From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how far mobile devices have come. It used to be that mobile web browsers were effectively a joke, and mobile software wasn’t good for much but wasting time. However, in recent years tablets and phones have become more powerful than full-fledged desktop hardware of a few years before, with impressive software applications to match.
It used to be that, when it came to mobile productivity software, Windows was the only game in town. However, Apple has had strong reasons for boosting the iPad as a productivity tool—and Android hasn’t been so far behind.
Of course, as much money as the average iPad costs, it’s not a big surprise that it would be nearly as useful as one of the desktop or notebook machines with similar prices. But the thing that interests me is that it’s possible to get nearly the same degree of usefulness out of a sub-$100 Amazon Fire or Fire HD 8, which is now capable of running most Android apps that you can download from the Google Play Store.
Oh, a Fire isn’t going to be as good as an iPad at complex multimedia stuff, like music, photo, or video editing. But for the basic tasks—reading, writing, research—it could substitute for full-fledged desktops many times its price. This means it has the potential to bridge the digital divide in ways we might never have expected—not just for reading ebooks and assisting in education, but for more basic tasks. People with low or no incomes could search and apply for better jobs. Students could do homework and term papers on their tablet if their siblings or parents are using the desktop.
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We’ll start with the basics: getting text into the device. It used to be that you had to have a physical keyboard to enter text at any great speed. No matter how good a touch typist you might be, a mobile device screen would reduce everyone to one-letter-at-a-time hunt-and-peck.
But with the advances in phones and tablets have come advances in user interface as well. For one thing, cheap and good Bluetooth keyboards are now widely available. For only $18 or so, you can type comfortably into any tablet that will accept a Bluetooth hookup.
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Next, let’s look at one of the basic building blocks of Internet activity: web browsing. It wasn’t so very long ago that phone browsers were so limited that it was common to make special “mobile-friendly” versions of web sites just for them, whose URLs frequently started with prefixes like “mobile.” or “m.” Even TeleRead had a mobile theme like that at one point, though it seems to have gone by the wayside in our new incarnation; m.teleread.org now redirects to the plain-vanilla TeleRead site.
But now, mobile web browsers are capable of showing you the web just as it appears to a full-fledged desktop site. Amazon’s Silk web browser is a fast, full-featured browser choice that provides an experience not meaningfully different from how a site looks on the desktop. If you download Google Chrome and connect it to your Google account, it will even remember your preferences, web history, and other data from your desktop to your mobile browsing experience—and if there is a difference, Chrome has a “Request desktop site” choice in its three-dot options menu.
Link to the rest at TeleRead