With summer coming slowly to a close, that means back-to-school shopping is in full swing. Your college-bound child is probably in the midst of asking for more and more money to buy the “essentials” they’ll need for class and dorm life. And it’s very likely that they’ve also mentioned needing a device called the “iPad,” a little-touted tablet computer manufactured by a small, independent company called Apple. You then may be wondering if, in this day-and-age, the iPad should be considered instead of a laptop for kids heading off to school.
These crafty kids think they found a perfect time to strike! They’ll come at you with all sorts of “reasons” why the iPad is a “valuable tool” for “learning.” Are you prepared to fight back? Are you armed with the knowledge you need to protect your dollars? You better be, because — as we’ll show you — the iPad just isn’t worth the money for a student.
Here are ten good reasons why:
- It’s Expensive
- It’s Not the Best Solution for Note-Taking or Editing Documents
- It’s Too Distracting (With all the Games, Apps, 4Gs, Web-Browsing, Twitters, and IMs)
- It’s Ultra-Portable and Ultra-Droppable
- What Makes it Desirable to your Kid is What Makes it Desirable to Criminals
- It’s Meant for the Enjoyment of One Person, Which Means Social Seclusion
- Digital Text Books are a Marvel, but There’s No Secondary Market
- It’s a Status Symbol, Plain and Simple
- It’ll Already be Old Technology by the Time You Buy It
- They’ll Also Want a Laptop, Too
The iPad, at its most basic configuration of 16GB of storage with Wi-Fi connectivity, starts at $499. Then, the higher-end models that include 64GB of storage and 3G connectivity will run you $829, with additional per-month rates for wireless plans. Even at the cheaper end of the spectrum, we at dealnews often find full-fledged laptops at around that price. It just doesn’t make monetary sense to buy an iPad.
A virtual keyboard, like the one that pops up on the iPad, doesn’t have any tactile feedback. That’s fine for a quick text on your smartphone, but the iPad’s keyboard is a bit awkward. Further, if you do manage to struggle your way through writing an entire term paper on the tablet, editing is another headache completely. Using your finger tip for fine placement of the cursor is next to impossible, and it’ll take you a few tries to land it where you need it. After several failed attempts, you’ll be wishing you had a laptop with a real keyboard and mouse.
The iTunes App Store boasts that it contains more than 500,000 apps — which is tantamount to more than 500,000 distractions for your child, who’s supposed to be paying attention to his teacher. (Well, 499,998 distractions and two dealnews apps! WINK!)
Light and portable means you’ll want to take it with you — and you will because, well, why not? But taking it everywhere means there’s a greater chance of dropping and breaking it. There will even be more of a chance that your kid will forget, completely, that it’s in their bag and, as kids will, fling their satchel across the room — only to be rewarded with a gut-wrenching *crack*, followed by a cold-sweat-inducing *tinkle* of broken screen glass. Just try forgetting you have a 13-lb. laptop in your bag! You can’t.
Your child’s desire to get an iPad is second only to the desire of a criminal to steal one. Sure, there are security locks you can use, just like the kind you can get for a laptop, but who — especially among the devil-may-care college-age set — really takes the time to a) lug that cable around and b) actually use it?
You want your children to grow up to be personable, extroverted, well-functioning members of polite society, right? So why would you give them a personal entertainment device that all-but-guarantees they can spend every moment of their free time with their nose pointed at a tiny screen, drowning out the revelry, comradery and general good-times that are taking place around them?
Got an hour between classes? iPad. Waiting for the shuttle to campus? iPad. Yes, your child could seclude themselves with a laptop — but not in as many places. Let’s see them try walking down the street watching the latest “True Blood” on their laptop! It’s too cumbersome and awkward. (Just like “True Blood.”)
Your child will make the argument that an iPad can display digital textbooks and, since the device is lighter than a stack of dead-tree tomes, you’d be saving them years of backache and possibly a future addiction to painkillers / chiropractors.
After a cursory examination of eBook prices, you might notice that they’re generally cheaper than their printed counterparts; however, don’t be fooled! There’s no secondary market for digital textbooks. That price you see for the digital version is the only price you’ll get. You can’t buy them used or at a discount, and you can’t sell them back once the semester is over.
Like any gadget, the iPad is a status symbol. Like any Apple gadget, it’s an expensive status symbol. It’s something we’ve been trained by society and lifestyle magazines to want, simply because it’s a luxury — and if we can be the first to have it, somehow, we “win.” To combat this, you can sit your kid down and, being very earnest, tell them that they don’t need things to make them popular with their classmates. Then explain to them that laughing at you, when you’re trying to be serious, isn’t helping their cause.
Be warned, though, that this is a slightly dangerous reason to give your kids for not getting the iPad, as it all but ensures that you can’t buy one for yourself. (Children are really good at pointing out hypocrisy in their elders.)
Apple is very consistent with its release schedule of their devices. Updates come along like clockwork, and our guess is that the iPad is not going to stray from this tried-and-true model. Specifically, the new version of the tablet is surely going to come out sometime in March or April.
Yes. You heard that right. If you buy an iPad for your kid thinking, “Well, that’s that,” think again! Since there are situations in which a tablet just doesn’t cut it (see above), your child will come to realize that they need a full-fledged desktop or laptop for school, too. (Knowing kids, they’ll probably spring this on you the first or second week into their first semester — you know, right when you’ll be thinking the expenditures for the year are over?) Whether it be for paper-writing, Internetting, game-playing, or entertainment-centering, you’re looking at a double-dose of device deployment.
By this point, you should have the tools to totally demolish your child’s hopes and dreams of being the cool kid on campus. That’s fine, because as we think we’ve made clear: The iPad is an accessory — and an expensive one at that. It’s not a “productivity tool” and it’s certainly not a laptop replacement.
But if, after all that, you’re still going to get your son / daughter an iPad, try and keep quiet about it. Other parents do not want to battle a kid yelling, “But [INSERT FRIEND’S NAME] folks got him one!”
Jeff Somogyi, media editor, dealnews.com