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2012 – The Year Of The Tablet

20th December 2012
This Christmas, it seems that everybody is urgent to get their hands on a tablet, but not because they’re crying out for Nurofen the morning after a heavy night.
2012’s must-have present is a tablet device, and their mass influx into the market this year is changing the way we all interact with the internet.

The likes of the iPad mini, Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire from Amazon are all set to dominate the stockings at the end of beds in homes both in the UK and abroad as gift recipients look for a little bit of light at the end of an indifferent year for public mood.

At £159 for the base model, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are likely to be the most commonly given options (there are clearly some very generous present purchasers around), with the iPad mini (their lower case ‘m’, not ours) starting from £269 for a 16GB wi-fi enabled version, ranging right through to £529 for the 64GB wi-fi plus cellular option - the one that doubles up as a phone (that most forgotten of elements, it would seem).

The one thing they’ve all got in common is their ability to browse the internet, meaning that there’s a strong likelihood that a considerable number of you reading this are currently sitting on a train, lying on your bed, or wandering down the high street, rather than sitting at a desk and clicking on pretty icons with a mouse.

The speed and ability of these tablets to disseminate websites and make them accessible on the move is light years away from the stunted internet access of a mere two or three years ago, when sections of the industry were still talking in terms of basic WAP versions of sites. It’s now second nature for tablet users (and those with the top end of the latest generation of mobile phones) to expect a browsing experience that matches the expectations of somebody using a PC or laptop, but they still have their limitations, and makes a ‘less is more’ approach to site design a sensible avenue to pursue.

This is by no means a statement of intent for developers to strip down websites, but clean, crisp programming to ensure that sites load quickly is even more of a must, and considerations about how you lay out a site must also pay key consideration to the way in which a tablet user will be looking at your creation.

Screen shapes and sizes vary across each device, so developers are keeping close tabs on which shapes are proving most prevalent. Earlier this year, the iPad mini was storming ahead in terms of their share of browser usage amongst the tablet rivals, but the Christmas rush (and the continued growth of these items in the new year as prices fall and/or the need to jump on the bandwagon increases) is going to ensure that the spread is much more even by the time the turkey starts to go cold.

Another key consideration in the growth of tablet devices is the rise of 4G, which is set to soar in 2013 after the auction for the relevant licences is undertaken by the UK government, early in the new year. Worldwide figures show that 91m devices capable of benefitting from 4G’s wide range of applications and services have been shipped this year – a figure that will almost treble in 2013, to a considerable 275m.

It gives plenty of cause for thought when we’re putting together the next generation of site designs – and should give you plenty of reason to start wondering how you’ll be able to upgrade your soon-to-be-outdated iPad mini, Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire when Christmas 2013 comes round.

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