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Is it possble for the iPad to be your only device?

Posted on 2011-04-27
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When I open the box to my new iPad and turned it on the screen displayed something like 'connect to itunes'. What if my needs as a user (and I believe many such users exist) could be completely met by the iPad. Would I still have to have another desktop or notebook to update, manage, and backup my iPad? I have read several discussion regarding the iPad replacing your laptop, or being your only mobile device, etc. and understand that depending on the user needs this is very possible and for other users not likely at all. And I do not wish to start a discussion here of the limitations of the iPad and why many users still need other devices and some don't.

I just want to know -

Is it possble for the iPad to be your only device? (A stand-alone device.)

If yes, ...

What would you do to get it running when you take it out of the box?
How do you update it?
How do you back it up?
etc.?

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Question by:4mrhodes
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snailcat earned 1600 total points
ID: 35477435
At this time Apple has made it so you have to have access to a computer running iTunes to get your iPad up and running as well as to do the backup and updates.

It is a serious flaw that really prevents it from being used as your only device.  

Without iTunes and a computer it is a very expensive paperweight.
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by:jonahzona
ID: 35477450
You just opened a can that displays Apple's biggest flaw.

iTunes.

In short, the answer is no. You have to hook the iPad up to another machine (laptop, desktop) to update and backup.

You can use iTunes to manage your music internally on the iPad, but that is about it.

Until this changes, you would not be able to own an iPad ONLY. You would have to have access to a computer in order to update, backup and restore.
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by:Jason C. Levine
Jason C. Levine earned 400 total points
ID: 35477506
>> Is it possble for the iPad to be your only device? (A stand-alone device.)

Sort of.  See below

>> What would you do to get it running when you take it out of the box?

You do need to connect it to iTunes at least once.  If you have no other device, take it to an Apple store and they can activate it.

>> How do you update it?

Once it is activated, you can set up an account through the iPad and use that account to purchase apps, music, and books.  But you cannot get the latest OS updates unless you connect it to a computer and iTunes.  It would also be a bit more challenging to get pictures and videos onto the device but not impossible.

>> How do you back it up?

In standalone mode, you don't.  When you connect it to the "home" machine with iTunes, the iPad will sync and also back itself up at that time.  So if you lose or break the device you could restore it to the last backup by purchasing a new one and plugging it in to the same copy of iTunes.  If you don't do this, you can still get the apps back as iTunes will remember what you purchased and you can download them again without repurchasing albeit one at a time.  

So returning to the overall question: "Is it possble for the iPad to be your only device?"

The answer is yes, but with caveats.  Once the device is activated you don't NEED to connect it to a desktop or laptop and it will run just fine as is.  You miss out on backup capability and getting OS updates but those are not mission critical in most cases.  Whether you WANT to run the device as a standalone object is a whole different question and my answer would be an unequivocal "no"
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35477517
@snailcat - Thanks, that was my conclusion so far as well.  I do see this as a big oversight on Apples part - I know many people will argue 'who doesn't have a computer that can run iTunes'  - here is an example:  My widowed grandmother, she likes Facebook, email, browsing and really not much else (or someone else's grandmother who doesn't have any devices that might like using those things) - I could see getting her an iPad as a very friend, reliable, device - but having to have another computer to manage it ... hmmmm.

Anyways, will hold off awarding points in case someone does have a way to use it as a stand-alone device.  Otherwise, will accept this as the solution.
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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35477525
>> I could see getting her an iPad as a very friend, reliable, device - but having to have another computer to manage it ... hmmmm.

Not needed.  Any Apple store will activate the device and then all you need to do is configure the internal account to buy crap.
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by:jonahzona
ID: 35477539
@Jason - But doesn't that by definition make it NOT a stand alone device? At some point it HAS to be connected to something other than itself in order to function. Whether or not it is at an Apple store.
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by:snailcat
ID: 35477542
I think there are options with some of the Android tablets that will allow the use of the tablet as a replacement for a computer and will not require the use of a computer or iTunes.

