Horse Sense #112

Consumption and Production

Consumption and Production--What Meets Your Needs?

One of my father's friends made a costly mistake. She bought an iPad tablet for its portability. She thought she would use it to help write a book. Unfortunately, tablets do not have real keyboards and are designed mostly to consume information. She is now using a laptop because it is more appropriate for production needs.

It is now quite possible that you could do most or all of your work on a phone or a tablet, but.... It is quite likely you will need a mix of devices in your future. I will go through the major types and why you would want them.

A black and white e-ink electronic reading device is usually about the size of a paperback book. The letters are formed slowly. These devices cannot show color or motion and even many graphics will defeat them. They often cannot play audio. But.... They are wonderful for reading books and electronic documents. You can choose a font type or size that makes it easier for you to read. You can look up words you do not know easily. You can use book marks or take simple notes. You can turn on adjustable backlights so they are comfortable to read in bed or in darkened environments. You can read them in bright sunlight as they have little glare. Their charge lasts an absurdly long time, so you can go without recharging for well over a week on many of them easily. Libraries and on line book sellers will let you download content directly if the device has wireless access built in. Many of the devices do not have wireless access as it is fairly convenient to download content on a PC and then transfer it to the device. Even 4GB of memory will hold a staggering amount of reading material. They require little processing power, battery life, and storage, so they are quite inexpensive. If you want to read for knowledge or pleasure, electronic readers like the Nook Glowlight are a wonderful way to consume that information.

Whether you have a color electronic reader like a Nook (which runs Android), an iPad (iOS), or an Android or Windows based tablet, the consumption model is relatively the same. They are usually larger than their black and white brethren. They are good for viewing magazines, color documents, watching videos, making video calls, playing games that can use touch, etc. Color tablets and electronic readers should have Wi-Fi and/or carrier connectivity. Because of their large color screens, wireless connections, and much more powerful processors, electronic readers and tablets typically stay charged for a day or less. The things they do require a lot more storage. Video, especially, requires massive amounts of storage. You will not be able to use them in sunlight or where it is very bright. The way they generate lettering and the glare they produce make it draining to read using them for long periods. You can get accessories like keyboards for them, unlike the black and white readers, but they are something of an afterthought and can be limiting and kludgy.

Smart phones and phablets (phones that are almost as big as tablets) are only really useful to you if your voice sounds good. Everything else is something of an "extra." If you cannot make good calls on it, you will get another phone. You can play games on them, check the weather, and do many of the other things you might do on a larger device. Some things just do not work well. Typing is a chore because of the size. They are even worse for reading than color tablets. In fact, trying to consume anything that requires the display of "large" amounts of information, even videos, can be a real chore when compared to a tablet. Only with phones and GPS devices, and then only if you are not really looking at the screen, is it reasonable to interact with them while moving. Because of cellular contracts and the high cost of miniaturization, phones are by far the most expensive consumption hardware.

GPS devices are specialized. Consumers use them mostly for driving. They tend to excel at positioning, readability in various conditions, battery life, and other factors. They do a much better job at guiding you to where you need to be comfortably and at a lower cost than your smart phone. However.... Smart phones have gotten better at using GPS, so many find that they are "good enough" for providing directions. Also, a GPS can add clutter your car if you already have a smart phone. More and more people are using smart phones for navigation versus dedicated GPS devices.

Of all the devices mentioned so far, PCs are the only ones that do not have to have a touch screen. Portable PCs have changed a lot. There are even portable PCs where the screen detaches and they become Windows or Android tablets. PCs are the most flexible and comfortable of all the devices mentioned to use for extended periods to consume content. They are the only devices mentioned where you can reasonably produce a large array of content. PCs are also the hardest to use. Portable PCs are much less expensive than cell phones and, often, tablets.

The desktop PC is not dead. It has gloriously colorful and readable large screens and comfortable keyboards and mice that make you much more productive. They may not go anywhere, but they can do so much that portable equipment cannot for less money. As long as you do not have to move around, they make excellent production and consumption devices.

Choose wisely. Will you be consuming or producing? Will you be mobile or staying still? Your answer will determine your device. You will probably end up buying multiple devices to fit your different needs.

©2014 Tony tirk, Iron Horse