/ Technology

Tablet PCs – where do you use yours?

It’s a long time since our computing was confined to using a desktop PC in the corner of the living room. Portable devices and wireless internet have made it an anywhere, anytime activity. Where do you do your computing?

To better understand people’s tablet-using habits, we surveyed 1,201 Which? members. The results were very interesting, and really brought home how broadly used these devices are.

The numbers show that they’re heavily used for browsing, gaming, watching films, listening to music, emailing, social networking and more. And three quarters of tablet owners use theirs for over half an hour a day, showing that tablets aren’t just being left to gather dust.

In contrast, I bought my desktop PC two years ago at a cost of £650, and I now rarely use it for more than about an hour a week.

At work, in cafés and on the train

But we didn’t just ask them about how much or what they were using their tablets for – we also asked them where they were using them.

Almost all the tablet owners we asked used theirs at home, with just 19% getting them out at work. That’s not all too surprising. Most of the Which? Tech team still rely on pen and paper to supplement their desktop PC at work, but my colleague Andy Vandervell uses his iPad for note-taking at meetings and drawing diagrams.

As I look at the various pages of scrap paper and notes cluttering my desk, I’m starting to think this might be a good idea. My colleague Angus Farquhar completely replaced paper with a tablet as a challenge last year and managed just fine – in fact he still uses it almost exclusively.

Around one in ten in our survey use their tablet on public transport, which is definitely more convenient than turning the pages of a newspaper in a packed train carriage. And two in ten take it out in public places like cafés – browsing the web conveniently over wi-fi and a macchiato is something I’m quite partial to myself.

Where abouts in the home?

Back at home, 67% multitask by using their tablet while watching TV. And 50% use it in bed.

Another 18% have it in the kitchen while they cook, just like me. I recently used my tablet to find and follow a complicated recipe, while simultaneously watching a YouTube video on how to spin sugar! My dessert didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, though I was more relieved not to get caramelised sugar all over my tablet’s screen!

Oh and then there’s the 8% who use their tablet in the bathroom. Where exactly and for what reason, our survey sadly didn’t discover…

Do you have a tablet or another portable computing device? If so, where’s the most unusual place you’ve used yours?


I use my iPad where most would use a smartphone. That saves me having to carry and use reading glasses and the iPad seems a much better tool for the job in many cases. At home or whenever I have my Mac laptop with me, the laptop is first choice. When travelling, the iPad wins because it is light and takes up very little space in luggage, and I only take the laptop if going by car.

maryofdungloe says:
12 February 2012

I use my iPad on public transport sometimes, but not that often, because I’m weary someone might try to steal it.

I also use it in bed at home and also when I sleep at parents.

I don’t like to use it in pubs and restaurants for thr same reasons of not using itt on the bus. I do use it on the train tho.

I use my tablet in bed as a replacement to the morning papers, and I use it on the sofa in the evening look into something mentioned on TV, and to keep on top of my emails. On weekend mornings, and sometimes in the evening I may watch catch-up TV in bed. My girlfriend uses her tablet to watch catch-up TV on her cross-trainer.

Don’t use one – I have two desktops – three laptops – don’t need a tablet too. I can watch catch up TV on any laptop in bed.

Martin says:
16 February 2012

I use mine all the time I v got the I pad but it’s been loosing internet connection lately I like betting on line so use the net book for that as I pad dosent have flash on board

Belated fanboy says:
17 February 2012

I have found myself using my iPad 2 more and more – on trains at airports in bed and in the garden.
It’s so quick and convenient – my desk pc, net book, and laptop are all feeling neglected!

I use my iPad mostly for leisure around the home (iPlayer catch-up tv – living room, using recipes – kitchen, tweeting/facebooking while watching shows that friends are also watching, catching up with my niece on FaceTime – anywhere around the house) and, the only work-related use so far, for note-taking at meetings. I don’t use it out and about as I use my iPhone for 3G stuff outside, & went for the iPad with just WiFi as a result.

Annie says:
17 February 2012

I have a 17″ lap top, a netbook, and an iPad 2; the laptop is almost redundant, the netbook is great for accounting, writing documents and such – but the iPad is taking over more and more, because it is so much quicker and simpler to use… I read the morning paper in bed with it, I read emails and reply to them, I see my grandson on Face Time and it’s an absolute treat to feel so involved from a distance…
I didn’t think I would use it so much after the first excitement of discovery, but there is much more to the iPad than I thought, and it is as versatile as it is easy to understand. I wonder how we lived without tablets all these years???

Simon Cherry says:
17 February 2012

iPad2 used for work, TV, internet and Tethered to iPhone 4S to put my iPad (sim free) on line.
As the iPad develops my Mac PowerBook will not be replaced.

