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Why You Should Think Twice About Buying an iPad 2

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Today the iPad 2 goes on sale and, as with most iDevices, there will be a gaggle of geeks lined up outside your local Apple store to snatch it up. It's only a small evolutionary update to the original iPad, but there's no denying its intrigue. Yet even after reading all of the glowing reviews, I'm still not sold. There's no doubt that the iPad 2 is going to sell like hotcakes, but I won't be among those turning my money over Mr. Jobs and company. I'm not here to bash the iPad or Apple, I'm just here to offer a few reasons you might want to think twice about emptying your wallet for Apple's latest craze.

Let's just be clear: When I look at a tablet, I don't see a "lifestyle" device. I see a gadget, a tool. So in order for me to plunk down my hard-earned dollar on one of these in-betweeners, it's going to have to meet an exacting set of standards and accomplish what I need in a way that is clearly superior to my current system (which relies on a laptop, a smartphone and, occasionally, an e-reader). What's more, my device needs to bend to my will. I don't want to fit in to my gadget's way of doing things, I want the gadget to conform to me. That means flexibility and customization are key -- things in which the iPad 2 falls woefully short. There is no swappable battery or expandable storage. I can't place widgets to get information at a glance, or use shortcuts to turn features like Bluetooth or GPS on or off.

Sure, as a blogger, the iPad would be convenient for things like keeping up on my endless RSS feeds, browsing the Web and updating various social networking accounts. But you know what else I like? Not dragging more than one toy around town and being able to pay my rent.

iOS Was Made For Phones

My biggest complaint, and one that was made only more obvious with the introduction of Honeycomb, is that iOS is obviously designed for use on a phone. Now, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why Apple would not drastically overhaul iOS for iPad (there is something to be said for a consistent user experience). But Apple's redesigned apps and minor interface tweaks don't change the fact that, to me, the iPad really feels like an oversized iPhone. Sure, there are some drop-down menus and the e-mail app now has separate panes, but why are we still stuck with the same obtrusive notification system? Where are the tabs in Safari? Why am I still staring at a giant grid of launch shortcuts to isolated applications instead of having an interactive experience with an OS that supports true multi-tasking? One app at a time and quick launch buttons makes sense on the cramped screen of an iPhone, but on the 10-inch expanse of an iPad, it just feels limiting.

A Casual Device for a Not-So-Casual Price?

This charge goes not just for the iPad 2, but all tablets. If I've dropped $200 on a smartphone and $1,000 on a laptop, why would I spend $600-plus on a device that doesn't accomplish anything I can't do the $1,200 worth of gadgets I already own. Sure, it might be more convenient for some things, but not enough to warrant such a hefty investment. And a tablet is not like a Band-Aid -- you don't just pull once and it's over -- you have to pay data fees every month. I know, there is a Wi-Fi only iPad 2 and it costs just $499, cheaper than those other tablets. But here's the problem: tablets are mobile devices. A tablet without 3G (or 4G) is like eating a hot dog without the bun: you could do it, but it'd defeat the purpose. If I'm home with reliable Wi-Fi, I'll choose my laptop over an iPad every time. If I'm out and about, I have a smartphone with 3G. I don't want to pop into a Starbucks just to check my e-mail on my iPad. And while some say, "Look, Wi-Fi is enough for me. I'm just going to browse the Web from my couch occasionally." I say, in that case, $499 is too much. If it's a casual-use device, it should have a price that makes it a casual purchase.

It's an Apple Device, After All

Bottom line: I'm just not an Apple guy. It's not that I don't think the company makes quality products -- I just never bought into the whole lifestyle. I own an iPod, have an Apple TV collecting dust, and just recently ditched my iPhone 3G, but I don't own a Mac, don't buy music or movies from iTunes and have no desire to embrace the Cult. Perhaps if I exclusively used Apple products, the iPad would hold more of an appeal to me, but my main tools are a Droid X, a ThinkPad (running Ubuntu) and Boxee Box. The iPad just simply does not fit in. Additionally, I don't want to be locked in to using only the apps that Apple deems fit, depending on how its staff is interpreting its developer guidelines that week. While the Wild West of the Android market certainly has its dangers, the less restrictive guidelines also produces more powerful apps and an environment for developers who don't want to worry if their next update will be rejected based on unpredictable rules.

Look, I'm a power user. I want my devices to do what I want, when I want -- and don't mind a bit of fiddling to get my way. But the iPad doesn't offer these things. It does what it does: take it or leave it. It may have the most robust ecosystem of any tablet offering, but that will change as developers get to work on Honeycomb. And, just as it did in the smartphone world, manufacturers of Android devices will flood the market and drive down costs. Maybe Apple will wow me with the iPad 3 by offering a lower cost and an experience engineered for tablets. But, for now, the only way Apple (or any other tablet manufacturer for that matter) is getting money out of me is if it pries it from my cold, dead hands.

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