Street Team: Tablet or iPad – Worth the Expense?

With ads and news about the release of the latest tablet constantly bombarding the consumer market, you may be wondering if a small piece of technology is really all it is hyped up to be.

This past summer, I purchased an iPad 4 so I had a portable system for studying in China. 218415_10151521358298302_363919494_o

While abroad, it replaced my usual computer and was perfect for travel. I hadn’t thought about tablets too much before then though. My brother had gotten one as a gift and raved about it, but I did not really understand the allure until I got one myself. It was a blessing in disguise while abroad, as I could carry it around wherever I went. However, I did not realize just how much it would affect my study experience here back at Saint Joe’s. As the semester progressed, I began to compile a list in my head of good and bad things about having a tablet, which I’d like to share.

Pros

Lightweight, small, and portable

    I never carried around my laptop for classes because it was cumbersome and took up a lot of space in my bag. My iPad on the other hand conveniently fits into any school bag so I bring it to class almost every day.

Apple product compatibility

    I know many people believe this to be just a stupid gimmick to buy Apple products, but it really does come in handy. My iPad automatically syncs to my other Apple products and backs up to my iCloud.

Apps

    There are some really cool apps you can download that make your life ten times easier. Some examples are notetaking apps, comprehensive calendar apps, news apps, and social networking apps. I previously wrote an article on some cool apps which you can check out here (http://sites.sju.edu/oit/index.php/2013/09/25/top-apps-for-college-students/)

Entertainment

    I love watching Netflix on my iPad in bed. It is probably one of my favorite ways to take a study break. The tablet is great because I can hold it any which way and it’s not as heavy or cumbersome to have in bed as a laptop. There are also some really fun gaming apps to pass the time. I generally check out what’s popular in the app store and download hours of fun.

EBooks

    One of the biggest draws for people who purchase tablets is EBooks. I downloaded an app (OverDrive Media Console – Library eBooks and Audiobooks) that gives me access to my local library and its large digital collection of books.

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I love being able to read at night, especially because I do not have a bedside lamp at school. I can freely download and read books for fun or I can also catch up on that last minute bit of reading for tomorrow’s class. Many users claim that they don’t like not being able to feel and physically turn the pages of a book. But for me, the iPad is often lighter than some of the books I read, I don’t fiddle with a physical bookmark, it’s easier to read at night in bed.

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Textbooks

    This is probably the best part about having a tablet and one of the main reasons why I bought mine in the first place. I was required to bring a 500 page textbook to China. When I found out my weight limit for luggage was 45lbs, I looked into alternative ways to bring such a large textbook. I didn’t think I would use my iPad for textbooks other than that; I liked physically highlighting my texts and writing notes in the margins. The iPad allows you to do all this and more. You can highlight and make notations in any books and then search for them later. The ability to scroll through everything you’ve marked is wonderful for papers and studying for tests. You also can search for key terms. I especially like this feature because I tend to get books that are different from my professors. So if they are lecturing in class and start quoting a passage, I can immediately look it up and find it within seconds. I downloaded the Kindle app and got the majority of my textbooks for less than half the price of what they would’ve been at the bookstore. Some of my smaller books were even free! I love the fact that I have access to almost all of my books in one place and I can carry them all to class without having a 50+lb bag. It very convenient to have all my books with me at all times especially if I have a few minutes to read in the library, say if a class got cancelled or I have a meeting.

Cons

Silverlight/QuickTime software compatibility

    One thing I’ve noticed is that my iPad is not compatible with QuickTime or Silverlight, so I can’t watch things online like Hawkvision. You often have to download the apps for things like Hulu and Xfinity, and they don’t always offer the same content as on their website.

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Excel/Word

I did not purchase the Office suite for the iPad because it was a few hundred dollars and it got poor reviews. There are similar apps available such as Pages, but they’re also expensive and it is hard to share papers and projects with non-iPad users. I generally end up converting something or sending it to myself to fix later.

Typing

    One of the little things that always seems to get me is typing. I found it hard to type on such a small screen at first and I’ve always liked having something physical to push on a keyboard. I constantly make typos which then autocorrects the word to something entirely different. It has definitely been an adjustment.  One upside to a touch screen keyboard is that you can undock and split it so you can type using your thumbs as you would with your phone.

Wireless

    This is probably the bit that annoys me the most. I did not purchase a data plan with my iPad. So while I can have access to wireless almost everywhere I go, when it gets spotty half my apps don’t work. I went on a road trip and brought my iPad in the car with me. I didn’t realize that almost all games require the wireless to play. Also, if I’m in a spot where there is wireless access, but not a very good signal, apps won’t work. For example, the Google Drive app often won’t allow me to make changes on my documents if the wireless signal isn’t strong enough.

 

Our GA Claire also uses an iPad for her classes- “I use an app called Note taker HD (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/note-taker-hd/id366572045), it has a wrist guard for taking notes which is super helpful because I’m left handed. I like using it to draw on the slides the teachers post.  You definitely have to invest in good stylus for note-taking, I use one from Belkin. The bad ones don’t write as well so they’re much harder to take notes with. But even with a good stylus you have to practice to be able to write good notes. One bad thing about taking notes on an iPad is that some teachers don’t like you to have technology out while their teaching. They just haven’t fully accepted it. Also, not all apps are integrated, so file sharing with group mates is sometimes difficult. You end up having to convert a lot of files. The iPad is a lot less to carry and I like it for textbooks because I can easily search for a word. It has been much more convenient to find all the textual resources especially at end of semester for papers. I don’t really like using it for EBooks as much, but it’s nice that I can read in bed at night without a light.”

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“If you’re willing to spend the money, it’s amazing”  and I totally agree. Despite the few flaws a tablet might have, it is the best purchase I’ve made in a while.

You may be looking for a gift for the upcoming holiday season, or simply interested for the latest innovation. Either way, tablets are increasing in popularity. If you are interested in starting a search for a new tablet, I would suggest checking out http://reviews.cnet.com/best-tablets/ and other reviews carefully before making your decision.