A man wearing a sports coat. A woman with a small purse. A doctor with a lab coat. What do all of these people have in common? They all have places where a 7-inch tablet would fit perfectly. With Google releasing the Nexus 7 and Apple rumored to be coming out with an “iPad Mini” by the end of the year, tablets with small form factors are in vogue this year. But, what are the best uses for a 7-inch slate? And will they catch on with consumers? That is the theme of this week’s ReadWriteMobile poll.

A Device for Play

The discussion on the 7-inch tablet form factor does not start with the Nexus 7 or a Galaxy Tab. Rather, it starts with the iPad. 

The iPad is 9.7 inches long. It is the tablet that set the market for tablets and what everything that comes after will be judged against, and it has a variety of strengths when it comes to its size and functionality. It is what Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once called the cross-section between technology and liberal arts. Look at Apple’s commercials for the iPad; they are filled with functions including drawing pictures, watching videos, talking and messaging. The large form factor and Apple’s focus on media makes the iPad a transformational device that literally defined the “Post PC” era.

It is a different story with 7-inch tablets. While all of the same functions can be performed on a smaller device, their strengths are different than the 9.7-inch iPad. For instance, watching longer videos such as movies can be more cumbersome on a smaller display. When it comes to reading a book, the iPad can be heavy and awkward to hold. As an e-reader, the 7-inch form factor is perfect. There are subtle differences between large and small tablets. The question becomes: Are the differences negligible or are there ideal uses for each?

For instance, what size is better when it comes to performing as a second or third screen? The concept of a second screen was created with the tablet, and it can be used for anything from messaging to interacting with a television. Does the added portability of a 7-inch tablet make it better-suited as a second screen?

When it comes to all kinds of media – reading, writing, video, audio – the 7-inch tablet offers some benefits over the larger tablet based on its portability. The man in the sports coat can easily slip a 7-inch tablet into his inside pocket and read the news while on a train. The lady with the purse can have the smaller tablet with her wherever she goes with little inconvenience, something that is not always possible with the larger iPad. 

A Device for Work

Say the 7-inch tablet becomes the favorite for media consumption. Is the larger tablet better for work-related purposes?

Yes and no.

One of the strengths of larger tablets like the iPad is that they can be slotted into almost any scenario in which lightweight computers once fit. For instance, the point-of-sale industry could be revolutionized by the iPad where, instead of traditional cash registers, there are now touchscreen tablets. 

Construction or city workers can use larger tablets out in the field to stay connected with home base and download data from servers for immediate use. Enterprise IT departments can use iPads to organize work orders, tap into corporate servers or send interoffice messages. In all of these scenarios, the larger screen proves to be beneficial.

But, take the scenario of the doctor in a hospital. Health care has long been defined by “the chart” attached to a clipboard that hangs off the end of a patient’s bed. That does not necessarily have to be so - tablets could revolutionize the day-to-day practices of doctors everywhere. Yet, what is more convenient for these doctors? A large tablet that can be carried under their arms wherever they go, or a smaller tablet that fits perfectly into the pocket of a lab coat?

When we break down the dichotomy of device size to function, will it end up being that 7-inch tablets are better for consumption while larger tablets are better for productivity? Or will it turn out to be the other way around?

Take the poll below and let us know what you think in the comments. Note: You can pick multiple options in the poll.