9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

Summary: The iPad is fine technology, but quite limited.


Special Report: Apple iPad

My esteemed colleague and good friend Jason Perlow just declared the iPad to be the Technology of the Year. I can't help but disagree with him.

In fact, if you're thinking about getting or giving an iPad this Christmas, I'll give you 9 reasons you might want to think again.

The iPad is fine technology, but quite limited. As far as the "Technology of the Year," I'd certainly say the iPad might rate as the gadget of the year simply due to fan enthusiasm.

But in a year that has seen cloud computing grow to the point that it can provide a $525, 2048-core cluster in 45 minutes, there are clearly ground-breaking technologies that go far beyond a glorified iPhone with a bigger screen.

For that is, essentially, what an iPad is. It's an iPhone with a bigger screen -- minus the phone and the camera. Certainly, the iPad is portable and convenient, but it's also wildly limited.

Here then, are 9 reasons you might NOT want to buy an iPad.

Reason 1: The iPad 2 is coming

Apple regularly updates its hardware and the iPad is no exception. Many of the features of the iPad already significantly lag behind the iPhone 4, so we're likely to see a significantly upgraded device released within the next four or five months.

See also: Apple iPad 2 reportedly coming: Will consumers wait?

Reason 2: There's no USB port

This is one of those no-excuse lacks that makes the iPad infinitely frustrating. Getting data onto the iPad is tedious, at best. If you want to load the iPad up with movies or PDF files, you have to go through any number of convoluted approaches, including using the horrid iTunes interface or uploading files to Dropbox and then downloading them again.

Reason 3: You have to use iTunes

'Nuff said.

See also: The unofficial guide to installing iTunes 10 without bloatware

Reason 4: There's no way to wirelessly synchronize your bookmarks

I know this is a nit compared to many of the iPad's other shortcomings, but it goes to proving how limited the machine is for production use.

It is actually quite pleasant to sit on the couch and browse the Web on an iPad. But if you're a writer like me, and you find a Web site you want to save for later, you can't easily bookmark it and have that bookmark show up on your other machines.

I use Xmarks to keep my bookmarks in sync across all my devices and it works wonderfully. But although there's an Xmarks app for the iPad, it doesn't work in Safari (because Apple won't let it). Safari is an island on its own.

Even if you own a Mac and you want to sync iPad Safari to Mac Safari, you can't do it wirelessly. You have to hook up the iPad and let the -- let's all say it again -- horrid iTunes sync process run to get those bookmarks in sync.

One new bookmark could take ten minutes of hooking up, unhooking, syncing, restarting, and otherwise futzing with technology that seems far more 2001 than 2011.

See also: I took the Xmarks pledge and why you should, too.

Reason 5: Kindles are much less expensive

If you want to use the iPad as an ebook reader, you may want to consider a Kindle or a color Nook. Kindles can be had for as little as $139 and the color for $249. Compare this to the iPad, which starts at $499 and goes all the way up to $829.

Plus, the Kindle comes with a free data plan. If you choose the more expensive iPad 3G models, you'll have to pay for a separate monthly data plan.

See also: Five lessons Apple can learn from Amazon

Reason 6: WiFi is still unreliable

For some reason, Apple can't seem to get WiFi working reliably with the iPad, even in its latest updates.

This is unfortunate, since the iPad is pretty much useless without WiFi. Some users (myself included) find that the iPad's WiFi implementation is notoriously unreliable, so much so as to render the device almost useless.

This is unacceptable and, as usual, Apple isn't acknowledging the problem.

Reason 7: You can only run software approved by Apple

Jason and I have both written extensively about Apple's restrictive policies. The fact remains that, unless you want to go out and jailbreak your iPad, you're forced to run software that Apple has approved for sale in its own app store.

Apple is notoriously capricious about what applications it approves and doesn't approve, often denying publishing rights to software that's otherwise excellent -- except for the mere fact of competing with Apple's mediocre equivalent applications.

You should have the freedom to run whatever software you want, and developers should have the freedom to sell or give you the software they make. But in the case of the iPad you're locked in, so much so that members of the GPL community are considering pulling applications because of Apple's restrictive policies.

See also: Why Apples new Mac app store gives me the willies Young Steve Jobs and why 2010 might be like 1984

Reason 8: There's no camera, front-facing or otherwise

Apple's video conferencing software, FaceTime, is rapidly becoming a killer app for the iPhone 4 and Snow Leopard-equipped Macs.

You would think FaceTime would be a perfect application for the iPad, but there's no camera. Will there be one in the future? Probably, but not on this iPad.

Reason 9: It can't be used as a standalone computer

The iPad almost seems like the perfect parents or in-laws machine, a true Internet appliance that would allow less technologically facile family members to have access to the Internet, email, and social networking capabilities without needing to know much about computers, operating systems, software installation, viruses, or any of the other nightmares of daily computing life.


Except that, apparently by design, the iPad really, really wants to connect to a computer running iTunes. Bizarrely, to get started using the iPad, you first have to physically tether it to an iTunes-running computer and then, for all updates, it's again a physical connection.

This from the company that introduced WiFi to the masses. It's just very strange, highly inconvenient, and rules out gifting the iPad as a turnkey "get online" solution.

