Why I’m going to buy an iPad
A lot has been written about Apple’s iPad but most of the comments I’ve read could be summed up as follows:
- It’s just a big iPhone..without the ability to phone; which sucks. (Example)
- It doesn’t have flash so it sucks. (Example)
- It doesn’t multi-task so it sucks. (Example)
- Apple are evil because they take away control of how we use their devices. So, the iPad sucks. (Example)
- The iPad is going to force ebook prices up. This sucks. (Example)
- The iPad doesn’t have a camera. This sucks too! (Example)
- The name sucks! (Example)
Now, before I go on, bear in mind that I am a card-carrying, fully paid up member of the Linux/Android community. My phone is a HTC Hero running Android, my work desktop machine spends 95% of it’s time running Linux while my personal laptop runs it 100% of the time. Bashing the likes of Apple and Microsoft has been a side-hobby of mine for years and has given me at least one thing in common with almost every computer geek I have ever met. I would never buy a Mac, not in a million years, and I am highly unlikely to ever switch from Android to iPhone.
Despite all of this, however, I decided that I would like to buy an iPad after watching just the first few minutes or so of Steve Job’s iPad presentation. As soon as he announced the price I knew that I would be buying one…without hesitation. Suddenly I regretted all of the Apple bashing I have done over the years as I knew full well that my friends and colleauges weren’t going to let me live this one down. Oh yes…I am going to be in for a roasting over this particular purchase; a roasting that I will happily endure. If you’re interested, I’ll tell you why.
The never-ending commute
I live in Sheffield but work in Manchester and I don’t drive a car. The practical upshot of this is that I spend somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hours every day sitting on either a tram or a train. What I do with this time varies a lot according to factors such as how tired I am, how much work I need to do, the availability of seats etc etc. I always carry my Android phone and I almost always carry my laptop. Depending on my mood you might also find me carrying books, a newspaper or two and maybe a DVD.
In general, if I am doing something serious, such as writing code or a document, then I’ll be using my laptop and if I am doing something frivolous, such as catching up on RSS feeds, playing games, listening to music, reading ebooks etc, then I’ll be using my Android phone. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are….well, the exception.
A big screen, lots of apps, games, a decent e-book reader, tv-shows and movies
I love the Hero but I often wish it had a bigger screen – a MUCH bigger screen. A screen about the size of the iPad would do nicely but then it would far too big to be a phone. My laptop’s got a nice sized screen but it’s heavy and people think you are a crazy-man when you get your laptop out on the tram or bus. So, if I want a big screen then I need another device and the iPad will do nicely.
I get bored easily and am always on the lookout for new apps or games to waste my commute time with. I have an Android device to play with but I am missing out on all those Apple-exclusive apps that you can get for the iPhone OS. I considered buying an iPod touch but couldn’t justify spending the money on one JUST to get access to iPhone apps. The iPad offers me a bigger screen AND access to the Apple App store so it’s already ahead of the iPod touch for me.
I like playing video games and have to say that I am rather disappointed by the amount of games available for Android (It is getting better, however). I’m not a hardcore gamer though, not by any stretch of the imagination. Someone gave me a PSP a while ago but I can’t be bothered to carry it around, the games are too expensive and I keep losing the charger. Mobile phone games are just right for me; they are cheap, easy to pick up and put down and the best ones are a lot of fun. The iPhone has TONS of games for it and I’ll be able to play them all on the iPad.
I read a lot and I mean a LOT – it’s one of my favorite ways to pass the time. I thought about buying a Kindle but couldn’t justify spending that amount of cash on a device that essentially does only one thing. Also, I detest the way that e-ink devices flash so horribly whenever you turn the page. The Android ebook readers I’ve used,on the other hand, don’t give me access to a lot of the stuff I want to read. The iPad does a lot more than just read ebooks and lots of publishers want to put their content on the device so another reason to buy the iPad.
Movies and TV shows on the train….at the moment I watch them on my laptop. The iPad will be easier.
Finally, I’m hoping that the iPad will replace my need to carry a newspaper. For it to do so I need an app for The Times that will look just like the dead-tree version. It should also allow me to download the entire newspaper overnight and store it locally on the iPad. A network only version would be no use at all because, although the commute through The Pennines is exceedingly beautiful, it is a 3G dead-zone most of the time. I’ll happily pay a subscription to such a service as long as it’s cheaper than the dead-tree version of the paper.
