It’s all too easy to lump tablets in with phones as “mobile devices.” There are certainly similarities. The iPad and Android tablets run the same operating systems as their smaller cousins, and some touchscreen principles work the same across devices. But tablets have a different form, ergonomics, and context than phones. So designing for tablet takes a fresh perspective and, almost always, a whole new design concept.

As usual, Justin Williams puts it best in an economy of words:

The best iPad apps are not those that just stretch their iPhone table views out to take advantage of the larger screen. They are apps like Twitter, Reeder and Flipboard that invented new paradigms and changed the way we used the device. They are the apps that get lost under our fingers because they work intuitively with multitouch gestures.

By similar token, the best Honeycomb apps are not going to be those that just stretch out a ListView control to adapt to the screen size whether it be 4” or 9”. Tablets offer us an opportunity to shake up how we have interacted with computers in the past thirty years. If all Android subscribed to was to make it easy to port a product designed for a phone to a tablet, then it is a waste for developers and a shame for users who will embrace the platform. The Xoom is still in its infancy, so there is plenty of time for Android developers to kick the tires and see what the tablets can offer.

As I’m fond of saying: a tablet is like a phone as a swimming pool is like a bathtub. Similar on the surface, but intended for entirely different uses. The design has to reflect that.

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