Apple sold more than 10 million iPads in 2010, and that number continues to surge in 2011.  Samsung, Blackberry, HP, Dell and a host of device manufacturers are bringing tablet devices to market in 2011.

How will the proliferation of tablets affect check-in behavior and location-based social networks like Foursquare, Facebook Places or Gowalla?

Today, check-ins are done via your mobile phone.  You pull your iPhone/Android/Blackberry out of your pocket, fire up a service like Foursquare, and check-in at a location.

The whole process takes about 20 seconds and can be done walking from the train station or standing in line to order food.

Tablets won’t replace these types of fast broadcasts that we do with our phone.  Tablets are big enough that they need to be stored in a purse or back pack.  It isn’t as easy to pull out your iPad, turn it on and check-in, as it is with a mobile phone.

Our user numbers indicate that somewhere between 2% – 4% of check-ins take place through an iPad.  This may grow slightly, but we expect the mobile phone to continue to be the device-of-choice for broadcasting check-ins.

What are devices like the iPad really good at? Content consumption.  Browsing photos, reading reviews, viewing activity – this is how people use the iPad.

As tablets continue to proliferate, we expect app-makers to continue to develop iPad-specific apps that will make it easier to consume content.  For instance, Gowalla released an iPad app that highlights recent activity at venues, photos and other pertinent information that will help you discover new places to visit.  Check-ins are included, but they aren’t the focus.  (Yelp launched a similar app for the iPad.)  We expect Foursquare, Facebook Places and other services to release iPad-specific apps that aren’t as focused as broadcasting your location, but on learning and discovering new places.

What else?  How will tablets like the iPad affect location-based social networks?