The Tablet of All Mothers
The tablets all stared at me sternly, silently flaunting their various latest and greatest features. My mother doesn’t do much more than—technologically speaking—check her e-mail and play scrabble on facebook.
What could possibly motivate me enough to buy her a tablet over a £150 price-tag, other than the fact she bestowed the gift of life onto me, and nurtured me for, well, one and a half decades. Her new Wonderland? Or just a way to put a Cheshire cat grin on her face?
Convinced that this purchase must ground itself in rationality—rather than emotion, I began with the easiest choice, I believed: colour. “My mother is posh” I joked to the “Genius”, ”her friends are even posher; she needs something to out-do them” I continued jokingly. We agreed with white as the colour of choice, although as it turned out later, I was wrong—she prefers black; her official statement? “The white border makes the screen look smaller”. Well, that shut me up. Lesson learnt once again: one should never underestimate one’s own mother.
Next big dilemma? Size. Indecision between 7 and 10 inches. Not to mention another killer question that kept me guessing during the whole holiday season: cellular or non-cellular—bearing in mind that cellular automatically bumps the price up by £100.
The questions kept on coming aplenty and yet the answers were fewer than rays of sunshine on a wet English winter’s day; I was left with no choice: I would have to take my mother out and let her try the devices. The only two options I really had in mind were the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 versus the iPad 4th gen retina display.
Hanky in hand, meticulously making small circular motions around the display, I found myself doing a janitor act on the Samsung Galaxy tablet. This reminded me that iProducts come with the anti-finger-grease® coating that seems to work better than anyone else’s. Typing on the Galaxy also reminded me of an initial flaw: the lack of a good default keyboard and the need to install swiftkey off the bat, and a somewhat more laggy interface which android developers themselves seem aware of. I put a movie on the 7 and 10.1 inch Galaxies to check for size; she kept returning to the 10.1; Queen Size it is.
Off at the Apple store, mother took an instant liking to the iPad. I could tell the shininess and simplicity of the design were wooing her faster than 9.81 m/s^2 could make an apple released from a tree hit the ground. She managed to log into GMail and respond to an e-mail mostly unaided. She enjoyed the cinematic experience once again, and even found her way, all alone this time, to the iTunes library and played some music.
A few final questions remained, 3G or not 3G. My mother is an English teacher: she spends a lot of time pottering at home between periods of manic back to back teaching. All the current functionality suit her at-home lifestyle. She drives so cannot actively use her device for transit. There was a caveat however: she has long breaks between lessons, sometimes as many as 3 hours to kill. I could not presume that she would have Wifi access since she mostly teaches in Universities—access to Facebook and such would therefore presumably often be blocked. Well 3G it is.
Another consideration was whether to go for Apple’s “Retina” display or not—Retina as far as I can tell is simply a more fanciful word for a higher resolution screen. The option for “Retina” was hardly an extra 50 quid—in for a penny, in for a pound! Final decision: should I get her a cover? I considered this one carefully since at circa £40 they’re certainly not given; in the end I decided that since it would minimise physical wear and tear, it would maximise the iPad’s re-sell value. This combined with a good e-bay ad would likely enable me to upgrade her device at a small cost in a few years time.
Result: In the end I went all out. The only option I could have pushed further was getting her more disk space than 16GB, but I’m not even certain how she’ll be able to fill up 16GB as all her entertainment shall be streaming only—I’ll make sure of that. So after lots of consideration on my behalf and help on her behalf, well, iPad 4 it is.
An obvious ending for this post might be that only the best is good enough for one’s mother, even if she won’t use the device to its full capacity. But let’s not finish on such a moralising end; let’s be honest: powerful, versatile, hacker-friendly, an Android tablet is right for me, for my mother, not so. To use the words of one of the Fathers of Design, Don Norman, the visceral design of the iPad will make the use of it seem more enjoyable to my mum, the behavioural design and fewer & more tightly knit features and smoother user experience, and the reflective design allow her to show off before all her, well, posh friends.
I gave my mother the iPad yesterday, she is very pleased with it; however several issues cropped up while setting it up, namely:
- The Kindle app on the iPad does not have a link to the Amazon Kindle Store. This is fantastically awesomely stupid, anti-business, and all too typical of what people have come to expect of Apple. Ridiculous.
- It’s impossible for me to remotely log in to my mum’s iPad; this renders it impossible for me to provide her with remote support. Maddening.
- Trying to access mother’s scrabble game from the iPad invariably displayed a “this app is not available in your country” message. This is a terribly horribly hideous regression from using a regular workstation, from which her scrabble game is accessible from anywhere in the world.
The decision to purchase her an iPad versus an Android tablet is, to me, still the right one. I could try and convince her multiple ways that the Samsung is better, but it reminds me of when I was a child and I wanted a specific brand of something, for example ‘Chevignon’ was quite the rage when I was a school kid, and you really needed a Chevignon item if you wanted to be special, like everyone else; if your parents bought you another brand—which was probably better and definitely cheaper—you’d start freaking out and crying and explaining at it simply wasn’t the same thing. Such is the power of reflective design.