With the release of the new iPad and iPad mini, the subsequent reviews mostly lauding each, and my own likely eventual purchase of a new one, I thought I would accept a challenge posed directly to me by my friend Garrick. Namely, he proposed that I should do a review of my current iPad – a first generation Wifi model with 64GB of storage. The thought being that my take on it, after less than a couple of years of ownership, might help me decide if it is ready for replacement or if it will continue to serve my needs.
When the first iPads came out, they were exciting. It was clear to anyone who used one in those early days that something groundbreaking had arrived. And, while the iPhone has certainly provided a glimpse of what was possible when touch, portability, and a robust application ecosystem were brought together, the iPad took this idea to a whole other level and a much wider audience. The iPad made obvious a present future where a device with all of those qualities, plus added screen size, could replace a PC.
I know I’m not alone when I tell you that, those of us that first bought iPads became quickly mindful of what would happen if we took them out in a public space. Such was the excitement and curiosity surrounding this device. Doing so meant a near constant stream of questions, comments, and interruptions by perfect strangers. They wanted to see it, touch it, try it out, ask a seemingly endless series of questions that, when distilled to a deeper meaning, largely centered around “Will this work for me?”. These folks wanted permission and validation in their desire to buy one for themselves and become part of this brave new post-PC world.
I admit to feeling a little bit smug about my choice to take the first leap. My stated mission, in fact, was to use the iPad as my “main machine” — mostly replacing my aging MacBook. For quite a few months I used my iPad for mostly everything. Even after replacing that MacBook with a MacBook Air, I continued to use my iPad as much as I used that more traditional machine. Heck, I even wrote a book on it. I’m using it to write this post. In times when I need to bring something more than my iPhone with me while leaving for a meeting or other appointment, the iPad remains my first choice.
In fact, every need I hoped the iPad would fulfill it still does — quite well in fact.
Sure, the screen is not as nice as those retina ones all the cool kids seem to rave about. And, the limited memory in this early device means that, with iOS 5, tabs in Mobile Safari sometimes have to refresh as opposed to maintaining the page. Sometimes, an app won’t keep up as quickly with my typing. Some newer apps I can’t run at all. And, of course, Apple is no longer supporting this device at the OS level either.
Yet, so good was this first iPad that the best thing I can say in a single word is this — It’s boring.
Yep. Boring. Which is exactly what a well made tool should, eventually, become.
What I mean is that the best tools should follow the same arc. They should initially be full of excitement. The kind of “OMG-I-Can’t-believe-I-even-deserve-to-own-this-aaarrggghhh!!!!” sort of thrill. The kind that makes strangers come like wise men baring gifts from miles away just to ask you if they can bow to it sort. But, then, as those strangers get such tools of their own and you start to see them everywhere and they become “the thing you use” and the novelty has worn off well… The mark of a great device is that it should just become sort of boring. A tool. One that is reliable. One that you just grab and use when you need it to perform the tasks for which it is built, and that you then put down satisfied that you have it even if you are no longer OMGing every time.
In fact, the less you think about such a device, the more it just is part of life, the better. I don’t think much about the iPad and it never gives me reason to good or bad. We shouldn’t have to think about our devices. We should just use them.
I’ll eventually replace it but, like my iPhone 4, the need is not a pressing one. I know that, for me, it will be like replacing a hammer whose handle has gotten a bit worn due to age and use but still can pound a nail pretty darn good all things considered. In this case, if the job is writing or surfing the web or checking the social network du jour or email or any number of other computing tasks, this iPad is still that kind of tool for me.