Anyone watching television these days would think that everyone already has a tablet computer. Sales of these handy tools have been growing, and these machines are gaining more popularity on the farm.
Part of that is the rise of critical data and information management tools from a range of providers who offer yield, weather, crop health and financial information on Web- or app-based programs.
If you’re in the market for a new tablet, or you’ve had one and are considering an upgrade, here are a few factors you may want to consider. We also recommend a trip into town to check out different models, too.
1. Screen size: The first market success in the tablet business was the iPad, introduced in 2010. The initial size of the units included an 8-inch screen and offered new functionality with the creation of apps. Today, however, you have a range of screen sizes from which to choose, from as little as 6 inches for larger smartphones called “phablets,” to 12 inches for the largest tablet computers like the Microsoft Surface.
The size of the screen is not only important for what you can see, but also for the portability of the unit. For example, the iPad Mini has the same functionality of its bigger brother the iPad Air, but it’s easier to stow in a jacket pocket to carry.
2. Operating system: There are two main operating systems in the tablet market — iOS for the Apple products and Android for everyone else. A third, but with lower market share, is Microsoft with Windows 8. Android is the market giant because it is the base for Samsung and LG, two global tablet makers. Both the iOS and Android platforms offer apps you can download to customize your computer, and they both have reliable browsers for use of Web-based sites where you may be storing your data. Trying out each system type will help you pick the right one for your business.
3. Data plan: For on-farm use of a tablet, a built-in data plan makes sense. That may limit tablet choices based on what your favorite carrier offers. All carriers offer plans for Android tablets, and the majors — ATT, Verizon and Sprint — offer plans for the iPad. For checking email on the go (often nicer with the bigger screen of the tablet) and accessing cloud information, you want to be connected.
4. App choice: This is a factor that might have been a big deal a couple of years ago, but is now less of a consideration. Many of the services you will use are now “tablet-optimized” on the Web, much like FarmIndustryNews.com has become. This Web-based approach to information means you don’t need an app to get to what you want. And when it comes to apps, most major developers design their products for both the iOS and Android platforms.
5. Price: We are in agriculture and we are known to be frugal buyers. The iPad products are premium-priced and do offer design features, like lighter weight and faster computer chips than most competitors.’ And many people prefer the iOS platform. In the Android world, thanks to a higher number of players, the competitive landscape is different — and you can find more powerful tablets for less money. If you like the Android platform, you’ll have more choices. The Christmas rush is past, but in January the Consumer Electronics Show gets fired up in Las Vegas, and there are often deals on “last year’s” models. That creates a smart buying opportunity.
Decision Time is independently produced by Penton Farm Progress and brought to you through the support of Case IH. For more information visit caseih.com/beready.
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