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11 Things the iPad Can and Cannot Replace
written by Sam Greenspan

So I've had an iPad for a little over a month now. The first version, not the new version -- I can't bring myself to camp out overnight for anything. (Other than maybe camping out at the mall with Jessie and Screech and staying overnight for U2 tickets. Finding a bag of $5,000 is optional.)

And when I use the iPad around friends and well-wishers, the most common question I get is... "What can this replace?" So rather than actually politely answer them, I decided to put together this list.

  1. Never let this go.
    Portable video player. If you've got a portable DVD player or any other handheld media player, it absolutely can and should replace that. (Although you will have to either buy the movies from iTunes or go through the ripping process on your computer. Still worth it.) In addition to being able to play downloaded movies, you can stream Netflix and Hulu and watch live TV with a Slingbox.

    That being said... if you have a Watchman or one of those portable black and white TVs with a five-inch screen that run for three hours on 16 batteries, don't let go quite yet. While your kid fiddles around to set up port forwarding on your router to make the Slingbox stream to your iPad, you'll find yourself missing the entire "Andy Griffith Show".

    Verdict: CAN replace.

  2. Love. My first night with the iPad, my girlfriend and I were on the couch and I played with the iPad all night. I downloaded apps, I played Angry Birds, I set up Flipboard. Basically, I was a walking newbie stereotype. It's like smoking marijuana for the first time and eating Funyuns while you listen to "Dark Side of the Moon".

    At the end of the night, she said, "OK, that was fine for tonight. But I can't lose you to the iPad." And she was right. The iPad can supplement love in proper doses, but cannot replace love's warm touch. (I mean -- unlike a laptop, the thing rarely gets even a little bit hot. So you can't even leave it on your pillow to warm it up before you go to bed, then lay down to simulate what it would be like to sleep next to someone.)

    Verdict: CANNOT replace, but could very well alienate.

  3. Kindle/e-reader. This one's tricky. I have a Kindle too, and it's absolutely amazing for the one thing it does. The iPad is heavier. The screen has glare. Having to swipe the screen to turn the page can be a little more cumbersome. And, on another level, when you've got an iPad with all sorts of bells and whistles at hand, to quote Homer Simpson, what the hell are you reading books for?

    Verdict: MIGHT replace. If you don't already have a Kindle, it will certainly do; if you do already have a Kindle, don't pawn it quite yet.


  4. There are certain places where it's just not appropriate to pull out a laptop.
    Laptop computer. This is the most common question I hear -- could I use this instead of a computer? And the answer is... probably not. There are certain things you still find yourself needing to do on a computer. (From file storage to Office products to music management to true multitasking, you'll find yourself having to meet the iPad more than halfway much of the time. I personally find the multitasking to be the hardest part -- I'm one of those people who has at least six different things up on the screen at all time, so not having that option is prohibitive for me.)

    That being said, if you travel and lug along your laptop for web browsing, emailing, music and movies, then it can absolutely replace it. If you have a work computer and just want something more entertaining at home, you'll be fine with an iPad. It's also fantastic for meetings or whipping out at places you'd never whip out a laptop. For some reason, not having to lift a lid and have a keyboard there makes it so much more palatable in public. We're a strange society.

    Verdict: CANNOT replace completely.

  5. Cell phone. You can find workarounds to make calls on the iPad... you can find apps to text on the iPad... but there's no way you can find a way to jam this thing in your pocket. Even though phones are going through a rebigulating trend -- my friend Adam got the new HTC Thunderbolt and I'm pretty sure you could cook a sheet cake on the thing -- the iPad is simply too large to store on your person.

    Verdict: CANNOT replace.

  6. Babysitter. From everything I've seen, mostly at airports and in charming tweets, children are absolutely mesmerized by the iPad. And maybe this is my not-close-to-being-a-parent side talking, but I think I'd feel comfortable forgoing a babysitter and plopping my children down in front of the iPad while I went out for heavy drinking.

    Oh, come on. I'm kidding. I'd never leave my kids unsupervised like that. (They might break the iPad.)

    Verdict: CAN replace, but you'll end up meeting some not-so-friendly people from Child Services and end up in a Smoking Gun story.


  7. 8-bit Angry Birds would've changed my childhood.
    Portable video game system. I feel like the anemic Nintendo 3DS launch a few days ago proved that, yeah, people aren't quite so reliant on portable video game systems anymore. Sure, the hardcore types will find endless faults with cell phone or iPad games. But for the average person, this absolutely obviates the need for a gaming device.

    For me, it all comes down to something I call the How Much Shit Do You Want To Lug Around? Theory. Well, I don't really call it that. This is the first time I've called it that. But let's go with it. Basically, we all have a finite number of things we want to lug around. And if I'm packing up my bag, the iPad is coming with me and the Game Boy is staying home. Verdict: CAN replace.

  8. Music player. I haven't even bothered to sync my music to this. If I want to listen to music it'll be through a streaming service... the thing is too big to take to the gym... and I'm reluctant to clog up the iPad's small-ish hard drive with a bunch of old Matchbox 20 b-sides just because I went through a weird music phase a decade ago and never delete mp3s. (Also, the built-in speaker is quite mediocre. Don't expect to start a dance party with the iPad.)

    Your phone has replaced your iPod which replaced your Discman which replaced your Walkman which replaced your ghetto blaster which replaced your record player with two shoulder straps. But your iPad isn't ready to replace any of those quite yet.

    Verdict: CANNOT replace.

  9. GPS. In-car GPS devices are fairly outdated at this point and the iPad is an elegant replacement. I wouldn't even mind if a disembodied female robot voice emanated out of it to repeat the word "Recalculating" over and over and over.

    Verdict: CAN replace.


  10. Remember these kind of iPad jokes?
    Bathroom reading. Sorry that this website has been a bit toilet-heavy lately, but I had to include this. No piece of technology has ever been so perfectly suited for the bathroom. None. So... um... just keep that in mind next time you start touching all over a friend's iPad.

    Verdict: CAN replace.

  11. Pen and paper. This has been my biggest revelation so far -- I may never use a pen and notebook again. The iPad replaces note taking, scribbling down ideas, drawing, outlining, diary writing, everything. Not that I keep a diary. But I might start. And everything I write is being automatically synced to my computer. It's wonderful.

    The entire metaphor of "dipping your pen in the company ink" is about to be completely antiquated. Now if two of your coworkers are banging you're going to have to tell them "stop doing multitouch gestures on a home screen app."

    Verdict: CAN replace.

This list was originally published on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Web & Tech.
It currently has View Comments.

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