When the iPad was first announced, in January 2010, I posted an initial outlook for the new device. Nearly 2 years has passed since that article, and since then the iPad 2 has been available on the market for quite some time. The question that I asked was, “is the iPad worth it?” Now it is time to look back and answer that question with an analysis.
The original iPad actually became available in April, and I received one in May as a very generous graduation gift. It was a brand new 64GB Wifi+3G model. Having used the original iPad for over a year, I can say definitively that it has changed the way that I consume media in my leisure time. Whether I’m sitting on the couch in front of the TV, at a coffee shop, in school, or perhaps disturbingly in the bathroom, the iPad is not very far away. I can also say that more recently, it has changed the way that I take notes in graduate classes [tip of the hat to the Bamboo stylus for iPad and the Note Taker HD app]. For the most part, I think that the iPad has simply taken time away that I would have spent on the iPhone.
However, just because a device changes the way things are done does not necessarily make it “worth it.” To help answer this question, I compiled some quantitative data about my iPad use.
I had to jailbreak my iPad so that I could install the BatteryInfo app which told me how many cycles my iPad had on it: 110 cycles.
Assuming a conservative 7 hours per cycle [to account for sleep time and heavy use] that comes out to 770 hours of lifetime use. That usage is over a period of 450 days which means that I have used the iPad for roughly 1.7 hours per day. This is a conservative number for two reasons. First, I already mentioned that I used a conservative battery life per cycle. Second, I had my iPad replaced under warranty in September 2010, so I do not know how many cycles I had put on the original one over the summer. Quite a few hours if I recall correctly.
Considering that the price tag was $829 for my model (64GB wifi+3G) plus $79 for AppleCare, my hourly rate works out to be $1.18 per hour of use. Remember, this is a conservative number. It would be more realistically just under $1.00 per hour if the first 4 months had been included. I anticipate getting one more year of life out of this device before the upgrade itch strikes, so the hourly rate will continue to decrease to around $0.59 per hour.
So…, was the iPad worth it? I cannot answer that question for you because worth is relative. If I compare the daily cost to my last utilities bill which was well over $2.00 per day, or if I compare the cost to my last broadband bill which was also over $2.00 per day, then the iPad looks like a bargain. However, this is comparing apples to oranges. If I compare the daily cost to my trusty 2007 MacBook Pro which is still happily processing away [in fact, I’m writing this article on it right now], then the picture is a bit different. Estimating my use of this laptop over the 4+ years would put the daily cost in the ballpark of $0.20 per day to $0.40 per day.
Based on a pure cost per day figure, then the iPad does not look too bad at all. However, the utility, or measure of satisfaction, that I gained from the MacBook Pro far outstrips that of the iPad. While I perhaps waste a lot of time on the iPad which feeds the high worth I place on leisure time, I spent even more productive and financially rewarding time on the MBP.
In sum, there is no definitive answer to the question of whether the iPad, or any device, is worth the cost. The satisfaction (economic utility) gained from any device will differ with every person. I can say one thing though. The next time around I would probably pass on the 3G model. I find that I gain significantly more use by putting that $15/mo towards tethering on the iPhone which can serve both the iPad and other devices. Granted, it did require giving up my fake unlimited data plan.