Jan 18, 2013 · 6 minutes

Where is the tablet market going? Or, put another way, where is the phablet market going? Will Apple continue its place atop of the tablet natural order, thanks to the rampant success of the iPad Mini? Or does Samsung have a chance at toppling it with the Galaxy Note? Maybe the Nexus 7 will be the ultimate winner?

Some interesting facts:

Why people like the iPad Mini:
  • Gruber, from his review in October, says because: it’s lightweight; it’s easy to carry in a travel bag with a Macbook Pro; in portrait mode, it’s easier to type on than is the larger iPad; it “feels optimized for reading”; and it’s a good size for kids’ games.
  • The New York Times’ Nick Bilton says “it’s the best tablet and reading device anyone has ever made” because it’s “truly portable” and can fit in his jacket pocket. “I’d even leave my smartphone at home in place of it.”
  • A friend says: The smaller size and weight makes it easy to carry, especially in a day bag, and better for reading at night.
  • A different friend, speaking of the Nexus 7, says it’s small enough to take with him when he leaves the house, but big enough for video.
In short, people love the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 because they're small, but not too small.

What do people say are the reasons they prefer the 7.9-inch iPad Mini to the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note?

  • One friend said because it would make viewing magazines and PDFs, and navigating within a page, more difficult.
  • The friend with the Nexus 7 says the 5.5-inch size is too big for a pocket and too small for content that “wants a big screen.”
  • Someone who responded to the question on Twitter said, “I don’t want a phone the size of a brick. Samsung phones are too big. You can’t operate with one hand.” He also griped about the stylus.
  • Someone who responded to the question on Quibb said: “My roommate has the Note and loves it. I look at it and feel like it's lost between a phone and tablet.”
Basic reason people say they don’t want a Galaxy Note: It’s too big for a phone, maybe too small for reading or video, it has a stylus, and it’s not a good size for PDFs.

What if you stopped thinking of the Note as a phone, though? As I pointed out the other day, the phone function is only the fifth-most popular activity even on smaller smartphones. One could make an argument for the Note as an even more portable, and more powerful tablet than the iPad Mini, and, as a bonus, it just happens to have the ability to make calls.

Some people don’t like the stylus. It’s not clear why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that Steve Jobs once mocked it. In those days, the stylus was a mere pointer for “smart” phones. These days, it comes with its own software built in. Soon, the stylus will have NFC, haptic feedback, and a built-in earpiece for making calls.

You don’t have to like the stylus. But without one, the iPad Mini is a leanback device purely for media consumption. “Drawing with your finger isn’t easy or fun,” Motive Stylus creator Ben Powell told us back in June. With a stylus, the Galaxy Note can be used for creating content. If, as Quartz’s Christopher Mims argues, the “phablet” becomes the primary computing device for many people – especially in the developing world, where the price point makes it a cheaper option than buying a phone and tablet separately – then being able to use it to create content will be crucial.

I proffer that if you object to the stylus in 2013, then it’s time to update your prejudices: you are basically just a sucker for Steve Jobs’ marketing from the pre-iPad era, which might as well be a different universe. But if you do want to try the Note and still really, really hate the stylus, I have the perfect solution for you: just don’t use the thing. Your fingers will look after you just fine.

As for PDFs – well, that depends on how important they are to you. If you need them, then you should probably make sure you have a larger device near you at all times. But PDFs are an old technology – a bridge between the old paper world and the Internet age – and they will eventually die out. Arguing for the use of an iPad Mini over a Galaxy Note because of PDFs strikes me as analogous to arguing for the use of a Android tablet because the iPad isn’t compatible with Flash. Flash is being supplanted for a reason: It doesn’t make the most sense for the Internet, and one strong hardware player has helped force it out. (I guess this means Adobe, as purveyors of both Flash and PDFs, should be kind of worried.)

The iPad Mini is fantastic. The Nexus 7 seems great. But perhaps it's the Galaxy Note that will eventually reign supreme.

In a post published here on PandoDaily this morning, Jason Calacanis discussed challenges that Apple faces in a smartphone and tablet market that is quickly diversifying. He bought a Note just for the hell of it after hearing some praise from some of his “dorky” friends. He also has the iPad Mini and the iPhone. The result? “When reaching for my iPad Mini, iPhone, or Note, I most frequently reach for the Note,” he says.

In a follow-up email, Calacanis said the Note feels faster, and generally snappier, when using email, web browsing, and Twitter, which are three of his most common activities. “The iPhone 5 is clearly too small for these behaviors, and the iPad Mini is just fine for them – but when you throw typing into the equation it feels like the iPad Mini suffers due to the wider keyboard.”

And what does he lose when using the Note instead of the Mini? Well, he says, “mathematically you lose low, double-digit screen real estate on a percentage basis – but not that much. You also look like a dork taking a call.” On the plus side, the phone fits more easily into his suit or jeans pockets.

The upshot: By switching to the Note, you get a gain in portability compared to the iPad Mini – which everyone says they love so much because of its portability – and a small loss in screen real estate.

The Note is a newcomer; Calacanis says it still feels like a "cult device." But for a fringe item that flies in the face of the wisdom of Steve Jobs, it does seem to come damn near close to “the best computer ever made.” Even with a stylus.

[Image courtesy o2 in Deutschland]