Sometimes something is so irreconcilable and close to you that you can't see it for what it really is. I recently had such a revelation regarding a decision I made – one that I have struggled with on the deepest of levels. That decision was to buy an iPad.
I’m not proud of my purchase, and I’m still not committed to it. I have this device – this "magical" and "revolutionary" device – that I just can't fully buy into. That lack of conviction prevents me from completely leveraging it, because I can't justify paying $4.99 to $10.99 or more on wonderful, jaw-dropping, and beautifully executed apps when I'm not sure that I'm going to stay with the iPhone/iPad OS.
Yes, I’m a hypocrite. I have disparaged and mocked the iPad and the Apple phenomenon and those who buy into it, and yet, I’m sleeping with the enemy. I have a device almost as laughably underpowered as the MacBook Air in my very home. But the epiphany – both ironic and bittersweet – is that I wouldn’t have gotten an iPad if I hadn’t previously purchased a Droid.
Did you get that? Were you paying attention? I waited and resisted, unable to sell my soul to AT&T at any cost just for the privilege of having the defacto uber-phone of the decade. I would like to point out here that I despise Verizon and their Gordon Gekko philosophy of charging you twice for everything they already make you pay too much for.
Despite that, I'd rather pay Verizon for an unlimited data plan and then pay them to tether that "unlimited" plan to my netbook while enduring an "unlimited" cap of 5GB for all eternity than endure the limited coverage and horrible customer service that has become the hallmark of AT&T Wireless.
So, after two years of struggling with a XV6800 Win Mobile 6.1 phone and watching Verizon fumble attempt after attempt at introducing the next "iPhone Killer," when the Motorola Droid finally arrived, I was a day-one purchaser.
While the Droid wasn't an iPhone, it was pretty darned good. In fact, it was so good that I found that my netbook(s) were falling into disuse. I would sit next to my wife as she watched CSI, Lost, and Andrew Zimmerman eat Tree Worms in New Guinea, with my Droid in hand, reading e-books, surfing the web, and updating my status on Facebook and Twitter.
I thought the Droid was incredible but lacking in some areas. Mostly, it was just too small. I was gifted with beyond perfect vision. Everyone knows 20/20 is the "best" vision you can have. But 20/20 rates your ability to read the smallest line on the wall chart from a certain distance away. I could read that with pink eye and a scratched retina from 20 feet behind the line.
When I turned age 34 or 35, I started noticing that I couldn't focus on a single star. I would see two, and I couldn't reconcile them. I knew that I was looking at a single star, but I also couldn’t deny that I was seeing two. This is called getting old, and it sucks – especially when you're trying to read the beautiful, high-resolution, but infinitesimally small screen of a Motorola Droid and you're 40 years old.
I needed a device with a larger screen. I tried to wait. I delayed, hoped, and prayed for something with Android to get to market. I even resigned myself to the fact that I would be giving up Tony Hawk, Need for Speed, and even Assassin's Creed with the dream that I would have an integrated webcam, an SD slot, a couple of USB ports, and a bunch of "almost as good" Linux-like knock-off titles. But I couldn't even get that much.
Along that time, I lost my 80GB iPod 80GB classic. I thought it was stolen, but it had fallen down between the seat and the transmission on my BMW Z3 and was almost impossible to see. I’m not an anti-Apple zealot – in fact, I became convinced awhile ago that Apple was the only game in town worth considering for digital music players, after going through several competitors’ offerings.
I made an attempt to leverage my Droid as a dual-purpose device to replace my iPod, but frankly, the experience wasn't even close. Fiddling with my iPod at 80 MPH on Highway 50 during rush-hour traffic was never a chore, but fiddling with my Droid at 45 miles-per-hour on an empty road in NE Ohio was a white-knuckle experience. So, I knew that I needed to replace the iPod classic – and what better replacement than a 64GB iPod Touch?
That’s exactly what I did, and it didn't suck. The Droid replaced my netbooks for 90% of my casual computing needs, and the Touch replaced the Droid for 70% of what I used it for, plus it had longer battery life, a better Facebook app, and a number of other superior key features.
The common problem with both the Droid and the Touch was the form factor. So, there I found myself, staring into the abyss. I knew I wanted a small, portable, touch-screen device with custom apps. I knew I wanted something larger than a Droid or iPod Touch – a tablet.
And then one weekend, I tore apart my convertible and found my missing iPod classic. Despite the nice features of the Touch, I had more dedicated peripherals for my iPod classic (that weren’t compatible with the Touch – thank you, Apple). Yet, I liked the Touch so much that it made sense, in a relative sort of way, that maybe I should sell my original iPod, the peripherals, and even the Touch so that I could buy an iPad.
The Droid introduced me to a new experience in casual personal computing and digital consumption. There’s no doubt that this experience is something that the iPhone pioneered. Honestly, Apple gets a lot of credit – but what they really did was evolve a concept that has been moving forward for almost a decade now.
As a content Droid owner, if there was a competitive tablet product built on the Android OS available, I don't think I would have considered the iPad for even a minute. But even as I write this, there are no widely commercially available Android-based tablets in the United States.
This is where I find myself today. I use the iPad frequently, and for the most part, I really enjoy the experience. The battery life is incredible, and the casual nature of interaction with the device is perfect. However, it’s far too expensive for what it does and what it offers. A 64GB WiFi model should be half its current price.
The iPad also has limitations with its mobile OS browser. It isn't magical or revolutionary. If you've used any Android phone or an iPhone, you’re well aware of the benefits and liabilities. It’s certainly a device I enjoy having, but I’m still not sold on the iPad itself – or the concept in general.
I would love to see a dual USB device with an SD slot that runs Android but has the iPad form factor. That’s the frustrating part to me. I wouldn't have the iPad if the Android manufacturers would build something else for me to buy.
Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his professional role is as a Linux support engineer for a fast-growing Linux/FOSS consultancy group. You can follow him @dcolbert on Twitter or his personal blog, located at http://donovancolbert.blogspot.com.