iPad for me? Not quite ready yet.

When the iPad was announced, my response was “bulky sorta iPhone/sorta iPod Touch, lotta money, why bother?” But when our company President recently wandered in with his and enthusiastically gave me a demo, I completely changed my tune – I was ready to gulp the entire pitcher of Kool-aid and pull out my credit card….


I took a moment to do the math:

  • $829 for the 64gb 3G model (why settle for anything less?)
  • $39 for a case (don’t kid yourself, anything with a touchscreen needs a decent case)
  • $69 for a Bluetooth keyboard (I’ve already established that I can’t survive with on-screen keyboard alone…)
  • $99 for an extra year of Apple Care (like the iPhone, it still doesn’t have a user-serviceable battery)

Grand Total: $1,036, plus tax. PLUS $30/month for the 3G data service. Hmmm, this definitely exceeds my gotta-have-it-right-this-second threshold. So in a rather uncharacteristic display of self-restraint, I resisted my initial impulse to buy the shiny toy and sat down to consider …

How Exactly Will I Use It?

I came up with the following use cases, the first two based on the big boss’s demo:

Media-rich newspapers. Wow, this is dramatic – color photos, tap here and there to see what’s behind it, slide over here to get a searchable, tappable index. Snazzy. But wait, I don’t read national newspapers now, and having a fancy colorful device isn’t going to change that (any more than joining a gym is going to make me work out). I have no idea when local papers like the Press Democrat will be producing this content (if ever).

Media-rich magazines. Again with the colors and tapping and sliding (or is it ‘gesturing’?). More pizazz. But wait again, what magazines do we read at our house? Time and The Economist? Nope. Clean Run, American Rifleman, Rider, and <insert equally obscure and niche-y magazine name here>. Clean Run has already stated that their small circulation (and even smaller number of iDevice customers) can’t possibly support the investment in ‘rich’ iDevice-ready content.

Watching videos. Yep, I thought this would be the winner. I do watch videos on mobile devices, mostly when I’m traveling in the trailer with the dogs. Currently, I use my MacBook Pro to watch Netflix movies on DVD, and my iPod Nano or MacBook to watch training DVDs that I’ve Handbrake‘d into iTunes. The iPad will clearly excel at the latter, but really, we’re talking about training videos – quality and size aren’t that important and they work quite nicely on the Nano. And what about movies? Oops, no DVD player on the iPad. Streaming? According to reviews I’ve read, streaming only works on Wi-Fi, not worth a hoot on 3G. I’m not surprised, given that the cell networks are already completely overwhelmed by the streaming that is happening now. And in most of the places I travel, there’s no Wi-Fi. Next?

Kindle backup. Rich and I share a Kindle and we both love it. So far, we haven’t had too much usage contention so it’s working out fine. When there is a conflict, I’ve discovered that the Kindle app works very well on my laptop and is even serviceable on my Blackberry. But the iPad was really compelling on this one, with its big screen and longer battery life. However, it won’t replace a second Kindle (which I’m pretty sure is in our future) for two important reasons: even the 10-hour battery life isn’t nearly enough to survive a week at the lake where there is no power source; and because the screen is backlit, it doesn’t work well outside in the sun. Um, never mind.

As It Turns Out, I’m Not Alone

I’m not the first one to take a closer look at personal use cases and reach this conclusion. Here’s a great article I found when I googled “ipad use cases” – The iPad Literally Breaks Every Use Case I Had For It. If you are reading this blog with any interest at all, please, please, take a moment to read Mr. Wilhelm’s article. He reminded me of something I hadn’t even thought of – this fancy device can only run one app at a time and has no tabbed browser capability. Are you kidding me? No multi-tasking? Even Palm switched from the Treo to the Pre. No tabbed browsers? Even the luddites amongst us finally abandoned IE6 for Firefox and (at least) IE7. (Obviously I don’t use an iPhone or I wouldn’t even find this surprising.)

Conclusion (for now, anyway . . . )

Many geek pundits are heralding the iPad as a game-changer and a laptop/netbook-killer. I’m inclined to agree, long term. But it’s not even close to being there yet, at least for me. Time will tell. Perhaps an app will show up that I simply must have. Perhaps the cell carriers will finally beef up their infrastructure to meet the demand. Perhaps the price will fall below my gotta-have-it-right-this-second threshold. Perhaps they’ll introduce a multi-tasking version of the OS, or at least a tabbed browser. I’ll wait and see. And when my friends approach me for my geek opinion, my answer will be “Validate your actual use cases before you decide and don’t get sucked in by the ‘Shiny!’ factor alone.”

One Response to iPad for me? Not quite ready yet.

  1. Gwen Evans says:

    Thank you, Holly. Once again you have helped.

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