The more I Web browse with a tablet, the more I hate it

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| March 30, 2012

I am sure I have made it very clear by now. I love tablets. I love working and browsing the Internet from tablets. I love playing games from tablets. And I love doing anything and everything I possibly can with them. They're generally quick, lightweight, versatile and convenient.

Every day that I work, I use the Transformer Prime with a keyboard dock to write at least 95 percent of every one of my articles, and to do any browsing and research necessary for those articles. As I have explained a few times before, the limitations of the software help keep me focused and keep me from jumping back and forth between Gtalk, different browser tabs (Facebook), Twitter and several over various, distracting programs I regularly use on my MacBook.

In other words, I'm much more efficient and concentrated while I write, and I waste a lot less time than I would if I were working from my laptop.

I've been doing things this way, off and on, for almost two years now. I first attempted to replace my PC with the original iPad, then the Motorola XOOM, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, Galaxy Tab 10.1 and so on and so forth. I've come to the realization that that's not going to happen – not for another couple years, at least. But after a major Android update (Ice Cream Sandwich), Chrome for Android and hopping around between a few different tablets, it has certainly come to be much better. With each update, I am inching closer to leaving my laptop at home ... for good.

As you can imagine, in the time I've spend using various tablets, I've racked up a lot of browsing time with them. I've used Safari, Chrome for Android, the stock Android browser, Dolphin, the webOS browser and just about every alternative out there. While it has gotten much, much better in many respects, there are still a few outlying issues that have yet to be fixed and are wearing my patience paper thin.


Mishits and tiny links

I actually prefer browsing from a touchscreen device and navigating with my finger over the typical, alienating trackpad or mouse. In many ways, it makes the experience more personal and interactive. I can hold the device closer to me and more comfortably, and pinch zooming and scrolling directly on the display is unfathomably better and more accurate than pinch zooming on the trackpad or holding Ctrl and scrolling the click wheel on a mouse. But the downside is accidental taps. More often than I care to admit, the links I hit are either a total miss or completely accidental, which means I then have to go back and wait for the page to reload then try to hit the link a second time. Usually, after one miss, I make sure I hit the right one by zooming in far enough to make sure I won't miss a second time.

It's worth noting that this issue is almost entirely solved in Chrome for Android. When you tap a link that is too small, the browser automatically zooms in on any of the links you might have been aiming for. Sure, it requires you to tap twice sometimes. But two taps is a lot quicker and a lot less frustrating than waiting on an entire page to reload.


Slow page load times

And that gets me to my second point. Page load times are not terrible on the Prime, or any other tablet for that matter. Seeing as it's a Wi-Fi only tablet, I generally have the MacBook Air and Prime on the same wireless network, yet the desktop version of Chrome is leaps and bounds faster at loading pages – it usually finishes loading pages several seconds quicker than my tablets. That may not sound like a significant difference, and it isn't in most cases. If I'm laid back on the couch watching Netflix and browsing, it doesn't bother me at all. But when you're against the clock, every second counts.

Nothing can turn my face red quite as quick as tapping the wrong link and waiting for a site to slowly reload.


Form incompatibilities

Another big disadvantage to mobile browsers are compatibility (or lack thereof) with form input. In most cases, like commenting on a blog or filling in your login credentials for a site, tablets work fine. And I've had few issues with inputting other basic information like credit card info and billing addresses when purchasing something. These things work well enough and I do them all the time.

But there are some sites and some fields where input is almost impossible – something I have never ran into on any computer ... ever. For instance, I was commenting on a site that used a custom comment section (read: not powered by Facebook or Disqus) a few days ago. When I started typing, all the letters were capitals. I figured I had accidentally pressed the caps lock key, so I tapped it, deleted the text and tried again. No cigar. Any text input was locked in all caps, even after trying different software keyboards, for whatever reason. Another time, I remember beginning to type and the first word was fine. But when I hit the space bar, the cursor jumped to the beginning of the text. It didn't do it all the time, just intermittently. So if I wasn't paying attention, my sentences would be completely jumbled by the time I finished typing.


Persistent mobile site redirects

All of the aforementioned problems are things that, for the most part, I've come to terms with. They don't bother me too much anymore. But there is one single issue with Web browsing on tablets that I can neither wrap my head around or get over. It never should have been a problem in the first place.

Visiting any given website with any given smartphone, the chances are pretty high that you will automatically be redirected to the site's mobile page. I get that. Mobile sites, love or hate them, come with a few advantages. A smartphone has a tiny display and a large number of people are trying to keep their data usage down so they don't go over their limit. I don't particularly like browsing mobile sites, especially from the Galaxy Note, but they're not always so bad.

However, when I am browsing the Internet on a 10-inch device, the last thing I ever want to happen is to be directed to a mobile site. The text is too small, pinch zooming is usually disabled and there is an absurd amount of whitespace that wouldn't otherwise be whitespace on a smaller screen. What's worse, though, is for those on data plans, if they are directed to the mobile site and constantly have to redirect themselves back to the full site, they're using more data than they would have had it not redirected them in the first place. It's unsightly and inefficient.

(Note: I know there are third-party mods that can be applied to Android devices that set different user agent strings. But this is something that I shouldn't have to do to enjoy the full Web from a device that is perfectly capable of it out-of-box. And, yes, you can also type "about:debug" in the Android browser address bar to access the debug settings, and thus change your user agent string there, too. It still redirects to mobile sites.)

Plain and simple, this shouldn't be an issue. Yet I was browsing this morning and out of the 10 sites I counted, I was redirected to the mobile site on 6 of them. If it weren't for the "Request Desktop Site" option in the stock Android browser, I very well may have lost it. But even with that, it doesn't always direct you to the full site. And when I close the browser, reopen it and visit the site again, I still have to swipe my finger from the edge of the display to open up the settings menu and choose to be redirected back to the full site. Every time. I can't even use Chrome for Android from my tablet most of the time due to their not being a way to force sites to the full version.

This needs to stop.


What say you, folks? Do you have any gripes when it comes to browsing the Internet from a tablet? Do you have the same problems I have? Do you have different issues? Share your thoughts below in the comments section!