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)