What is a tablet?

Our website provides a range of advice on how to choose and manage tablets for children. However, if you’re asking yourself ‘what is a tablet?’ or wonder why we’re talking about the pills you take when you’re ill we thought a quick explantation might be helpful! Whilst most people are familiar with what an iPad is they may not be familiar with the term tablet. Tablet is to iPad much as Sparkling wine is to Champagne! Tablet is a general term used to refer to all portable computing devices that are too big to be called smart phones (typically with screen of 7 inches or more) that are controlled via a touchscreen interface. You can access your email on a tablet, surf the web, read ebooks, watch video and download software programmes (referred to as Apps – short for Applications). There are Apps to do almost anything you can think of and these can be particularly fabulous for children to support their development as well as just as fun games.

An iPad is one type of tablet manufactured by Apple, however there are many companies that manufacture tablets. There are also an increasing number that produce tablets specifically for children.

There are 3 main operating systems that the tablets use (just like with smart phones):

  • Apple’s operating system is referred to as iOS <number> and is used across Apple devices (smart phones, iPods, iPads) but not on any other devices not made by Apple. These devices have access to apps on the Apple App Store.
  • Most tablets use the Android operating system – any manufacturer can use this so there are a huge number of tablets by different manufacturers that are Android based. The latest Android operating system version 4.4 is referred to as KitKat. They virtually all have access to apps from the Google Play Store but may also have access to other app stores.
  • Windows tablets are also available offering Microsoft softwares/app. This is closest to a traditional computer offering Microsoft Office on many versions and great connectivity. Microsoft also offer a wide range of tablet- compatible apps through their app store.

When considering tablets for children there are also a number of manufacturer specific options worth considering. Most notably Innotab and LeapPad. Both these companies have been producing tablets for children for longer than anyone else as they started before iPad existing providing a mobile gaming solution using physical software cartridges. There are of course other hand-held gaming devices like the Nintendo 3DS but these are focused more specifically on games and look rather different to tablets.

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