10 Reasons Not to Buy an iPad for a College Student


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When your college kid insists, "I need an iPad," here's how to counter that expensive argument with impeccable logic.

The following post comes from partner site dealnews.com.

With summer already on its way out, your college-bound child is probably in the midst of asking for more  money to buy the “essentials” they’ll need for dorm life in the upcoming school year.

(FYI: A BMX bike is not an essential school requirement for anyone, except those attending BMX U.)

It’s likely that they’ve also mentioned needing a little device called an “iPad.” That may have gotten you wondering if, in this day and age, the iPad should be considered instead of a laptop.

Let’s face it, we’re not talking about any ol’ tablet here. That new $199 tablet from Google? Yeah, no one is even considering that as something useful for a student. Why, you ask? Because the iPad-need probably has something to do with the Apple name brand, or the fact that Apple consistently makes quality devices that are so super-powered, you start to think they can do anything. But, that’s not always the case…

1. It’s expensive-ish

An iPad, at its most basic 16GB configuration with Wi-Fi connectivity starts at $399 – and that’s for last year’s model. The latest model, which is packed with a Retina display and all sorts of extra goodies, starts at $499.

The higher-end models (64GB of storage and 3G connectivity) can burn a hole into your wallet in the shape of $829 – with additional per-month rates for data plans. Even at the cheaper end of the spectrum, we often find full-fledged laptop deals for about that price. Though the iPad 2 is close, it just doesn’t make monetary sense to buy an iPad instead of a laptop.

2. It’s not the best solution for note-taking

A virtual keyboard doesn’t have any tactile feedback. This tech is fine for a quick text on your smartphone, but the iPad’s keyboard – which is not a standard shape and size – is  more awkward. And say goodbye to touch-typing, because your fingers will start drifting, and you’ll soon wind up with a page of gibberish.

And if you do manage to struggle your way through writing an entire term paper on the tablet, editing it is another headache. Using your fingertip for fine placement of the cursor is next to impossible, and it’ll take you a few tries to land it where you need it. After several failed attempts, you’ll be wishing you had a laptop with a real keyboard and mouse.

3. It’s ultra-portable – and ultra-droppable

Light and portable means you’ll want to take this tablet with you – and you will because, well, why not? It’s so light! But taking it everywhere means there’s a greater chance of dropping it anywhere and breaking it. There will even be more of a chance that your kid will forget completely that it’s in their bag and, as kids will, fling their satchel across the room – only to be rewarded with a gut-wrenching crack.

4. What makes it desirable to your teen is what makes it desirable to criminals

Your college kid wanting an iPad is second only to the desire of a criminal to steal one. It’s so light (see above) and small that it’s easy for a thief to abscond with it. Sure, there are security locks you can use, just like the kind you can get for a laptop, but who – especially among the devil-may-care college-age set – really takes the time to actually use it?

5. It’s too distracting

The iTunes App Store boasts more than 500,000 apps – which is tantamount to more than 500,000 distractions for your child, who’s supposed to be paying attention to his professor. Angry Birds will be calling during those long lectures, we’re sure.

OK, apps are available on most smartphones too. But with the iPad, the temptation to stray is literally in a student’s hands the whole time, since the device is also the tool they’re continuously using to supposedly “take notes” during a lecture. As far as Twitter, messaging, and Web-browsing go, they’ll unfortunately be just as much of a nuisance on a laptop. But considering the iPad’s portability, your child is more likely to tote it to class without fail.

6. eTextbooks are a marvel, but there’s no secondary market

Your kid will probably make the argument that an iPad can display digital textbooks and, since the device is lighter than a stack of dead-tree tomes, you’d be saving the planet and them from years of backache and possibly a future addiction to painkillers and chiropractors. To this argument, you should tell them to wear their backpack over both shoulders, like one is supposed to, and they shouldn’t have a problem.

Then, after a cursory examination of eBook prices, you might notice that they’re generally cheaper than their printed counterparts, especially when you factor in Amazon’s rental service. But keep in mind that there’s no secondary market for digital textbooks, so that price you see for the digital version is the only price you’ll get. You can’t buy them used and you can’t sell them back once the semester is over.

7. It’s meant for solo enjoyment – and social seclusion

You want your kid to grow up to be a personable, extroverted, well-functioning member of polite society, right? So why would you give him a personal entertainment device that all-but-guarantees he’ll spend every moment of his free time with his nose pointed at a tiny screen, drowning out the revelry, camaraderie, and general good times that are taking place around him?

8. It’s essentially just a status symbol

Like any gadget, the iPad is a status symbol. Like any Apple gadget, it’s an expensive status symbol. It’s something we’ve been trained by society and lifestyle magazines to want, simply because it’s a luxury – and if we can be the first to have it, somehow, we “win.” To combat this, you can sit your kid down and, being very earnest, tell him that he doesn’t need things to be popular. Then explain to him that laughing at you, when you’re trying to be serious, isn’t getting him closer to that iPad.

9. It’ll be old technology by the time you actually buy one

Apple is very consistent with its release schedule of devices. New models come out like clockwork, and our guess is that the iPad is not going to stray from this tried-and-true model. Specifically, an even newer version of the tablet is surely going to come out sometime in March or April.

That means the iPad your kid wants to own in August is already six months old and halfway through its lifecycle. What’s the point in buying this older model, when there’s a shiny new version on the horizon that your child will surely start eying greedily once it debuts?

10. They’ll probably want a laptop too!

Yes. You heard that right. If you buy an iPad for your kid thinking, “Well, that’s that,” think again! Since there are situations in which a tablet just doesn’t cut it (see above), your child will come to realize that she definitely needs a full-fledged desktop or laptop (like the new MacBook Air) for school, too. Whether it be for essay-writing, Internetting, game-playing, or entertainment-centering, you’re looking at a double-dose of device deployment. Never forget: There’s no end to the amount of money a kid can or will ask for.

By this point, you should have the tools to totally demolish your child’s hopes and dreams of being the cool kid on campus. But if, after all that, you’re still going to get your child an iPad, make sure you get one after looking through our iPad deals. And also, try and keep quiet about it. Other parents do not want to battle a kid yelling, “But so-and-so’s folks got her one!”

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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