Whenever a significant new gadget comes out, I like to see the reaction from the sales floor.
The manufacturer gives you the hype, of course. Often, though, I find salespeople in tech stores are prepared to be remarkably honest about the new, new thing. Or even the slightly new, new thing.
And here we were, with two new iPads being suddenly announced last Monday — a new iPad Mini and an iPad Air.
In any case, I needed more cartridges for my HP printer. They seem to have only enough ink for seven original Donald Trump signatures these days.
So, I went to Best Buy, which, for many people, is the everyperson’s tech retail store.
At Best Buy, I’ve generally found a reasonable level of objectivity. Why, a salesman even tried to break a MacBook in front of me, just to prove it was durable.
I wandered to the iPad table and took a look at the Mini on display. I hadn’t even had time to poke at it when a salesman arrived.
“Is this the new Mini?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Wait. Let me take a look. No, it’s this one..”
He pointed to one further along the table. “No, this isn’t it either,” he said. “I think we won’t get them in till next week.”
He was a touch flustered, then pointed to a 10.5-inch iPad Pro and said: “This one’s a great deal today. That’s because it’s going to be disappearing soon.”
I wasn’t quite sold and veered back to where we’d started.
“Ah, well is the new Mini worth it?” I asked.
“This one’s five years old,” he told me. “The new one is just going to be so much faster.”
“Don’t they all slow down sooner or later — often sooner?”
“It depends what you do with them, but these things are still the best,” he said.
And then I ventured what seemed a reasonable question.
I explained that my wife was spiritually Android-inclined and asked: “What about Android or other tablets? Is there any of those that’s comparable to this?”
“There’s no point even looking at them,” he said. “They’re cheaper, but the iPad is so much better that it’s a joke.”
I’ve heard occasional pro-Apple stridency in various Best Buys. Why, on one visit a salesman told me that the best Windows laptop was a MacBook.
That salesman’s argument, though, was sheer durability.
For this salesman, everything about the iPad was better: “The processor, the screen, more apps, there’s really no point looking at anything else.”
Not even Microsoft Surface Go? It seems not.
“But the new one looks just like this iPad Mini, right?” I persisted.
“Yes, but all the good stuff’s under the hood,” he said. “And now it works with Apple Pencil.”
“Why do I need the pencil?”
“Well, it’s great if you’re doing graphic design.”
This was an argument I’d heard from others who had shopped in Apple stores, specifically when referring to the iPad Pro. So does the presence of a pencil mean the machine is primarily for designers?
It was then that the salesman offered a confession.
“Look, they make these things because people want new. There’s a new iMac that came out this week and I had to get one,” he said.
He explained that he’d spent more than $2,000 on it.
“And you got it just because it’s new?”
He nodded, with what I hoped was a tinge of sadness.
As always with store visits, this was just one individual in one tech store. And this salesman was, like so many others, extremely good-hearted.
It’s curious that as Apple has faced severe competition in the phone market, it still holds such powerful sway in the tablet market.
So much so that a salesman claims it’s not even worth looking at anything else.
Surely he wouldn’t tell me that, after Monday’s announcement of Apple’s alleged new streaming TV service, it isn’t worth looking at Netflix or Amazon Prime anymore.