This summer, I’ve been tempted to venture outside the tablet department of Apple’s walled garden. I’ve been reasonably happy with my iPad 2 for the past 39 months, absolutely so with the hardware quality and my iPad’s perfect reliability record. It transformed me from a tablet skeptic to a huge tablet fan. But as I’ve related here and elsewhere many times, I’m considerably less satisfied with the iOS’s limitations as a productivity platform and the device’s lack of expandability and I/ O connectivity. It’s also not exactly inexpensive considering what you don’t get with the base model, and indeed even higher end iPad from a mid-range to power user perspective.
I haven’t been terribly smitten with Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which is also expensive, and more accurately characterized as a PC Ultrabook with tablet form factor capability.
Rather than Surface Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro models, Seeking Alpha’s Mark Hibben points to Lenovo’s Thinkpad 10, which strongly contributed to Lenovo’s a 67 percent year-over-year tablet sales gain at the same time iPad sales have been slumping. Unlike with the Core i powered Surface Pro, the ThinkPad 10 runs Intel’s heavily subsidized Bay Trail Atom processor, allowing Lenovo to substantially undercut Apple in price.
For example, the base ThinkPad 10 sells for $599.00 with 64 GB of storage, and an Intel Atom Z3795 processor with 2GB of system RAM, although at that price you only get a 32-bit version of Windows. For the same money Apple only gives you 32 GB of storage, and 1 GB of system RAM, although you do get 64 Bit support across the board.
Amazingly, go up another 20 bucks to $619, and you get 4GB system RAM, 128GB data storage, and a 64 bit Windows 8.1 Bing OS. That’s gotta be the best-spent $20 upgrade in the industry. The most system RAM Apple puts in any model iPad is 1 GB, and to get 128 GB storage, it’s $799.00 for the WiFi version.
The Lenovo ThinkPad 10 has pretty much the feature set I would love to see made available on the iPad, and can be had at a more reasonable price. There’s an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera (to the iPad Air’s 5 MP unit (although pixel resolution is not necessarily a certain indicator of picture quality). There are both Micro HDMI and standard USB 2.0 I/O ports, a a Micro SD card slot, none of which are available on the iPad; and Windows of course supports multi-windowing and user access to the file system. For good measure, Lenovo throws in a full year of Office 365 Personal when you purchase the ThinkPad 10 with Windows 8.1 with Bing OS, plus 60 minutes of Skype calling each month, and 20GB of free OneDrive cloud storage.
So why not switch? Logically it would seem that I’d be happier using a machine that has the feature set I want, rather than kludging workarounds to coax a machine that doesn’t have them to sort of approximate the functionality I need. Wouldn’t it? Well, maybe not.
Probably the biggest factor that keeps me loyal to the iPad doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with hardware specs or prices at all. Rather, it’s familiarity. Specifically with the workflow ecosystem I’ve developed with iPad software over the past three-plus years, a lot of which carries over from 22 years on the Mac. Indeed, working with the iPad reminds me in several ways of my early Mac-user days back in the ’90s. For instance, no real multitasking.
If I were to switch to a Windows or Android tablet, I would have to start the process all over again of finding the suite of productivity apps I need and climbing their respective learning curves, and I’m not really up for that. Also, Windows and Android themselves, being malware magnets, oblige one to engage in the anti virus patching song and dance, which has been a non-issue for me in more than two decades on the Mac and the past few years on iOS. I really don’t have time for it.
Then there’s the pretty much painless, straightforward iOS version upgrades and occasional updates. My old iPad, which shipped with iOS 4 point something, runs iOS 7 very nicely, and will even be supported by iOS 8 –perhaps thanks to the original iPad mini, which is still being sold new, also having the same A5 SoC power as the second generation full size iPad, but whatever that backwards compatibility extends the usable working life and the value of one’s iPad purchase equity, as does the hardware ruggedness and reliability of the device.
As a Mac-user (and I have no intention of switching PC Platforms) the high degree of iOS/OS X compatibility and crossover also can’t be discounted, and that factor is going to be enhanced substantially with the release of iOS 8 and OS X 10 Yosemite.
Aesthetically, the tasteful, understated design and solid, precision-crafted metal and glass construction of the iPad appeals,to me a lot more strongly than the partly plastic build and sometimes tasteless vulgarism or just plain boring styling of other brand tablets.
All in all, even though there are many iPad/iOS shortcomings that frustrate me (and that haven’t been addressed in iOS 8), realistically there is very little likelihood that my next tablet won’t be an iPad.