If you’re not one of the 55 million people who already bought an iPad or iPad 2, you might be thinking of finally giving in and picking up Apple’s sliver of tech wizardry. All the cool kids have them, everyone goes on and on about how great they are, and it sure would be good not to have to boot up the PC every time you wanted a weather report.
There are, of course, many compelling reasons for owning an iPad – and we’ll detail these in our “Why You Need an iPad” companion piece next week – but in the mean time, don’t crack! There are plenty of reasons not to own an iPad, and here are ten of the best:
10. There are cheaper, more powerful notebooks
Many believe that the age of the conventional desktop PC is over. While the iPad is certainly a significant ‘post-PC’ product, the fact is, if you spend $500–1000 on a proper notebook PC, you’ll get a device that’s more powerful and more flexible than the iPad. Sure, you sacrifice some degree of portability, but maybe that’s worth it for a full keyboard, more processing power, and expandable storage.
The PC remains the internet’s most capable interface, and until tablets like the iPad get seriously cheap – $300 or less – it’s still worth shopping around.
9. A bit small to watch movies, a bit big to listen to music
Apple introduced the iPad as a ‘third device’ that fits between the small-screed ultra-portable iPod Touch/iPhone and the larger-screened MacBook notebooks. Traditionally, you used the pocket-sized iPod for music, and the full-sized notebook for watching movies.
When it comes to AV, the iPad fits rather awkwardly between the traditional devices. It’s a pain to haul around if you just want to use it for music, and would look ridiculous attached to an iPod dock – assuming it would even fit into one.
Meanwhile, watching movies on the iPad isn’t ideal either. On the train, sure it’s better than watching video on your phone. But that 4:3 screen means there’s no modern film or TV show that fills the whole display – you get black bars unless you zoom-in and crop out some of the video, or enjoy watching retro 4:3 TV or inferior “chopped” movies from the ’80s…
8. Max 64GB of storage doesn’t seem like a lot
The iPad uses solid-state chips to store its data, and that’s great for reliability, durability and battery life. But flash memory – the tech it uses – is still expensive. The top model iPad 2 – at around $950 – has just 64 gigabytes of storage. Spend a grand on a notebook and you can expect as much as 750 GB of hard drive space.
Think 64 GB is more than enough? Consider that high definition movies run to a couple of GB each. And if you have good headphones you’ll be encoding your music in lossless or uncompressed formats – and that means albums up to a gigabyte each. If you want to store a serious music collection, 64 GB can fill up pretty quickly.
What’s more, you only get 64 GB on the most expensive model of iPad 2. For anyone on a budget, you might need to get by with as little as 16 GB. Apps can take up several hundred megabytes, and if you subscribe to digital magazines, you’ll need several gigabytes to hold your back issues.
It all adds up, and storage capacity is an area where PCs still have a big edge over tablets like the iPad.
7. Latest smartphones make the iPad’s screen seem unimpressive
Know anyone with a first-generation iPod Touch? Get them to show you the screen – compared to modern screens, it’s blocky and pixelated, horrible really. Point is, display technology advances quickly, and the iPad’s 1024 x 768 display is starting to get long in the tooth. In fact there’s already technology out today on smartphones that makes it look positively retro.
Let’s start with Apple’s own, and technically impressive, iPhone Retina Display. It doesn’t have more pixels than the iPad (just 640 x 960), but it mashes them down on to a 3.5 inch screen, which means a pixel density of 325 pixels-per-inch – that’s better than newspaper print. The iPad has a density of 132 PPI, the lowest of Apple’s current portable devices.
What about raw pixels then? Well there’s the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with 1280 x 720, on a 4.65 inch display, and other smartphone manufacturers doing the same. And many Android tablets, with their 16:9 displays, offer more pixels and an ideal screen “shape” than the iPad – at least when it comes to displaying movies. On the other hand, a 16:9 tablet display mean a longer device relative to its height, which has its own drawbacks.
Higher PPI and more pixels mean better image quality. And who will come out with the first portable 1080p device? The fight is on.
6. Battery life isn’t as good as you think
This is a bit of a contentious claim on our part, because the iPad 2 scores way ahead of the competition when it comes to tablet stamina. Apple touts a 10 hour battery life, and yes an iPad battery CAN last 10 hours… if you use it the right way.
