I write a lot in this blog about ways to save money and live frugally. However, I do have to admit that I have a weakness for technological gadgets (this is one area where analysis paralysis actually works in my favor by stopping me from buying a lot of things I’m tempted to buy). Yet despite this, I’ve never bought an iPad or one of its many would-be competitors. Frankly, I just don’t get it.
Like everyone else, I thought the iPad seemed “magical” when it first came out. In fact, I still do. I like the idea of it in theory, but I just can’t see where it would fit into my actual life.
First, I agree with Mark Zuckerberg that the iPad is not “mobile.” I’m sorry but the iPad and even the smaller 7” Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 are still too big for me to carry around everywhere I go the way I do with my smart phone. And since I’ll have my smart phone, I don’t really need one of these extra devices to check email, see the latest headlines on Google Reader, get directions, or take a photo or video while I’m on the go. (Many tablets, including the Amazon Fire and the Google Nexus 7, don’t even have 3G connectivity so their “mobility” is fairly limited. Of course, for those that do, you’d have to pay for the extra data plan.)
Granted, there are times when I’m on a longer trip and have a bag that I could fit a tablet into. The problem is that since none of these devices seem capable of fully replacing my laptop for work purposes (that might change with the professional version of Microsoft’s Surface tablet), I would need to pack (and unpack at the airport) both computers. All of a sudden, even the smallest one seems too big since it’s additional weight and space for something that I don’t really need. I’d rather just have a lighter, thinner laptop with a longer battery life like a Macbook Air or one of its ultrabook wannabes.
Many iPad fans say that while they’re not the best for content production (I’d hate to be typing this blog post on a touch screen for example), they’re supposed to be great for content consumption like watching movies and surfing the web, both of which I spend enough time doing to perhaps make it worthwhile if that were true. But I still like having a keyboard when I’m typing a URL , search terms, or an email or Facebook comment and I would argue that it takes less effort to move your finger across a touch pad then to move your whole hand across a touch screen. Even when passively watching a movie, I prefer how a laptop keeps the screen in place instead of having me having to hold a tablet with one or more hands. Yes, these are small things but I still haven’t found any benefits big enough to outweigh them.
Finally, while the iPad’s starting price of about $500 would be a bargain as a laptop replacement, unfortunately this expense is generally on top of whatever else you spend on computers. It also tends to be a recurring one since the constant advances in technology and features make your old iPad look obsolete after a couple of years. To give you an idea of the true cost, if you invested that $500 every couple of years (not including whatever you spend on accessories or a data plan), at a conservative 6% rate of return, you’d have over $20k after 30 years.
Having said all this, I’m sure there are people who use and love their Kindles and iPads (my boss is one of them). I can certainly imagine situations where they could come in handy, especially for anyone needing a computer while on their feet. Examples would be a doctor using one to look up patient records or a political campaign staffer collecting voter contact info at a rally. There are valid uses for them.
My point is to ignore the hype and don’t buy one just “because everyone else is.” (This goes for any purchase.) Instead, make sure that it will really serve a function for you that your smart phone and laptop don’t. Otherwise, as magical as it may be, it’s just an expensive toy.
Disagree? Have at it in the comments below…