/ Technology

How do you use your tablet computer?


More than half of UK homes now own a tablet PC – just five years after the most popular tablet, the iPad, was launched. Is yours an all-singing life essential or just something you look at occasionally to read the news?

I’m in the age group that, according to Ofcom, most love their tablets. Nearly two thirds of people aged 35-54 have one – including me. But I find that I don’t use it half as much or for half the things that I thought I would.

The all-singing, all-dancing tablet

From the way they’re advertised, you’d think we would all be spending our time using our tablets to learn a musical instrument or paint a masterpiece. In fact one of Britain’s most famous living artists, David Hockney, used his index finger as a paintbrush to produce works of art on his iPad, many of which were later exhibited. Some of my Which? colleagues even had a go.

Hmm… hearing about features like that make me feel a bit guilty (I’m Catholic – it doesn’t take much). I know the iPad can do loads. Yes, it’s an entertainment centre. Hooray. Yes, it can probably teach me how to salsa or speak Gaelic. Great. But, to be honest, mine usually lies on the sofa like a dog pleading to be taken for a walk…

I’ll use it to search the internet, read a few newspaper articles online and that’s about it. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit like having a high-performance car you only use to go down to the shops.

So how do others use theirs?

How do people really use their tablets?

I took a quick poll around Which? HQ. I found no master artists – reading the news, shopping and surfing the net were the most popular answers. Along with a way to keep the kids happy. Use as an online recipe book was also mentioned.

This chimed pretty well with research we carried out with Which? members last year, who saw it as a passive device – for ‘receiving’ and ‘watching’ rather than ‘doing’. ‘Doing’ was seen as the laptop’s role. A tablet’s not for serious tasks, they suggested.

Many said that their tablet’s main advantage was that it was easy to use and you didn’t have to sit around ‘waiting for it to boot up’.

Tablets on the rise

In 2011 just 2% of households owned a tablet. Now that figure is 54% and the trend looks set to continue – 21% of households currently without a tablet told Ofcom they were likely to get one within the next 12 months.

To put that in context, the TV only found its way into 75% of homes in 1961 – a much longer period since its invention.

So do you own a tablet? If yes, what do you use it for?

What do you use your tablet for?

Web browsing (28%, 939 Votes)

Using apps (17%, 550 Votes)

Watching films/TV shows/YouTube videos (14%, 462 Votes)

Reading books (11%, 376 Votes)

Education (7%, 241 Votes)

Navigation (7%, 232 Votes)

Gaming (6%, 211 Votes)

Writing (5%, 168 Votes)

Other (please tell us in the comments below) (4%, 139 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,035

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In desperation trying to think of a birthday present for Mrs R I bought her an iPad 3 years ago. It was the best present ever – used almost daily. Photos, emailing family, internet to look up information, maps, iplayer (an Apple TV box was a great addition), Words with Friends, househunting……It has made me feel less guilty about playing on my laptop. As Paul says its a big advantage that the iPad is so instantly available. I’m sure my elderly laptop needs some clearing out as it takes ages to boot up – but it gets their eventually.


Hi Malcolm,

Are you on a Windows PC? If so, you may find this useful:


And a few of these tips probably wouldn’t do any harm either:



Adam, Thanks for the links. I’ve now disabled some startup programs (but there are some I don’t know what they do so I’ll have a look at “should I remove it”). See what that does tomorrow when I start up again.
The tips are useful, but many seem taken care of by Bullguard that regularly runs PC Tune up optimization. Some issues it deals with automatically, others it leaves me to manage. Again, some processes I’m not sure about so leave alone but should be braver! However, as Dieseltaylor points out below we are so dependent on our computers that I tend to leave (fairly) well alone.


When I bought my iPad 2 I had hoped to use it as a more convenient alternative to taking my laptop or a bundle of papers to the numerous meetings I attend. I was sadly disappointed to find that I cannot switch quickly between half a dozen pdf/Word/Excel files like I can on the laptop.

Until I bought a smartphone I used the iPad mainly for email and web browsing when away from home. It is very convenient and the battery life is still excellent. As someone who can be on the right road but heading in the wrong direction, the standard maps and navigation apps are extremely useful. At home it I use it to update my diary, which synchronises with the laptop and phone, but not much else. On holiday the iPad gets well used and I use it to look at new photos each day and occasionally to play with new apps and occasionally use Skype.

My iPad might get a new lease of life if we get a Which? Conversation app. 😛

Malcolm – If you just shut the lid of your laptop it should wake up nearly as fast as the iPad.


I agree about the conversation app. I switch my laptop on each morning and off last thing at night. It hibernates when it is out of use for a bit but wakes up pretty quickly. It is the initial boot up that takes the time.


No app, but it’ll be mobile/tablet responsive so it’ll be much easier to add a comment and browse the site on your tablet!


Oh well. As long as the update works well on mobile devices it might encourage more young contributors to take an interest in consumer issues.


Although I can see the obvious purposes for some people, I’ve never had the need for a tablet. I find that a very slim top-end laptop and an iPhone are enough for me. My iPhone can do everything that an iPad can do. I don’t need anything in-between a laptop and a smartphone, which would just be another device that needs to be synced.


They sync automatically these days. If someone rings my mobile number, the laptop, iPad and phone even ring together.

When the phone is on charge in the kitchen, my laptop alerts me to calls that I would otherwise have missed, so it’s actually a useful feature. I keep the sound turned off on the iPad to avoid information overload.

A tablet is much cheaper than a decent laptop. Mine has minor cracks on the screen as a result of an activity holiday a couple of years ago. It does not affect the performance but I would be rather upset if I had broken my laptop.


We use ipads at work to save us having to print out and distribute paper copies of training materials. I do not have a tablet at home yet – but I do have an Android smart phone that does similar things. It is useful for internet browsing without the need to go and sit at a proper computer.

I have noticed, however, that the latest Windows tablets now appear to be fully functional Windows PCs, thus blurring the boundary between a “proper” PC and tablet.


I’ve been wondering whether or not to get a tablet. Apart from its portability and convenience for people who want internet access wherever they go there don’t seem to be any compelling reasons. With two laptops in the house already, which don’t get a lot of use, I think I’ll just carry on with my plan to update my desktop configuration. As someone who does a lot of writing I feel more at home with a bigger screen and a full size keyboard.


I would not like to be without tablet or laptop as one will supplement the other when a problem arises with either. My tablet is a very efficient camera but it is not compatible with my printer and so I tend to still use my original camera unless I can forward a picture with an email. I tend to use my laptop for longer posts as my tablet has a habit of locking in the middle of a comment and refuses to budge. Any suggestions as to how I can unlock it would be most welcome. This never happens when using my laptop. The tablet is very quick and easy to pick up and find answers to every day questions which are constant and need to be answered tout de suite or I tend to suffer information exasperation.


Can’t you get an app on your tablet for your printer, Beryl? I agree, I don’t think I’d be able to live for a week without access to my laptop!