Why I’m going to buy an iPad

February 4th, 2010 | Categories: iPhone, walking randomly | Tags:

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.

Apple iPad

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?

The price

$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 :)

Drip,Drip,Drip,Drip…want one!

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.

  1. Ian Cottam
    February 4th, 2010 at 18:50
    Reply | Quote | #1

    You know _I_ don’t need one :-)
    I expect as soon as I play with one with a few nice apps that appeal to me, I’ll buy one. My wife is a Mac hater like you, but for different reasons, and she is thinking of getting one.

    There is a lot to be said for the cheapest model, which is what I will likely get too, assuming it doesn’t turn into £550 by the time they announce it.

  2. February 4th, 2010 at 18:54
    Reply | Quote | #2

    Hi Ian

    Well you do have all of Apple’s other products don’t you…gotta catch them all ;)


  3. February 4th, 2010 at 19:06
    Reply | Quote | #3


    Why would you never buy a Mac?

    Is it Price?! Quality?! Speed?! Operating System?! …?



  4. February 4th, 2010 at 19:24
    Reply | Quote | #4

    We’d never say “Apple are evil” in America. We’d say Apple IS evil because we treat composite nouns as singular. :)

  5. Ian Cottam
    February 4th, 2010 at 19:30
    Reply | Quote | #5

    ps: don’t forget to get HE Discount, which should be available online or in the Apple Stores. I only mention this as you don’t buy much from Apple.

  6. Anthony Taylor
    February 4th, 2010 at 21:58
    Reply | Quote | #6

    It does look tempting doesn’t it? I may get one once I see yours…. I love the idea of reading the o’reilly books all in one place. Naturally, if you mention this in the office I will deny it ;-)

    On the otherhand Archos are releasing their android tablet soon for £150 which Id want to check out before I decide. I suppose the beauty of android is that they’re like buses… they all arrive at the same time, so one is bound to meet my requirements, whereas apple only have the one device.

  7. smartass
    February 4th, 2010 at 22:54
    Reply | Quote | #7

    Maybe you should spend the extra money on paying more for better coffee.

  8. February 4th, 2010 at 22:57
    Reply | Quote | #8

    @sander I’m a Linux man through and through and that is unlikely to ever change. I do think that Macs are overpriced but I also dislike Apple’s general control-freak tendencies. For a device like the iPad it won’t bother me too much but in a laptop…..it would drive me crazy.

    @John Suddenly I am unsure of myself. Is ‘Apple is evil’ correct in the UK or have I made a grammatical faux pas? Any references?

  9. Ian Cottam
    February 5th, 2010 at 09:20
    Reply | Quote | #9

    Composite things like companies are plural in English and singular in American English.
    So your usage is fine.

  10. GG
    February 5th, 2010 at 12:56

    I suppose it has a pdf viewer, does it also have djvu, doc, xls, ppt viewers?

    I believe the price of ipads (like the iphones) in europe will be higher than the states.

  11. February 5th, 2010 at 13:12

    @GG No idea if it supports the other formats. Does it matter though? Just export them to pdf on another machine – job done.

  12. Ian Cottam
    February 5th, 2010 at 13:44

    @GG just looked at my files in my dropbox account via my iPhone: I can view all the MS Office documents fine. I’m not sure what djvu is though. So, assuming it is true that if it works on the iPhone it will work on the iPad, we should be fine.

  13. Ian Cottam
    February 5th, 2010 at 13:49

    “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”

    I know tons of geeks –even Linux geeks– that have Macs, particularly Macbooks.
    I bet there are a million people who came through a UNIX (or more recently Linux) culture that have Macbooks.

  14. February 5th, 2010 at 13:56

    @Ian Putting my comments together like that takes them out of context somewhat. I said

    “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.”

    The statement

    “I would never buy a Mac, not in a million years” is separate.

    Linux users bash Mac/Windows users.
    Mac users bash Linux/Windows users.

    So, when a Mac user and I are engaging in a little verbal sparring over a pint or two we usually put aside our differences and go for Windows instead :) Maybe I’m mellowing in my old age though because I quite like Windows 7!

    You are right – many Linux users have gone the way of the Mac recently. I’ll never be one of them though (at least, not with my OWN money).


