Is the iPad Worth It? And Can It Actually Save You Money?

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The iPad has remained the top-of-the-line tablet on the market, and with that title comes a top-of-the-line price tag.  But is the iPad actually worth the price?  There are definitely cheaper alternatives out there, with some Android-based tablets available for less than $100.   And despite tablets becoming so engraved in our culture, there are still those who forgo them completely in favor of a laptop.   

So where does the iPad actually fall?  Is it really worth it?  I'd love to say, "Yes, it's definitely worth it, go buy it." Or even, "No, just buy a cheaper Android device or stick with your laptop." But as with most difficult questions, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Can You Replace Your PC With an iPad?

The iPad can easily perform most of the tasks we do on our PC.  In many ways, the iPad is actually better.  It is more comfortable on the couch than a laptop, more portable than a desktop and allows us to check email, update Facebook, browse the web, play games, read books, stream movies, listen to Pandora Radio, balance our checkbook, write a letter to mom and find out who the actress is that looks familiar in the movie we are watching among the many other tasks we often perform on our laptop or desktop.

Can it completely replace our laptop or desktop?  Maybe.  The answer to that question is a bit more complicated but mostly boils down to whether or not you are tied to any Windows or Mac OS software that doesn't have an iPad equivalent.  

Does it actually need to replace your laptop to save you money?  Absolutely not.  Even if there are some tasks you still must perform on a PC, the iPad can save you money by (1) delaying the day you'll finally feel the need to upgrade your PC and (2) allowing you to buy a much cheaper PC when that day finally arrives.   

More Ways the iPad Can Save You Money

There are a number of small ways the iPad can save you money, not the least of which is the relatively inexpensive cost of apps compared to software on your PC.  The apps on the iPad tend to cost anywhere from a dollar to five dollars and can often do the same tasks it might take thirty to fifty dollars worth of software on your PC to accomplish.    

This is especially true for games.  Most games on a console cost $60.   The newest iPad Pro has a graphics processor that is about as powerful as the XBOX 360 and games only cost a few dollars.  The hardcore gamer might want to stick with consoles, but for those who might be just as happy with a Wii U as with an XBOX ONE, the iPad can end up saving a fair amount of money.  

The iPad is also a great gateway for cutting the cord.   Between its ability to stream movies from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and the number of cable and broadcast apps like the ABC and CBS apps, the iPad can be a great second screen whether you cut the cord or not.   

The iPad may even help delay your next smartphone purchase.  We used to get smartphones cheaply by rolling the cost into our subscription, but as more telecom companies allow us to get cheaper subscriptions if we have our phone paid off (whether buying it outright or simply keeping a smartphone for more than two years), that iPad at home might make the newest smartphone on the block an easier expense to pass on.  After all, the iPad can do many of the same things our phone does, including sending text messages and placing calls through FaceTime.   

But What About That Cheaper Android Alternative?  

It's easy to see how a tablet can end up saving money in the long term.  Heck, the ability to read so many classic books for free can end up saving as much money as tablet costs.   But do you really need an iPad to experience those savings?  

Android has come a long way in the last few years.  In many ways, it is still playing catch-up to the iPad, but that gap is certainly closer now than it was a few years back.  But Android still has its issues, and cheap Android tablets are often just that: cheap.  

One of the biggest drawbacks of an Android tablet is the number of apps that run on the tablet but are designed for a smartphone compared to the number of iPad apps that are designed for the iPad's bigger screen.   

But let's not completely forget performance.  The $249 entry-level iPad Mini 2 will run circles around the Android tablets priced in the $50-$150 range.   This means the tablet will ultimately last longer before you are forced to upgrade.  That super-cheap Android tablet will beg for an upgrade after a couple of years.

This doesn't mean all Android tablets perform poorly.  Once you get into the $200 range, Android tablets can be quite competitive.  But that price range also approaches the price of an iPad.

There are also ways to buy an iPad for cheaper than the retail price, such as buying a refurbished unit from Apple.  The great thing about these tablets is that they are still covered by Apple's 1-year warranty and can save you anywhere from twenty to seventy dollars.