The last two years have seen a huge growth of tablet computer markets. For boating people this has meant inexpensive, versatile and easy-to-use devices with interesting applications especially for navigational purposes. One does not have to be a fortune teller to predict that tablets with various applications will be a major future trend for boaters.
The main shortcoming with the consumer tablet computers is the lack of design for maritime use. However, for the coming season there are some interesting new products entering the markets: During the spring, Panasonic is launching rugged waterproof Android tablet Toughpad A1. It continues in the footsteps of Toughbook laptops, which are popular among boaters. Toughpad A1 has a matte, 10.1 inch, 1024x768 pixels screen that is especially developed for outdoor use. That is an improvement compared to the glossy screen of the iPad. Toughpad is rated to survive 120 cm drops, salt water and dust. The ten hours battery life is similar to iPad's. At the moment Toughpad is marketed mainly as a business tablet, but it seems like a perfect device for a boater. The estimated retail price for the tablet is about 1300 USD, which is about a double compared to the new iPad (Wi-Fi + 4G). However, it is still less than most of the 10" chart plotters cost.
Panasonic Toughpad, see the video in Youtube
One less expensive solution would be a waterproof case for iPad. In a moving boat the device is prone to knocks and hits so the case should also protect against those. Scanstrut is launching a waterproof iPad case during March. Touchscreen can be used normally through the pack and there is access to the iPad's buttons. The case is also buoyant, which is good news should the iPad go overboard. Suggested retail price for the product is 139 €. There are also other waterproof cases available, but many of the less expensive alternatives do not provide sufficient protection against knocks. We will definitely need a case for iPad, so more experiences coming later when we have acquired one.
Waterproof iPad case by Scanstrut
In everyday life the tablets have found the niché between smartphones and laptops. When considering navigation, I believe tablets are going to take their place between traditional paper charts and chart plotters. In this sense tablets will not replace these two but works merely as complementary device.
/Antti & Minna
cover photo by Scanstrut