Why I have not bought an iPad

Published • 15 Feb 2011

Besides the cost or more specifically the opportunity cost (saving that money, grabbing this elegant Victorian military coat for the upcoming winter), or a list of other goodies and necessities), there a range of reasons why I haven’t purchased an iPad (or other tablet for that matter).

This might read as a scathing assessment, but it is really more a personal reality check after having fantasized about the iPad so much recently.

Photo of a cut of the Apple device range.

The iPad and a cut of its brothers and sisters from the Apple range. Photo by Mehrad.HM, licensed CC-NC-SA 2.0.

To me the iPad sits between a smartphone and a laptop. Both are established devices catering for a fairly developed (and changing) list of tasks and use cases. Let’s take a look: * the iPad definitely does some things better than a smartphone, but; * it’s bigger (doesn’t fit into your jeans pocket), and vitally, doesn’t do telephony; * the iPhone does an OK job for things an iPad does pretty well (and makes calls), * and for tasks the tablet does pretty well, my MacBook does even better; * thus where I need mobility, I stick to the iPhone, * and when I know I need to get proper work done, I take the laptop.

Exploring the use cases

To explain this thinking I’ll run through a few use cases.


I listen to music all the time. I tune into podcasts a lot too, and I also watch YouTube videos and films fairly regularly. I’ll either be out and about using the iPhone (music, podcasts, and the occasional YouTube video) or at home, using my sound system or my Sennheiser headphones. If I want to watch a film, I’ll watch it on the TV or my laptop with the sound system. Use case for the iPad: none.


If I want to browse the web, it’s typically for a snippet of important information that I need while mobile (e.g. travel time tables), or to pass the time catching up on a few webcomics — both tasks the iPhone is quite fine for. Otherwise I’m in front of my MacBook. Use case for the iPad: next to none.

Taking pictures

I don’t take that many pictures. If I want to take pictures I could use the iPad… oh, wait, nevermind. When I to take photos I’ll either want a quick shot of something for which the iPhone suffices or I’ll want to actually shoot proper pictures, and I’ll bring along my DSLR. I think the iPad actually goes short here: a camera in a mobile device is something most users expect from modern devices and especially Apple devices. Use case for the iPad: it has no camera…, i.e. none.


I find myself reading a lot, particularly for my university courses. When I want to read ebooks or PDFs I take my Kindle 3, which has a better battery life (cheers to the E ink screen) and is comfortable on the eyes over a long period of time (again, the E ink screen). Use case for the iPad: I wouldn’t want to spend $500+ a device that doubles as a mirror; none.

Other considerations

  • no multi-tasking
  • no Adobe Flash;
  • no HDMI out;
  • no widescreen (again something I think users would almost come to expect from Apple, though, granted this was probably a compromise in the product design);
  • a closed application ecosystem;
  • attachable keyboard? — if I had an iPad and the attachable Apple keyboard (for a whopping USD $69) I’d wonder why I didn’t bring my laptop.

Good use cases?

Hard to say. Maybe a nice solid platter to serve appetizers and have a fancy wall paper underneath. Too thin to be a door stop.

Beyond the glorified paperweight, electronic picture frame, or the yuppie coffee table highlight (providing gaming, music, basic browsing, YouTube, around and near the coffee table) I think there are a few good use cases for the iPad. For me the coffee table appliance is attractive, but an incentive to waste my time and when I need to do work my MacBook is just as mobile, and better.

Those aside, there are a few specialized apps for specific industries (e.g. mining, medical, education perhaps, …) for which the iPad is probably great.

The smartphone & laptop market

The smartphone market is becoming more competitive with the entrance of direct iPhone competitors. The existing BlackBerry range and the recent rise of Android phones offer a good range of features that keep prices competitive. Bottom line: you probably need a mobile phone, and smartphones are cheaper than tablets (which generally can’t do telephony).

By a similar accord the entry level laptop or netbook market is also highly competitive. In fact many netbooks are cheaper in price than an iPad (e.g. the Asus EeePC) while a fully-fledged MacBook is only $500 more expensive than the basic iPad model and $170 more expensive than the upper range iPad. Bottom line: most netbooks are cheaper, and a decent laptop is only a tad more expensive.


I prefer using tools that do one or a few things well, and avoid tools that do many things poorly. The iPad remains a tool that does a few things better than my phone, but lacking telephony and the power of a proper laptop it ends up performing many of the tasks required in my use cases poorly: * my iPhone is chiefly a phone, and fulfils a range of smartphone functions quite well; * my Kindle is chiefly a reading device, and it does that perfectly; * my Canon DSLR is… a camera, and shoots pictures perfectly; * and my laptop does just about everything else I need.

Sorry iPad.

For referencing: permalink to this article.