Dear parents: With summer slowly coming to a close, 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" for class and dorm life. And it's likely that your kid has also mentioned needing an iPad. Perhaps you're wondering whether to consider an iPad 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.
1: It's expensive
At its most basic configuration of 16GB of storage with Wi-Fi connectivity, the iPad starts at $499. 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, you can probably find a full-fledged laptop at around that price. It just doesn't make monetary sense to buy an iPad.
2: It's not the best solution for note-taking or editing documents
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 a smartphone, but the iPad's keyboard is a bit awkward. Further, if your kid does manage to struggle through writing an entire term paper on the tablet, editing is another headache completely. Using a fingertip for fine placement of the cursor is next to impossible, and it'll take a few tries to land it in the right place. After several failed attempts, your kid will be wishing for a laptop with a real keyboard and mouse.
3: It's too distracting (games, apps, 4Gs, Web browsing, Twitter, IMs...)
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 the teacher.
4: It's ultra-portable and ultra-droppable
Light and portable means your child will want to take it everywhere. But taking it everywhere means there's a greater chance of dropping and breaking it. In fact some kids 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.
5: What makes it desirable to your kid makes it desirable to criminals
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 available, 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?
6: It's meant for the enjoyment of one person, which means social seclusion
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, camaraderie, and general good-times that are taking place around them?
Got an hour between classes? iPad. Waiting for the shuttle to campus? iPad. Yes, kids 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 a laptop! It's too cumbersome and awkward. (Just like True Blood.)
7: Digital text books are a marvel, but there's no secondary market
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'll be preventing years of backache and possibly a future addiction to painkillers / chiropractors.
After a cursory examination of eBook prices, you'll notice that they're generally cheaper than their printed counterparts. 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.
8: It's a status symbol, plain and simple
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 earnestly tell your kids 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.)
9: It'll already be old technology by the time you buy it
Apple is consistent with the release schedule of its 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.
10: Your kid will want a laptop, too
Yes. You heard that right. If you buy an iPad thinking, "Well, that's that," think again. Since there are situations in which a tablet just doesn't cut it (see above), your kid will come to realize that a full-fledged desktop or laptop is also essential for school. (He or she will probably spring this on you the first week or two into the first semester — you know, right when you'll be thinking the expenditures for the year are over.) Whether it's for paper-writing, Internetting, game-playing, or entertainment-centering, you're looking at a double-dose of device deployment.
If you cave...
By this point, you should have the tools to 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 reading this list, you're still going to get your son / daughter an iPad, try to keep quiet about it. Other parents do not want to battle a kid yelling, "But [INSERT FRIEND'S NAME]'s folks got him one!"
Jeff Somogyi is media editor for dealnews.com