3 sorry lessons I’ve learned as a long-time iPad owner

December 15, 2013

How did this happen? How did it come to this point? How in the world could Apple have let me slip through its grasps?

Allow me to count the ways.

1. I’m tired of Apple’s ‘lock-in’ strategy

I know I won’t make any friends in the Apple community for complaining about the iPad, but as someone who has owned one since the tablet launched years ago, I feel I’m uniquely qualified to espouse the issues I’ve seen with Apple’s tablets over the years.

And nowhere are those issues more egregious than in Apple’s unending desire to control, control, control.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: Apple’s desire to keep us locked into a closed operating system, using only its software add-ons, is to ensure the very best experience. It’s the tried and true Father Knows Best idea, and it’s one that millions across the globe have gleefully bought into.

Over the last few years, however, I’ve discovered that I like variety. I like the idea of knowing that at any given moment, I can switch to another device and not feel any pain in that departure.

For instance, if I wanted to go from the Samsung Galaxy Note to the Kindle Fire HDX, I’d still be running on Android, but have the ability to experience a different software environment. Better yet, all of the data, music, movies, and other content I had stored on that Galaxy Note would easily port its way over to the tablet without fuss.

Apple, however, believes in keeping us under its lock and key. If I want the best music experience on iOS, I’ll need iTunes. If I want to seamlessly transfer files between devices without jumping through hoops, I’ll need to make sure both are running Apple’s AirDrop.

And don’t even get me started on being forced to use the App Store and my inability to go elsewhere to get programs, short of jailbreaking my iPad.

Admittedly, Apple has gotten better at this over the years, due mainly to the App Store’s third-party apps that try to break us from Apple’s death grip.

But if you want to buy an iPad today, regardless of the quality of the third-party apps, you’ll need to be ready to play by Apple’s rules. And I just don’t like that.

2. I’m tired of the premium

It’s a tired complaint, for sure, but it’s still a valid one when it comes to the iPad: Apple’s products are overpriced.

For the starting price of $499, I can get my hands on an iPad Air that comes with 16GB of storage, no LTE, and a device that lacks the power and display prowess of its competitors? Sounds like a raw deal to me. After all, I can head over to Amazon.com and order an 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX with the same storage, no LTE, a better display, and that Android openness I talked about earlier for $379.

It gets worse. Apple’s top-of-the-line, no-nonsense iPad Air will cost you $829. A comparably equipped Android tablet – whether it’s from Amazon or just about anyone else – will run you hundreds of dollars less.

For years, Apple and its loyal followers have clung to the idea that a premium product deserves a premium price tag. And I’d be the first to agree. But when one compares competing tablets with Apple’s own iPad, I’m hard-pressed to find the “premium” experience in Apple’s slate. 

Is it a good-looking device? Sure. Does the software work nicely? Uh huh. But is it so far ahead of competing devices that it deserves to be so much more expensive?

Please.

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3. You can get what you want – to a point

Each year, the world holds its breath as Apple’s Tim Cook and fellow executives take the stage at a special press event and show off their latest improvements. The trouble is over the last several years, the hype ramping up before the event proved more impressive than the devices themselves.

Apple has once again stuck to the idea that bundling everything but the kitchen sink into the device is a bad idea. Apple would rather deliver upgraded components that maintain margins and keep us coming back for more year after year. Customers are no good to Apple if they buy an iPad today and don’t come back for five years; Apple wants them to want that iterative update year after year.

I’ll admit that Apple, like any other company, can only go so far with component upgrades before it becomes too costly and hurts its business. But over the last couple of years, I can’t help but wonder if Apple has gone too far towards business practicality and not far enough on innovation in the mobile space.

Apple has played it safe, boosted margins, and kept us all coming back for more. It’s a testament to its business savvy, for sure, but it’s also unfortunate.

Perhaps I’m a spoiled old Apple fan, but I’ve come to expect more from the company Steve Jobs built.

And I'm not just whining about price, Apple can have its hefty margins, just give me more value. For example, Amazon recently did Apple's Genius Bar one better with a similar virtual feature in the Kindle Fire HDX, aka the Mayday video chat support feature.

I don't see Apple taking these kind of chances anymore. And lately, it’s shied away from what has made it great and provided critics with even more fodder.

I believe in Apple’s ability to get back on the cutting edge, I just don’t know that there's a top down commitment to do it. I'd love it if Apple proved me wrong.

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