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RE Technology’s Tips on Finding the Right Tablet for You

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Most of us are familiar with the concept of a tablet computer. However, as with digital signatures (as we discussed last week), not all tablets are created equal. If you’re considering a purchase – or an upgrade – it may be helpful to understand the different types of tablets, particularly the differences between convertible and slate tablets. Don’t run out and buy an iPad without taking a careful examination of your needs. Sure, they are cool, but do they help you sell more real estate?

Tablet Computers for Real Estate
By definition, a tablet computer (or just “tablet”) is a Web-enabled personal computer that is operated primarily using a touchscreen. Note that “primarily” is the operative word here, as we’ll soon discuss. The iPad is a tablet – one of many on the market.

Real estate agents are already finding tablet computers immensely useful. One of the advanced new ways that tablets can be used is to obtain electronic signatures, so we spoke with Mehrdad Alaei of GoPaperless (a top purveyor of electronic signatures) for insight.

“Traditionally,” Mr. Alaei explains, “tablets were built with the Microsoft operating system (PC), but now the iOS (Apple’s iPad) and the Android operating systems have come to the forefront along with several others (Blackberry Playbook, HP WebOS, Amazon Kindle, among others). They all have one thing in common – a touch screen interface – but many differences when it comes to productivity solutions, native apps, and user interface.”

Mr. Alaei continues, “Because of the touch screen interface, our Real Estate Dashboard software is able to utilize and optimize this feature to transform the screen into a ‘digital paper,’ thereby importing a document and turning a ‘pen-paper’ signing experience into a digital ‘wet signature’ experience. With either a stylus or your finger, you can now biometrically sign on the screen, just like at your local grocery store when you check out.’

“So, from a business perspective, which tablet is right for you?” Mr. Alaei asks. “This can only be answered by evaluating your own needs. What software do you need for your business? Do you use your office or home computer as your primary device and want a smaller field device as a companion tool? Are you looking for just one device that does it all? Do you use the cloud for your document storage, etc.?”

To learn more about tablets and software solutions, visit Now, as promised in my introduction, let’s discuss the differences between convertible and slate tablets.

Convertible Tablets
Convertible tablets have a keyboard attached. Think of it as a lightweight, light use, but fully functional laptop. This has its benefits and drawbacks:

The keyboard makes a convertible tablet larger, heavier, and more ungainly than a slate tablet.

The joint between the screen and the keyboard is a weak point, making these tablets prone to breakage. Check to make sure that the manufacturer you select has a reliable history when it comes to convertible keyboards.

However, the attached keyboard is more familiar for laptop users and can make for a more seamless transition to tablet use. It feels like a little laptop.

Also, at least in the beginning, the physical keyboard may allow for swifter and more accurate typing than the on-screen “keys” associated with slate tablets.

Slate Tablets
Slate tablets, unlike convertible tablets, do not have a dedicated keyboard. Apple’s iPad is an example of a slate tablet. As with convertible tablets, slate tablets have their benefits and drawbacks.

For luddites such as myself, adapting to life without a physical keyboard is not quick or easy.

However, for those used to touchscreen devices such as the iPhone (or other Smartphone) and the iPad, adapting to typing on a slate tablet should not create too large a challenge. Given time, many people become completely proficient with touchscreen use, grow to love it in fact.

The sleek, slim design of slate tablets allows for easy storage and makes a nice appearance for clients.

Keyboard attachments are available for some slate tablets using Bluetooth can create shades of convertible tablet-like functionality, but the keyboard behavior is sluggish.

Fully-Functional Tablet PCs
These systems are basically a laptop with a touchscreen interface. In other words they are made to replace the traditional laptop.

You can install all the productivity software tools you need and are familiar with such as MS office, Publisher, Photoshop, etc and read and burn CDs and DVDs.

You only need one device that has plenty of storage – no need for a desktop and mobile device.

Takes longer to start up, heavier than a light app driven tablet with solid state drives (like the iPad and Android tablets)

Generally shorter battery life though these days additional battery can get you upwards of 8 hours.

As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of tablet. Perhaps the best way to decide which tablet is right for you is to take some time to experiment with each of them.

How to test a tablet:

Read and send email.
Open, read, and edit commonly-used file formats – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, etc
Test the websites you visit most often – Facebook, your MLS, email, online banking, transaction management, document management, website lead manager, etc. Make sure that the tablet will work with those sites. In the case of your MLS, you may need to call the MLS to see if they support the tablet or have a mobile application that does.
Carefully consider the data plan costs. You should expect to see bills that are similar to your cell phone bill today. Wireless costs for business users typically run between $50 and $120 per month.

I have an iPad, and I love it. It does not work with Rapattoni or Realist® in my market.  As a work-around, I access MLS and Tax data using RPR (REALTOR® Property Resource). In truth, I would admit that I did not purchase a tablet that serves me well as a business productivity tool. I find myself ducking into coffee shops and pulling out my laptop to get work done. The iPad is a toy; it’s fun, but it is not an adequate business device for me today.

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