Apple's newest must-have gadget raises the question whether it must be had. The answer might be no, but if you have it, you will surely love it.
Fortunately, my wife and I laid out the rules of gift-giving very early on in our relationship. Firmly sticking to stereotypes, the woman in the house appreciates jewelry, whereas the best-received gifts coming my way are usually of the gadgety variety.
When the occasion for a present arose recently, she managed to get her hand on a shiny new iPad, knowing I am never one to hiss about Apple's latest wizardry (when appropriate - even we skipped AppleTV). When the iPad was originally presented I wasn't particularly enthused because my first thought was that, given the iPhone and the laptop I already own, it might be redundant. (But then again, if we only ever went for strict necessity - rather than pleasure in possession - we'd all be driving Subarus and wearing suits from Primark.)
Now that the decision of whether or not to buy one had been taken away from me, it meant I could simply start enjoying what firstly comes across as an oversized iPhone and feels heavier than you expect. It's relatively straightforward to set up, at least when you have gone through the similar processes of syncing an iPhone. A few hours later, it was fully stocked with music, pictures and so on, which left me faced with the ultimate question: "Now what?"
And that is where the fun starts. The iPad only becomes an enjoyable tool by virtue of the applications you put on it. The iPhone apps are transferable, but they look either small (in original size), or dodgy (magnified), and that's no fun. But a few downloads later and the potential of this 'must-or-maybe-not' gadget becomes clear. Whilst surfing the Web looks great and is much more fun that on the rather microscopic iPhone, some apps, such as Bloomberg, IMDb, Epicurious (for recipes), and even USA Today show how much better content can look when you can smartly tailor-make the interface. You will never want to go back to their websites again. Electronic books look equally gorgeous (although there were comments about readability in bright sunlight), and videos are fun to watch, once you wipe off the residues that your sticky fingers will no doubt have left on the screen.
There are some games already out there that look great on the larger screen, and no doubt this will be a big market going forward, despite the selection currently being slightly slim. Not being a big gamer, I've enjoyed the odd silly pursuit such as the free download of HarborMaster.
As with most Apple hardware, the handling is intuitive: it took our 2-year old son next to no time to unlock the screen, turn on some random music and find pictures of himself. The ease with which he handles this technology reminds me of the fact that when I was his age, we had just migrated to a colour TV - the latest innovation.
As a gadget it seems slightly too big to be carried around all the time, and after having it for about a month, I have barely used it without putting my feet up and resting it on my lap. It doesn't replace any of the gadgets I already own. Laptop and iPhone still have their reason to be.
So have I been convinced that I needed this in my life? No, but it sure makes it a lot more fun with it.