The iPad has always been pitched as both a content creation and content consumption device that has ushered in the “Post PC Era.” I purchased an iPad ready to participate in this second coming of technology but ran into a fundamental problem. The iPad is not for content creation – at least not for a writer/student. It may be more than a toy, but it is really just another screen for us to view content, which is not what I needed.
When the iPad was first announced, I was a downright iPad evangelist and even stood in line on release day in 2010 to purchase my iPad with 3G. Many people would ask, “Why do I need that?” I was always there with an answer. At the time, I was a teacher in Washington, DC and spent my days running around and needing to view documents either standing or sitting. If I was in a meeting, I had access to a student’s records. If I was up at the front of the class teaching, I had my lecture notes. My first year of ownership, I was satisfied. If I needed to create content, I had a laptop and a desktop in my classroom. The iPad was about having access to documents and all-day battery life.
In the fall of 2011, I switched life tracks and went back to graduate school. My theory was that I would carry the iPad with me in my bag rather than a laptop (as I had done as a teacher). This is where the iPad betrayed me. There would be many times when I would be running up on hard deadlines and need to add sections to a paper or do some editing. This is a tremendous pain on the iPad screen. The typing experience is slow at best, and I would find myself actively putting off work until I got back to a computer or running around campus searching for a desktop to use.
However, the problem runs deeper than just the lack of a physical keyboard. In academia and many other fields, how a document is formatted is important. You need the right margins, font, footnote style, etc. Since the iPad lacks a real version of Microsoft Office, transitioning between Word and Pages would often lose my formatting or change it slightly. I would load in pages and find the margins were inexplicably changed, or the document now had a different font. To solve this problem, I downloaded Pages to my MacBook Pro and tried writing a paper there. I then loaded it into the iPad for some final editing. Despite claiming to be the same program, the formatting had changed. At that point, I seriously considered hurling my iPad through a window. I honestly felt betrayed by the inherent lie of the device.
I had been told that this is a content creation device – not just a toy. I have plenty of things in my life to distract me from working. It is not often that I need another thing to do that. What I needed was a device that let me get work done. Apple pitched the iPad as such a device, but the typing and the word processing program are worse than I would have gotten with an equivalently priced Netbook (which would have also had similar battery life). I found myself avoiding doing work because it was such an ordeal and not being able to do certain tasks because of how the iPad handled formatting. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Before needing to use an iPad for content creation, I was a believer. Now, my iPad no longer works. I replaced it with an 11’ MacBook Air that I bought used on eBay for the same price as an iPad and have never looked back. I kept my iPad for the times when I travel internationally. I figured the 10 hour battery life would be great for planes and took it with me on an extended trip to Kenya this summer using it some on the plane and as an e-reader. However, on the flight home, there were things that I needed to write and was back in the same situation – wishing that I had my MacBook Air instead. I continued to keep the iPad but never ended up using it. The MacBook Air met any need where I would have previously used an iPad. A couple weeks ago, I went to turn on my iPad after it had sat in a drawer for three months. It didn’t turn on. Turns out, if the battery goes completely dead, it bricks the device. The iPad had betrayed me with its lie of content creation, and in the end, this betrayal killed it because I stopped using it completely. Rest in peace, iPad.