Not long ago, just before the coronavirus pandemic started, I bought my first tablet ever. I had used tablets many times before but never actually owned one. However, my wife and I decided it was a good idea to get one to use at home, for several reasons. It could be used in long trips by the kids to watch movies, for example, and it was a practical device to quickly browse the web when using our computers or mobile phones turned out to be a bit cumbersome. More recently, we changed ISPs and got rid of the ISP-provided set-top-box that allowed us to play Netflix content on our non-smart TV. The tablet could be used in combination with our Chromecast for the same purpose.
Because this tablet would belong to our “home” instead of a particular individual and would only have to serve some basic needs, I started looking at cheap Android tablets around the 200 euros mark. Contrary to mobile phones, where you can get many decent phones at that price point, most Android tablets I found were pretty bad devices, in my humble opinion, either lacking memory, CPU or GPU power or having pretty basic low resolution screens. Also, for a security conscious person like myself, they all implied switching tablets after around probably no more than 3 years. Android manufacturers will stop giving you security updates for a given device after that.
Not owning any other Apple device, it was by pure chance that I took a look at the Apple store and discovered the normal iPad (not the iPad Pro, of course, but also not the iPad Mini) was the cheapest Apple tablet, costing around 380 euros. Moreover, it was heavily discounted on Amazon and it was available, at the time, for 350 euros including a non-official case (which works perfectly fine, by the way). As you can check in Wikipedia’s iPad page, iPads are also typically supported for around 5 years or even a bit more. I reasoned it made more sense to get an iPad for 350 euros than an Android tablet for around 200. 350 euros in 5 years is 70 euros a year, which is the same as 210 euros in 3 years. Not only it costs basically the same per year, but you’re also getting a superior device in the first place. Battery life is better, the screen is better, etc. Not having to change devices so often is also good from an ecological perspective (not as good as not having one in the first place, of course) and it’s also less of a mental burden.
The final detail that made me choose an iPad was talking to some other family members who had one and who showed it to me. Some of those devices were over 5 years old and they still ran perfectly fine, were responsive and had decent battery life. It was only then that I started to really understand the conclusions in some online reviews I had been reading, which indicated the best cheap tablet was a second-hand iPad. So in the end I went for it and bought one.
Having said that, when buying tablets, phones and smart devices in general (something I rarely do) I always have the feeling I’m choosing the lesser evil, and this is no different situation. People who know me well will recall I’m not precisely an Apple fan. I hate the fact that they’re selling you a programmable computing device that you do not really own as such because, if you want to create a program for it, you need an Apple computer, a developer license and, even then, you cannot even directly load your program on the device like you can do with Android or any classic computer. It has to go through their gatekeepers. Ridiculous, in my opinion, and annoying. Fortunately for me, in this case I’m treating the tablet almost like an appliance in a similar fashion to my phone: it’s a device with a known relatively short lifespan that allows me to have access to a number of applications and services, and I always keep that in my mind.
Some weeks after buying it, the pandemic happened and the iPad is basically paying for itself. We use it every single day to cast content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ to the living room TV and have basically “discovered” FaceTime, which we use to talk to other family members. The tablet has a larger and much more comfortable screen for videoconferencing compared to a phone, and it can be easily carried around the house compared to a laptop. It’s a pretty good compromise.
In the smart TV aspect this, again, is a lose-lose situation that implies choosing the lesser evil. I trust the combination of an iPad plus a Chromecast (from Google, nonetheless!) more than I trust TV apps provided by manufacturers and connecting my TV to the Internet. I also think the equivalent iPad apps are easier to use and generally work better. Chromecasts will probably be supported for longer than TV apps, if anything because their purpose and interfaces are simpler and every major content provider supports casting to them, while the market share for iPads, specially in the US, almost guarantees Netflix, HBO, Disney and Amazon, to name a few, will make their apps available for them for as long as I will use mine.