The iPad may end up being the must-have device of the year, especially for students. We realize that most of the things you can do on an iPad can already be done on a laptop, and if you already have a laptop you're happy with, then buying an iPad doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But if you don't have a laptop, an iPad may be for you for the following reasons:
- Reading books. Just think: No more lugging around 50 pounds of textbooks in your bookbag. Many publishers will be releasing books for the iPad; eventually, you should be able to carry around an entire semester's worth of reading material in your 1.5-pound iPad. Hopefully, Apple will realize this and build in such student-friendly features as bookmarking, highlighting, annotating, searching, and so forth. Not only wouldn't you have to haul around your textbooks, but you wouldn't need highlighters, sticky notes, or any of those other things you use to mark up your textbooks.
- Note-taking made easier. We don't know much about the iPad's onscreen keyboard yet, but Steve Jobs made it seem fairly easy to use. And if you can learn to text at lightning speeds on your mobile phone, then you can probably learn the iPad's onscreen keyboard pretty quickly to make in-class note-taking a breeze. But if not, Apple's already announced an external keyboard, and there will certainly be other third-party keyboard options. However, Apple has not announced handwriting recognition functionality — and there's no indication they will. But if they could, then the iPad would be a no-brainer for in-class use.
- Easier social media and Web site access. Instead of using an app with limited functionality to update your Facebook status, you can just go the Facebook site itself for the fully functional version. You can also access your school site or teachers' sites, as well as study help sites (like CliffsNotes.com!) without having to download an app or view a teeny mobile version of the site. The large iPad screen will accommodate full-scale Web sites (except those weird Flash ones) way better than an iPhone, an iPod touch, or any other handheld device.
- Apps, audio, and video. Most of your iPhone and iPod apps will run on the iPad. Apple is also releasing an iPad version of their iWork applications (at just $10 each), so reading and writing documents will be easy. Other applications will surely follow (and for perhaps less). You can listen to music and write a paper at the same time with one device. The iPad isn't a phone, but that won't mean you can't use Skype, IM, or e-mail to communicate with your friends. Though the first version of the iPad won't have a camera, it's a safe bet that a later version, perhaps even version 2.0, will have one, so you'll be able to do video chat, too.
- Things you (may) no longer have to buy. A large bookbag (a thin sleeve for your iPad will do just fine), highlighters, sticky notes, printed books (ebooks tend to cost quite a bit less than print versions), spiral notebooks and three-ring binders, and so on. Eventually, the money you save on these kinds of things may pay for the iPad and then some.
Of course, when considering buying any new device, you may be wise to wait for a later version so that the bugs are worked out and new features are added. For example, if you think a camera is a must-have, then wait for the next version. Don't buy one just because all your friends have one. Really consider how you're going to use it and if it'll truly be worth the price.