Why You Shouldn't Buy an iPad (Yet)

Apple's iPad arrives in stores tomorrow and reviewers agree that it's a magic revolutionary new class of computer. But you shouldn't buy one. Not yet, anyway.

Let's break this down.

First-generation Apple products are for suckers. Only lemmings with no self-control and excessive disposable income buy first generation Apple products, especially in a new gadget category. When they do, they pay the double the price for immature hardware and software.

Remember the iPhone? It debuted in 2007 with two models priced at $500 and $600, with no native applications--only mobile Web apps, few of which came in an iPhone-friendly format at launch because it was such a new device. A year later, in 2008, a faster iPhone 3G went on sale for $300 less, with native application support. At the time, there weren't very many native applications because it was a brand new application platform. Finally, last summer, the iPhone 3GS--a beefy, snappy phone for the same price as the 3G--actually ran a huge catalog of native apps a few versions old at a reasonable speed. The 3G is now on sale for a measly $100, one fifth of the price of the first generation's cheapest model.

Don't be the guy who bought the first-gen iPad when Apple slashes the 2011 iPad price in half.

Next year's iPad will be faster, cheaper, less buggy, and have better apps and worthy competitors. Let all the deep-pocketed Jobs apostles be your canaries into the iPad coalmine. Give developers time to fix their apps to work well on the iPad. Give Apple a year to lower prices on faster hardware and fill in all the gaping feature holes. (Remember how long early iPhone owners lived without copy and paste?)

While the Apple faithful could argue that the iPad's application platform matured during three years of deployment on the iPhone and iPod touch, keep in mind: iPad developers have been working on their software not with an actual iPad, but with a software simulator. You can't truly see how your application works in a simulator. The great iPad apps haven't grown up yet--and most of them haven't even been born.

iPad reviewer Xeni Jardin writes:

Maybe the most exciting thing about iPad is the apps that aren't here yet. The book-film-game hybrid someone will bust out in a year, redefining the experience of each, and suggesting some new nouns and verbs in the process. Or an augmented reality lens from NASA that lets you hold the thing up to the sky and pinpoint where the ISS is, next to what constellation, read the names and see the faces of the crew members, check how those fuel cells are holding up. I like [iPad] a lot. But it's the things I never knew it made possible -- to be revealed or not in the coming months -- that will determine whether I love it.

If you're interested in the iPad because of what it will be someday, put your $500 in an interest-bearing savings account between now and when the device (or a competitor's) realizes that potential. You'll get a better product for less dough.

The early adopter tax isn't the only cost of acquiring an unproven device.

You don't know if you need an iPad yet. If you've already got a smartphone and a laptop, the gap in your workflow that the iPad might fill isn't obvious, and discerning consumers only absorb gadgets that fulfill a need. Plenty of geeks across the Internet have described how the iPad is an expensive, closed platform with too many missing features. I'm opting for simple common sense: new gadget acquisitions come with hidden costs. Only buy devices whose benefits you know outweigh those costs.

New gadgets create friction in your life. Every new gadget you acquire is another screen to pay attention to, another battery to charge, another device to sync, secure, weigh down your bag, and buy accessories for; it's another shiny thing to worry about losing, getting stolen, scratched, dropped, and serviced. If the iPad doesn't fill an obvious need in your work or home life right now, pass.

At least for now.

In one year the iPad will be a much better device, and an entire ecosystem of competitors will offer you more choice and features for your money. When the heat of the iPad launchlust cools, and you've still got your 500 bucks in the bank, you'll be glad you stayed out of the Apple store this weekend.

