At its launch, the iPad was dismissed by many as “just a big iPhone.” Technically, that was pretty accurate as the iPhone lent the iPad its operating system and app library. But the big iPhone put up big numbers in the years following its release. The threat to the traditional laptop seemed so great that Microsoft rushed to counter it with the poorly conceived Windows RT, a precursor to the more promising Windows10 on Snapdragon.
As we approach the pioneering tablet’s seventh birthday, though, the iPad has taken its knocks from more versatile notebooks like increasingly competitive 2-in-1s and, more significantly, growing smartphones that squeeze ever more display into a pocketable form factor.
The give and take between smartphone and tablet will soon be replicated in an upcoming tablet-like device that relies on a wirelessly connected smartphone for nearly all of its functionality. The lightweight Superscreen looks much like a Samsung Android tablet. It boasts a high-resolution 10.1-inch display, front and rear cameras, and its own Bluetooth connection.
But despite having a dual-core processor, it is essentially an input and output device, relaying touches back to the smartphone and scaling the phone’s output onto the display in a smart way to adjust aspect ratio differences. The company behind the product claims it works with 97 percent of smartphones, i.e.,iPhones and Android phones.
Superscreen is hardly the first option for getting the display from an iPhone onto an iPad; this is built into iOS via AirPlay. There are also wired approaches that work from a variety of platforms. These may be preferable to Superscreen for those who already have a tablet. In addition, Superscreen doesn’t relieve all the burden of tablet ownership. The device still, of course, needs to be charged. And it introduces a few limitations of its own, such as having to be used within range of its paired smartphone and being inoperable once the smartphone’s battery depletes.
One of Superscreen’s main claimed advantages versus today’s tablets is price, which may be even more attractive in the start of its preorder campaign. The product’s website notes that it will cost a third of the price of alternatives. No doubt it will come in well under the price of an iPad Air or a Galaxy Tab S2. But Samsung itself offers much cheaper tablets, as do Chinese Android brands sold at mass merchants. What may have stronger appeal for tech-savvy users is having one less device on which to manage a set of apps and data, and dispensing with the process of tethering, particularly on mobile plans where that comes at a premium.
The idea behind Superscreen reinforces that are smartphones can’t do everything well, but it also highlights how the once-soaring tablet is finding less breathing room between the smartphone and notebook.