Do we still need iPads?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.
Alex Lindsay: I find that with the larger phone I don’t use my iPad that often. I just noticed that anecdotally I don’t use it as often. I use my phone or I use my computer but I find that the iPad in general, the interface itself - we’re not taking full advantage of it.

I’m thinking of getting a Microsoft Surface specifically because there’s a lot things that every time I see the commercial I’m like that’s what I want to do. You know that’s what I want, I want to be able to do that. I’m probably in the next week or two buying a Surface just so I can do those things when I need to, rather than continually waiting for Apple to finally put touch on my laptop.

Andy Ihnatko: I’m in sort of a weird position because I have explicitly set aside this year some money to buy a new iPad. The one that I actually own is a third generation iPad, and it’s working just fine, and I find myself thinking a lot of the things you’ve been thinking, Alex, which is that if I’m going to buy one to use the way I used to use my iPad 3, and if I’m going to be spending $800 for an iPad, what else can I buy for $800? And the Surface 3 is actually very very good. I don’t think it’s suitable for my needs right now. But if Microsoft finds the car keys on Windows 10 and finds a way to make it really relevant, that could really change a great deal.

[The 13” MacBook Pro] is not as light as an iPad, but now it’s light enough — the battery doesn’t last as long as an iPad, but it lasts long enough. Frankly, using an iPad as a laptop replacement is enough of a pain in the butt that I’m willing to sacrifice those things and take a 13” notebook along with me.

So there’s a lot of moving parts and this is going to be an interesting year for the future of the iPad.

This is something we discussed a bit on last Sunday's podcast. And it seems like a lot of people I talk to right now aren't really sure how to get the most of out their iPads. 

Mine mostly stays at home. It's a glorified newspaper. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it also falls short of the role I imagined the iPad would play back in 2010 when it was first announced.

At its best, technology solves widely felt pain points. The initial promise of the laptop was that it allowed road warriors to get real work done while traveling, the iPhone solves a gazillion different pain points for a gazillion different demographics, and the Apple Watch will likely make mobile computing interactions far more convenient than we ever imagined*. 

To be fair, the iPad does solve quite a few convenience issues. It is probably the single best device for sitting on the couch and reading the NYTimes or watching YouTube. It's also not bad at responding to a decent amount of email - but if only if you purchase a third party keyboard and tote that around as well. And, finally, it has what I'll call "tossibility" - one doesn't worry about tossing it into a briefcase, backpack or gym bag and running around town with it. But is that worth the $800 price of admission? 

And that's the problem, at $800 it is still pretty lousy at getting work done. I don't work with large data sets or hundred page documents, but I do work with budget spreadsheets and contracts that are roughly five to ten pages in length. And I couldn't imagine trying to use my iPad to create or seriously edit these documents. 

One question I've been asking myself, and I think a lot of consumers are also asking, is how many and which devices do we need? I suppose there's a world in which the answer is four: pc (desktop or laptop), smart phone, tablet and watch*. 

Some futurists (and yours truly) predict that we're heading towards a day when everything is screens and this kind of device differentiation will be meaningless. Your tables, walls, desk, fridge, etc, will all be screens and you'll pretty much be able to look anywhere to interact with a computer. 

I don't doubt that day is coming, but let's look at the more immediate future. My hunch is that most people will want three devices in an ideal world: smart phone, tablet and watch. Power users, and even semi-power users like me, will likely still want four for the near future. But both groups are going to be looking at the tablet to do more of the heavy lifting to justify its cost. 

I suppose the rumored 12" MacBook Air could solve some of the pain points that the iPad can't yet address, but then I look at what Microsoft has done with Surface 3 and I think, just like Alex and Andy, that's kind of what I need. It has "tossibility", gets real work done and then, at the end of the day, the keyboard screen cover can be removed to read the newspaper on the couch.  

Now, if only it ran iOS.

*We can debate wearables another time, and I'm willing to fall on my sword if I'm wrong, but I do think it's only a matter of time before watches replace pretty much everything you're already carrying everyday: money, credit cards and keys most obviously.