a medium size internet
May 18, 2019 11:48 AM   Subscribe

What can I do with a tablet?

There's a 9.7" Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 that's going to be cheaper at Costco next week. I think I'm gonna buy one. I definitely don't need a tablet, but I've thought about getting one for the last couple years and the price/my life is at a place where I wanna treat myself with a new toy.

I have a smartphone, I have a kindle, I have a chromebook, I have a behemoth laptop for games, and I have a desktop. DO NOT NEED a tablet, clearly, but want. For fun.

The biggest advantage I see is having a portable thingy to watch TV/movies on without squinting. I also like the idea of having a different device for playing mobile games so I can get that crap off my phone.

What other things can I do easier/nicer/better/different with a wifi-only android tablet? Are there apps with a much nicer tablet experience I've been missing out on? Is handwriting with a stylus a thing?
posted by phunniemee to Technology (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The last two computers I've bought have had styluses (one Acer tablet convertible and one Chromebook), and honestly once the novelty has worn off I haven't felt compelled to sketch or write with them. Your mileage may vary, but paper just feels so much better, and honestly stylus drawing isn't as responsive as I'd like on a screen.

I had an Android tablet for a while, and I haven't used it in years, but something I really enjoyed about it was that I could put it on its stand that came with the case, connect a Bluetooth keyboard, and then type into a Google Doc. If you like to write, then it seems like the kind of thing you could take with you more easily than your typical laptop - even including the keyboard.

One option that might be nice is e-reading. Tablets are about the right size and weight to spend prolonged periods with, and induce less eye strain than other types of screens.

I think that in addition to normal time-sink mobile games, tablets are also really good for board game adaptations (if that's your thing). Much easier than playing on a phone screen, but lots of board game apps also play better with touch controls. Playing on a tablet is also a good way to learn the rules to something, since the game will generally tell you what it's doing to maintian the game-state on the "table", but also handle all the tedious math and management for you. That makes it easier to transfer over to a physical copy of the game, take a quick once-over the rules, and then play it with your friends.
posted by codacorolla at 12:06 PM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

IME, the tablet has been my vacation-computer. I take it to hotels and when I visit family. It's good for showing photos and videos of the kids, good for looking up restaurants and attractions (and parking) in an city while you're having breakfast or in bed.
posted by Wild_Eep at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

What I use my tablet for:

- My main reason for buying one was to install iReal Pro on it along with a full library of sheet music for practicing and gigs, completely (and very satisfyingly) replacing a large unwieldy stack of fake books. All the subsequent uses ended up being icing on the cake.

- Sitting in bed, doing a last bit of web surfing or YouTube watching before going to sleep.

- As a book reader (I don't have a dedicated Kindle or such).

- As a "portable internet" that I don't, as you say, need to squint at but that I can carry with me on vacation or day trips, or even just to sit out on the porch with in nice weather without having to unplug multiple cables from my semi-immobile laptop and lug it around.

- If I find a recipe online I'd like to try, I can carry it into the kitchen with me and view the directions more easily than on a small phone screen.

- Occasional drawing with a stylus (I'm not an artist, but sometimes a quick sketch is handy).

- Taking notes during a meeting - this is even more occasional than the sketching, but still handy when I do need it. I find it easier to type on a tablet's on-screen keyboard than my phone's, even without connecting a physical one like codacorolla mentions.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:31 PM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

They are nice for reading anything that you need more content or detail than Kindles or phones can do. Ecomic books, technical books, etc.

I have a bunch of Android versions of board games i on mine that's nice for passing around on vacations where you don't want to worry about whether you lost fiddly purple meeple #4 at the beach house after bringing your expensive physical copy.

I like mine for reading art and food blogs like This Is Colossal around the house. It's easy to flop on a hammock and scroll with one.

Drawful with a stylus is better than on a phone. I have big fingers so any game that requires precision is easier on a tablet.

But they're also among the least crucial of my electronic gadgets.
posted by Candleman at 12:46 PM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I take mine everywhere (and I just have a Mini). I use it as a reader, for my various tracking app, when I'm actually trying to SEE something on a website...as a subset of "reader," it's a lot easier to take into the kitchen to show me a recipe than a laptop is! When I'm being diligent, almost anything you want to study, you can get an app for.
posted by praemunire at 1:24 PM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Tablets have become prosthetics of sorts for people with suboptimal eyesight. I am 53 and have just made the switch to needing reading glasses. This may have been exacerbated by playing way too many games of Twilight Struggle on the iPad.

