Apple hype doesn’t mean better devices

I didn’t buy a 3rd generation iPad. There, I said it. Some people may suggest that it’s time to strip me of my “nerd” credentials, particularly when I admit that I’ve been underwhelmed by all the “new” Apple gadgets to hit the market in the last year.

I didn’t buy a 3rd generation iPad. There, I said it.

Some people may suggest that it’s time to strip me of my “nerd” credentials, particularly when I admit that I’ve been underwhelmed by all the “new” Apple gadgets to hit the market in the last year.

I intended to write about the great features of the new iPad and why it’s worth shelling out upwards of US$500 for one.

Yet there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about it.

There’s an improved display that, while certainly beautiful, is only noticeable to the average passerby if you’re holding a 3rd generation iPad next to an iPad 2.

The camera is improved, but you’ll only notice it when holding an image taken with the new camera next to one taken with the older one.

The processor is a bit faster. It’s a bit heavier.

Some people have suggested it might overheat, but there’s no evidence yet to substantiate that claim.

Despite its lackluster details, Apple announced March 19 that it had sold three million new iPads since its launch three days before — more than any previous iPad debut.

A similar story can be told about the iPhone 4S. With only a marginal change to the body style and most of the phone’s improvements, stemming from a software update that was made available to owners of older iPhones, the 4S still broke all previous iPhone pre-order sales with more than one million sold in 24 hours.

What is it about Apple’s product launches that compel people to stand in line for hours to be one of the first to own whatever shiny new thing they offer?

Trust me: I’ve been there. I have iPhones, iPads and iPods, and I can sing the praises of all of them.

The part I don’t understand is why we are presented with a “new” version every year that isn’t all that different from the last year’s version, and more importantly, why we buy it.

Apple’s handheld electronics dominate the industry.

Attempts by competitors to steal tablet computer market share have been met with marginal enthusiasm. Do you know anyone who owns a Motorola Xoom? Me neither.

The Android mobile operating system is running on more smartphones worldwide, but that’s because so many phones utilize the Android OS. No single phone has sales figures to match the iPhone.

The truth is Apple makes some amazing handheld electronics. But this year I can’t in good faith recommend that you upgrade. If you’re considering getting an iPhone or iPad for the first time, the newest version is as good as ever. I just don’t feel that it’s substantially better than the prior year’s model.

The silver lining is that bargain shoppers that don’t feel compelled to get the very newest version can pick up last year’s model at a discount. Apple retailers are selling the iPad 2 starting at $400, and you can get one on the resale market for even less. Many cellular service providers are offering the iPhone 4 for $100 or less with contract, compared to the 4S, which starts at $200.

I would argue that the ceremonial markdown of last year’s model is the only time you’ll get a discount from Apple.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, a company based in Redding, Calif., that offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Contact her at www.callnerds.com/andrea

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