By Quentin Fottrell
Barnes and Noble’s new Nook tablets may not be quite as powerful or versatile as the iPad, but they do beat Apple in one key measure: weight.
Unveiled Tuesday, the 9-inch HD Nook is 20% lighter than the iPad, a difference that is instantly noticeable after lifting the two tablets, but feels even more pronounced when holding either device in one hand for prolonged periods. The iPad feels overweight by comparison, experts say. In fact, while the Nook and Kindle Fire tablets are getting lighter, the iPad is getting heavier: The third version of Apple’s tablet is 652 grams — more than 50 grams weightier than the iPad 2.
Though the iPad remains far and away the best-selling tablet, its competitors are catching up in the very area Apple is famous for: design. “The iPad was indeed at the forefront and got things going for tablets, but now we are seeing better improvements from many others,” says Rick Singer, CEO of GreatApps.com. There’s growing demand for devices that are light — like the original Kindle — but also have the higher screen resolution of the Nook tablets, he says. (Apple did not respond to requests for comment.)
Customers care about each extra ounce. Xavier Damman, co-founder of Storify.com, was one of the first to complain about the weight of the iPad 3: “What’s the point of having a gorgeous screen and a better antenna if you can’t even hold your tablet with one hand when you are at home on your couch?” Others have complained that the iPad is too heavy to carry around at all times.
When it debuted in April 2010, the iPad was hailed as a lightweight alternative to the laptop – with more features than any smartphone. But some studies show that consumers are growing tired of carrying it around. Some 62% of iPad owners leave their iPads at home, according to one recent survey of 15,000 iPad owners by the research firm McKinsey & Co.
There is a simple explanation for the heavier iPad. While most technology is getting faster and software is becoming smaller, tech pros say the same cannot be said for old-fashioned batteries. One technology reviewer at BuzzFeed.com broke open the last two iPads and discovered that the latest iPad needs a “giant battery” to power the faster 4G Internet and the higher quality screen.
Of course, Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly addressing the problem – not by making the iPad lighter, but by introducing a mini-iPad. The company’s Asian suppliers are preparing to produce a new Apple tablet with a dramatically smaller screen than the iPad’s 9.7-inch display. But the mini-iPad will have to be at least as light as the Nook HD, says technology consultant Jeff Kagan.
This move toward lighter devices within the electronics industry also explains why many smartphones are getting bigger and, in some cases, resembling smaller tablets. While the Samsung SIII’s 4.8-inch screen is 40% bigger than the 3.5-inch iPhone, at 133 grams it’s only 15% heavier.