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61 Comments

  • LorWid

    I'm a first generation iPhone consumer and paid $600 for the phone. When Apple dropped the price, an immediate $100 rebate was given to me. Spending $600 on a phone did seem overpriced, so I looked at other "Smart" phones (still not sure where the term SmartPhone came from, its only smart if the user knows what they got). After shopping around, I discovered all smart-phones cost between $400-$500 and some service plans cost more than the iPhone. I'm still using my first generation iPhone, even though I've been tempted to upgrade, find it hard parting with my original iPhone. The only complaints I heard about the first iPhone was the quick price drop but Apple took care of their customers. I've heard complaints about the 2nd & 3rd iPhone's but we'll never have "IT" all in one thing, whatever it is. Every purchase I've made from homes, vehicles, campers, bikes, etc............., I've had to compromise since I KNOW I CAN'T HAVE IT ALL IN ONE THING (including relationships). As I type this message from my awesome MacBook (that doesn't have everything I want), I'm sitting on a beautiful couch I bought but wish it was more comfortable. Good luck to all who try and find satisfaction in any one person, place, or thing; including yourself. I'll take the path of appreciation and compromise, and enjoy what I chose and can afford and be thankful to all those people behind the seines who spend their lives inventing and improving all the luxuries we can have just by driving down the road from fancy homes, in fancy vehicles, to stores full of cool things that we wouldn't have if it wasn't for those risk taking inventors. Everyone I know has great ideas on making something better, or an idea that's not hit the market yet. Instinctively were all inventors, but it's those who pursue their ideas instead of complain that allow us everything we got. Then there's the internet. I could shop 24/7 and packages can arrive before I get time to go to a store or may not have a vehicle to get me there. PS: that said, I don't see the world through rose colored glasses. I've got strong opinions to, but I also don't take things for granted. Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm just getting ready to head to the Apple store to get my new iPad. Thank god my vehicle has that built in GPS I lived 40 years without. Since it's a newer store, I'll have to type in the address since I didn't want to spend $295 upgrading my vehicle GPS, otherwise the store would be listed and I wouldn't need the address; they are building so fast I'd be upgrading it annually and I have my first generation iPhone to look up an address if I don't have it while traveling. If I had the newer generation iPhone, I could get the address some seconds faster, but time is relative. Signing off, :-)

  • misha

    Excellent article - thank you very much.
    And yes Snapper Cridge, you are a moron for buying this piece of crap.

  • jose ornelas

    should i wait for the 2nd gen ipad? how about the 3rd or 4th? o better yet wait 10 more years to see what apple going to invent. i been update my iphone every time they come with a new one and i been selling the old one, i think i can do that with the ipad

  • Edgar García

    Just came true and it was just days. Now early iPad owners will have to pay for the new iPodOS 4 and wait until Fall to do it.

  • Rob T

    Thank you Gina. Thank you. It's so funny how people are blind by what Apple has to offer. Not only is this product not worth buying but in turn, because the entered the fray of ebooks. All the publishers are jacking up the prices of ebooks now. Why is that? There isn't any type of manufacturing, no people to employ. If you want a real ebook read check out ICD's Gemini.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    @Kent, I see your poing that there's always something better around the corner. But, I took back my first iphone and waited for a less frustrating version. Is there something to the argument that first-gen products are only for people who like new gadgets?

    --
    @ferenstein

  • Evan Baker

    Gina, i think your article is pretty ignorant about the development of technology. Of course, with all electronics, if you wait a year then another newer, better device will be available. The iPhone 1st Gen was revolutionary when it was first released even without an app store and the lack of "native" web apps. All of that was created because the iPhone was so revolutionary and everyone started buying them up. Your discussion about the price drop was also pretty ignorant. Those iPhones are still that expensive but now ATT subsidizes the price of those iPhones in order to induce more customers to switch to ATT.

    Technology always improves at an incredible rate, and i'm sure you will write this same article in a year when the new iPad comes out warning people to wait another year for a better iPad 3.0. Your just another journalist that has decided to be "anti Apple" just for the sake of it.

  • Jon Miller

    I'm surprised at some of the heat that's generated by this article, despite it's describing a phenomenom we are all (or should be) familiar with. Although this article is directed at the IPad and Apple, there are hundreds of examples of other products that have had the same historical narrative. I won't even bother to quote because *rational* people will obviously agree. The IPad looks like an amazing product. Do I need it? Nope. Will it be better and cheaper in the future? Yep. Will I wait? Yeah this time, I think I will. Quibbling about whether it will be half price with new killer apps and capacities or whether it will be just marginally better completely misses the point.

