I recently came upon a post on Medium by Serenity Caldwell of iMore: Giving the baby 9.7 inch iPad Pro another chance. I wrote a lengthy response which I’ve edited into this post.
Something I’ve noticed as a general trend in the Apple tech press is a consistent pattern of hyper-consumption always in the context of, justified as, “my last purchase just didn’t quite get me the device I needed”. It goes something like this:
- Apple releases new iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
- Apple blogger/writer/podcaster purchases one of each in at least one size.
- Apple blogger/writer/podcaster writes about how they are writing current blog post/review on said new device.
- Various reviews of various keyboards/cases/covers (if new device was iPad). This case was too heavy, this keyboard wasn’t clicky enough, that case was too flimsy, this other keyboard had the wrong texture, that other case was too heavy, and so on.
- If said new device is an iPad it is a near guarantee that said blogger will give up Mac laptop for at least 6 months.
- Normally back to laptop after 6 months. 2015/16 was different because of the new iPad size/Pencil. Most everyone (in the Apple tech blogger community) seemed to go from an iPad Air to the big iPad Pro then to the small “Baby Pro” iPads. Some even decided to keep the big iPad Pro but concluded it wasn’t quite enough so added the smaller Pro as a second iPad. A few even then bought (or will buy) a new Mac laptop because the iPad (or iPads), while great, is not enough even if being used in combination with a Mac desktop. The conclusion is that a laptop is also needed.
The picture emerges of Apple tech bloggers/podcasters surrounded by small warehouses of devices and accessories. For the Apple nerddom fall has become that time of the year when new gadgets are announced. The time approaches and with it a fever pitch of expectations. I get that Apple tech media folk make a living writing about this stuff. But I think what gets under my skin a bit is that, in the context of a world with very real environmental challenges (climate being just the most urgent), so many words are written to justify personal purchases of so many devices and accessories. The impression I get is that no one is ever truly happy with this or that device or gadget because they are so quickly ready to replace them.
The same tech press will also sound the alarm a few times a year about serious problems at Apple because iPad/iPhone sales are not going up and up and up. And they continue with the bad news that Apple is failing its customers because Macs are not being updated on a more regular schedule. Meanwhile, back on planet earth, most of the normal people I know are quite happy to be using a three or four or five year old iPad. Some of these same people are also happy to be using iPhones from last year or the year before. Gasp, they might be using Macs that are 4 or 5 or even 6 years old. My dad is still happy using his 2010 MacBook Air. A friend of mine is using a 2011 MacBook Air. My brother uses a 2012 MacBook Pro. I’m happily getting some of my work done on a 2012 MacMini, the only Mac I have. What work I do not do on the Mini is handled quite well by a two year old iPad Air 2. The horror!
It seems to me that many of the Apple-focused media are living in a sort of disconnected echo chamber. They repeat the same “news” stories, same reviews, the same rumors and the same “First World Problems”. Year by year my RSS feed gets smaller and smaller. Helpful, original content about real world usage seems to dwindle. I know that there is a push now at iMore to address this very issue of regurgitated news with a new emphasis on helpful tutorials, how-to type material. Great! I’d say that is a step in the right direction (as far as content goes).
Of the various Apple tech writers I think Serenity is one the few to post helpful details about workflows. I greatly enjoyed her series on putting the iPad Pro to work and learned a great deal from those articles. Federico of MacStories also does a pretty fantastic job of sharing the many ways he is using his iPad. I suppose I’m just yearning for content that is more illustrative of how Apple tech is being used in the real world by real people (who are not full time tech bloggers/podcasters). For example, though I’m not working for an educational institution I often find Fraser Spears’ content interesting and inspiring. Fraser does a podcast, Canvas, with Federico all about mobile productivity. Teddy Svoronos has written (and guest podcasted) a bit about his use of technology as a PhD grad student. Oh, and David Sparks of MacSparky fame is a lawyer (among many other things) and often brings that context into his discussion of technology. He’s got a whole series of field guides for getting things done with Apple tech. David’s podcasting partner, Katie Floyd, is also a lawyer. She also does an excellent job of discussing how she uses Apple tech. Their podcast, Mac Power Users, is focused on that very thing.
I suppose I’m also looking for a bit of environmental sanity and responsibility within the community. It’s not reasonable to expect that people will replace devices such as iPads every year or even every other year. The same might be said of iPhones. These are computers manufactured with limited resources, why squander them? Why treat them as disposable? I would argue that the tech media, Apple-focused and otherwise, have helped create unreasonable expectations in regards to the purchase rate of computing devices.
Would I enjoy a new iPad Pro? Of course! Even more, I can predict that I will buy one at some point. But why not continue getting the most out of the iPad I have? It’s a powerful computer quite capable of the work I need to do with it. The same can be said for my Mac and iPhone. Indeed, it has often been said that Apple devices are of the highest quality, that they are designed well, made to be beautiful and durable. If this is true shouldn’t we expect to use them for awhile? Why not be a bit more restrained, discerning in our consumption? Why not respect our Macs, iPads and iPhones as the high quality, resource intensive products that they are?