Future-forward tablets: Looking toward 2015

To make up for a lackluster 2014, we're expecting tablets in 2015 to bring it up a notch.

Xiomara Blanco Associate Editor / Reviews - Tablets and monitors
Xiomara Blanco is an associate editor for CNET Reviews. She's a Bay Area native with a knack for tech that makes life easier and more enjoyable. So, don't expect her to review printers anytime soon.
Xiomara Blanco
3 min read

We want new tablets in 2015 to gives us new features. Josh Miller/CNET

Following a predictable year, tablets won't have to do much to impress us in the upcoming new year. Since tablet manufacturers laid low in 2014, we expect some fireworks in 2015. By no means do I anticipate astronomical innovations in the category, but, like a Taylor Swift pop album, tablets will have to inject undeniably exciting elements into new models to capture the hearts and wallets of prospective buyers. Check out my expectations and hopes for what 2015 has in store below.

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The Amazon Fire lineup continues its hot streak. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Better budget buys

Amazon changed the game with a $99 tablet that's actually worth your time and money. This new budget tablet benchmark means that you can no longer simply judge a slate by its bargain basement price. For penny-pinchers who desire a tablet that smoothly executes basic tasks -- like Web browsing, checking e-mail, and video streaming -- this new turn towards affordable pricing and adequate performance is a welcome sight. To be sure, rinky-dink tablets like the Toshiba Excite Go are still more common than we'd like, but we're hoping upcoming budget models will successfully rise to our new expectations. We'll see a few fresh models debut as soon as January at CES 2015 and we expect many more as the year progresses.

Premium tablets differentiated themselves with high-end bells and whistles. Josh Miller/CNET

Give me a killer app

This year there was a subtle rise in fancy features on high-end tablets and, unless you were paying close attention, you probably missed some of them. The Samsung Tab S and Apple iPad Air 2 house trendy fingerprint scanners, the Dell Venue 8 7000 rocks a 3D camera, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro packs a projector, and the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 offers nifty item recognition software. In an oversaturated scene, these bells and whistles help slates stand out among their competition. The extras make pricey premium tablets sweeter deals -- starring as the cherry on top of the cake -- and I hope to see more innovative dressings in the upcoming year.

We saw many 8-inch tablets in 2014 and expect more in 2015. Josh Miller/CNET

Rise of the midsize

Historically, tablet sizes have ranged from 5 to 13 inches and, for the last few years, 7-inch tablets reigned as the prevalent form factor for portable models. In 2014 -- combined with the growing presence of phablets -- we saw 8- to 9-inch tablets rise in popularity, taking over the 7-inch slate scene. These midsize tablets are still compact enough to easily carry in your bag and hold in one hand, but they offer more screen space for enjoying activities like games and movies. An excellent example is the Asus Memo Pad 8 . It's thin, light, easy to use in one hand and packs gobs of software features for its competitively low price. I expect to see more models in the 8- to 9-inch range continue to replace smaller slates.

Will function over fashion lead tablet design in 2015? Josh Miller/CNET

Move beyond 'thinner is better'

In 2014, at least three different tablets claimed to be "the thinnest tablet ever" and, though a sleek aesthetic is always welcome, how much thinner can tablets get? At a certain point, the focus needs to shift from fashion to functionality. Superslim and lightweight slates are mighty fine, but a move toward inspired ergonomic design with a practical purpose will impress me more than another razor-thin tablet. The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 hit the nail on the head with its sturdy aluminum frame and built-in adjustable kickstand. You can lay it down at an angle for comfortable typing, or prop it upright for hands-free video-watching. As it's a device that's primarily meant to be handheld, it's refreshing to see a thoughtfully designed model that enhances everyday use.

Tablet innovation hit somewhat of a plateau in 2014, despite some commendable releases. In the dull shadow of a humdrum year, we want upcoming 2015 models to give us a little something more to talk about and I'm hopeful for what's in store. What do you want to see from tablets in 2015? Let us know in the comments section.