How I gave up and learned to love tablets

This is adapted from Plugged In, TNW’s bi-weekly newsletter on gear and gadgets. Subscribe to it (and our other great newsletters) here.

Plugged In is back and coming at ya like Cleopatra — if Cleopatra had a borderline problem with buying too much shit. Anyway, this edition is all about tablets. Woahh there, close your mouth and put down those gurns. Slowly. That’s it. Good.

Somewhat overwrought intro aside, today I want to talk about tablets. And changing my mind.

Last week I fell in love.

Pull up a blanket, get a mug of tea, and let me tell you all about it. I was co-hosting a virtual conference (you can check out TNW’s range of those here) and, as it was kicking off, one of the team plopped an iPad Pro in my hands to use throughout the day. And I was blown away.

But, let’s take a little trip into the past. Despite playing with lots of tablets over the past few years, I’ve not spent much time with them recently.

My last real dalliance was back in 2012. I had a third generation iPad, but, sadly, our relationship was cut brutally short. You guessed it: someone stole it from the locker at the end of my bed in a 50-person dorm in Rotterdam.

Truly, a tale as old as time.

(Aside: I hope whoever took you had — and is still having — a long and contented relationship with you, and shows you considerable amounts of affection. I also hope they fall down a well and are never recovered.)

3rd generation iPad tablet
This is what my first proper tablet looked like. God, it really has aged.

Okay, so back to my first iPad. I enjoyed it, I spent a fair chunk of time with it (at first), but I never loved it. Mainly, I think, because I never found a way it or other tablets could slot into my life. In other words, I never discovered their use case.

A phone was more portable and easier to use on-the-go. A computer more powerful and flexible. An e-ink display better to read with. I couldn’t make what was essentially just a big phone a part of my regular workflow — and I felt this way for years. Until, that is, last week.

After using the iPad Pro for around ten hours while hosting, I knew I needed one in my life. Maybe, I thought after spending some serious time with the tablet, things have changed. Maybe… we’ve both grown.

Compared to the old versions, the iPad is years ahead of what I remembered: the screen is gorgeous, the apps more complete, and the Apple Pencil? That thing’s fucking amazing.

Even better, the tablet now fits into my life. While it’s still an in-between device in a way, it can now genuinely compete with a phone and a computer. And during lockdown? It’s the ideal sofa companion. It’s perfect for reading news, checking out comics, taking notes, quick photo edits, and drawing.

You might not feel the same way, or it might not fit into your routine — and that’s cool. But currently, it’s following me everywhere.

What surprised me most about this is I can’t remember having such a total turnaround. Generally, if I think a broad category of tech is pretty pointless, it’s stayed that way.

VR is a good example. I understand its potential and usefulness in certain environments, but I’ve used the tech every couple of months for the past few years now, and, after each interaction, I leave confident that it’s nowhere close to being a fixture in my life.

Somehow though, the iPad Pro upended my expectations: it filled a gap in my life I wasn’t aware existed. And that’s a rare thing.

Even if the thing happens to expensive as fuck.

Have you had a similar experience? Wrote off an entire gadget category like tablets, only to find yourself eating your dirty words later? Then tweet me @CallumBooth — I’d love to hear your story.

If you liked this column, make sure you head over here and sign-up to Plugged In (as well as our other great newsletters).

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published June 26, 2020 — 14:23 UTC

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