Essays on Technology and Culture

Whether iPad

Another new batch of iPads, another cycle of tech pundits determining what these new iPads—and their discounted, previous model brethren—mean for Apple and its customers. In short, Apple’s going to make a buttload of money. I’m more interested in what the iPad means for myself as an iPad owner, and my plans to upgrade. I have a 3rd Generation iPad, the first model with the Retina Screen, and the one that many describe as compromised. It’s thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, and it does get pretty warm at times. On top of that, the A5X processor is taxed enough by iOS 8 that my iPad now lags on simple tasks.

When I bought my iPad, the plan was to use it as a test bed for retina web graphics. It served that role well when redesigning Sanspoint. It replaced my Kindle for reading as the Retina display was so much easier on the eyes than my old Kindle Keyboard. Though after realizing the effect the blue light was having on my eyes when I read at night, I switched to a Kindle Paperwhite for most reading. That left it as a portable writing device, but that ended when I stopped going to my weekly writing group. I stopped attending that, because it was a pain in the butt to get from work, to the gym, to 62nd and Broadway. Also a pain in the shoulder: a bag of workout clothes, an iPad 3, and a bluetooth keyboard were heavy.

So, my iPad stays at home for the most part. I could try doing what Ben Brooks does, with keeping my iPad open on my desk to take notes, but I just don’t work that way. If I’m going to keep something on my desk to take notes, I’d prefer a paper notebook. Less friction, and less worry about battery. I don’t like using my iPad for pure content consumption, either. For videos, I have my giant monitor hooked up to my MacBook Pro. For books, there’s the Kindle. I can read comics and RSS feeds on my iPad, but ComiXology is a chore to use since the Amazon acquisition, and I can read RSS anywhere.

What keeps me from using my iPad for all these things? Friction. I’ve spent over half my life with a keyboard and mouse, tethered to a desk. I rolled with a desktop and laptop setup for a while in college: taking my iBook G4 to class, while my Mac mini sat on my desk. Before that, I did the same thing with a custom-built PC, and a school-supplied ThinkPad. Those were the days. I could do that with my iPad. It sure weighs less than my iBook did. Problem is, I have a computer on my desk at work. It’s a crappy Dell laptop, but it’s still a computer. There’s little I can do on my iPad at work that I can’t also do with the computer, and now that I’m using Trello to manage my work tasks, I don’t have to use my iPad as a separate task manager—and I don’t know what else I’d use it for at work.

Which brings me back to those new iPad models. I do use my iPad 3 enough that its iOS 8 related lag has become a problem. My plan was to pick up a new iPad mini after the holidays, and see if the smaller size and lighter weight were enough to get me to use it more. If I found the size of the mini to be more of a detriment, I could just take it back to the store and get an Air. Apple’s decision to give up parity between the mini and the Air this cycle has thrown a wrench in this plan, albeit a small one. The power of the iPad Air 2 excites me, both in terms of processing, and the extra gig of memory it has over previous models. But, will I use it? I just know it’s good for future-proofing. I might still get an iPad mini 3, though is the extra $100 for TouchID worth it? [1]

The most important question is whether I really need an iPad at all. Perhaps, I should change my plan. Instead of buying an iPad mini, and exchanging it for an iPad Air, I should buy an iPad mini and see if the size and weight issues are really what keep me from using an iPad. If that’s the issue, then I can comfortably roll with the mini until its limitations become obvious. If the iPad mini ends up just staying at home, with its Smart Cover closed, except for the occasional game of Threes!, or whenever I remember there’s a new issue of Sex Criminals… well, that’s what Gazelle is for.

  1. Actually, that’s a trick question. Once you’ve used TouchID to open 1Password in Safari on your iPhone, you’ll never want to live without it.  ↩