It’s that gift-giving time of year and in the spirit of the season I will share rule number one in our house: don’t buy the ApplEvangelist anything technology related unless it comes from Apple and with a receipt. Other technology items must be pre-approved and cash is always the best option. Is the ApplEvangelist a little bit Grinchy? Not at all. I prefer to think of it as being very practical. There isn’t enough time in the day or space in my house for devices that don’t get used. Before technology passes through these doors it is thoroughly scrutinized for its own merits along with how it will fit into the existing workflow.
Typically, when evaluating an addition to the ApplEvangelist ecosystem, the price tag gets covered up. It’s about how it works, not how much it costs. Ideally, the same process would be considered when anyone makes a technology purchase for themselves or a loved one. But these are the Holidays and there are a lot of cheap gadgets on store shelves. It’s easy to see how, for a relatively small amount of money, someone could make a big splash by purchasing something like a tablet for a friend, family member, or themselves. The race to the bottom has resulted in upwards of a hundred different tablets from which to choose. All of the major players are involved including Amazon, Google, and even Apple. So you’re safe in choosing the cheapest option, right?
Wrong. Seeing as this is an Apple blog I won’t pontificate (again) on the merits of the more expensive Apple products. At least not for long. There are already numerous posts on this site extolling the virtues of an Apple iPad over more affordable options. No, this time we’ll consult real world data. It’s one thing to read over and again why an iPad is superior. It’s another to see how people who have already purchased tablets are using them.
That’s where the disconnect exists. Over the last year, Apple’s competition has been pumping out cheaper and cheaper options in an attempt to secure a slice of the tablet market for themselves. And it’s worked. Apple’s market share has continually eroded since once controlling 90% of the market. Now, according to market researchers, Apple only controls roughly 57% of the tablet market. This must mean there are a lot of great tablets being used though out the US that are not from Apple.
Not so fast. According to internet metrics, roughly 91% of all tablet web traffic originates from iPads. That means of all the non-Apple tablets purchased, only 20% are actually being used. To put it another way, of every 100 tablets sold, 43 of them are non-Apple devices. Of those 43, only 9 are being used to surf the web.
In the famous words of Jerry Seinfeld, “What is the deal?” What are people doing with these inexpensive
tablets? They are not shopping or downloading apps or books. They are not surfing the web or using them to video chat. It is clear that once these tablets make it home, they are not proving to be very useful. Are these really viable tablets at an inexpensive price or merely really expensive paperweights? And is it worth the cheaper price if you or your giftee rarely uses it?
Tim Cook said it best when asked about the stigma of premium pricing on Apple products:
Price is rarely the most important thing. A cheap product might sell some units. Somebody buys it and they feel great when they pay the money, but then they get it home and use it and the joy is gone.
Are Apple tablets almost $100 more than competing devices in the same class? Yes. Is it worth it to pay a little more for a useful device or a little less for a glorified doorstop? Will you bite the bullet and ignore the sticker shock for a few minutes, or risk getting a cheap tablet home and be stuck with buyer’s remorse for months to come?
DECEMBER 2013 UPDATE
Something rarely acknowledged in tablet purchasing decisions is the incredible amount of “added value” that comes with an Apple device.
Specifically, in regard to iOS devices like the iPad, Apple includes, at no extra charge, access to their entire productivity and creativity suites. Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, Garageband, and iPhoto. These apps turn your iPad into an incredible tool for creation on par with most full-fledged laptops or desktop computers (easier and better in many cases).
The less tangible value add is found at your local Apple Store. At this point, most people in the US are no further than 50-75 miles from an Apple retail location (usually closer). An iPad owner is virtually guaranteed to get any issue resolved by visiting an Apple Store. This “feature” is almost immeasurable in regard to monetary value. Through our own personal experiences, it has literally saved us thousands of dollars. In some cases entire devices were replaced for very small issues. Other situations would have rendered another manufacturer’s tablet useless (and a waste of money, regardless of how cheap). Yet, in every instance, our iPads were replaced at no cost.
Other add-ons included in the slightly higher Apple price is an enormous ecosystem of apps (almost half a million iPad specific apps), theft and loss protection, data recovery and syncing, software security and compatibility, and completely cost free updates to the operating system (even the 4 year old original iPad still receives the latest software improvements).
Without a doubt, the big box retailers like Best Buy and Walmart will try to sell you a “more affordable” tablet. But while the cost savings now is enticing, the risk of your purchase being rendered useless should weigh heavy.
Would you prefer paying $400 for a powerful tool you will use for years or $250 for what may soon be a pretty paperweight?