What’s Wrong with 5 inch Tablets?

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.

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