When I bought my first iPad, it was $400 and changed my life.
It could go all day on a single charge. I could carry all my teaching materials—books, music, movies, everything—on one clipboard-sized device. I read on it, watched movies, played games. It truly was the ‘laptop replacement’ I always wanted—a do-it-all device that was light, beautiful and went all day on a single charge.
Now, here we are, a half-decade and change later, and…well, for the first time, I find myself wondering whether I would replace my iPad if something happened to it.
A new iPad Air 2, not even the latest model, goes for $499 CAD on Apple Canada—more, even, than the first one I bought all those years ago.
Even a new iPad Mini is almost $350. That’s a lot of money for something that, more than ever, is a want and not a need. So, what’s changed? Why is an iPad not worth it anymore? For me, there have been a few sea changes.
1) In the Cloud, you can access content everywhere. This has been the first big change. I used to carry my iPad around with me because I stored my content locally. Ten CDs worth of music, all on my one device! And now, every classroom I teach in is equipped with a laptop and SMARTboard. Teachers are not using CDs anymore. They are not using local music files ripped from a CD. All of that stuff is on YouTube now, and you can project it into the giant ‘tablet’ that’s mounted on the wall.
2) For most real work, you still need a keyboard. Sad, but true. For the kind of work I do, which is mostly writing and editing, with the nod to page layout when I am making teaching books, I still need a mouse and a keyboard. I did have a keyboard which was compatible with my iPad. I still do have it, actually. But it added on another hundred bucks to the setup. My netbook was a half the cost, came with the keyboard built in, is much pleasanter to work on, and is small enough and light enough to have about the same form factor for carrying around as the iPad plus keyboard did. And I have money left over to buy a book-sized tablet if I want something small and cute to read on.
3) The form factor is wrong for a book reader. When I was still doing actual work on the iPad, I liked having the full-sized screen. But now that I’m not, I’m finding the full-size tablet to be a little much for my leisure tasks. I want to read ebooks, check Facebook and look at YouTube videos while I’m lying on the couch, and that’s pretty much it. I appreciate that they have made the iPad fairly light and sleek. But I am finding, especially now that I am in the later stage of my pregnancy, that it isn’t comfortable to lie on the couch with it. It’s too cumbersome to hold it one-handed, and when I try and rest it on my lap, it slides onto my tummy and pokes. A seven-inch Android I can hold in one hand is much easier.
4) Cross-platform compatibility has improved tremendously. Let’s face it: other people make nice stuff too these days. And advances on the software side have made them not all that different to use than the iPad is. I don’t buy indie apps anymore; I got burned too many times by one-guy developers who never updated, and then one day the app stopped working and my money was gone. So when I do buy an app, it’s from a bigger company. And all of them have Android versions of the apps I use on iOS. Many of them—Kindle, Twitter, OneNote, Facebook—are free. I’ve played on both the Fire tablet and the Beloved’s pure Android one, and once I got my homescreen set up the way I wanted it, the various tablets were virtually indistinguishable. And the cheapest Android device we have (the Fire tablet) is $350 cheaper than the iPad is.
5) The days of app-everything are over. The Beloved’s last rationale for ‘I would buy an iPad again’ was, ‘What about the children?’ ‘There are more apps on the Apple store,’ he declared the other day. ‘And for a kid, more is better.’ Is it, though? We know two kids who love their iPads. The map-obsessed five-year-old spends 90 percent of his device time playing in Google Earth, with a little bit of kiddie app usage on car trips. The three-year-old spends most of her device time watching Barbie videos on YouTube. You can’t tell me they couldn’t do either of those things on a much cheaper device than an iPad. And, as for the ‘more apps’ thing, well, I’m not sure I’d really want to encourage that, you know? I’d be happy with having a curated selection of appropriate stuff I install for them, along with the YouTube Kids app and perhaps a book reader. I’m not sure I really want them spending all their time on ‘more apps’ as a thing.
We’ll keep the iPad for now, primarily because we have a relative we speak to often who is very attached to the Facetime app. But when it goes, I’d be interested to see if we can convert him to Skype instead. An iPad is too expensive to buy just for Facetime. And if I’m not using it to actually do any work, I’d rather have a book-sized device than a work-sized one. I know the iPad Mini would meet that need, and capably. But the same experience can be had for much, much less money. So, is an iPad still worth it? No. I don’t think is.