Feature driving tablet adoption: Battery life

Summary:Tablets are replacing laptops in more gear bags than ever before. The capabilities of tablets have evolved to make them viable alternatives for mobile professionals. Even as capable as they are, the long battery life is what's driving adoption.


The tablet space has never been so diverse as it is today. The iPad drove the evolution of tablets, followed closely by Android slates, and now with Windows 8 tablets joining the fun. Tablets are being adopted by mobile professionals in increasing numbers who are choosing to leave the laptop behind and take the slate to work.

A number of arguments can be given for this rapid adoption. The enhanced mobility of the form is certainly helping drive the switch. The quality of apps for tablets is another good reason behind adoption. But of all the features that put tablets in gear bags, none is more important than battery life.

Given the technology of the time the only way I could get safely through the day was to take a spare battery with me in the gear bag.

In my previous career as a geophysicist I was the very definition of a mobile professional. My work day was spent going from one office to another all over town, attending as many as 5 or 6 meetings a day. When I headed out the door in the morning I could count on hours before finishing work for the day. My work days were not unique, many field reps and sales professionals have the same routine.

I used tablets for that work because the pen was a crucial tool for my work. I took handwritten notes at all the meetings, usually dozens of pages of notes daily. The convertible notebook used as a tablet was the driving force behind that work. I couldn't have done the job without a tablet in one hand and a digital pen in the other.

As important as the pen was to doing my job it was extended battery life that made it work. I could not plan on having a power outlet available at any point during the day. Given the technology of the time the only way I could get safely through the day was to take a spare battery with me in the gear bag. The magic number for battery life was 10 - 12 hours. Any less and it wouldn't work for me.

I was one of those buyers who always ordered a second battery when I bought a laptop or convertible notebook. Having the spare was the only way to get through a long day of mobile computing but that was OK. Laptops of that time had removable batteries and spares were readily available. It was a bit of a dance getting both batteries charged each night but I persevered as that's what it took to get the job done each day.

The option of a spare battery for laptops/convertible notebooks mostly disappeared as OEMs moved to a sealed battery construction. This helped make laptops thinner and lighter but it eliminated the owner's ability to pop another battery in when the meter ran dry. External battery packs would work but were unwieldy for practical usage, especially on a daily basis.

Next page: Tablets fill the void; Battery life and Windows 8 tablets

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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