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Tablet quest ends with ‚”no-name‚” for 80-yr-old

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What happens when a tech-savvy 80-year-old decides to go shopping for a tablet of the electronic variety? Veteran author BARBARA DURLACHER tells her story.

I will be 80 years old in December, but having grown up with the computer revolution since the introduction of the earliest word processors and computers, I am very computer literate, but only from a user’s point of view. I freely admit that I know next to nothing about the technical side of how these marvellous little darlings work.

I was thinking of purchasing a Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet – principally for use in conjunction with my laptop and Telkom landline in Johannesburg. I also hoped to avoid carting my heavy laptop around with me when I went to the UK and Austria for a 6-weeks holiday. I studied a few technical manuals and read comparative market studies between the iPad (which I feel is too heavy and bulky) and the Galaxy products. Of those made by Samsung it seemed the most successful model to date was the 7.7″ (P6800), which is offered here by Vodacom.

My intention was to use the tablet while overseas, to access my emails, make EFT payments on various South African bank accounts and also use it as an e-reader.

However, my 59-year-old son, now living in Australia and a senior manager in a globalJapanese-based electronic company, already has an iPad and he brought it with him on a visit to SA last November. Despite him loving it excessively, he advised me against it as it gave him trouble with WiFi connectivity in my small living unit in a local retirement village. It used up the entire 1GB data allocation on my Telkom account in a few days.

I decided to buy a Galaxy Tablet, and expected to get it from one of the cellphone providers Vodacom or MTN (I have a contract with the latter) on a 24 month contract plus 1GB/month data connectivity. Of course, this wouldn’t help when I was out of the country.

The more I investigated the local tablet scene, the more I realised it was constrained by the consortium of Incredible Connections, Vodacom and MTN service providers and that, should I buy a tablet from any of the providers within this closed circle, I would be obliged to buy it on a long-term contract which would hold me to that provider for longer than I cared.

Consequently, surfing the website of amazon.co.uk, I found what appeared to be a perfectly adequate 7″” Android ‚””no-name‚”” tablet sold by one of Amazon’s UK marketplace providers. The UK price was 106 GBP approximately R1484. I ordered this item for delivery to my daughter’s address near Cheltenham, and was delighted to unpack it when I arrived at her home. Subsequently I bought, also from amazon.co.uk a leather-like tablet cover with electronic keyboard, stand and magnetic closure which links into the tablet with male and female USB plugs (1 of each).

I realised that apart from the possible convenience of using the tablet, with the appropriate application as an e-reader, or – as I subsequently discovered, with a beautifully read audio-book from www.audible.co.uk a subsidiary company of amazon.co.uk – it would have been very difficult to keep in regular email contact with my family.

It took no longer than 30 minutes to set up the tablet at my daughter’s house, which has wall-to-wall WiFi. It was a pleasure to use: simple, direct and user-friendly.

Returning to South Africa was a rather different matter. It took me ages to get WiFi connectivity at home although I now have the full Telkom 5GB/month ADSL package. It was not until I discovered an old pencilled instruction in my notebook , scribbled when connecting my laptop to the modem, that the laptop must be initialised by using the number underneath the modem. I applied this instruction to the tablet, and finally managed to get the show on the road.

Since then, I’ve loved every moment of “”Andy Adorable””, as I’ve christened my no-name baby. I’ve linked it into my email account with Telkom, set up a Gmail account, loaded an audible.co.uk connection and downloaded a number of excellent audio-books.

I’ve also loaded a Kindle e-reader, although this last is not entirely successful as amazon.co.uk’s Kindle books have to be sourced from their American site. For some unfathomable reason, Kindle books are not available to readers from the UK in South Africa. For the moment, I’ve left this route open as I do not wish to set up a separate American account, as I’m quite satisfied with the excellent books I receive from audible.co.uk.

I was mindful of the fact that “”Andy Adorable”” was probably sold as “”grey goods”” and that, should it give me problems, I would have no comeback. Using a “”belt and braces”” approach, I took advantage of HiFi Corp’s recent birthday celebrations and bought a second, virtually identical SANSUI 7″” tablet on special offer for R999. I thought that, at least here, I would have a guarantee of a well-known brand, and the security of a countrywide retailer to back up the purchase. The first two tablets would not work, and were returned and replaced within 3 or 4 days. The third replacement is still with me, fully charged and working, but hardly ever used as it was purchased solely as a back-up in the event that “”Andy Adorable”” should fail.

In conclusion, the unbranded 7″” tablet is user friendly, simple to use and operate, holds a charge – depending on usage – for 24-36 hours, and has – as far as I can determine and for my needs, no faults.

* BARBARA DURLACHER is a published author whose work has appeared in many publications over the years, including the London Daily Telegraph Expat Edition and the Diversions travel magazine.

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