Tactile Tablet Experience – Why Do We Ruin It?

Nexus 7 and protective cover

How many times have you taken your tablet (or phone) out of the protective case to show it someone who wanted to try it? I know I have.

You offer them them the opportunity to experience the device the way it was deigned to be experienced, with the original tactile experience, knowing full well that  if the person demoing your tablet actually buys one, then they’ll likely only experience that feeling for the first 30 minutes of owning it.

Once they but it, they’ll shove it into a protective case and have a completely different experience.

That feels dishonest to me.

The very design of tablets, the looks, the shiny goodness, the feel that makes me desire one tablet of comparable features over another – that is the most glaring  flaw shared by every device I own.

These things look so damn good that we feel the need to buy big ugly covers to protect them, to keep them scratch free and looking pristine but in the process of protecting them we give up a lot of what makes the devices desirable, such as the thinness and most importantly for me – the tactile feeling of the actual device.

To be fair it’s not really a  flaw, it is a deliberate design choice. I guess that makes it a feature.

My Nexus 7 does not feel half as nice or comfortable to use when I use it is in the protective case. While the case may double as a stand and allow me to turn off the device just by closing the cover (and of course protect the tablet from cat claws and random scratches), it makes the device feel clunky and overly large. The Nexus 7 is neither clunky nor large, and actually feels really good when not in the case.

The same goes for the iPad, even when using smart covers. It just doesn’t feel the same.

I know the solution is simply not to use a cover and retain the original feel, however that raises the question of why we need covers at all?

Can’t we design products that are aesthetically pleasing but don’t have to be handled with kid gloves? Can’t we build devices that allow you to experience them as they were intended without needing to wrap them in ugly monstrosities in the name of protecting them?

It’s true that designing devices that we want to protect, and look sexy, creates a lot of secondary accessory markets and revenue for tablet manufacturers, but it’s also telling that many people choose form over function and the manufactures cater to that. Sexy sells, right?

Building devices that are more scratch resistant means I’ll probably have to spend $20 – $50 more per device, but I’d rather spend that and have a better tactile experience than spend the money on a cover and not experience my device as it was meant to be.

Is that really such a difficult thing to ask?