16 reasons NOT to buy a new iPad (including 7 that haven't changed from earlier iPads)

I'm on your side, kids. It's time for some truth. Let's shut down that reality distortion field and save you some money. Let's get started.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I was brought up with a few basic lessons. Don't touch the hot stove. Look both ways before crossing the street. And just because all your friends want to jump off a cliff, that doesn't mean you should, too.

To be fair, most of the lessons my mom tried to teach me didn't stick. To her credit, she tried, oh, did she try. But I was something of a problem child. All these years later, I can simply respect and honor her effort. It's not my mom's fault I turned out the way I did. Mama tried.

I tell you this because about 55 million of your fellow tech consumers have been lining up like lemmings, getting ready to jump off the iPad cliff, once again. Don't get me wrong. I acknowledge that there is some value to an iPad. But just because all your friends are buying the latest and greatest "new" iPad (what we previously thought would be the iPad 3), that doesn't mean you have to, as well.

See also: Unboxing the new iPad

Every other tech pundit and reviewer in the business will be out there trying to tell you why you should buy an iPad. They figure that if they suck up to Apple enough, perhaps, some day, a 20-something, wet-behind-the-ears Apple PR droid will bless them with a returned call or email. At that point, that lucky reviewer will be able to check off the most elusive of bucket list items.

Not me. I've had my fill of Apple PR reps, back when I headed up some Apple projects and later as a member of the press. I went through the foggy-late-night-outside-the-garage-Foster-City-swap-of-useless-press-materials-with-cute-PR-women phase, and I'm long over it. I'm here to speak truth to you. If that means I get yelled at again by yet another Apple enforcer, so be it.

I'm on your side, kids. It's time for some truth. Let's get started.

Reason 1: You already have an iPad

Let's face the elephant in the room first. The odds are, you already have an iPad. And, if you're reading this, you're either an iPad phanboi just looking for something to get steamed about, or you're an iPad user who already upgraded once from the first iPad to the iPad 2. Either way, you have an iPad.

The new iPad adds a few interesting features: a higher-resolution display (we'll get to that in a minute) and 4G/LTE wireless (we'll get to that in a minute, too). The bottom line is that you really can't do very much more with the new iPad than you can with the iPad 2, so save your shekels and just use an iPad 2.

Reason 2: The retina display is mostly marketing hype

If you want to see the phanbois erupt, it'll be over this. But hear me out. Yes, I know there are more pixels on this beast than on HDTVs. And yes, I know there are more pixels on this display than most 24" computer displays.

But. The. Screen. Is. Still. Only. Nine. Inches.

Just how many photographs are you really going to look at and ooh and ah about? Is it really worth dumping your older iPad just so you can show off the exciting new display? You're probably not doing advanced scientific work, where the high resolution will be important. And sure, you might find text slightly crisper, but is that worth throwing out your existing iPad?

Even worse, many applications won't support the higher-resolution display, so you're likely to actually see images that look worse on the retina display than they did on the iPad 2.

So, yes, the iPad's retina display is an amazing technological achievement. But so is being able chunk punkins 5,545.43 feet across a field. Not everyone needs to do that, either.

Reason 3: High-res apps will take more memory

Fine, if you're still not convinced, make sure you buy the bigger, more expensive iPad, because all those high-res images in apps (and magazines and books) are going to take a boatload more storage. And sure, some of that storage will be in iCloud, but a lot of it will need to be stored right on the device.

If you bought a 16GB machine back in the day, you're probably now going to want a 64GB machine. That starts to get quite expensive, quite quickly.

Reason 4: 4G/LTE is expensive

Speaking of expensive, wait until you get a-load of those 4G/LTE bills. Sure, you can stream 1080p Netflix over the 4G/LTE networks, but you do know you're paying for your data, right? When you wake up at the end of the month with a ginormous data bill because you decided to use the 4G/LTE on your new iPad, you'll wonder why you didn't listen to my recommendation to stay away.

