iPad Mysteries

I love tech stuff. So naturally I was glued to my laptop when Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s new iPad. That is one beautiful display, judging from what I’ve seen of it from a distance. Some commentators called it an iPhone or iTouch on steroids. Another described it as the iPhone meets a rolling pin.

To my mind, it like what might result if I could detach the screen from my laptop and carry it around with me. A touch screen capability would mean that I really wouldn’t have to use my keyboard at all unless I were doing serious writing. My neighbor Colleen agreed. Colleen just graduated from the graphics arts and design program at Oregon State. Nearly all her work is done on computers. She commented that the ability to draw directly onto the tablet with a stylus would be “sweet.”

But I have a laptop. So does nearly everyone I know. Can I really justify spending $500-$800 for an iPad? What does it do that I can’t do now with what I already have?

Another issue is that I’ve longed for an iPhone for years. The problem is that I like Verizon. I don’t want to switch. If Verizon came out with an iPhone, I’d have one tomorrow. The genius of the iPhone and other smartphones is that they do so many things. Phone. Email. Address book. Messaging. Calendar. Expense Tracker. The list goes on and on. It does it all and does it in one compact, convenient package that you can put in your pocket.

The iPad is big. You won’t carry i around in your pocket. If you get an iPad, think about what else you’ll need. A phone. A keyboard. Perhaps an iPod. (You’re not going to run on the treadmill with an iPad strapped to your arm, are you?) Instead of needing less stuff, you need more stuff. That’s not the way the tech world has been going lately.

What interests me most is the description of the iPad as “Kindle Killer.” Although I’m a passionate fan of the Kindle, I’m also a Mac addict. I’m open to being convinced that the iPad is a better way to read ebooks. So far I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen.

First of all, it’s more expensive. A lot more expensive! A few commentators have pointed out that the cheapest iPad is only $100 more than a Kindle. Yeah, well! Nearly all the Kindle owners I know opt for the basic, smaller model. Right now that’s selling for $250. Considerably less than the iPad!

Apple’s bookstore appears to be setting the basic price for books at $15. It’s $9.99 on Amazon. Also, when you buy a Kindle you pay for your wireless connection up front. The iPad’s connection costs $30 a month, unless you want to rely exclusively on wi-fi.

Some other things to think about: Apple tells us that the iPad’s battery will last about 10 hours. Anyone familiar with computers knows to take that estimate with a large grain of salt. A Kindle, in comparison, has a battery life measured in weeks, as long as you turn off the wireless connection when you’re not using it. I took my Kindle to Africa and only recharged it once. Even then, the battery still had half a charge left. Nobody’s claiming that the iPad will last that long between charges. Color and a backlit display require more power than Kindle’s e-ink.

Another issue is what will it be like to read books on a backlit screen for hours at a time? Nobody’s discussing this, I suspect, because nobody outside of Apple has been able to handle an iPad for long periods of time. We’ll find out in April. I’m skeptical. If we could read novels off backlit screens without eyestrain and headaches, we’d be doing it now. We wouldn’t need the Kindle or the iPad.

There’s a mystery here. When a company launches a new device to challenge an older, successful device, it has to offer something to make the switch worthwhile. Why should I switch from Kindle? The iPad has a better display. Okay, but it also has a much shorter battery life; it’s more expensive up front and over time; the books at the Apple Book Store cost more than the ones on Amazon; it may be harder on my eyes. What’s the advantage? I don’t see it, with or without my glasses.

However, I could be wrong. Way wrong! I’ll just have to wait for April to see.

Meanwhile, what I’d really like to get is an iTouch. But then I keep hearing rumors that Verizon and Apple are going to get together to bring out an iPhone. That’s supposed to happen in June, if it happens at all.

My psychologist friend Mike says, “You are a mighty hunter, but don’t forget to shoot the arrow.” That’s the hard part. Reminds me of an old song by The Loving Spoonful (remember them?), “Did you ever have to finally decide?/Say as to one and let the other one ride…”

Decisions, decisions. More later.

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