I got rid of my smart phone to save money on monthly data charges and use my 9” iPad for watching streaming media, filming kid activities when I forget to charge my camera and honestly that is it. Oh and I will read on it too when trapped at something boring. I had a little folding iPad stand from thingiverse printed up at the library for $1.50 and have connected a mechanical keyboard. I also use Snapseed to edit photos and play around with Caustic and garage band.

I am up for a new computer at work and have spent a month vacillating between an iMac and an iPad Pro with a keyboard case. I have left my MacBook at work as a test of what I can do on a tablet but cheat all the time on the family Linux desktop. I’ll probably compromise and get a 27” iMac and use he iPad as a MacBook replacement.

Instapaper and Pinboard are a great combination on the phone or tablet.

Everything I’ve mentioned can take place on an Android tablet. Android apps are cheaper and you get that sweet sd card slot.
posted by mecran01 at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

My partner has an old android tablet that we just moved into the kitchen to be the educated recipe finding device. I’m excited.
posted by bilabial at 2:56 PM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Tablets definitely have their advantages. One big disadvantage of android tablets is that they're usually behind in security updates. I think a tablet could be great for entertainment. Just please avoid using an android tablet for sensitive things like e-mail and online banking.
posted by mundo at 4:01 PM on May 18, 2019

If you play any kind of music, it can be more convenient to read sheet music in PDF format from the tablet than to print out the score.
posted by terretu at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have an iPad, but this applies to any tablet. For me, one of the biggest benefits is being able to watch Netflix/Amazon on it from bed. Unlike my TV, I can use Flux or the iOS display settings to filter out all blue light. So, I can watch TV without disrupting my circadian rhythm as much.
posted by invisible ink at 4:58 PM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I use mine for cooking in the kitchen. I read my blogs on the computer and save them to pocket. Much easier to take my tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10") into the kitchen than my iPhone SE.

Color by number app. I am way too addicted.

I love watching Iron Chef as well as PBS stuff on it. Sometimes I'll hold it in bed, and sometimes I'll cast things to my TV. I like searching YouTube on it better than my phone. My phone is just really small.

I'll occasionally take it to work (I'm a preschool teacher) and use it in my classroom for reading books (via Libby), showing YouTube videos, or showing pictures of things that we are studying.

It has pretty much replaced dead tree books when I want to read. I had a bad habit of leaving books in various places.

It's not the newest, fastest or fanciest tablet in the world. But for what I paid for it on Black Friday, it does everything I want it to.
posted by kathrynm at 9:02 PM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

One big disadvantage of android tablets is that they're usually behind in security updates

unless you throw LineageOS on it instead of keeping whatever bloated garbage-addled perversion of Android that Samsung is shipping these days.
posted by flabdablet at 10:00 PM on May 18, 2019

Assuming your model is one of the supported ones... >:( i.e. you'd want to read that list carefully before deciding on which model to purchase.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:38 PM on May 18, 2019

I use mine to play Zwift on treadmills. Using a laptop is usually impractical, even if you own the treadmill/gym, and a phone is too tiny. Tablets work great for this.
posted by meowzilla at 12:01 AM on May 19, 2019

Assuming your model is one of the supported ones

LineageOS is indeed currently supported for the 9.7" Galaxy Tab S2 wifi model and although that build is currently not getting any official maintenance, I would personally rather take a chance on a user community for ongoing support than rely totally on the marketing whim of a huge corporation.

You might see Samsung update the Galaxy Tab S2 to Oreo, but they'd be unlikely to take it any further than that. But I would expect that there would be enough S2 enthusiasts to keep some kind of up-to-date version of LineageOS available for it well after Samsung has forgotten it completely.
posted by flabdablet at 1:30 AM on May 19, 2019

The biggest advantage I see is having a portable thingy to watch TV/movies on without squinting

Our tablet is almost exclusively a TV you can carry from room to room, and I gotta tell you, this is enough of a reason to get one. We have a regular flat screen TV on the wall and I think it's been close to a year since we turned it on. With the tablet, you can watch something where you are, not where the TV is.
posted by escabeche at 4:17 AM on May 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Similar to the sheet music suggestion above, there are also some great "learn to play piano" apps if that interests you at all. ("simply piano" was great for me, but I'm sure there are others as well.)
posted by jimmereeno at 11:31 AM on May 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Reading PDFs. Mine gets most of its use from a) Knitting Patterns, and b) Comics.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:51 AM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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