If Apple is thinking ahead they will allow the iPad to function without iTunes and with the availability of over the air updates and backups
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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35477551
Yes, that is the case.  But that's a one and done touch.
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by:jonahzona
ID: 35477561
One and done, until the new iOS patch comes out. And when you want to sync some home movies. And when you want to back it up....
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by:snailcat
ID: 35477566
@Jason
It is a good idea as a way to get the iPad up and running and allow the purchase of apps.  But there are still a few issues:

It will still require iTunes (or the Apple store) to update the software OS
There is no way for the user to backup their device
Some large apps will not install or update through 3G or wifi and require iTunes for installation/updates.
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by:jonahzona
ID: 35477567
(BTW, I speak all of this as an avid iPad owner, who loves the device!)
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35477575
@jason1178 and jonahzona - I was writing the reply to snailcat when your replies came in - hadn't seen them yet.  

@jason1178:  I don't disagree with your reply or caveats - but agree with Snailcat and Jonahzona that the real answer is no - your caveats are too big of an issue, though possibly not mission critical, to fit my scenerio of the grandma getting her first computer device so she can get on facebook.
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by:snailcat
ID: 35477576
jonahzona--
My wife loves the device and I rarely get a chance to use it.  I agree it has some great attributes as long as you don't mind the tether to iTunes.
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by:jonahzona
ID: 35477594
@4mrhodes

BTW, there is NO good Facebook app. They are all awful. They will all be awful until Facebook releases an official app.

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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35477618
@jonahzona

>BTW, there is NO good Facebook app. They are all awful. They will all be awful until Facebook releases an official app.

LOL - okay ... she wants to just use Facetime and email :)
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35477650
OH YEAH ... She hates Adobe and anyhting Flash related.
>
(@jonahzona

>BTW, there is NO good Facebook app. They are all awful. They will all be awful until Facebook releases an official app.

LOL - okay ... she wants to just use Facetime and email :) )

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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35477678
I don't see the above as mission-critical problems for Grandma.  For Facebook and email why do you need to backup the device or get a new version of the iPad OS?  

For more active users or power users, of course these are big problems.

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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35477738
@jason1178   >I don't see the above as mission-critical problems for Grandma

Grandma is hypothetical - I am talking in general the large groups of users out there that could do everything they need to do on an ipad and never need another device (except they would need something running iTunes for backing up and updating the iPad as well as large software apps, manging the icons, and things I don't know about that require iTunes - including possible future development, which for many of them would be critical becuase they do everything the need to do on their iPad.  
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by:aleghart
ID: 35477951
My wife's iPhone 3G has needed the OS wiped three times since she's had it.  She could have taken it to the Apple store and let them do it...but she has to get the music back on the device, which is stored in iTunes.

The penchant for crashing, locking up, and requiring multiple uninstall/reinstall cycles for apps and sometimes the OS itself means that the device _cannot_ be a primary device.

My iPhone 4 hasn't required OS replacement yet, but I've had 3x reinstall of FB, Scrabble, Words.  At least 1/2 dozen times I've had to delete WiFi credentials, reboot, and re-enter.  Much worse than any other primary machine I've worked with, considering that I use it for light email and mostly games & chat-type functions.  I'm a heavy abuser of computers with beta software (and OS) and a decent amount of general office, database, and graphics work.

I'll reinstall an OS after 6 or 12 months of unstable beta work.  Shouldn't have to reinstall the OS or applications of a "phone".

Same deal for the 1st gen iPad...had it for just under 2 weeks (return period) and had to reinstall FB, Netflix, and an RDP app that were all acting flaky or not responding.  WiFi would suddenly lose internet connectivity, even though credentials were still saved.  Returned that.

I was also one of the morons who did not see any fine print that said you _must_ connect Apple devices to a PC in order to make them work.  I was dead in the water when my Blackberry was deactivated and my shiny new iPhone could do nothing but make emergency calls.  Never heard of a phone that requires a PC...who would think that after the declaration that computers were obsolete?

I would never recommend an iPad or iPhone as a primary device.  They're unstable, and cannot be run standalone.  The predisposition for malfunction requires a PC with iTunes to be up-to-date and running regular backups.
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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35478229
In the non-specific hypothetical presented, then no...it cannot be a standalone device given the weight placed on the caveats.
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Author Closing Comment

by:4mrhodes
ID: 35478670
This is the first time I have posted a question where the solution wasn't something I could try to see if it solved my problem.  i appreciate all the feed back and apologize if my subjective rewarding of points disagrees with anyone.