  15. GG
    February 5th, 2010 at 14:22

    It’s so damn beautiful you could hang it on the wall of your living room as a frame.

    When it will have multitasking capabilities, thanks to blutooth/wifi, it could be used as a universal home controller, control/set/see house temperatures, turn on-off devices/lights, listen to music etc!

    This way my wife will not shout at me because I fitted an industrial touchscreen computer in our living room…

  16. February 5th, 2010 at 14:48

    @GG I know what you mean – so much nicer than all of the cheap and nasty digital photo frames on offer and more useful too. If I had enough money, I’d buy several to dot around the house.

    One application that has just sprung to mind is an interactive calendar. Maybe I could share my google calendar with my wife who could access it on an iPad hanging on the kitchen wall near the phone. When she adds a social arrangement to it then it will automagically be synced with my Android phone. No more double-bookings…ever :)

  17. Ian Cottam
    February 5th, 2010 at 14:56

    Apologies for the out of context: I think I misread or mis-parsed your original (as you point out). I too quite like Windows 7: what is the world coming to?

  18. February 6th, 2010 at 15:22

    @Mike Why do you like windows 7? they basically only changed the taskbar…Everything is pretty much the same (compared to vista) ?!

  19. February 8th, 2010 at 10:34

    @Sander I never used Vista since it was a bit crappy – always stuck to XP for those times that I had to use Windows. Windows 7 is Vista ‘done right’ as far as I am concerned.

  20. Joshua Andersen
    February 9th, 2010 at 22:56

    <early adopter warning> here </early adopter warning>

  21. Ian Cottam
    February 11th, 2010 at 19:26

    We may have the interesting situation on launch in the UK that the iBook store is not ready — I think they have said “to come” in UK — but that you can download Kindle for the iPhone (assuming all such apps still work on the iPad, etc etc), and get all your books from Amazon rather than Apple.

  22. March 2nd, 2010 at 10:31

    You might want to hang fire for a year or two while Apple works out the kinks from the iPad. I was amazed that iPhone didn’t have a search facility for all documents and data across until quite some time had passed after the initial release. This was a feature of the original Newton, so it wasn’t as if they had to conceive the idea for the first time.

    For me a lot will hinge on the new productivity apps and PIMs being developed for it. It will be interesting to see if the iPhone versions successfully scale to the new screen real estate. By successfully, I mean how they take advantage of the additional real estate available to them, add greater value.

    It will be interesting to see how people find the whole ergonomic experience of inputing bulk text on the iPad. Being flat, I wonder about whether there will be added neck and shoulder strain from leaning over the iPad while it’s on a flat surface. Not everyone is going to carry the dock around with them. This wouldn’t quite be the same problem if they supported HWR in some way. Then one hand could hold the iPad and the other could write with a pen. Maybe somebody’s going to come up with a one-handed (chorded?) keyboard so that you can type just as quickly as a two-handed typist, but with the other hand supporting the iPad. People have tried it with hardboards but not AFAIK on softboards.

  23. Mark
    March 24th, 2010 at 16:05

    I’m looking forward you put some comments on the Google Nexus One.

  24. March 24th, 2010 at 16:41

    Hi Mark

    I’d love to. However, I don’t have a Nexus one and am unlikely to buy one because the contract on my HTC Hero has around 12 months left on it. If someone wanted to lend/buy me a Nexus One then I’ll happily write a review ;)


  25. May 6th, 2010 at 13:18

    Mike, I’m the exact opposite of you: I’m an Apple diehard and absolutely swear by my Macbook Pro (work), iMac (home), and iPod Touch (everywhere)… but I’ve been a skeptic about the iPad from day 1. My main issue is that I prefer the small form factor of the iPod Touch and the iPad didn’t seem to provide anything I didn’t already have that would offset the larger size.

    But… now, the more I see these iPads and hear about them, the more I’m thinking I want one too, for “trivial computing” as you coined it. That would be gaming, light office-oriented work, photos and video, and web browsing — especially on the go, or when I’m traveling to a conference or on vacation with the wife and kids. With more and more services moving from Flash to HTML5 the iPad is beginning to make more sense. I’m more likely to wait until the second generation comes around, but you never know.