 price points with three different groups of capabilities. Why mess with success?

  9. RichyS
    Thumb Down

    Price not size

    I suspect 7" tablets are bought by the vast majority of people because they are cheap, not because of their size. Even with the somewhat beta OS, surely the PlayBook would have sold better if 7" was the killer size.

  10. DrXym Silver badge

    Kindle Fire looks obsolete

    I can't think of any reason for anyone in the UK to buy a Kindle Fire when there is a more open, faster device at the same price point. Most of Amazon's apps and their app store are available for other Android devices.

    I suppose if you used their video streaming it might not be so simple but that reason barely applies in the UK.

    1. dogged

      Re: Kindle Fire looks obsolete

      You're assuming that the consumer gives a damn about "open" or even knows what it is.

      I would suggest that those criteria apply only to a tiny minority of consumers and that when Amazon start showing off the Fire on the UK/EU front-page, they'll start selling those Fires to consumers who are happy to shop with Amazon and recognize Google only as a search engine.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kindle Fire looks obsolete

      I agree dogged, don't underestimate the Amazon juggernaut. The general public deposits a lot of trust on them, not the least because of their excellent support.

      Will Google even have a phone support line for this tablet? Looking at their past device attempts probably not.

      Amazon also has the upper hand when it comes to content. From what I've seen Google doesn't have a lot of it, especially outside the US.

  11. PipV

    Size Matters or Size Doesn't matter

    Its interesting that the talk of 7" tablets and particularly the talk that Apple should/may/could make a 7" ipad, is to reduce the size of the screen for portability.

    Whilst in another corner of the room, smartphones are increasing their size as if being pumped full of steroids.

    So with one breath its "lets make em smaller" and the other its "make em bigger - bigger is much better"

    I do carry my phone with me the majority of the time, becuase it fits in my pocket. I don't carry my tablet about much, not because of the size but because I don't need to. When and if I do, its not a huge ask to carry this about - hey what are Netto and Aldi carrier bags going to be used for?

    1. Mr Grumblefish

      Re: Size Matters or Size Doesn't matter

      Just proves that 7" is the perfect size if I do say so myself.

  12. Adam Nealis

    What have Apple to do with it?

    All the author has to go on viz apple is that they only denied once that they don't do 7".

    So all the author has to go on in terms of facts is that Apple are competing in the 7" space by not having a product in that form factor.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When the Galaxy S IIII comes out with it's 12 inch screen it's gonna blow these so called 'tablets' out of the water and define a new standard.

  14. Christopher Rogers


    7" tablet is the way forward? Really? So ballpark 2 inches bigger than some phones is the future of the tablet? Don't see it.

    Tablets were talked up by Microsoft years ago, however they didn't have the technology to make them ultra portable nor did they have a clear definition of their purpose. When the technology came about, apple rebooted the idea and this time added focus - media consumption devices, designed to consume information, movies, pictures, games. Ipad does this brilliantly and as mentioned before, the ui is simple enough to get out of your road. The screen size is right on the money for watching movies etc. Thats the sweet spot. Apple got it right and thats why everyone else is playing catchup.

    Microsoft are going 1 step further by pushing the idea that the ultrabook and tablet markets are going to merge into their Surface device. Based on the scant knowledge of this device, if it delivers on its promise they could just have pulled the tablet sector back round to what Billg talked about years ago. However, even they don't seem to have the idea licked. Two versions of Win 8 for 2 architectures? Are they hedging bets with x86 and ARM, hoping that there will be a winner and so the other can quietly vanish? Who knows.

    One thing we do know, they think 10" and above is the way forward. Anything smaller is a phone.

    I have an HTC Sensation XE and an Acer Iconia A500. Read into that what you will.

  15. Ali on the Reg

    Rise of the 7" at last

    Has owned the first Galaxy Tab and now the 7.7. It infuriates me when, upon hearing the price, people respond with "oh, you could have gotten an Apple iPad for that". Yes I know, I didn't want one because it is too big!!!

  16. Nick De Plume

    iOS fragmentation

    iOS apps are not resolution agnostic.

    This was the primary reason for the iphone going "retina" was that the older 320x480 wasn't cutting it anymore, but goint 480x800 (or similar) / changing aspect ratio of the screen would break the existing (and huge) app catalogue. Doubling (quadrupling) the res was the only solution for compatibility - iOS app GUI's were hard coded for the device.

    Same holds for the ipad. Thus the ipad 3, with its brilliant "retina" screen.

    I wonder if they will keep the 2:3 aspect of the iphone for iphone5, and the 3:4 aspect for a 7" ipad? And at what resolution?

  17. Paddy

    7 inches is good, but 5.3 could be better

    I do own the 7" Galaxy tab, but no smartphone. Given the cash I would buy the Galaxy Note phone and hope to retire the tab. I have large hands and like the feel of Note and the size of its display.

  18. DZ-Jay


    >> They chose seven inches for two reasons: it's more mobile and - perhaps the really important criterion - it's more readily distinguishable from the iPad.

    Really? And here I was--with the rest of the rational people of the planet--assuming that the reasons the competitors chose a 7" tablet instead of ~10" was:

    1. Production costs - This cannot be understated: all manufacturers discovered that they could not compete with the iPad at the same price point, and the only reasonable way to lower the price was to produce one with cheaper components. Some did this (Asus, I'm looking at you!) and others just picked smaller screens.

    2. Availability of materials - it's been widely publicized that Apple bought pretty much the manufacturing capacity of certain components, which prevents other device manufacturers from acquiring them in large enough quantities for a consumer product.


  19. David Paul Morgan

    choice is good.

    I love my Transformer tf101. My partner likes his HTC flyer. I view a lot of pdf's but he prefers e books. It also had a lot to do with how you read. I need reading glasses and a bigger screen, he takes off his glasses to read and likes the smaller form factor. I've also noticed a few 5" Samsungs out and about. We also like the Android interface and have never been locked into iTunes.

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