Bye Bye, iPad

A few days ago, I signed up for a Gazelle account and got an offer for the two iPads we own. I shipped them off today. New models will likely be introduced tomorrow, and I won’t be upgrading.

The reasons are both subjective and objective.

On the subjective side, I haven’t found a way to make an iPad fit into my daily life. I’ve tried using it for writing, research, online chores like paying bills, and media consumption (mostly books, comics, and long-form articles), but it’s never been convenient for any of these things.

My laptop is far better at writing, research, and anything else that involves a browser thanks to the larger screen and full-size keyboard. I’ve yet to use an iPad that matches a laptop’s speed when browsing the web. Every time I have a choice between the two, my immediate reaction is, “This will take forever on the iPad.”

My iPhone is better for media consumption (even with its small screen) because it’s always with me. I never have to go grab it from my bag, which is alllllll the way over there. If I’m going to get up and fetch a device, I’ll get the faster and more capable one instead. I also find the iPhone better for writing and research for the same reason; I never have to haul it out from some hiding place. It’s always there.

On the objective side, the amount of software available on the iPad is shockingly small compared to what you’ll find on the iPhone or Mac.

This hasn’t improved over the last couple of years, and I believe Apple is struggling with how to solve this problem. The iPhone 6 Plus paints a picture of how Apple could one day twist the arms of developers into writing software for the iPad. Eventually, there will be no division between platforms; there will be one platform with many display resolutions. And I’ll bet supporting them all will become mandatory, meaning that devs won’t be able to ignore supporting the iPad any longer.

That’s great! Unless you’re a developer. And especially if you’re an indie developer.1 Supporting a handful of display resolutions isn’t simple. It’s a lot of work if you want to do it right, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some indies simply walk away if it becomes a requirement. The time needed to add support for every device size won’t be worth it to some—especially those who can’t charge existing users for an upgrade (which is technically every iOS developer). No one likes to work for free.

The alternative for indies is to make their iPad- and iPhone-6-Plus-sized apps into blown-up versions of their iPhone-sized counterparts. That would shorten development time and require less work, but it’s also a technique for which Apple has criticized Android tablet software makers in the past. It’s also bad for users because it wastes screen space.

For me, a larger iPhone paired with a powerful laptop makes a lot of sense.2 This won’t be the case for everyone.

I’m actually looking forward to having one less device to manage, charge, and sync my stuff to. I’ll miss having a simple device for the few things the iPad was good for (streaming TV episodes from our home server when we stayed in hotel rooms, reading recipes in the kitchen). But it’s very difficult to justify spending $600 on a computer that we use for so little. And there’s nothing the iPad can do that one of our other devices can’t do better.

  1. It’s even worse if you’re an indie dev who ships separate iPhone and iPad versions of an app. Those will have to be made into a single universal SKU. That leads to pricing issues. Charge double for the universal app? App Store shoppers will balk. Charge the same price as the non-universal app? You’ll go out of business. 
  2. I’m still not sold on the 6 Plus. Reports of an easily scratched screen, dead display pixels, rendering issues tied to bizarro software-based resolution down-scaling, speed issues tied to the paltry 1 GB of RAM, usability issues surrounding the placement of the lock switch, and more have soured me on the idea of purchasing one of these. Oh, right; it might also bend.