Keep in mind that if you have 4G/LTE on your non-Apple smartphone, you're moving a lot less data than you would on a new iPad. Because the screen resolution is so much higher on the new iPad, if you want to take full advantage of it, you'll be eating 4-8 times the data load each month than you would have on a 4G/LTE phone -- if not a lot more than that, especially if you get it into your head that the iPad is a laptop replacement.

Wall Street Journal: Video Speed Trap Lurks in New iPad

Next: Reasons 5-9 »

« Previous: Reasons 1-4

Reason 5: 4G/LTE doesn't work in a lot of places

For those living in a major metropolitan area, 4G/LTE is all the rage. But if you happen to stray outside these districts, you're in a wireless wasteland. All that money you spent on a 4G/LTE iPad won't do you a lick of good. You'd be just as successful stringing twine between two iPads and shouting into the microphone icon.

Reason 6: The porn issue

Look, someone had to say this, so it might as well be me. Apple has a major thing against porn, wanting its devices to be family friendly. What does that mean for you pervs out there?

Well, if you thought that oh-so-wonderful retina display could be used to render naughty images in super-duper-pervo-vision, you're wrong. Apple is blocking all the potential apps that would take advantage of the retina display, so go on back down to your Mom's basement and wait until Samsung brings out a high-res display for one of their Android tablets.


Reason 7: The size

There's another factor here, and that's size. The iPad isn't necessarily the optimum size for reading books or consuming content. It's far bigger than most pocket books and considerably smaller than most magazines. Further, the new iPad is 7% thicker than the iPad 2 and 8% heavier.

There is a reason that Amazon brought out the Kindle Fire in a 7-inch form-factor. It's a lot easier to read books using a smaller, lighter display.

Reason 8: iPad 2 accessories won't necessarily work

Because the new iPad is just slightly bigger than the iPad 2, you'll need to be very careful when selecting accessories to buy with it, in particular sleek cases and sleeves. Not everything you get will fit -- and beware unscrupulous vendors trying to dump old inventory by simply relabeling it as "new iPad compatible".

Reason 9: It's still not 16x9

Amazingly, the new iPad, with it's oh-so-revolutionary retina display, still presents information in an obsolete 4x3 format. Virtually no TV, and no monitor (and certainly no movie) is presented in 4x3 format anymore. That stuff went out years ago.

That means that if you want to use the super-sexy retina display to watch a 1080p movie, you're either going to be forced to watch the movie in letterbox form, using the incredible capability of the retina display to display black bars -- or you'll have to crop off the sides of the movie to see the detail in full screen.

Either way, the 4x3 format of the iPad's display is disturbingly anachronistic.

Next: Reasons 10-16 »

« Previous: Reasons 5-9

Reasons 10-16: Still limited after all these years

Many of the iPad's limitations still exist, even three revisions into what's clearly a highly successful design. As much mainstream adoption of the iPad as there's been, the device is still spectacularly limited in some important areas:

  • Reason 10: There’s still no USB port
  • Reason 11: You still have to use iTunes too often
  • Reason 12: There's still no removable storage
  • Reason 13: Kindles are still much less expensive
  • Reason 14: You can still only run software approved by Apple
  • Reason 15: It still can’t be used as a standalone computer
  • Reason 16: Apple still won't let you write or run programs that execute programs

Although the new iPad does open more doors for content creators than ever before, it's still very limited, both in terms of execution and in terms of Apple's still-draconian Big Brother user policies.

Yes, I've ordered one

We're big on disclosures here at ZDNet, so I'll disclose that I did order a new iPad. I didn't buy the iPad 2 and although I have very little use for my old iPad 1 (I use it in the teleprompter, and that's all), I bought the new model because I felt that if I'm going to write about it, I need to have one here.

But I'll be honest. If I didn't have an editorial need to cover the thing, I never would have bought one. I much prefer real computers that can be used to do real work.

See also:

Editorial standards