5 Reasons the iPad Makes You (Apparently) Happy

We live in the future, having finally achieved the tablet computer if not our jetpacks. But are we happy?

According to CNBC, if you own an iPad you most likely are. A study by the American Consumer Satisfaction index has put Apple high atop the technology tree, as it were, with a whopping 86% satisfaction rating. The PC industry itself had a banner year, too, with 78%—but it’s really the iPad that’s changing the way we respond to technology that’s made Apple such a success. In fact, CNBC reports that “the iPad is the highest-scoring product that a leading consumer satisfaction index has ever tracked.” You know that’s got to make Mr. Jobs and Co. absolutely giddy.

Before the iPad came out there was such a hullabaloo about it that I tried not to write much on the subject. Speculation is a strange business, and while the iPad definitely piqued my interest, I wanted to wait a while to see it in action, to see what the actual consumer response was.

So, now that the craziness has died down, I think it’s apparent that whatever the iPad is—be it a computer, a tablet, or simply a gadget filling a hole in our techno-consciousness like no other—people like it. In fact, people love it. To hear some of my writer friends go on about the joy of reading books on the iPad you’d think they’d had a religious epiphany. Yes, Apple has a way of converting people to their products who then espouse them with unparalleled zeal, but this goes beyond the Apple brand. I honestly think that the iPad taps in to an unseen need hardwired into our minds. And I’m sure that was the company’s intention from the get-go.

Why is this? Well, here are the five reasons I think the iPad is so successful and brings such satisfaction its owners. It’s by no means a complete list, and please give your reasons—or disagreements—in the comments below.

  1. It’s slick. Let’s face it, even if you hate Apple you’ve got to give them props for making pretty stuff. Not just pretty, really. The Apple aesthetic is simply ahead of its time, and has, in the last decade, inspired the design of hundreds of knock-off products. Its iconic style, with a famed less-is-more approach, just looks damn good. Plus it’s shiny. And people like shiny things. Bigger, sleeker, shinier things, therefore, probably make people even happier.
  2. It’s yours. Or at least they give you the sense that its yours. I would argue that this is one of the most devious approaches of the iPad, especially since it works really well. Because as personalized as Apple products can feel, they are anything but. Any good geek knows to expect that you can’t go in and change out your hard drive. You can’t escape the EULAs and DRM in many cases. This is no open source. This is The Source. But, if you’re willing, you can make your own apps, download your preferred apps, and watch your favorite TV shows. It’s the illusion of personalization that’s so enticing. The feeling that something is yours, and unique (even if it is anything but), no doubt informs your happiness.
  3. It’s the perfect size. It’s a familiar size. It feels like a cross between a book and an iPod Touch. Not too heavy, not too light. Substantial without being overbearing. Whereas a netbook can feel too small for some, and laptops too unwieldy, the iPad strikes a comfortable balance. It’s like holding something you were meant to hold. At least, in my experience. I know some have argued that long hours holding the iPad can cause a bit of hand strain, but I get that from reading books, too. For some reason I think the size just relates to a particular part of our brain that signals comfort and makes for a most happy correlation.
  4. It’s the right price. No, it isn’t the cheapest product on the market. This is Apple we’re talking about. But, in comparison to other Apple products, my suspicion is that buyer’s remorse is a whole lot less than usual. Instead of dropping over a grand on a MacBook, buyers still get that whole Apple experience with half the amount (providing they want the WiFi only). That no doubt informs happiness.
  5. It’s intimate. I don’t mean in a porny way (get your minds out of the gutters, geeks…) though I would be silly to presume some individuals don’t go that route. But the iPad is designed to be held, almost like a baby or a pet. You bring it much closer to you than other technology. It’s as intimate as reading a book, and instead of using a keyboard to interact with it, you use your fingers. In a weird way it makes interaction with the gadget that much more, well, human. Until the iPad there’s just been a distance between technology and its users. But I think we’re closing the gap a bit here. I’d be willing to bet that a good portion of iPad users even name their gadgets. As such, people feel as if they have, well, a relationship (for lack of a better term) with their iPads. And that, I think, makes them happy.

Now, I don’t own an iPad (not to say I don’t want one). So these observations are definitely those of someone who’s fiddled with an iPad for less than a few hours total, but doesn’t live with one. But I have been watching and listening to users. So weigh in. Why do you think the iPad makes people happy? Or do you disagree outright? Are we just being deluded into happiness, or is the iPad a truly welcome vehicle for technological zen?

(Image CC by John Åslund)

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18 Responses to 5 Reasons the iPad Makes You (Apparently) Happy

  1. I disagree on the first point. Massively. I don't have to give them props for their design, I don't like their design in the slightest. Shiny and smooth lacks all appeal for me.