Stick to web-surfing static pages, reading books and magazines, and using apps without much animation and sound, and you’ll get 10 hours. Listening to music too.
But as soon as you start playing 3D games or watch movies, well the battery life drops back down into that 3-5 hour band that most notebook PCs can hit these days.
Yes, overall the iPad’s battery life is better than your average notebook, but of course like all Apple products you can’t swap that battery out for a replacement.
5. Dedicated e-readers are easier on the eyes
Apple loves to play up the iPad’s abilities as an e-reader, for books and magazines. And it works, if you’re a fan of hardcovers or trade paperbacks – that is to say, large-sized and colour publications.
But it’s still a backlit screen, and for people who want a dedicated e-reader, this is not an ideal technology for reading tens of thousands of words. The glow puts strain on the eyes – just compare it to the reflective e-ink used in readers like the Kindle.
The backlit screen is also the iPad’s weakness when it comes to battery life. Dedicated e-readers measure their battery life in days, even weeks, but even reading a book you’ll only get a matter of hours from the iPad and other backlit screen-based tablets.
4. Can’t use a mouse with it
You might think this is a little thing, but actually it’s one of the most irritating Apple-imposed restrictions on the iPad’s functionality. You see, it’s perfectly possible to pair a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad, prop it up on the stand, and type away like it’s a netbook with a very flexible typing position.
But if you want to highlight text, copy and paste, scroll through your document, select cells in a spreadsheet or whatever, you have to lift your hand off the desk, reach forward and tap the screen. That’s actually pretty ergonomically terrible, and a real pain.
What’s more, the mouse is superior to touch-control for productivity because it offers scaled movement. Move the mouse fast, the cursor moves a long way. Move it slow, it’s very accurate.
It’s not like the iPad can’t support mouse – users who ‘Jailbreak’ the device enable mouse control, even using Apple’s own mouse! It’s a choice Apple has made, another example of the company thinking it knows best when it comes to how you choose to use your tablet.
3. It’s mostly play, and not much work
The way Apple locks out mouse control has an impact on using the iPad as a work tool. Indeed, the iPad is very much positioned as a recreational device – something for you to relax with. You’ve probably heard people saying that the iPad is a content ‘consumption’ device, not a content ‘creation’ device, and it’s hard to argue with that.
Apple’s ads showing musicians creating tracks with GarageBand and people editing home movies they shot with the iPad’s very modest 0.7MP, 720p rear camera are just that – marketing spin. People who use the iPad to create content are likely just doing it to be ironic… aren’t they?
Anyway, what’s most frustrating is that it would take only a few tweaks to turn the iPad into a very capable work device. A more content ‘creation’ focused interface, including better file control and more inputs and outputs would make it the ultimate in ultraportable computing power.
2. You still need a PC… or a bunch of fiddly accessories
While Apple has cut the thin white USB-powered umbilical to the PC with iOS 5, the iPad is still at its heart quite reliant on your PC-powered core.
It’s much easier to manage various aspects of the iPad with a PC – especially its file management (ie adding and removing apps, music, movies and photos if you don’t have an internet connection handy).
If you really want to live without a PC but still have an iPad, then you need to buy a bunch of fiddly accessories. USB connectors, keyboards, outputs and inputs of various kinds, card readers, the list goes on and the amount of white plastic hanging out the bottom of your super-slim device can get ridiculous.
We get that Apple wants the iPad to be simple, foolproof even, but the company should provide us with a few more options.
1. The iPad 3 is coming… someday
What’s the worst thing about buying an Apple product? Getting an email from Apple two weeks later announcing the new version of the same product – cheaper, more powerful, prettier and cooler.
No matter when you buy an iPad, you know there’s a new version on the way. What will they add? Massive storage capacity? Super-high-resolution display? Proper USB ports? 8MP camera?
Worse than that, your version of the iPad will probably have its price cut.
Of course, we can’t blame Apple for not telling us when new products are due out. Sales of existing stock would just plummet. But it sure is annoying!
This isn’t unique to Apple of course. Continual and rapid upgrades, coupled with price cuts, are a feature of the gadget and CE market, let alone many others. You buy when you can afford to buy – otherwise you’d go crazy trying to pick the optimal moment.
But with Apple, somehow it’s just more aggravating.