  • Tom DeSantis

    I'm got a Blackberry, a Zune and a Dell laptop...I mock Apple (pie?) still working on this one ;)

  • Kevin Folta

    Free Range, two words. Apple Newton.

    I like Apple products, but I'll never be a first adopter. Apple stirs an irrational disconnect between new products, a consumer's need, and adoption. The fervor to buy is insane, and fueled by an irrational love of Apple products.

    The next generation will be better, and sure you can say that for all electronics. However, the difference between now and year 1 will be much greater than the difference between year 1 and year 2 or year 4 and year 5. Just look at the iPod or iPhone.

    I'll buy an iPad. Careful consideration shows that it needs some maturation before it makes sense to buy at this time.

  • Range Free

    Gina (the "author")- This "article" is nonsense and shows a complete lack of knowledge of Apple or its products. First, the ridiculous headline. This product is truly innovative in its 1st generation iteration, and in fact is leading edge, so why in the world would you say don't buy. Second, and probably the biggest nonsensical and BS statement that you made is that you will "pay twice as much for immature technology". The price WILL NOT drop by half, that is not Apple's business model. Rather, they hold prices relatively the same but add new features and functionality with each succeeding generation. The initial iPhone price drop was driven by changes to the subsidizing policies/agreement with AT&T and is NOT a typical move. (Again, illustrating how little you know.) Further, this is not "immature hardware and software" - you apparently can't read because all reviews have indicated how super fast the iPad is, and how well it works. Further the basic OS is already in its 3rd generation for mobile touchscreen devices. Again, you show a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of these products. To also insult your readers by calling anyone who purchases it "suckers" shows you lack any journalistic integrity. If Apple's first gen iPhone was as bad as you imply, how is it that so many MILLIONS were sold worldwide, and it turned an entire industry on its head? Your statement that "just wait a year" shows you lack any understanding of the computer industry as well, as this same thing could be said for any computing device. And if people foolishly followed you they would never buy a new computer either.

    --
    FreeRange
    Denver, CO

  • Nicolas Charbonnier

    I'm a bit amazed by 3 things that people are just not talking about in the US based media about the iPad:

    1. French-based Archos is making a 5" Android tablet since October 2009 which is MUCH BETTER than the iPad for following reasons:
    - Cheaper price (A5IT is $249 in Radio Shack)
    - Pocketable yet still has a 2x larger screen with 2.5 more pixels than the iPhone
    - Android is better than iPad OS (multi-tasking, real-voip, etc..)
    - Archos plays all codecs from BitTorrent including DivX, Mpeg2, Flac
    - Has storage expansion slot and hard drive version up to 500GB
    - Does use Bluetooth tethering to any phone for browsing the web over 3G
    - Does not require bloat-iTunes to synch up and transfer files
    - Outputs 720p video to a HDTV using HDMI output
    - Built-in FM receiver and transmitter (for listening in the car)
    - Built-in real GPS for free to use with free Android GPS apps
    - Even has USB host, DVB-T tuner through add-ons

    2. Dozens if not 50 or so competitors are coming with Android based tablets to the market. They have all been showing Android tablets at IFA 2009 in Berlin, CES 2010 in Las Vegas, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, CeBIT 2010 in Hannover Germany. I mean comon! Why isn't ANYONE in the US media talking about the Android tablets that are coming? Manufacturers that have announced Android tablets include:
    Archos, Marvell, MSI, Asus, Notion Ink, LCD, Quanta, hivision, Menq, Compal, Huawei, HP, Sharp, Sony, Dell, Prowave, Lenovo and many others…) are coming with 2x cheaper even less than 5x cheaper!! Find many more Android based Tablets that I filmed at all those consumer electronics shows at my video blog: http://armdevices.net/category...

