Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Useless excess: Fashion Victim Edition

Posted in Apple, computers, iphone, ipod by commorancy on December 8, 2010

For whatever reason today, a lot of people can’t seem to temper their purchasing of useless things.  I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this on occasion myself, but I try to exercise restraint with purchases by asking, “Do I have a real need?”

Purchasing excess

I see lots of people buying things where they haven’t really justified a need in their lives.  I’d say the most egregious example of this useless excess is the iPad.  So many people walked into the purchase of this device not knowing how it would enrich their lives, how they might use it or what it benefits it might offer.  Is the iPad useless excess?  I’d say so.  I still haven’t yet fully justified the purchase of this device for myself.  The only justification I have right now is the larger screen and reading email in a portable way.  Those are the justifications I’ve been able to come up with.  Since a I don’t avidly read digital books, that part isn’t really overall that useful me.  I do have an iPod Touch and have found this device to immensely enrich my life, though.  It solved my portable music need, it has a browser, a Kindle app and email and a few admin apps for in-a-pinch situations. It has a long battery life so I have something to use pretty much anywhere, again, in-a-pinch.   So, the cost and use for this isn’t useless excess for me.  On the other hand, the iPad isn’t that portable, so really doesn’t work for things like portable music.

Is an iPad worth $500?  Not yet for me. However, there are times where I’m walking around the office and having an iPad in hand could come in handy for spot email reading or forwarding an email.  Since it also supports some administrative tools, I might even be able to justify it for the use of those tools. On the other hand, a netbook is a more powerful hardware tool (i.e., usb ports, networking ports, SD card slot, etc).  So, hardware-wise, a Netbook is much more justified for what I do. They’re just a bit more cumbersome to use than an iPad.  On the other hand, composing email on an iPad is basically useless.  I’d much rather have a real keyboard, so I’d definitely need a dock for extended use of an iPad.

Keeping up with the Jones’

A lot of useless excess stems from ‘social’ reasons.  Some people just want to show off their money.  The reality is, I find this disturbing.  Why would you want to buy something just to walk around and flaunt it?  I really don’t relish the thought of being robbed or mugged. I mean, I can somewhat understand fashion.  Not so much fashion excess (i.e., diamond studded bling), but wearing fashion to accentuate yourself we have become accustomed to.  I don’t personally go for high fashionista, though.  Useful fashion yes, excess fashion no.  Unfortuantely, an iPad is not a fashion accessory.  No computer or electronic device is (other than those trashy flashing earrings). So, why must people treat Apple products (and some computers and phones) as fashion when it clearly isn’t.  You should always buy a computer for a need in your life, not because your next door neighbor has one or you ‘think’ it might be useful.

Coffee table paperweights

Now that the iPad has been out for about 9 months, I’m still not finding a solid use for the iPad in my personal life. For business use, I have a couple reasons (cited above), but these reasons are not yet enough to justify a $500 expense.  In fact, I would think there’s going to be a growing used market for iPads very quickly here.  People will realize they don’t need or use them and will need the money more.   Especially when it is no longer the ‘chic’ device (and that’s quickly approaching).  Right now is also the prime time to get rid of your iPad, not before it goes out of ‘fashion’.  Additionally, it’s almost guaranteed that by spring 2011, Apple will have a new model iPad ready to ship.   This will majorly devalue the resale value of the 2010 iPad.  So, if you want to sell your iPad for any decent amount of change, you should consider doing it now.  Otherwise, sitting on it will only devalue it down to probably the $150-200 range by end of 2011 and less then that by 2012.

By now, people should really know if the iPad has a use in their life.  Only you can answer that question, but if the most you do is turn it on once a week (or less), it’s a paperweight.  You should probably consider selling it now before the new iPad is released if you want any return on your investment.  Granted, you may have paid $500, but you’re likely only to get about $200-250 (16GB version) depending on where you sell.  If you put it on eBay as an auction, you might get more money out of it ($450, if you’re lucky).  By this time next year, though, you probably won’t get half that amount on eBay.

As another example, see the Wii.  Now that the Wii has been out for several years, it is no longer the ‘chic’ thing to own.  Today, people are likely purchasing it because they want to play a specific game title.  And, that’s how it should be.  You should always buy computer gear for the software it runs, not because it’s the ‘thing to have’.  Wii consoles are now in a glut and easy to find.  So, if you want one today, it’s very easy to get them.

Gift excess

I know people who buy gift items not because it’s a useful gift, but because it’s the thing to have.  Worse, though, is that the person who receives the gift doesn’t even use it or carry it.  In this example case, it’s an iPad 64GB version.  Yet, this person doesn’t carry it around or, indeed, even use it.  Instead, they prefer to use their 2-3 year old notebook.  What does that say about the usefulness of such useless excess?

Is the iPad considered useless excess? At the moment, yes.  There may be certain professions that have found a way to use the iPad as something more than a novelty, but I’ve yet to see a business convert to using iPads as their sole means of corporate management.  For example, it would say something if FedEx would adopt the iPad is their means of doing business.  Instead of the small hand scanners, they could carry around the iPad to do this work.  Oh, that’s right, there’s no camera on the iPad, so scanning isn’t even useful.

