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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Do I really want a Tablet for Christmas?

Just for the record. I’m not a bling kind of girl. I am a technogeek. However, I am also of Dutch-descent which means I don’t spend money lightly. Unfortunately, this does diminish my technogeek chops to some extent.

I admit that I was plagued much of this Fall semester by iPad envy. Even as friends and colleagues demonstrated the many wonderous apps featured by the device I contemplated my chances of getting away clean if I knocked them over the head with my knapsack and snatched their iPad away from them. I dreamed and discarded any number of dastardly plans to acquire one for myself as the weeks passed. I informed my husband that all I wanted for Christmas was an iPad and then, even as the words fell from my lips, I really considered whether I wanted an iPad enough to justify that blow to our family budget. Hmmm.

It was only a few years ago that I suffered from iPhone envy. As the owner of a $25 Go phone not only the device but the plan necessary to support it was a daunting expense. I was able to defeat that green-eyed monster with the purchase of an iPod Touch and never really looked back. Last Christmas I did upgrade to a $50 Go phone to make it easier to text but there are only a few occasions when I wish for an iPhone. Clearly I dodged a bullet there. Remembering the iPhone virus was enough to send me out to do my homework and to really ponder why I want a tablet and what I hope to do with it.

While I admit there are many nifty educational and teaching apps, the simple truth is that I teach predominantly online and so I won’t be toting my Tablet into class. I also agree that Tablets are much handier than many other forms of technology for meetings. While I do go to a number of meetings I tend to tote a little notebook that fits handily into my coat pocket rather than any form of technology. If I feel the urge for technology my iPod Touch nestles quite nicely beside the notebook with no extra bags necessary.

So if I’m not going to use it extensively for my on-campus work then what do I plan to use it for? I do plan to use it for an e-reader. I have resisted earlier e-readers because I just couldn’t see laying down that amount of money for a device that has only one function – and a function that other devices I already own can serve. However, as a mother I am frequently in a car or on a bench (if I’m lucky) or on the floor somewhere waiting for some practice or event to conclude. It would be handy to have an easy way to carry my reading with me for those regular occasions as well as more infrequent travel for professional and personal reasons.

I would also like to use a Tablet for casual web browsing and email checking. I can do this from my iPod Touch but there are some things it would just be easier to do with a larger screen. And, quite honestly, despite the fact that we have three computers in our home I am still sometimes left without a device. How this is possible I’m not sure (there are only 3 people living in our home) but there you go. I hope adding another device will break that deadlock.

I do expect that I will use the Tablet for entertainment purposes as well. I love my Touch for music and also frequently use Netflix to download movies and shows. I would expect a larger screen would enhance that experience.

So, if I largely will use my tablet as an e-reader, web browser, and video player, then is it really worth $500 to me? I decided not. But I knew that I wanted something and so began my search for a viable alternative. In the end I was left with two much less expensive options – costing only about as much as my Touch – the Amazon Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook. However, this meant another difficult decision. Both devices are so new that I don’t have any friends who possess either. So how do I choose?

The Nook has a lot more storage with capacity to expand but the Fire has a USB port and the Cloud so not sure how much of that is a real issue. It is unlikely I will want to tote my whole library to a location without Wifi after all. Gizmodo reports that when they compared the two devices that Fire ran faster and smoother but Nook has a better battery life. But as I don’t imagine marathon reading or viewing sessions so that will likely not be an issue.

The entertainment options of the two devices are different. Not sure how to even compare. Yes, we are currently Netflix subscribers which would suggest we go with a Nook but I’m not sure if we will maintain that relationship – or that Netflix will survive its recent poor service decisions. We’ve already cut back and are contemplating another.

The only other big difference is that Barnes and Noble will offer in-store support for their Nook while Amazon support will need to be done at a distance. How much of this is a factor for me? I think it is a bigger issue for my parents (who are also in the market for a Tablet this holiday season). My friends with Kindles haven’t reported problems so I’m not sure it is an issue.

What do you think? Have I adequately considered all my options? Tell me what I should ask for this Christmas!

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