Instant-on web-browsing, photos and a board-game platform
When I am at home I often find that I want to quickly go online to look something up, buy something or bash out a quick email. If I use my laptop then I sometimes spend more time booting the thing up and down than it takes to do the task. If I use my phone then the small screen and even smaller keyboard becomes an issue again. The iPad would be perfect for this quick and casual kind of Internet surfing. The lack of Flash support will be a pain but I won’t lose any sleep over it.
I like playing traditional board games. You know….things such as Chess, Checkers, Scrabble and Backgammon and, ideally, I like to play against people rather than computers. It occurred to me the other day that the iPad would be the perfect platform for board-games – simply as a replacement for the board and all of the pieces if nothing else. It will never be as good as the hand crafted, wooden chess set that my wife bought for my birthday one year but it will serve as a great replacement for our magnetic games compendium next time we go on holiday.
Like many people these days, my wife and I have thousands of digital photographs and if we want to look through them we tend to use a laptop. In the future I imagine we will use an iPad, simply because it will be quicker and easier to pass around.
Future possibilities…Wolfram Demonstrations?
When I first got my Android phone, I thought that it would be cool if Wolfram Research released an Android version of their free Mathematica Player to allow me to play with Wolfram Demonstrations on the move. I quickly realised that this would be a dumb thing to do, on Android or iPhone, because phone screens are too small. The iPad screen isn’t too small though! Wolfram could make maths VERY hands-on. How about it Wolfram?
$499 dollars for the entry level version. That’s about 315 pounds at the current exchange rate. In a year, I spend more than that on coffee and it’s not particularly good coffee either. At this price point, if my iPad purchase proves to be a disaster then I just won’t care (too much) – I’ll just drink less coffee for a while and give the iPad away. Alternatively I’ll just use it to put my coffee mugs on.
Things I don’t care about regarding the iPad
- The lack of Flash. If I NEED to browse a Flash based website then I’ll just use my laptop, or my Hero.
- 3G. I’ll be using the iPad on my commute most of the time. 3G coverage SUCKS on my particular train route. If I desperately need a net connection RIGHT NOW then I’ll fall back to my phone. So, I’ll buy the wifi-only version. Having wifi was enough back in my Dell Axim days.
- Lack of multi tasking. When I am messing around, you know…just wasting time, I only need to do one thing at a time. Read one book, play one game, watch one movie.
- Lack of control over my computing experience. When I care about having full control over my system, I’ll use Linux or Android. For the stuff I plan on using the iPad for, I just don’t care.
- The price of ebooks. If they are too expensive then I won’t buy them. When it makes more sense to buy the dead-tree version then I will.
- DRM. There are lots of DRM-free outlets for stuff these days. If I think that a DRM version of something will affect me in any way then I won’t buy it. Other times I just won’t care. Who cares if my newspaper has DRM on it? I’ll be throwing it away the instant I’ve finished with it anyway. The same goes for a lot of paperback fiction and episodes of TV shows. My music, movies and textbooks, on the other hand, I care more about. I’ll continue to get my music from Amazon, my movies on DVD and my textbooks will be dead-tree if they aren’t DRM free.
- Lack of camera. I’ve got a webcam on my laptop, I’ve got a 10 megapixel point and shoot camera and I’ve got a half decent camera on my phone. If the iPad had one then yay! but it hasn’t and I don’t need one.
- The name. Who cares what something is called?
- No removable storage. The basic iPad model has 16Gb which will be enough. My phone has removable storage in the form of a micro SD card. It’s 2Gb and isn’t full.
- It’s not Android. Some of my friends say I should wait until there is a good Android tablet and buy that instead. I don’t want to. I’ve got Android on my phone and I like it but I want something a bit different.
- The backlash from my friends. Bring it :)
Taken individually, none of the reasons I’ve given in this article are compelling enough to make me go out and buy an iPad – or any other device for that matter. It’s the steady accumulation of reasons that slowly but surely make the iPad into something that I want. The plain fact of the matter is that I don’t need one – I just want one. The iPad won’t change my life, it’ll just make it very slightly better in a number of small and rather trivial ways – very much like my old Dell Axim x50v PDA did a few years ago. It’s about the same price as the Axim was too.
For me, the iPad is for trivial computing…it’s for stuff that I could do elsewhere but just can’t be bothered because of screen size, boot up time, price…whatever. It’s not a phone replacement, it’s not a laptop replacement, it sure as hell isn’t a Desktop replacement and I don’t want it to be any of these things. It’s cheap, different and could fill lots of little gaps in my digital life. Since I’ll only be using it for trivial stuff, I simply don’t care about the things that it hasn’t got or can’t do because I can do all of those on my other devices anyway.
Yep..I want an iPad and, although I never really knew it, I always have.