While this article may seem to specifically bash the iPad, it isn’t intended to focus solely on them.  The iPhone is another example of useless excess.  You pay $200 just to get the phone, you’re locked into a 2-4 year contract with at least $80 a month.  And, the worst part, the iPhone isn’t even a very good phone.  Dare I say, Nokia and Motorola still make better quality phone electronics than Apple ever has.  Apple is a computer maker, not a phone maker.  So, they still haven’t the experience with phone innards.  So, when talking to people on the iPhone, the voice quality, call quality and clarity suffer over better made handsets.  Again, people justify the purchase of an iPhone 4 because of the ‘Apps’, not because of quality.  Worse, though, is that many people buying iPhones are doing so because it’s ‘the thing to have’, not because it’s actually useful in their lives.  If the only thing you find yourself doing with the iPhone is talking on the phone, then you’re a victim of useless excess.

How to curb useless excess

Ask yourself, ‘How will this thing make me more productive, or solve a problem?’  If you cannot come up with an answer, it’s useless excess.  Once you find at least one real need for a device, then the purchase is justified.  If you just want it to have it, that’s useless excess.  Just having something because you can doesn’t make you a better person.  It just makes you a victim of useless excess.  Simply because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should.

How do you justify an iPad purchase?  For example, if you intend to mount it into a door of your kitchen as an internet recipe retrieval device and you bake or cook every day, that would be one way it could enrich your life.  Although, it’s also not impervious to water or other wet ingredients, so you might want to cover it to avoid those issues.  In other words, for a computer to not be considered useless excess, it would need to be used every day to provide you with useful information you can’t otherwise get.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift, don’t just buy an iPad because you can, buy it because the person will actually use and actually needs it to solve a problem.

4 Responses

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  1. Website Promotion said, on May 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Hello there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

    • commorancy said, on May 15, 2011 at 12:31 am

      I’m using wordpress.com to host this site. WordPress.com automatically adds a bunch of plugins to the site automatically. These are controlled through the ‘settings’ area. With a standalone site, you will need to go to http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins and look for some captcha plugins. These can easily be installed on standalone wordpress. If you don’t manage the wordpress install, then you might have trouble getting the plugins installed. Anyway, there are several captcha plugins available. There is also Askimet that weeds out comment spam as well. So, you probably want ti install several of these plugins if you want to manage comments better. Good Luck.

  2. Jon Barber said, on December 9, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I have to disagree with you on your opinion of the usefulness of the iPad and iPhone but I respect your right to have that opinion. Everyone’s experience and requirements are different of course, however as both an IT professional (in the Windows world) and a computer musician, the iPad is an amazing tool for computer musicians. I’d go far as to say that the iPad will render dedicated hardware controllers for some music production applications almost obsolete in 6 months time. I also find my iPhone invaluable for my day to day business both personally and professionally. It may not be the best phone technically but it is very good for what I need it to do. No devices are perfect but both do a great job and in my opinion and use, are not a fashion in a time when Apple bashing is a fashion.

    • commorancy said, on December 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Jon,

      I think you kind of missed the point of my article. Yes, there are valid uses for the iPad. I’ve never said otherwise. In fact, I give a quite valid example in the article (as a recipe store in the kitchen). The trouble is, those uses are far more uncommon than common. With that said, I will also say that I am a musician and beyond a few throw-away apps and the iRig (which gets mixed reviews on quality), there is drought of really solid apps on the iPad (or, indeed, IOS). Were ProTools or Cubase (or even lesser apps like Acid Music Studio) to be ported to the iPad, I might change my tune with regards to the music apps. So far, I’ve yet to find one app that could replace my Alesis micron or Cubase with VST for composing, let alone mixing or mastering.

      The strongest apps on the iPad (and indeed the iPhone and iPod Touch) are those that deal with IT (specifically with IT Management). Unfortunately, even these apps fall short of their desktop counterparts. Having worked in IT for nearly 20 years now, I can say that I have some familiarity with managing computers and computer systems. Would I or even could I give iPads as replacement computers to our office staff? No, it’s definitely not ready for primetime. Without such intrinsic things as Flash and compatibility to Microsoft web components, the iPad is not ready as a computer replacement. It might be useful as an addition to existing computers, but definitely not a replacement.

      So, the point is that the majority of iPad buyers are buying it but still not truly finding uses other than emailing and web browsing. But, even that is only casual as these tools are still nowhere near 100% compatible with desktop counterparts (i.e. Outlook). In other words, people buy it then try to find uses for it in their lives. Even then, they find out quickly that the apps they rely upon on their desktops don’t fully translate into the iPad (there are just subtle differences and missing things that make it less than ideal). The trouble, many users are not really finding justifiable uses for the iPad as yet. There are many reasons for this and one of the issues is the form factor. It’s not light enough or small enough to truly be considered a portable device. The iPod Touch is portable, however. On the flip side, it’s too small (10″) that it’s not really a suitable replacement as a desktop (people want bigger screen real-estate). It’s also nowhere near fast enough to provide the same level of 3D gaming experience of a well equipped PC. When you do find apps, they tend towards being limited and, in many cases, hobbled. The on-screen keyboard is klunky and holding the device is not terribly comfortable for long periods.

      So, as people run into snags with the iPad’s subtle incompatibilities, users will find themselves migrating back to their notebooks, netbooks or desktops to get their jobs done. Once people begin this process of heading back to their desktops and notebooks, that’s the death of the iPad. So, unless Apple gets on the ball and addresses these issues fast, the iPad will eventually fall into obscurity as people migrate away from using the iPad and back to their desktops to get the majority of their work done.

      All that said, there are uses for the iPad in specific niches. If you have found a niche that works for you, great. I just find it hard to justify a $500 expense for only one app that I might use once every couple weeks. Also, when I personally find myself wandering back to my desktop to get things done faster, then the iPad has failed as the device that it should have been.

      –Brian


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