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iPad addiction and withdrawal syndrome – why Apple’s tablet continues to dominate

Sections: iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Originals

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So far, touch wood, the neck of Nova Scotian woods I live in has been spared experiencing the great Christmas blackout that has afflicted much of the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada. There has been some ominous flickering of lights, but transitory, and never taking things down. Being on the Atlantic coast has resulted in our getting only brief periods of the freezing rain that has beset points not all that far to the north and west of us. Some poor souls at this writing have been without electric power in their homes for longer than a week. More foul weather is forecast this week, and we’re barely more than a week into winter. It’s shaping up to be a long one.

However, several blackouts (of more “normal” duration) over the past couple of years have revealed how addicted I’ve become to my iPad. When the power goes out here, so does our wireless Internet connection, which is powered off the electrical utility’s grid. The worst one was last January when a blackout disrupted something on the transmission tower that wasn’t repaired for five long days, although electrical power was restored in a matter of hours. That’s about 120 iPad-less hours. Technically, my iPad was fine but without the Internet there wasn’t much I could do with it for the duration.

When we’re offline, I can still do work on my laptops as long as I can recharge batteries with the portable gas generator power. On the other hand, the iPad is pretty useless without the Internet since all of my archives and work in progress are stored and accessed from the cloud on Dropbox with the iPad, and there are no backups stored in a folder on a local volume like there are with the Macs.

I really miss the iPad even when I’m outside of WiFi range even for a few hours, let alone for days. Cellular? Too expensive for both the iPad with cellular support and the service itself, for the amount I would ever use it, although it would be convenient during power outages and when traveling.

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Macworld’s Joel Mathis blogged last week about recently going 60 hours without his iPad while he waited for a replacement to arrive in the mail due to a Lightning cable failure. He says that was probably longest stretch of tablet-free time for him in more than three years, and while he has a MacBook Air and other Macs, it’s not the same; there were three tasks in particular that without an iPad he either couldn’t do, or had to do much differently, and he still had Internet access. But of course, both of us were way better off than those folks who’ve gone some 200 hours without power, and with another winter storm underway as I write this, such things are relative.

The things Mathis missed most about the iPad were reading the news, playing games, and distracting himself at the gym. I can only partly commiserate. I also use my iPad as my primary news reading device, but I’m not a gamer, and prefer to get my exercise outdoors. For me the tablet and my Macs are primarily work tools, and even a lot of my news reading is work-related. More screen time in not where I go for recreation! And I have a list of things left undone or neglected that never gets shorter with the limited free time I have available.

What I probably miss most about the iPad is that I’ve gotten used to computing in a variety of locations around my house that are more comfortable (and, at this time of year, warmer) than sitting in a task chair at my office workstation. I also miss the no-hassle spontaneity of iPad use, even though my new MacBook Air represents a substantial step in that direction thanks to its speedy flash storage drive, Haswell processor, and OS X Mavericks’ efficiency.

I think it is that quality that explains the massive impact on the IT sector the iPad has had in such a short time. Functionality-wise, I still much prefer using a laptop or desktop personal computer, but even a thin and light unit like the MacBook Air can’t match the ease and simplicity of using an iPad, and why it would be hard to turn back the clock to where we were before Steve Jobs unleashed the iPad on the world not quite four years ago.

According to metrics released last week by NPD Group’s Distributor Track and Commercial Reseller Tracking Service, tablets captured more than 22% of all personal computing device sales in 2013 through November, with the iPad accounting for 59% of tablet market volume, making Apple the third largest-selling brand in U.S. computing device sales. Tablets sales grew a phenomenal 49% over the year’s first eleven months compared with the same time period in 2012.

Look for that trend to continue in 2014, with Apple continuing to dominate the category that accounted for 80 percent of its commercial sales in 2013, adding a larger, 13″ iPad to the line if the rumor mills are on track. The combination of Apple’s industrial design, construction quality, Retina display, 64-bit SoC, overall performance, and App Store superiority make the iPad still the best tablet on the market, and the iPad Air is such an advance over the previous four full sized iPad iterations that it’s pretty much a no-brainer. In my estimation, unless pocket or purse-ability is a major priority, the slimmer and lighter Air has removed much of the rationale for going with the iPad mini, the Retina version of which is only $100 cheaper than the base Air.

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But whichever model you prefer, the iPad will remain addictive.

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