What’s Wrong with 5 inch Tablets?

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With the impending release of the 5 inch Dell Streak and other rumored similar tablets, it begs the question – is there a market for them? Will the buying public find that a 5 inch tablet is the perfect tablet for their uses? Well, in at least one case (mine), that answer is a resounding “No”.

Now, don’t get me wrong – such devices may indeed find a ready market and be a big seller. But I am betting that it will miss its mark and soon fade away as a small niche product. What’s wrong with a 5 inch tablet, you ask? Well, let’s examine the facts, at least as I see them.

It is Not Pocketable

While the 5 incher (as I will refer to the 5 inch tablet for now) might be a great fit for a lady’s handbag, it is simply not a good fit for the pants pocket. And I feel confident in telling you that a mobile device will succeed and fail in this simple litmus test – will it fit in my pocket. Over the years my personal electronics mantra has held this test in high regard, and I know that I am not the only one.

Even though the device could theoretically find its niche as a lady’s handbag device of choice, the market could probably not be sustained on that qualification alone. A popular device needs to be exactly that across all segments of the market, and not easily fitting into a trouser pocket instantly disqualifies it as a “mobile” device in many consumer’s minds.

Not Big Enough for Full Page Views

Okay, so the 5 incher is not exactly a handy mobile device, but it would still be great as a coffee table kind of device, right? Well, no, at least as far as magazines and printed material go – the real “meat” of such a device. The reason why is – 5 inches is simply not big enough to practically display a full page view of a printed page. Sure, you can pinch, pan, and zoom to get to your content, but then you have lost the ability to use the full page view as anything but a loose navigational tool for the page.

Compare that with larger tablets and you can easily see (or imagine, as the case may be, until the products actually hit the market) how the difference in size goes from being full page readable to a “What does it say” guessing game.

Comparable size phones are cheaper

The price is another area where the 5 incher is hurting, as compared to existing smart phones. For example, the Dell Streak 5 incher costs $299 with a contract, whereas a more capable and versatile Droid X will set you back only $199. And at 4.3 inches itself, the last thing a Droid X user is going to say when holding a 5 incher is, “Wow, that’s big!” In fact, for most uses, the size difference is not going to be noticeable. Until, that is, you go to stick it in your pocket.

No Defined Market

As it stands, the 5 incher appears to be a product without a defined market. Too small to be a full page reader – it’s not going to be good for magazines or full page PDFs. Too big for a pants pocket – it’s not going to be known for a great portable device. In fact, there does not appear to be a single market that the device fits into neatly.

While other products have chiseled out a market thanks to innovation and convenience, the 5 incher is neither highly innovative nor all that convenient. Where does that leave the 5 inch tablet? Simple – without a defined market, and without the capability to create its own. In my opinion, of course.

I am not saying that the 5 inch tablet can’t find a good market. What I am saying is that more than likely the 5 incher is simply too little, too late to the game. I just don’t think the market will understand a semi-big and semi-small tablet.

I could be wrong, and it would not be the first time. But one thing is certain – at least one consumer is steering clear of the 5 inch tablets.

  9 comments for “What’s Wrong with 5 inch Tablets?

  1. Brad
    August 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    -streak fits in your pocket.
    -the more landscape the better…
    -…while still maintaining phone abilities.
    -i have been waiting eagerly to trade in my iphone for a 5 inch unit……..i just don’t want anything made by dell……somebody else please enter this market….

  2. what what
    August 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Nice review of a product you’ve never demonstrated.

  3. August 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    To the guy who keeps leaving nasty comments. Yes our comments are moderated, we do not post comments that are rude, ignorant or have swear words in them.

  4. Simon
    August 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Personally, I can’t find a use for any tablet in my day to day life. I don’t watch movies on the bus (I don’t ride the bus), I don’t need internet access on-the-go beyond what I can get from my smartphone, and if you’re using it as an e-reader you paid too much. I can see applications where they may be useful, for example as an electronic clipboard in some business applications, but with the limitations current tablet PC’s have compared to full fledged desktops or even laptop machines, they are nothing but gadgets and gizmos to me.

  5. August 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    I personally cannot wait to get something of this form factor integrated into my car. It’s the perfect solution in terms of navigation and media integration. I don’t want to plug a mobile device into my car stereo. I want a powerful mobile device to BE my car stereo. Obviously there will be some other components involved and hidden away behind the dash, but something like this – as the centerpiece – is a much more elegant (and affordable) solution than the $2000 offerings by Alpine, Pioneer, and the like.

  6. Marcomrade
    August 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    If the target market and use case are not clear, that’s a major product flaw even without a hands-on experience. In a more robust product mix, the Streak would be laughed off as DOA.

    I think Dell is getting an easy ride because the bloggerati are starved for a non-iPad tablet story. Most of the reviews I’ve read net out to “good for them for trying.” What is this? Youth soccer league? Special Olympics?

    Further, why are people making excuses for substantive issues. Launching with an old version of Android?

    Further, the “pocket test” isn’t just a matter of whether it fits, but whether it can be comfortably carried that way all day, every day. I can stuff a sandwich in my pocket, too, but I wouldn’t want to walk around with it there for 12 hours, regularly having to quickly wrestle it out and hold it up to my head to take calls. Same goes for the purse test. Dainty enough for a handbag, but what image-conscious woman would want to be seen with a paperback book-sized object up against her head?

  7. Shawn
    August 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    All of the reviews I have read concerning the Streak seem to indicate that while it was a snug fit, the device is in fact pocketable. I assume that your mileage may vary if you are usually wearing very tight pants though.

    I’m not 100% sold on the appeal, but I like the device in theory simply I am a very big guy, and the downsides won’t affect me quite so much. I think it can have a niche as a pocket multimedia device though. iPad size devices are just a tad too large for some places (picture a long bus ride, or even some airline flights) and using a sub 4 inch screen makes for painful movie watching for an extended period. I think in this case, every extra bit helps, and the 5 inch screen, while not horribly larger than a 4.3, will yield a much better result.

  8. August 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

    As someone who carries an Archos 5 IT all the time you are truly wrong on all fronts. It easily fits in my pocket so that is not an issue. Second for someone who has to put his glassess on to read the iPhone, the larger size is easier for web surfing. Also, movies look alot better as well. If the Archos had a phone and better web browser (can’t surf for free at att hotspots due to flash issues), I could see using it all the time with a bluetooth headset. These issues are (hopefully) corrected with the Streak, though it seems overpriced compared to the Archos (phone should add $100, ARchos has much more internal memory 32gb).

  9. Iawnaek
    November 7, 2010 at 3:34 am

    I have an Aigo E500 and it is a cheap MID with a 5 inch screen powered by an Android OS. For me it is perfect for mobility. I don’t need to pocket my MID because I have a nice manbag (may I say an expensive one) to keep it. With the same manbag I can also put in my motorola milestone Xt720. Don’t you know keeping ur mobile phone in ur pocket will cause u problems down there (if u know what I mean)? Compared to the oversized iPad, I can hold my MID for a long time reading a book without feeling the strain. Furthermore, I find that using SlideIT on a 5 inch screen is still possible but not on any larger screens (I have tried). And I dun mind not having full page views. I am waiting for Dell Streak with Froyo. Once that is available I will chuck my MID aside and go for the Dell Streak. A 5 inch pad is perfect for me. I am their defined market.

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