Since the iPad’s 2010 debut, detractors have dismissed it as a “content consumption” device. Sure (they say with a sneer), it’s great for watching movies, reading books, and playing games. But you can’t make anything with a tablet. The iPad only reinforces our culture’s addiction to media.
Until I owned an iPad, I didn’t realize how wrong-headed these critiques are.
Honestly, I have other devices better-suited for content consumption. For reading in bed, I grab my smartphone. Holding the iPad takes both hands, leaving my arms trapped outside the covers. For watching movies, we prefer the TV. The big screen’s easy to see from anywhere in the living room, and you don’t have to balance it on your lap. Finally, although I’m not much of a gamer, I’d rather play games on my PC or a dedicated console than on the iPad. Touchscreen controls just can’t compete with a keyboard and mouse or a gamepad.
If anything, the iPad serves as my dedicated content-creation device. If I want to pound out a blog post, the iPad provides a minimalist, distraction-free writing environment. For sketches, I reach for the iPad; it’s cleaner than pencil and paper, and my Wacom tablet chains me to my desk. When I’m making music, the iPad serves as sheet-music reader and recording studio, all in one.1
The iPad is a luxury device. If you already own a smartphone, a PC and a TV, you probably don’t need a tablet. But buying one doesn’t necessarily make you consumption-obsessed. You may find that the iPad’s biggest “luxury” is that it makes you want to create cool stuff.
Worth noting: each of these activities requires accessories. Without creative tools, the iPad feels less useful. For example, if you hate typing long-form media on a touchscreen (like me), you’ll need a Bluetooth keyboard. Finger-painting is fun, but it’s hard to draw anything precise without a capacitive stylus. And you can’t cut a decent recording with with the iPad’s built-in microphone.
Still, it’s the iPad that makes the creative activity possible. Its strength is versatility; each accessory (and app) transforms the iPad into a different artistic workstation.