Apple’s iPad 2: Conservative, Inconsistent, but I’m Loving it


After all this negativity, you might come to the conclusion that I hate my iPad 2, that I regret plonking down €518.99. While I would come to the exact same conclusion if I arrived at this particular point in someone else’s article, the truth of the matter is that… I’m actually totally in love with my iPad, and I would buy the damn thing all over again.

This contradiction is hard to explain. When the iPad was first announced, I wrote this:

[…] After all these reviews and videos, I’m still not exactly sure why anyone should buy the iPad instead of a MacBook or even a netbook. I don’t see the iPad perform any task better than a notebook/netbook, which makes me wonder: why not just get a laptop right away?

Apple is trying to create a new product category here, and sure, the enthusiasts are all over this thing like ants over honey, but I’m just not convinced you’ll still be using your iPad once the novelty wears off. Again – before I’m accused of being anti-Apple – I haven’t yet used an iPad, so my opinion is effectively worthless. Let me add that while we’re talking iPad now, this more or less applies to any tablet device I’ve seen.

I guess time will tell, and I’m fairly sure time will prove me wrong. At this point, I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t see the magic or revolution – all I see is a big iPod Touch with some added UI elements that come straight from the desktop world.

I guess I’m some kind of clairvoyant, since I’ve indeed been proven wrong – by myself, of all people. I would say that the key question here is the first one: why would you buy an iPad (or any tablet, for that matter), when a laptop can do the same, and more?

The interesting thing here is that I actually bought my iPad as a replacement for my MacBook Air, which someone accidentally wrecked by bumping a remote control onto the display (it was… Weird). I decided to take the plunge, and do something I rarely do: adopt a new technology. I generally wait for the hype to wear off before buying into anything so that it has time to mature (for instance, I refused to use tabbed browsing until Chrome finally did it right), but not this time.

The end result is that I have indeed bought into a product category that simply lacks refinement and needs quite a few years to mature, to come into its own right. This isn’t surprising, actually; the iPad has singlehandedly established a new product category, and despite the lavish praise it’s getting, you can’t expect the first (or even the second) attempt at an entirely new product to be perfect.

Still, the iPad succeeds at something laptops fail at: to integrate seamlessly into everyday life. When you drive a certain route every day (say, to work), you’ll eventually forget you’re actually driving there; you’ll arrive at work and immediately forget how the drive was. It’s become such an integral part of your existence that you no longer have to think about where to go, which exits to take, the route, and so on. Only when something eventful happens (you hit a roadblock, or see a pretty car, whatever) will you remember the specifics of the drive.

To me, a laptop always remained a laptop, a separate device that I specifically picked up to do stuff on the web. It was never an integral part of my day, like, say, my mobile phone has been for years now. The iPad, on the other hand, has, within a few short weeks, become an integral part of my day. I forget I’m using it – despite the shortcomings I listed, which do tend to break the illusion. It’s always here, and when I want to hit the web, I pick it up, check some stuff, and put it down. No matter where I am – on the couch watching TV, in the yard playing with my cats and enjoying some coffee, at friends when everybody is doing stuff, and yes, of course, even while on the toilet.

I originally bought my MacBook Air for specifically this purpose, but it failed where the iPad succeeded. I started doing regular work on my MacBook, which, if you work from home like I do, is not a smart thing to do. I need to keep my professional life and personal life (which take place in the same living room) separate, and the iPad makes that possible where the MacBook didn’t. The MacBook always felt like work and reminded me of it – the iPad, on the other hand, doesn’t. It’s just there.

Forgive me if this sounds incredibly vague, but that’s the way it is. I simply can’t point you to a specific feature and say ‘that is why you should buy a tablet’; it’s the experience as a whole – no matter how unrefined and imperfect it is – that makes it worth buying. It’s not something you can sum up in a slogan.

This explains why I can be so harsh about its shortcomings, while still loving the fact I have one. These devices have major amounts of potential, but if we’re just full of praise all the time, shoving the bad stuff under the carpet, we’ll never reach that potential. This is not anti-Apple; I suspect would’ve written pretty much the same stuff had I bought an Android tablet or the TouchPad (but with a different set of specific annoyances).

The iPad (like other tablets) is too tied to the ‘old world’, trying to shoehorn ideas that work fine in the PC world into a device that is decidedly not a PC. I get the feeling that even Apple itself doesn’t really know in which direction this tablet thing is going, and that it is relying on market feedback to further refine the tablet space, and take it into a direction that fits what we, consumers, want out of this new type of device. We’re essentially beta testers.

That’s why I’m being as harsh as I am. I see the tremendous amount of potential, but if all we do is praise Apple for creating a new market, it will never know what it needs to improve. This new device type is in its infancy, and without criticism, it’s just going to stay where it is now.

To end this review – I get tablets now. Let’s start making them better.


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