Saturday, December 3, 2011

iPads and Gift-Giving

As we navigate the shopping aisles leading from Black Friday to Christmas morning, many people are posting on iPad forums wondering if they should give an iPad as a gift. Or perhaps you've already got an iPad owner in your life and are wondering if there's any associated gear they'd appreciate. Opinions, of course, are like belly buttons (or other body parts), but here is my take on where the iPad stands this holiday season.

Green light: The iPad is a great choice!
- Anyone who has specifically asked for one, of course (except little kids - see red light).
- Retirees who aren't technophobes, but might find their main computer frustrating.
- Expectant or new moms.
- College or grad students who are looking for something to take class notes and do readings on.
- Anyone looking for something for web browsing, e-book reading, watching videos, playing games, and light content creation like blogging, photo editing, etc.
- Anyone who's been complaining about their laptop's bulkiness. (Not necessarily to replace the laptop, but to free them from it for the above uses.)

Yellow light: Check whether the iPad truly meets their needs
- College/grad students in need of something to write papers on or do other more intensive work on. They might be good with an iPad with Pages and a Bluetooth keyboard, or they might need a real laptop.
- People looking mainly for an e-book reader, plus light web browsing and a few games. An iPad might be overkill; a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet may meet their needs for half the price. They would likely still love the iPad, but they may prefer something else with the extra money.
- Retirees who are technophobes. If they've expressed interest and you're willing to help them figure things out, it may be a great way to read books in large print and see the grandkids' Facebook photos. If not, it may be a wasted investment if they have no interest in learning to use it, no matter how much you wish they would.
- People who already own both a laptop and an iPhone. Some of these people will find the iPad fits right in between, some will find that it replaces one of these devices, and some will find that they have no use for the iPad.

Red light: The iPad is unlikely to be a good choice.
- Kids, younger than high school or possibly middle school age. I personally would not recommend spending the money on an iPad for a child. If they want games, an iPod Touch or handheld from Nintendo or Sony would probably do. If they're a bookworm, a regular Kindle or Nook. For small children, Leapfrog now has a tablet with educational games on it. And for the kid who really wants a tablet but probably wouldn't get full use out of an iPad, a Fire or Nook Tablet will leave you out a lot less money if they break or lose it. There are probably a few kids who would benefit from their own iPad (for them I'd recommend a used iPad 1), but for most it's more than they need and a LOT more money than you need to put at risk.
- Anyone who has specifically asked for another tablet. As much as you may love iOS, they have their reasons for wanting what they want. Not getting something you asked for is a bit disappointing; knowing that someone spent a lot of money on something you didn't want at all is frustrating. If you think they were just trying to save you some money by asking for something cheaper, ask if they'd be interested in an iPad before sinking the money into one.

Bonus: Gifts for iPad owners
- iTunes gift cards. You can never have enough apps!
- Particularly for students, a Bluetooth keyboard and/or stylus for notetaking.
- A pillow-type stand like the Wedge-E.
- A camera connection kit (Apple branded or otherwise).
-For the iPad gamer, a joystick could enhance their experience for a fraction of the cost of the full iCade (which is also an option if you've got the cash).
- I wouldn't give a case as a gift unless you know the person's specific needs. Someone looking for a folio case won't be happy with a smart cover and vice versa.

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