Should tablets launch with an option for cellular connectivity?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| July 22, 2012

Tablets have played an interesting role in my life. I love them. Not as much as Taylor Martin, but then again I don’t know anyone who loves tablets as much as Taylor does. But, I can say I have a healthy amount of love for the mobile computing devices. Up until recently, though, tablets haven’t made a huge dent in my life. I’ve purchased a lot of them. I’ve tried a lot of different operating systems, and I’ve liked –and hated—them all pretty much equally. They’ve just never stuck around that long.

When I look at the devices that I own, I can find a reason for owning it just as quickly as I can name it. My Xbox 360 exists so I can play video games, as well as connect with friends and consume other forms of media. My laptop exists so I can work, write, and find my way around the Internet, plus so much more. My smartphone exists so I can do all of that on the go, and from a device that fits right in my hand. TV, toaster, coffee maker, all those other gadgets lying around my house have found a purpose in my life that works for me.

I believe that the size of a tablet dictates its role, and that hasn’t changed with the Nexus 7 from ASUS. I love the tablet, but it is aimed as a media consumption device. It is aimed at being a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

And that’s why I know I’m probably not going to keep it.

There’s another reason, too, and I think that this may be the biggest one of all. Lack of cellular connectivity in the device itself. Unlike other tablets, there’s just a Wi-Fi option for connecting to the Internet, and I think that’s a major drawback for the device. But, to be frank, it’s just a single negative mark against a tablet that has so many positive attributes.

But it’s enough for me to not think the device will last long in my possession. Why? A couple of reasons. First, I find the need to be connected vital to the way that I work. I get my information from the ‘net, and there’s just no way around that. I wouldn’t have it any other way, to be honest. But, because of that, I find that I need to be able to connect to that network of information at any point, wherever I am. I shouldn’t have to depend on a Wi-Fi network to access it.

I’ve been told to add a MiFi to my wireless account. Yes, this is a reasonable, maybe even logical option, but I just don’t want to spend more money a month, or even spend the money to get the device. Not right now, anyway. That could very well change in the future.

And second, because I think a tablet that is limited in its connectivity options is a limited tablet. To me, the idea of a device that’s meant to consume, whether it’s media like movies, TV shows or podcasts, or even just a device to read the news, shouldn’t be limited to where you are. Yes, it can be limited to the network it’s tied to, but it shouldn’t be held back by the technology inside it.

I actually should have seen it coming. I returned the Transformer from ASUS because it didn’t have a cellular connection. I did the same for the BlackBerry PlayBook by Research In Motion, and the only reason I considered keeping the Galaxy Tab 10.1 by Samsung was because it was connected to the network. (I didn’t keep it because it was too big.)

I took the Nexus 7 on a road trip recently, and it was great. For about 10 minutes. I was reading a book on it, and it was comfortable and nice. But, without even thinking about it, I tried to connect to Twitter, or check an email. And as soon as it didn’t work, I put the tablet back in my bag and I didn’t remove it again.

Without a cellular connection, the device I’m supposed to be consuming media on is limited in its scope for actually consuming media. Yes, Wi-Fi networks are pretty accessible depending on where you are, but I don’t want to have to go searching for a Wi-Fi network.

I think for those who are accustomed to downloading a bunch of things at home, and then going out with their Wi-Fi-only tablet, this is a non-issue. I’m just not used to doing that, and I’m not sure that I want to change the way that I use my tablets (or any device, for that matter). It comes down to the fact that I know there are other tablets, tablets that are just as good (maybe even better), that have a cellular connection right out of the box.

But you can’t argue with the Nexus 7’s price, can you?

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