Tablets, though many still find it hard to accept them as a viable technology, are quickly becoming common household items. They are the new iPod paired with a larger display and marketed as a personal computer to go. Although it might seem ridiculous now, tablets will one day replace the PC for the common user. They are perfect for leisurely browsing the web while playing the role of a couch potato, keeping an electronic day planner and consuming all types of media. This is all most people need to get by.
The problem is, tablets are still relatively expensive (assuming you didn't pounce on the TouchPad deal from HP). High-end tablets begin around $400 and top out at just under $900 – and let's be honest here, nobody wants one of those $100 tablets from Walgreens or anything of the like. For that price you can easily find a more powerful and more functional computer, and not every household can afford to have a tablet for everyone. Most tablet-owning families that I know of have one, at most two, tablets shared between all members.
Just like your cell phone, though, tablets are personal devices. We store personal information on them that we may not want friends or family members' curious eyes peeking into. All mobile tablets, regardless of what software platform, have support for only one user. In other words, unlike personal PCs, tablets are not setup to be shared between multiple people. I don't want someone else's bookmarks littering my browser home page (and syncing to my desktop), nor do I want someone peeping into my personal agenda. I also have social media accounts with private information and conversations openly available to anyone who gets their hands on my tab.
Even though I don't share my tablet with anyone regularly, I do have friends who often want to tinker with my Galaxy Tab or iPad. I have always been the type of person who likes my space; asking to use one of my mobile devices is blatantly encroaching upon said space and I've never liked it. Although I'm sure they're not sifting through my email or pictures, someone else using my tablet is like having them walk through a mine field of my private data. They're bound to stumble across something at some point or another by accident.
It's not that I even have anything on my tablet or phone that I wouldn't want anyone to see, it's the principle of the matter. This whole situation could be avoided by multi-user login options – a drop-down menu on the lock screen to switch between users before entering a password and unlocking. In doing so, my accounts, notifications and private data could be hidden to my friends by letting them login to a guest account that temporarily stores the information they enter. When I log back in, my data and apps have been untouched ... and unseen. Much like the modern computer, each user's personal data is hidden – unless otherwise specified – to all other users, thus making it easy for several people to share a single tablet while still keeping their personal data safe and private.
It actually baffles me why nothing like this has been supported natively. There are Cydia hacks for the iPad which enable multi-user support, and similar third-party apps for Android, but this is something that should be supported out of the box. Manufacturers are marketing tablets as PC replacements for the light user, but have them geared towards a single, regular user. The fact is, due to the relatively high price point, more and more families are beginning to share tablets instead of buying multiple units. Having multiple user support is a no brainer and a must-have option.
What say you, tablet users. Do you share a tablet with someone? A roommate? Family member? Do you get along just fine sharing all of your personal data? Would multi-account support be better?
Image via Vinci