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[Digital Simplicity] Don’t return the new iPad yet before reconsidering its core functions

By Yang Sung-jin

Published : July 3, 2021 - 16:01

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Eleven years ago, I was awestruck when I watched the then Apple CEO Steve Jobs presenting the iPad. Since there were some leaks about Apple’s new tablet computer, I was somewhat prepared to witness a new device.

What surprised me the most was that Jobs sat down in a classic Le Corbusier LC-3 chair and rested the iPad against a crossed leg before browsing the internet and demonstrating apps with his fingers. It was an intricately orchestrated body posture, but I couldn’t resist the urge to play with the iPad the way Jobs did.

That was why I went to great lengths to buy the original iPad in 2010, when South Korea was yet to approve imports of the device. The first iPad, however, turned out to be novel in interface yet disappointing in function. As there were only a handful of apps optimized for the new tablet computer, I couldn’t find good reasons for using the iPad instead of the iPhone and a regular laptop computer.

Belatedly, I realized Jobs’ iPad demonstration -- his laid-back posture in a comfortable chair -- at the landmark Apple event was far from the reality. Four years later, as the first-generation iPad gathered dust, I bought an updated one, desperately hoping for a positive change. A couple of features of the iPad, such as reading ebooks and webtoons, were superior to those on a smartphone and a laptop, but the device still lacked a killer app for me. In the following years, Apple added more functions and the Apple Pencil to the iPad lineup, but I was not convinced to upgrade my iPad.

That is, not until the release of the new iPad with M1 chip in late May. After all, my second iPad is rarely used in recent months since it is too slow and its battery charger is beyond repair. It’s time to move on and put my hands on the more powerful iPad with a bigger screen.

I made an order for the newest 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as well as a handful of accessories including the second-generation Apple Pencil, a tablet stand and a smart case. It dealt a sizable damage to my bank account, but I came up with two main excuses to justify my purchase of the big-ticket digital items in years.

First, I would focus on taking advantage of just a couple of key features of the latest iPad, such as drawing simple pictures and reading comics. In other words, I have lowered my expectations for this fairly pricey machine. Second, I will not bring it around with me, as the 12.9-inch model is quite heavy and I already carry around too many devices in my backpack, including a laptop, Kindle ebook reader, external batteries and a slew of charger cables. The new iPad will be primarily used at home, a condition that I believe justifies the bigger screen, even though there are a lot of users who prefer the 11-inch model for its advantage in portability.

I haven’t used the new iPad much. I just experimented a little with my drawing skills on the much-renowned Procreate app, watched streaming videos and read some comic books.

After a month since I began to use the 12.9-inch iPad, I noticed the screen was far bigger than I imagined and the 685-gram weight was not light enough to toss it around for fun.

Then the inevitable buyer’s remorse hit me after browsing a series of videos in which a host of tech YouTubers explained why they decided to return the latest 12.9-inch iPad. Their reasons range from technical issues with the much-touted mini-LED display, to the dearth of pro-level mobile apps that make full use of the M1 chip, to the disappointment at the forthcoming iPadOS update that is seen as lacking key upgrades.

I partly agree that the iPad has some issues to be fixed, but I believe their high expectations missed an important point that was clearly floated by Jobs at the iPad debut event 11 years ago.

“Is there room for a third category of device in the middle, something that‘s between a laptop and a smartphone?” Jobs asked. “In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks.”

Jobs, perhaps too ambitiously, listed too many key tasks the iPad could do, including web browsing, email, photos, video, music, gaming and ebooks. But his point remains valid: a device in the third category should be better at doing some (not necessarily many) key tasks.

In my monthlong experience, iPad does better than other devices in streaming videos and web browsing on a bigger screen without the need for a cumbersome keyboard.

I also found the 12.9-inch iPad particularly useful for reading comic books. As my eyesight is deteriorating, I need a bigger screen to enlarge the text in comics, and the 12.9-inch screen in portrait orientation is more than enough, offering a pleasant user experience.

But I still want to recreate the scene in which Jobs was sitting on a cushy sofa, flipping through the iPad. I did try to do the famous posture on my sofa, but I couldn’t get it right. As you might expect, when I use the iPad at home, I often fight with the temptation to find ways to buy the very sofa that Steve Jobs used. 

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Yang Sung-jin is senior writer of The Korea Herald. -- Ed.