Why I'm Returning My Apple iPad ($AAPL)

In the past 48 hours I’ve gone from boycotting the Apple iPad, to purchasing one, and this morning I’m bringing it back to the store. While I can explain my initial justification for purchasing the device, I should state that I could just as easily justify the purchase of a watch that remotely turns on my car. Purchasing luxury goods can be fun, but in this case, there are far too many substitutes for the device which are either cheaper, have more functionality, or both.

The iPad Is A Luxury Good

Yes, I may have disposable income, but I also like to feel good about my purchases. Having the option to purchase luxury items is always nice, but the option is often much more appealing than the actual act of making the purchase. Simply put, the iPad is nothing more than a luxury good that you can show off to your friends. Yet when numerous people asked me my thoughts on the device while using it on the go yesterday, I admitted that I couldn’t figure out the main value of the device.

Battery Life Is A Big Selling Point But Not Enough

The 10 plus hour battery may in itself make the device worth purchasing. It most definitely makes the iPad a legitimate competitor to the Kindle, yet if you truly ask yourself: “Do I need this?”, the answer will always be a definitive, “No!” Why do I need to have a larger screen than my iPhone? If I’m on a flight somewhere, I can pull out my laptop and watch a movie.

Not only that, but I can also accomplish other tasks, like sending email, at the same time, something the iPad is not capable of. The iPad has the following advantages:

  • Lighter than a full laptop, which makes it most useful while lying on the couch or in bed
  • Option to consume any form of media. In contrast to the Kindle which is mostly limited to consuming books, the iPad lets you watch videos, listen to music, respond to email, browse the internet, play games, and anything else that app developers enable you to do.

If you are a millionaire, you can possibly justify the extra cost for having a more convenient device on your nightstand (instead of lugging a laptop around), but I also don’t know many people who became wealthy by just blowing their money on useless devices. Yes, there’s some value to the device, but I’m perfectly happy reading a book when I have the opportunity to lie on the couch or take a break in bed before falling asleep.

Let’s be honest: most people who truly have the disposable income to purchase an iPad don’t have the time to lie on the couch and browse the internet for hours on end.

Apple Will Not Revolutionize Magazines And Textbooks On Behalf Of Publishers

There is a significant opportunity to change the magazine industry and Apple was touted as the platform that would do that. Wired magazine has developed a new type of publication just for the device, and there are a number of other publishers who have promised similar digital versions of their publications. Textbooks will also go through a similar process of becoming more interactive, however Apple is not going to monopolize these markets anytime soon.

iTunes is simply one distribution channel for publishers. While the iPod single handedly transformed the music industry, the iPad is much more expensive. While iPods were more expensive than their competitors, everybody had one and by not purchasing one, you weren’t “in the cool crowd”. Unfortunately iPads are much more elitist, with owners having to shell out four times the price of an iPod nano. Simply put, it’s extremely challenging to transform an entire industry with an extremely expensive device.

Media wants to be distributed everywhere, and while some people may choose to have an extremely costly media consumption device, I simply don’t see this one going mainstream anytime soon. The market will soon be filled with cheaper alternatives and that’s what will transform the magazine and textbook industry, not Apple.

I Have A Significant Case Of Buyers Remorse

Not only did I feel like Steve Jobs’ pawn when I walked into Apple to purchase the device, but I also spent at least 8 hours following my purchase trying to justify the expense. Ironically I find that the majority of tweets on Twitter are attempts to do the exact same thing: justify the purchase after the fact. Unfortunately though, while Steve Jobs may be able to dictate that a few million people should buy a device, I am not a true Apple cult member.

Instead, I like to act like a rational consumer, with the occasional splurge. While the splurge can be for a couple hundred dollars, my iPad purchase was over my typical “splurge threshold”. The “killer” apps on the iPad are currently TweetDeck and Netflix, both of which function on my existing computer. If I wanted another monitor (because two isn’t enough), I could go buy a large screen from dell for less than the cost of an iPad.

I’m Selling My Apple Stock

While Apple could improve the device and may eventually convince me that the device is worth purchasing at some point in the future, my purchase of the iPad was nothing but hype-based spending. This is the same thing that damaged our economy in the past, and I don’t feel great about being part of wastefully disposing of such resources. While I’m sure millions of people will be fooled by the shiny object which is “magical” and “revolutionary”, according to Apple, I truly believe that most consumers will feel bad about their purchase after acting like lemmings.

What’s truly unfortunate is that Apple could have put their money into developing a product that would actually change things. Alternative energy? Laptops which never need to be charged? Home automation devices? With billions of dollars in cash, Apple could truly revolutionize the technology industry but instead they are pushing out a mediocre product and fueling sales with hype-based marketing. Steve Jobs is nothing more than the emperor with no clothes.

I’ll buy the company’s stock once Apple decides to truly do something revolutionary rather than take advantage of consumers, but for now, I’m taking my profits on the stock and walking away. If you want to read reviews of “groundbreaking” iPad applications, you can go read a blog from someone who owns more shares of Apple because I don’t own mine anymore and by this afternoon I won’t own an iPad either.