    Also, as a good geek, point 2 is lost on me.

    In fact, looking at it, the only one I could possibly agree with is 5, and since I don't own one I can't say that for sure either.

  2. I don't own one, and I certainly wouldn't, mainly because of the price tag (and the other options I can choose for that amount of money).

    BUT: It's what science fiction told us computers would be like in the 21st century.

    Come on! Tactile display, the way you browse the pages of a book, it's screaming I'M THE FUTURE all around! Ok, we've seen it before on the iPhone (hence its success), but this new size, and its functionalities as a home computer, are brand new.

  3. I don't own one, and I certainly wouldn't, mainly because of the price tag (and the other options I can choose for that amount of money).

    BUT: It's what science fiction told us computers would be like in the 21st century.

    Come on! Tactile display, the way you browse the pages of a book, it's screaming I'M THE FUTURE all around! Ok, we've seen it before on the iPhone (hence its success), but this new size, and its functionalities as a home computer, are brand new.

  4. The satisfaction survey respondents have already been self-sorted into that group who love Apple and its design.

    I'm not a big fan of Apple, so I'm not going to be spending $500 to get the iPad. If someone feels like giving me one for free, I wouldn't turn it down, but I wouldn't be "ohmygodthisiswondefuli'mthrowingoutmycomputernowYAY!"

    Once the price comes down and people outside the OMGMustBuy! demographic start to purchase it, the satisfaction rating will start to go down.

  5. I disagree on almost every account.

    1. It's Slick- I don't like the style at all. Whenever I see one, or even pick it up, I feel like I'm going to drop it. I like having more weight to anything that expensive I want to keep safe. The actual design and how its presented, regardless of how much you can change, makes me think of a three-year-olds coloring book.

    2. It's Yours- Yeah, you own it, but not all the stuff on it. That's always been a problem between me and apple. You buy stuff from them, and then you can't fully enjoy it. Buy music? Well you can only listen to it on THIS COMPUTER and THIS DEVICE and if you try to put it anywhere else you're screwed. It's irritating.

    3. It's the Perfect Size- I'm not sure about this one. I'm sure you can argue for this, but everyone likes things at different sized. If I actually wanted to read something on it, I don't think I'd be very comfortable with how small it was, and if I wanted to listen to music, I don't think I'd like how big it was. I think really it just grows on people.

    4. It's the right price- HA!

    5. It's intimate- I suppose this one I might be able to agree with, though it comes off as a little weird when you put it that way. If you use something that often, spent that much money on it, and will *lose* so much stuff you paid for if it breaks, than yeah, I suppose that can get pretty intimate.

    • "and will *lose* so much stuff you paid for if it breaks,"As far as I'm aware, all purchases in the app store are stored in your account and can be re-synced with any iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. So really, this complaint is not valid at all, and is actually much less of a problem than when a computer crashes and you really have lost a lot of programs, unless you have it on a CD/backed up.

      Also, music from iTunes is now DRM-free. Jeez, you anti-Applers are even more irrational and ignorant than the fanboys.

  6. This price thing has bugged me since it was announced. Everyone said an Apple tablet would cost $999 OR MORE. They brought in in at half that. Now everyone says that is too much. How is half what you expected it to cost too much!

  7. I agree with points 1-4 … mostly. Re: Point 5: I really don't care for touch screen devices, and I would say they do the opposite of making the user experience more "intimate". Mashing my hands against the screen actually takes me out of the experience, it pulls me back. This is particularly true for me when it comes to gaming. Nothing I hate more than having my hands in the way of whatever's going on on screen. This is just a personal preference though.

    The biggest problem with the iPad for me is that it wouldn't be replacing any other devices, rather just adding another one to an already crowded lineup. I've got my television-ps3-sat box setup for watching any HD content I want, I've got a zune HD for listening to lossless audio on the go, I have my nook for any and all book-related needs, and of course my phone for mobile internet and uh … yeah phone calls.

    I suppose the iPad could replace all of those devices if I wanted to sacrifice the quality of every one of those experiences. I'm including the nook in this, as I actually travel to and from Asia pretty regularly and the iPad batter just won't cut it. So yeah, neat product, but it's just not for me.

  8. If experience has taught me anything it is that no matter how much I disrespect this device, no matter how much I pick flaws about it and say how much certain features are unnecessary, no matter how much I insist that it simply isn't up to scratch, no matter how much I dislike the way Apple operates, no matter how many arguments I get in to say the money would be far more sensibly spent elsewhere, one day one will find its way into my hands, it will put a big smile on my face and I will go all soppy as I stroke and caress its screen, and it will be yet another item in my quiver of Apple devices without which I couldn't possibly lead a fulfilling life.