My iPad 3 died last night. Carelessly left to linger along the edge of a desk it soon fell victim to the curious paws of my cat and landed directly on a wheel of my office chair. The sound an iPad makes when it breaks this way is like a car window shattering. For a moment I thought someone had tried to vault into (or out of) my apartment.
In a way this accident’s timing is convenient. Apple just debuted its new iPad Air 2, so if I buy a replacement I’ll be at the cutting edge of the release cycle. The new tablet is by all accounts the best ever made.
Yet as I stood in the Apple Store today with its svelte frame in my hands, contemplating a purchase, I was more annoyed than excited. I’d be lying if I said the shiny new model felt meaningful quicker or drastically better in my hands. Pay $600? For this? I just couldn’t do it.
The moment my iPad broke didn’t change anything about my life. Without it I can still write, I can still play games, I can still visit web pages, I can still check my email. Absolutely everything that my tablet could do is already covered by another more necessary device (mostly my computer and smartphone, but game consoles as well).
For perhaps a year I felt that maybe Wired’s prophetic post-iPad article “How the Tablet Will Change the World” was not as overwrought as I’d thought. Maybe they would change the world. Maybe we would stop using PCs entirely. Maybe “a tablet in every backpack” would become the battlecry of a new era for education. Tablets were everywhere. Tablets could do everything. Tablets were cool.
But now the future isn’t as clear. Tablets aren’t going anywhere, but neither are PCs, or phones. There’s a dizzying range of devices available in nearly any size I’d like. Even Apple’s lineup is starting to become confusing. The expanding capabilities of each device is making the battlefronts between them longer, vaguer and harder to define.
If tablets aren’t going to take over, though, what is? I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question. There isn’t anything in consumer technology that’s omg awesome! right now except 4K monitors - but I get the sense the general public isn’t on board with them yet. And they only improve, rather than change, how we use computers.
Maybe I will end up buying an iPad Air 2. Right now, though, I’m tempted to wait until something cool comes along.