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Getting to know tablet computers.

A ‘tablet’ is the term given to a computer that uses a touch screen as its primary method of controlling the device. They also offer great portability thanks to their slim profile, small dimensions and long battery life.
Much like a normal computer, a tablet computer is capable of carrying out a number of different activities; Browsing the internet, accessing email, watching online video, social networking, playing media such as music, pictures and videos and creating and editing documents.
The operating systems on tablet computers are designed with the touch screen interface in mind, generally having big, easy to use buttons and responding to gestures such as swiping and pinching. It is worth noting that the operating systems used on tablet computers may vary from device to device, meaning that the user experience will change with each device.
Most tablets will have access to an app store, allowing you to download new applications to enhance the functionality of the device. Apps such as games, media playback and productivity suites are just some of the types of apps available for these devices. Depending on the device there may be a different app store with a different selection of apps.
Android is a mobile operating system made by Google and is designed for use with touch screen devices, primarily mobile phones. It can also be found on some other devices such as tablet computers, MP3 players and even digital photo frames. The most common version of Android found on tablets currently is Android 2.2, also referred to as Froyo, which was originally designed for mobile phones, but has been ported to tablets.
Android is an open source operating system, meaning that developers have access to the base code from which the operating system is written and are free to change it as they see fit. This allows manufacturers to make changes to any aspect of the way the operating system looks, feels and its functionality in order to suit their device. In most cases this is simply a skin that sits over the top of the basic Android operating system that just changes the way that it looks, whilst the basic operation remains the same. In addition, as it is open source, manufacturers do not have to pay a license fee to use Android on their device, meaning that manufactures can help keep the cost of products down.
As with most operating systems you are able to install applications on to Android devices (if it has an app-store), such as games and social networking clients, which enhance the functionality of the device. Any device that is fully Android accredited will come with the full suite of Google Apps for Android preinstalled. At the moment this tends to be mainly Android based mobile phones. This allows access to popular Google service such as Google Maps, Google Calendar and Google Mail.
Android 3.0 also referred to as Honeycomb is the first version of the Android operating system that has been specifically designed for use with tablet computers, so you'll never see it on a mobile. Android 3.0 is built upon the foundations of previous versions of Android maintaining lots of the core functionality, such as widgets, multitasking, notifications and integration with Google services. However all of these features have now been tailored for use on the larger screen of a tablet computer making them quicker and easier to use.
The larger screen size allows for apps to be more powerful and easier to use than previous versions of Android. For example apps such as Email and Gmail use the full screen to allow you to preview emails just as you would on a computer. YouTube has been given a complete overhaul to make finding and watching videos easier and more enjoyable. Whilst the Browser now offers proper tabbed browsing, like you would find on a desktop browser.
Multitasking has been made quicker and simpler with a dedicated recent apps button, which shows the apps you have most recently used with a live preview of how they were left when you last used them. Android 3.0 also offers full access to the Android Marketplace to be able to download apps designed for tablet computers. As with Android2.2, manufacturers have been allowed to make changes to Android 3.0 to suit their device, so individual devices running Android Honeycomb may give a slightly different user experience.
Android 4.0 also known as Ice cream sandwich has just been released and this operating system reunites both tablet and mobile phones as this OS goes on both. One of the major things with Android 4 is that it returns to open-source as Honeycomb was closed source, this should mean that Android 4 will make it onto older tablets as well as to the new ones.
With Android 4 comes many improvements, more so for mobiles as Ice cream sandwich is seen as Honeycomb for mobiles. Some of the new features for Android 4 are, Advance camera app, face recognition unlock, updated voice controls and an enhanced web browser, to name afew.
The launch of this operating system seems to of come and gone without a song and dance, but this OS is quickly expected to be the dominant mobile operating system, with almost 1 million a day being switch-on for the first time.
For more information on ‘Android’ click here.
Windows 7 has tablet and touch screen functions built in, so has also been ported to some tablets. Giving you the same familiar user experience you are used to with your home computer. This also means, you can install your games and programs you use on your home computer on your tablet, providing the tablet hardware can handle it.
The processor at the heart of the hardware found in these tablets will usually be the intel atom processor. The devices overall experience with be similar to that of a netbook, but with a touch screen instead of a keyboard and touchpad.
The iPad was the first tablet, which sparked the now booming tablet computer marketed. The iPad runs the same operating system as the iPod Touch and iPhone known as ‘iOS’. Without modification, the iPad will only run programs approved by Apple and distributed via the Apple App Store (with the exception of programs that run inside the iPad's web browser).
The device is managed and synced by iTunes running on a personal computer via USB cable, so you must have or install iTunes on your computer.
Note: These tablets are not able to play ‘flash’ which can be found on many website. They also don’t have a USB port for connecting additional hardware, although Apple and other manufactures have found other ways of expanding the user experience.
BlackBerrys’ tablet operating system is 'QNX', known quite simply as ‘BlackBerry Tablet OS’. The BlackBerry tablet brings all the best from the BlackBerry phone to the bigger screen. A multitasking tablet, with a world of powerful apps, built and optimized for the BlackBerry ‘PlayBook’ tablet. Many of the favorite apps for BlackBerry smartphones and Android® will be available for BlackBerry tablets through BlackBerrys app-store, known as the ‘BlackBerry App World™’.
The touch screen is your interface with the device, so it's important to get a tablet thats going to work the way you want it to. There are 2 types of touch screen found on tablets, both having different Pro's and Con's.
Capacitive touch screens are usually found in mobile smart phones as well as tablet computers. They are designed to be used with your fingers and generally will not work with a standard stylus. They are more responsive than their resistive counterparts and you will often find that capacitive touch screens are also multi touch enabled.
A capacitive touch screen works by sending a small electrostatic charge across the whole surface of the screen. Sensors in the screen constantly monitor the electrostatic charge across the screen and constantly relay this information back to the operating system on the device in the form of an image. It’s like a mini plasma ball on the screen giving an image spike when and where the finger or fingers touch. The operating system and the screen are in constant communication so that any changes are translated into actions on the display.
The advantage of a capacitive screen is that it can easily recognise multiple fingers, as this will appear as multiple spikes on the image produced. However as the screen needs skin contact to work, capacitive screens will not work when wearing gloves or trying to use a normal stylus.
Resistive touch screens are usually found in older mobile phones and PDAs, however they can also be found in cheaper touch screen devices. This is the original type of touch screen and can be used with fingers and stylus. This type of screen can be quite unresponsive and does not respond well to movements such as swipes.
A resistive touch screen works by having two thin films with a current passing through them in front of the standard LCD screen. When the screen is touched the 2 films meet and complete a circuit, which in turn tells the touch screen controller where you have touched the screen. The 2 films are separated by small spacers to ensure that they do not meet until the screen is touched. This means that the screen can be used with a stylus or other pointing devices as well as your fingers. The operating system and the screen are in constant communication so that any changes are translated into actions on screen. It’s also worth noting that resistive touch screens are not usually multi touch enabled.
The advantages of a resistive touch screen is that they are much cheaper to produce than capacitive touch screens and can be operated by a stylus, fingers and even when wearing gloves, making them ideal for satnavs and low cost mobile phones and tablets.