Basics: What is a tablet?

There’s a new kind of computer, and it’s called a tablet. It’s smaller and easier to use than a laptop, and it’s cheaper too!

Tablets are thin, portable computers with batteries that last 8 to 10 hours, so you don’t need to be plugged into a wall to use them.

You recharge them like a mobile phone, and they’re very light – about as heavy as a hardback book.

You can use a tablet to read books, watch movies, listen to music, read and write email, view photos, and connect to the internet to browse the world wide web

All models can connect to the internet and the web wirelessly. Some models connect using the same 3G mobile network that smartphones do, while others use a WiFi network.

WiFi tablets can connect to the internet using any WiFi network, whether that’s in your home, an office, or public place like a coffee shop or library.

Tablets that use 3G can connect to the internet anywhere there is good mobile phone reception, so you can access the web from wherever you are – the house, the street, the outback, and even overseas.

There are two main types of tablet: Apple’s iPad, which uses an operating system called iOS, and a whole bunch of tablets from brands like Sony, Samsung and HP, that use an operating system called Android.

Touch me

All tablets have a touch interface. That means you work them by tapping directly on the screen. This makes them very easy to use.

Different finger movements – called gestures – do different things. A pinching motion between thumb and forefinger, where you slide your fingers apart on the screen, zooms in. Which is great for reading small text on the internet.

A tap or double-tap follows an internet link or selects an icon on the tablet’s home screen.

A swipe – sliding your finger from right-to-left – turns a page in an electronic book.

Sliding your finger from bottom to top scrolls the screen up and down – essential for viewing long web pages like newspaper websites.

And when you need to type something on a tablet, a keyboard will automatically appear on the screen. Just tap the letters with your finger, like you would on a physical keyboard.


You get things done on a tablet by using ‘apps’. These are mini programs that each do a specific thing.

There are apps for checking the weather, giving train timetables, showing recipes, booking travel, or making internet video phone calls. There are lots of simple games, too, as well as apps that act as shortcuts to your favourite websites.

Apps are available for free and for purchase from the Apple App Store for iPad, and from Google Play for Android tablets.

There’s an app for just about anything you can think of! Just do a search, and see what comes up!