Snowdin says:
17 February 2012

It’s hard to think of anywhere that I don’t use my Ipad, yes I use it there too, because it’s so light and convenient. In the kitchen for reading the Times over breakfast (I’m retired), and for cooking new recipes, in the study for quick internet searches. Currently I’ve just bought a cheap FM transmitter and I am using it over an old FM radio to listen to music or the audio edition of the Economist while decorating the dining room. There are also some really useful short films for apprentice decorators like me on You tube. The FM transmitter also works really well in the car, as long as you turn off the “traffic advice” which interferes with it. It’s great for films, music or downloaded papers, or audio / ebooks while travelling. Abroad not all hotels have wifi so I’ve just bought a travel router from the USA to make that easier, so I can broadcast my own wifi. (my wife has her Ipad too!) I like natural history and the birding and general natural history apps, especially if you are going to the USA, are superb. You can listen to song, view pictures or type in a description to get back the most likely bird ID’s. You can photograph a leaf to get the name of the tree or photograph a painting in an art gallery to get more information. A simply stunning piece of kit,

liz. barnard says:
17 February 2012

I use my iPad to download books to read on planes, on holiday (saves weight in cabin bag), in doctor’s surgery, departure lounges. I use it to follow recipes in the kitchen, to take notes in workshops and seminars: to draw with outdoors, to take photos on site: to access emails and the net wherever, including libraries. I use it for teaching purposes, looking things up when a query comes up that needs research. It lives in my handbag and the map app comes out if I’m lost and can’t find my way. I use my bank app to consult my statements in the bank. I can Skype my sisters abroad from any location, so not tethered to my laptop. Arranging to have it surgically attached to me next week. Don’t know how I ever lived without it. It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning – it spends the night under a pillow next to me (how sad is that?). There are some things it can’t do and for those I hang on to my laptop.

If Steve Jobs had provided a USB socket you would not have to be surgically attached to your iPad. 🙂

There are five people in our household and five very well used iPads, four wasn’t enough. I am amazed at how much they get used.

Craig says:
24 February 2012

I use my Xoom for reading PDF’s and magazines as well as catching up with various websites on the train in. I also use it to rekindle my old obsession with reading comics now that most have gone on-line. I use the microSD to quickly swap files between my PC, phone and laptop.

I also use the HDMI connection to show home-video clips on other people’s tellys.

As regards mobility my Kindle is it, end of, don’t have a laptop, ipad, technology has left me way back in the distance. Wish we’d had Kindle’s when I was still on the road, save carting books about with you.
There was a time when programming a video held no fears for me, but now my DVD recorder thinks for itself, knows when it’s a leap year and knows when the clocks get flogged! I find that rather worrying.
The mobile phone I now have is a PAYG bog-standard Motorola, 10 quid from Morrisons, and at the time I bought that Woolies were doing one for £8:50! The last time I topped it up was November 2010! Had an all singing all dancing Sony Whatsit, but didn’t know what more than 3/4 of it was for. The first time I was called in the street I ducked into an alley so no body could see me, felt such a berk, felt like a yuppie, this was 2001, though we’d had them in the trucks since 1993 and I swore then I would never have one of my own, and if I could prove it for sure I’m certain that a mobile was responsible for my Tinitus.
Perhaps now I could almost be classed as a Technophobe? Have a Telly that don’t know what half it’s functions do, a DVD that thinks for itself, it’s all becoming rather worrying.
And one final thing, since the advent of emails my hand writing has deteriorated alarmingly, it’s like two sparrows mating on the page, and whatsmore my spelling has gone to pot as well, won prizes for me spellin at skule!

I had an ipad but didn’t really like it that much. A lot of cafes don’t have wifi so I couldn’t rely on it and ended up just keeping it at home. I also found it easier to use my laptop for typing. I don’t really understand the appeal of tablets unless they have built in internet connection… Even then, they’re not easy to type emails on. No, I prefer my laptop at home…

Praf says:
24 May 2012

Bought my first tablet two months ago after many years of thinking they are a waste of money, how wrong I was. As soon as I get home now I switch on my iPad and can spend most of the evening using it while watching TV at the same time. Like many people once you get a tablet you hardly need to use a PC. Only draw back with an Ipad is you can’t download some software which you can with a PC and that’s the only time I need to go back to my desk top. Convenient and fun!

Neil Maxwell. says:
12 December 2015

I taught myself to type and the keyboard has been decreased in size and I have now adapted to the smaller one I have no notion to adapt to anything smaller especially poking with one finger. Neil.