    3. Android and Pixel Qi based tablet alternatives are much better for reading books!!! I mean comon, seriously, US media, you should Trash Apple for not having used the Pixel Qi LCD screen technology invented by MIT-based Pixel Qi, used in the One Laptop Per Child project since 2007, it is the ONLY WAY to read books on an LCD screen. There is NO WAY mass market consumers are going to read books for hours and hours staring into the transmissive LCD backlight, it's like staring into a light bulb. The light has got to be reflected for the books to be readable!!! iBookstore is a complete and utter waste of time until Apple does an ipad with Pixel Qi based screen technology. Comparing ipad to a kindle is completely ridiculous (hello! Kindle is for reading!) Again, find the Pixel Qi videos on my site: http://armdevices.net/?s=Pixel...

  • Loudan Ramirez

    I just want to say that I personally have been waiting for something like this. I had Sony reader years ago, but returned it because I couldn't view PDFS large enough not to squint.

    I was tempted to buy the 800 dll Irex Iliad but realized I didn't need it that much...($$).

    I was waiting for Plastic Logic Reader and its 2010.... still not here.

    I think the ipad fills in what I need for the moment. If anybody wants to get it, get it know while its part of what everybody is talking about. It will still be useful 5 years down the road.... like my first generation iphone.

    So Gina.... Where is your review of all the other multitask palm sized ereader and tablets with no OS.... Great Rant. Are you getting one? Or did Fast Company give you a loaner?

  • James Crowley

    Hey I just wanted a ebook reader for my wife all the other stuff was extra . I love this thing even if it is first gen lets see here:
    Price of ebook reader is 300 bucks
    Price of Ipad with itunes,safari,calender,streaming video ( which is remarkable quality ) 600 bucks

    it was worth it I think .

  • Filipe Frota

    Thanks for bringing this thoughtful insight to the table. There's too much IPad hype going on right now. The product is undoubtely remarkable, but as you pointed out, there is still much room for improovements. I waited for the Iphone 3g to come out, and It felt a right thing to do, months later and the 3gs came out, and I was really upset for not waiting a bit longer. This is the thing about Apple, they give the early adopters a bad deal everytime... This time I will not fall for it.

  • Evan LaPointe

    @michael shoemaker

    Thank you so much for chiming in. I was really growing concerned that this comment area was going to go without name calling.

    You might need to adjust your $59 Dell monitor to read the text on this web site properly, or maybe it could be that you're using IE 6 because you don't want to participate in anything new and / or interesting, but my post said an IPHONE adopter (caps for readability, not emphasis).

    Obviously you can find me plenty of early adopters of technology that didn't like it. You're probably one of them. So am I. This device, however, is not an Apple TV, which never had any real expectations or hype at all around it. So again, thank you for chiming in, but you missed the mark on pretty much all counts. This device, like the iPhone and iPod, has actual expectations around it.

    The purpose of my post, and many others here, is that this truthiness is VERY BAD JOURNALISM (caps for both readability and emphasis), and represents this publication very poorly. This misinformation is no different, albeit a little more trivial, than biased and untruthful reporting of corporations, political candidates, stocks, etc. This reporting may very well push some people to not buy this product based on a mistruth - that like the iPhone, the price will drop in half in a year. We, the informed, have no reason whatsoever to believe this is true, but some may. This unnecessarily jeopardizes legitimate revenue. If you want to write an article that uses actual facts to defend why this is an inappropriate device for some consumers, which of course it is, do that. But don't tell people to avoid a product and defend your position with a lie.

    Of course, the average person isn't going to worry about Apple's lost revenue, but that's because they think everyone over there is a bunch of millionaires swimming around in their money like Scrooge McDuck. Thousands of people, rich and not, worked their asses off on this product, and every cent of lost revenue affects Apple as a business, their employment, shareholders, etc. And again, it's fine if you want to write the truth to defend a position that jeopardizes revenue, but it is unacceptable for an otherwise great publication like Fast Company to take a position based on non-facts.

  • Kent Stephan Jensen

    Oh. But wait!

    Don't buy the iPhone 3GS either. An A+ upgraded iPhone will be out this summer.
    Don't buy the new Prius. A new even better version will come out in a year or two.
    Don't buy the latest Samsung LED TV. A new and way cheaper version will come in less than a year.
    Don't buy a new laptop. They'll be way faster and cheaper in 6 months.

    Don't buy anything.
    Wait.
    Wait forever.

    Enjoy.