I get the utility of hype. If you can work people into a frenzy about a given brand in a crowded marketplace, you sell more of that product. Fair enough.
But after you’ve got that spanking new Ferrari parked in the garage you’ve still got to take your three kids to school, including their sports equipment. After you’ve had that delicious pedicure or manicure, you still need to plant your garden or rake your leaves. And of course there’s all that gizmo-driven exercise equipment in your basement, which you used exactly twice.
Point being: it’s one thing to buy yourself something cool and another thing to use it in your day-to-day existence. Products that require a lot of care and maintenance generally get neither, meaning we tend to avoid those products or destroy them in short order.
Now that all of those how-the-iPad-will-change-the-fabric-of-the-universe-twice posts have faded into the coffers of Steve Jobs, I find myself confronted with a deafening silence on more banal points like utility and usability. If you’ve had an iPad for a while, and you’re using it regularly — or, alternatively, not using it regularly — I think you could corner the market on iPad news by answering any or all of the following:
- What’s it like to lug an iPad around?
It weighs 1.5 pounds. You can talk all you want about how that’s super-light for a laptop, but it’s still 1.5 pounds. The average person is not built to carry a weight like that, let alone manipulate it in one or both hands. (If you think I’m kidding, grab yourself a much-easier-to-carry 1.5 pound barbell and lug it around for a day.)
- Can you use it while you’re holding it?
I’m not saying a paid shill can’t make it look easy. I’m asking about real-world use by real-world people. You’ve got your latte in one hand and your iPad in the other — what gives? Do you find yourself putting the iPad down or resting it on something to use it? Are you constantly scanning your environment for iPad-ready real estate?
- Do you worry about damaging your iPad?
It’s so Apple-cool that keeping it spiffy has to be a top priority for a lot of people. Sure, some ultra-hipster has already scuffed the bezel beyond recognition, but for most people that shine is going to matter for a long time. How careful are you with your iPad? Do you find yourself limiting your iPad’s exposure to beverages, blown debris, direct sunlight or sharp objects? Would you use one on a construction site? (I would think they’d be killer in that setting — particularly as regards 3D plans/specs.)
- Do you ever leave your iPad behind?
What are the criteria by which you decide to lug or not to lug? How often do you leave your iPad parked? Where do you leave it parked? Work? Home? Does the fear that it might be stolen impact your decision to take it with your or to leave it behind?
- Are you dreading having your iPad repaired?
I have no idea what it costs to fix an iPad. What I do know is that Apple doesn’t like people monkeying around with the guts of Apple devices, even when customers own those devices outright (as opposed to licensing them). What will it cost to replace the battery? Is that an easy fix, of do you have to ship it somewhere? Do you even know what the required maintenance is? Do you want to know, or would you prefer not to know?
- Do you find yourself using your iPad less so you can put off any repairs?
We all have clothes we wear sparingly because we want those items to look better longer — even if we get the same total hours of use out of them. Is the iPad like your favorite shirt? Or is it like that one sweatshirt you put on any time you have to crawl under your car or paint a wall?
- What do you actually use your iPad for on a daily basis?
Is there one task that your iPad is better at than any other task? Is your iPad better at something you do every day than any other device? Is there anything you use your iPad for that you couldn’t do using another tool/app? Are there things you could do on the iPad that you still use other tools/apps for? Is that habit, or is there a barrier to the iPad’s utility?
After all the bluster about the iPad, and about how the device itself would reshape every aspect of modern society, the absence of longer-term, real-world reviews only seems to validate the idea that the iPad was brand-driven hype. Unlike the iPod, which suddenly sprouted from everyone’s anatomy when it was released, I don’t see people using the iPad when I venture forth in the world. Not only are they not everywhere, they’re not anywhere.
As to the reason for this deafening silence, I don’t think it’s that hard to explain. If you shell out hundreds of dollars for what, in the end, becomes a fancy conversation piece (or doorstop), you’re probably not going to want to talk about that much.
Instant update: Forgot to mention that I ran across this extensive review last night, after writing the first draft of this post. It’s interesting, but doesn’t seem to answer the above questions. The questions it does answer, however, tend to make me think the iPad is still looking for a reason to be.
— Mark Barrett