PCs vs laptops vs tablets vs phones vs smartwatches vs “google glasses”… Phew.

By | January 1, 2015
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Here’s to a brilliant 2015 for you and yours.
Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t quite believe it’s 2015. It’s particularly staggering for me, since that means that later this year it’ll be 10 years since I started this business, published the first books and wrote the first of these newsletters. More on that nearer the time, I’m sure!
A new button on Google Chrome
If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, you might have noticed a new button appear. It’s just at the top right, to the left of the three buttons that you use to close down the browser, maximise it or minimise it and it has a tiny picture of a person on it.
It’s not terribly important for most people. In fact, the main reason I’m mentioning it is so I can say that if you’ve spotted it and are worried what’s going on, you don’t need to worry, it’s something Google have added… but you don’t particularly need to use it either!
If you have “logged in” to the web browser, so it knows who you are while you use it (so it can remember your settings, link favorites that you’ve set on different devices and remember which webpages you’ve used on different devices), then you can use this button to easily switch to a different person’s login – handy if a friend borrows your PC, I suppose.
It also lets you go into “incognito mode”, where it doesn’t track what sites you’re looking at – handy for secretly buying Christmas presents without the other half noticing the Aston Martin dealership’s details in the web history (I can dream!)
But this new button is not something you desperately need to use – you can safely ignore it!
PCs vs laptops vs tablets vs phones vs smartwatches vs “google glasses”…
Back when I wrote my first computer book, it used to be simple: There were PCs (or desktop computers) and laptops (which are still PCs, really, just with all the bits in one case).
It’s a bit more complicated now.
You’ve got tablets (touchscreen devices like the iPad that can replace a PC for some people), smartphones that can access the internet and send emails, and now there are even “smartwatches” and other “wearable tech”.
I’m often asked what type of kit I’d suggest for people. It’s a bit tricky to give general advice as it depends on what you want to use it for. But in a nutshell…
For most people, PCs/laptops or touchscreen tablets are the best for generally accessing the internet, sending emails and so on.
Which is best for you depends partly on personal preference but as a general rule of thumb, for doing serious work a PC or laptop is generally better. For just browsing the web (without needing much typing) and doing things like skype video calls, a tablet is ideal because it takes up less space and it’s easily portable.
In some ways they’re easier to use, too, though they do work a bit differently from PCs, so if you’re used to a PC, it’s something new to learn.
Smartphones (mobile phones that can access the internet) are great if you want to be able to browse the web or do email when you’re out and about. The screens are smaller than a laptop or tablet and that means it’s a bit harder to read and a bit harder to touch the right bit, so they’re not quite as easy to use. But they do fit in a pocket handily, so they have that advantage. And if you want a mobile phone, most tend to be smartphones nowadays anyway! I wouldn’t recommend a smartphone to replace a PC/laptop/tablet – but they can be handy extras if you want access to the internet when you’re out and about.
What about the really new stuff – smartwatches and so on?
No doubt all the geeks will shudder as I say this, but I think they’ve got a way to go yet. Most of the fancy watches don’t actually connect to the internet themselves. They just link to your mobile phone if it’s in your pocket and give you a screen for that on your wrist. Personally I don’t mind taking my phone out of my pocket if I want to use it or check why it’s beeping.
Plus the smartwatches tend to need charging very often – as often as every day in some cases!
I’m not saying they aren’t right for anyone. Just for most people I don’t think there’s any great advantage.
And as for things like Google Glasses, which you wear like a pair of glasses and it shows you a display in the corner of your eye, well, it’s technically amazing. But I’m not sure most people need to be constantly connected… and of course, with no keyboard, mouse or touchscreen, controlling it is largely by talking to it. Clever, but it might make you seem a bit, well, eccentric if people don’t realise what you’re doing. Telling them “I’m just telling my glasses what to do” might not reassure them that you haven’t lost at least one or two marbles, either…
By and large, for most people, I still think PCs/laptops or touchscreen tablets are the best ways to use the internet. They’re easiest and you can get most out it that way, with a decent sized screen.
That’s my (admittedly slightly luddite) view, anyway!

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