Summertime and the living is easy! But even if your daddy’s not rich nor your momma good lookin’ you can take a nice vacation these days. Whether you’re lounging in a chair on your deck or actually lounging in the sand at the beachfront of our favorite lake, there’s also a good chance you’ll want to take your connection to the outside world along with you.
Reading e-books, checking emails, getting caught up on the stock market or posting a photo of your toes in the sand on your favorite social media site are all pretty standard vacation usage for today’s ubiquitous companions – our tablet! But, here’s the million-dollar question, which one should you take on vacation?
Sure, you’ve got a zillion options nowadays. Some cell phone companies even offer you subscription plans to make sure your device has a network connection in the great outdoors. But it does no good if you can’t read the dang thing when you get out in the sun. So this time our column will be about which devices work well at the beach.
First, some categories (because what’s a list without categories, right?) I’ll talk a bit about full-sized tablets, mobile phones and then – the newer hybrids that some like to call “phablets” because they’re a mix between phones and tablets.
Up first, tablets. There are really only three in the running right now. Apple has the iPad – the originator of the category – Amazon has the Kindle Fire HD and Google has their Nexus series of Android tablets.
The big thing to keep in mind about any and all of these top of the line, modern tablets is they have full-color, HD touchscreens as their primary display. This means that while they look great indoors, they’re going to have some really bad glare problems outside. If you’re parking in the sun and want to catch up on your latest sci-fi novel or thriller, you may have to get some shade on that bad boy to actually make out the text.
Another thing to keep in mind is even if you get into a good lighting situation, the screen still might look blurry or weird. The culprit? Those sweet shades you’re rockin’, man. That’s right, most modern sunglasses that are worth the price have what is called “lense polarization” on them. The lenses are treated to block out some of the most harmful UV rays from the sun that can damage your eyes. This is great news for when you’re worried about your peepers, but it means that the lenses are aligned the same way that the pixels on the screen of your iPad are aligned. In other words – the sunglasses make parts of the screen invisible to your eyes. Weird, huh?
Don’t worry, though, you don’t need to switch to a VISOR like Geordi La Forge from Star Trek – you can defeat the polarization bug with a simple workaround.
Turn your device sideways.
Yep, it can be that simple to solve the polarization problem, because now the pixels on your tablet (or sometimes phone) are aligned in landscape mode and become visible again.
So, which of the big three should you take to the beach? Since they all have the sunlight issue, that’s not part of our decision making process. For maximum versatility you’ll want the iPad Air. It’s light and can hold millions of hours of content from the iTunes store, the Apple App store and various third-party websites. Just remember that if you are not going to be connected to the web, you’ll get very limited functionality. Also, as we’ve discussed in this column before, the iPad is the most expensive tablet on the market. So instead, I recommend the Amazon Fire HD. You can store lots of content on the device itself making it unnecessary to be connected to the Internet AND the thing is just straight up more durable than an iPad. If you drop it in the sand, just blow it off and you should be good to go. Better yet, get a heavy duty case for the Fire (again, cheaper than an iPad case) and it should be virtually beach-proof.
In the land of phones, the choice is much less straightforward. And they are so many now that Smartphones are almost ubiquitous in the hand-held market. I can only recommend that you get something light and capable of storing content offline – an iPhone would be nice, but you can also get good use out of the myriad of Samsung Galaxy phones that run Google’s Android operating system. While not as versatile or self-contained as the Apple iOS devices, Android is no slouch.
Finally, let’s talk about the new kids on the block – the phablets. These combination phone/Tablets try to take your phone and upgrade it with a much larger screen. You’ve likely seen the debates about the iPhone 6 versus the iPhone 6 Plus. And the now time-honored Android versus Apple war has spilled over into this arena was well with Nexus Phablets from Google and Samsung Phablets going toe-to-toe with Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.
My best piece of advice on these devices is – don’t get a phablet. These devices try to take two things and mash them together into one. Remember what happened to Dr. Frankenstein? To paraphrase his creation, “Phablet!! URR…Phablet bad!!”
Before I close out this download, one more piece of advice on taking these techs to the beach – if you’re really concerned about the inability to read in sunlight, consider an e-reader from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. These devices are smaller and more specialized than full-blown tablets (or our Phablet monster friends) but they use “e-ink” to display the pages of the book, magazine or GASP newspaper you’re reading. The result is they can be clearly seen in regular light or sunlight. They even make “glow” versions of e-ink readers now that allow you to turn on a light to read it at night. Now, you can park it on the beach until well after sunset and still enjoy your favorite e-book! Just remember, an e-reader only does books and doesn’t do movies or apps.
Until next time – transmission complete!