So there you go. Nine compelling reasons to avoid the iPad this holiday season. TalkBack below. For the best reading experience, click View All Expanded.

Topics: Apple, CXO, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Networking, IT Employment, Wi-Fi


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Got one for my mother

    I'll let ya know how it works out. Currently I am loading it up with music, photos and apps I think she'll like. All she has to do is turn it on and link it up to her local wifi. When I visit I'll bring the synced laptop with me and update as needed. As far as "needing" a computer, I bought an iPod touch for my sister-in-law about three years ago. Same thing, activated it at my home, she absolutely loves it and never syncs it to anything. Of course her software gets terribly outdated but that never seems to bother her as she isn't a computer freak and has no idea she is missing out on all the "great" new features.

    P.S. yeah number 1 is valid but isn't that always the case? The next best thing is just around the corner ;)
    • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

      A fine Holiday present! Hope it works out.
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        For me a fine holiday present is a droid, giving an ipad just too much for me. I mean if i give droid they can fill it with a lot of free apps. Well that just me :)
        Dr Ari from TB <a href="http://www.thunderboltseo.net">seo services</a>
    • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

      @oncall Since itunes/iPad/iPod Touch only allow music, photo and apps sync to 1 computer, you're basically the "oncall" support person to your family right?<br><br>Sorry but I definitely don't think it's a fun thing to do if I got called and lug a laptop everytime someone in the family wanted to add an new song or an app.
      • How funny you made that correlation


        But yes I am the "oncall" tech support guy for both my mother and my mother-in-law.

        Oh and the "needing to lug a laptop around every time someone wants a new app or song", is completely false. As an iPad owner yourself (you are an iPad owner right? expressing an actual informed opinion?) you are well aware that getting a new app onto an iPad merely requires the password to the account and never requires a computer, even if the app was purchased and downloaded to another iPad you can re-download it. Music is similar except the re-download part but of course with music you can plug the iPad into any iTunes machine even if it was not the original synced computer and drag and drop music into the iPad memory. But you knew all this already so why am I wasting time telling you?

        P.S. and of course you knew that to upgrade an iPads software you really do not need the original synced machine either. You can plug it into ANY iTunes machine, even if not on the same account, and backup and update the core OS. Just thought you should know this.
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        @Samic ...Since itunes/iPad/iPod Touch only allow music, photo and apps sync to 1 computer, you're basically the "oncall" support person to your family right?

        Simple, copy the entire directory to her computer then fire up iTunes, connect the iPad and enjoy.

        Oh and also, you don't need to sync it to add music, you can buy it directly off the iPad.
    • Here's what I do...

      Listen to what David Gewirtz says and then do exactly the OPPOSITE. Makes me look like a genius - I'm always right because he's is always wrong. Seriously, I've never read any other tech journalist in the industry who is as consistently wrong about everything as this guy.
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        What about John Dvorak? IMO, Dvorak makes David look like an adept disciple of Cassandra.
      • agreed

        he is by far the most ridiculous of the zdnet bloggers. i always come here for a laugh.
        banned from zdnet
    • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

      @oncall "When I visit I'll bring the synced laptop with me and update as needed."

      Just sad you don't see how insane this is.
      • What's really sad


        Is my mother called me a few weeks ago asking how to turn on a laptop computer. Yeah, this is not a person I want updating anything on her own.

        I'm sorry my choices bother you enough to post about it. That is sad.
  • The WI-FI doesn't work?

    Seems to me that you simply must cite reasons - founded & unfounded (based on isolated cases which have since been addressed) to press your case. I've got no problem with my WI-FI connection. Never. And hope you enjoy your Android tablet.
    • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

      @sgdogwalker Apple fanbois are always so defensive and can't take ANY criticism. THAT's why the rest of us call it the cult of Jobs. I think the author presented some nice arguments and these are not all, there are far more but I guess he didn't want to go down to nitty gritty things, to avoid the complaints of all those stuck with a glorified iphone when they thought it would actually be "magical".
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        @nicholas22 OK, so what if he actually hasn't seen any WiFi issues? Would that change your argument?
      • @jeremychappell, he doesn't have an argument

        I doubt he's ever used an iPad before.

        And just for your information, both of my parents have an iPad and except for the usual non-iPad related network issues, they haven't had a dropped signal yet.
        search &amp; destroy
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        @nicholas22 i agree. Fanboi's are disgusting.
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas


        you are an apple enemy, maybe an employee of google or microsoft? the author didn't rpesent any arguments. those are baseless statements.

        i wonder how jobs got that cult made though. he does not preach, he only makes super great products that don't cause you even one-hundredth the trouble that everything else does.
        sense police
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        God forbid Apple would put out a product with a bad antenna design!
      • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

        @nicholas22 So somebody writes a piece giving reasons not to buy an items that are either subjective, biased and/or blown out of proportion for the most part and you see it as fanboyism to come to the products defense? So your hatred is so deep that the defense of said product bothers you enough to post a response? Small minded hatred is no better or worse than blind fanboyism.
    • RE: 9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas

      @sgdogwalker My Android tablet (I'm not David G.) works pretty darned well. Not missing iTunes for it just yet, although having that wouldn't be a bad thing.