IT’S official: tablets are taking over the world. Government statistics tell us that the number of over-65s accessing the internet has risen by more than a quarter in the last year – and they’re doing it not on lumbering computers but on iPads and Kindle tablets.
There’s good reason for this: the tablet is the first consumer device invented specifically for enjoying today’s online world. PCs and laptops, on the other hand, evolved from a previous generation of computers, encumbered by keyboards, mice and other appendages.
And unlike those dinosaurs, tablets are tactile. You can turn the pages of a newspaper (including the one you’re reading now) with your finger, almost like the printed original. You can zoom in, too, to make the text easier to see.
But it’s not just reading and sending emails for which the over-65s are using tablets: a third are doing their banking, and a quarter are watching or downloading TV programmes. The big question is whether you really need to spend up to £400 on a top-of-the-range iPad.
Don’t let the bewildering array of models confuse you – tablets really come in just three flavours: iPad, Kindle and Android, developed respectively by Apple, Amazon and Google. With the first two, you can be fairly sure you’re buying quality, because Apple and Amazon control the manufacturing and marketing themselves.
Android tablets, however, are made by many suppliers and some cut corners.
Apple’s range no longer includes the more affordable iPad 2, so the cheapest models cost £329 for a ten-inch screen or £249 for the seven-inch iPad Mini. If absolute simplicity is what matters most to you, choose one of these – but if you plan to listen to music you’ll also need a computer with Apple’s iTunes software.
Google’s own Android tablets, which carry the Nexus brand, are officially £200 and £320 for seven and ten-inch models respectively, but unlike Apple products, you can shop around for cheaper prices. The Nexus is a great performer, but Tesco’s £120 Hudl tablet gives the smaller version a run for its money – and if you’re looking for the best and cheapest option, that’s it. Amazon’s cheapest Kindle Fire tablet is also £120, and if you plan to watch and read content bought from Amazon itself, it’s the most suitable.
You’ll need broadband and a wifi router in your home, but that apart they work right out of the box.