I awarded the bulk of the points to snailcat - he was the first to give what i subjectively believe to be the the correct answer ...which is  'NO'. (@Jonahzona, your answer seemed just as good but snailcat got there first)

I also awarded Jason1178 for an assisted solution, though, and I think Jason1178 agrees, it would be very limiting and likely frustrating to use the iPad without another device by having the Apple store activate it for you and going with it as is from there- it is a legitamit scenerio - and does show that push come to shove someone could purchase it without having any other device and have a little more than a 'very expensive paper weight'.
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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35478725
I agree with the way you split points but disagree with the characterizations of "limiting and likely frustrating" and "very expensive paperweight."  I've been involved with people who have given the device to relatives in precisely this scenario.  They buy the device at the Apple store, activate it right there, and bring it home to the new owner who has been living a happy and complete life never again plugging the device into a computer.

It's all in who is going to use the device.  If the question is "can it be a standalone device and be useful" then the answer is yes.  If the question is "is it designed to be a standalone device or is it recommended to be used by itself as a replacement for a computer" then the answer is no.  But for people who don't want to use a full computer and just want an appliance to check email and some basic web surfing, it can do it.
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35478948
@jason1178
To be clear in my response -when I mention "very expensive paper weight" - (quoting from Snailcat's original solution) I was saying that that was NOT a fair depiction of the stand alone iPad.  Sorry if my wording was confusing - but we agree there.

As for limiting (probably not the best choice of word - I think not having back-up , especially in the scenerio where it is your only device, is a big limitation - but not a functional limitation, just one more reason I think it would eventually be frustrating)- I am still unsure how limiting it would be, especially for the users with limited needs, I think it is very possible that for some users the limitations describe in your caveats are not much of a factor - thus not really limiting -  however, I would argue that for even those users the likelyhood of increased frustration is very high (and I say increased, becuase I think any electronic device will be frustrating at times) - even in the 'grandma user scenerio', lack of back up and updates and other functions performed when it is synced with a PC running iTunes will likely eventually cause frustrations for them - that is not to say it wouldn't work.

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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35478979
It's all in how you use it*












*or so my wife keeps telling me.
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by:aleghart
ID: 35479045
^ with the understanding that there is no support available, and you cannot load any of your own "old school" non-Apple-digital-store content.

The lower the technical ability (and lower the expectations) of the user, the more acceptable it is to use a crippled device without a PC.

I wouldn't call that "happy and complete" at all.  Oblivious, perhaps, and I'll buy "happy"...but not a complete experience as the product was produced.  Ignorant to the features available when connected to a PC...or the pitfalls of not having backups or ability to fix it with a phone call instead of a drive to the nearest store.

Also, self-support keeps the product costs down, else we'd have lines out the door for Apple techs to re-install OS.   And we'd need to provide a CD-to-iTunes ripping service, or convince consumers that buying digital formats of music they already own is perfectly acceptable.
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by:snailcat
ID: 35479091
As I mentioned, my wife loves her iPad.

My very expensive paperweight comment was directed at an iPad that has not been connected to iTunes, etc to get it up and running.

Once it has been set up to run it does some things very well.
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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 35479106
Al,

Not everyone is like us :)

There are people out there who look at typewriters with trepidation and mourn for the good old days of horses and buggywhips.  
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35479132
@aleghart - Not sure I get the point of your comment.  But I don't think being happy with an iPad requires lower technical ability or lower expectations for the user.  Relistic expectations - definitely - but that is true for any device.   There are many users who don't do much more than check email and browse the web (not to say the IPad can't do a lot more than check email and surf the web) and not becuase they don't know how to do more - they just don't.  For them the iPad is a very slick and (as much as it surprises me to say about an Apple product) competively priced device.  It's use is limited (as is true with any device) and having the technical expertise to understand those limitations and make sure your expectations will still be met is key to being satisfied with the device. - not ignorance.
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by:aleghart
ID: 35479981
I meant ignorant of features/technology...not ignorant as in "dumb".  Say that you could upload videos or your own CDs.  If I didn't know that I could listen to music for free, then I wouldn't care that I'm paying for iTunes.  But, I _do_ know that I can rip my own CDs and DVDs, so I would be upset that without a PC, I'd have to pay a second time for it.

When my iDevice loses credentials or crashes apps, and I must un- & re-install, that frustrates me.  Someone without technical experience would think it's normal.  As someone who hears the diatribe against Windows because Macs are so much better....I am frustrated.  A few times my wife has wished I never got an iPhone, and should have returned it like the iPad.

I think someone with lower expectations (web browsing & basic email) would be content.  But when iDevices don't show all content available to "normal" browsers, that's a downer.  Same when your contact phone numbers can't be dialed with "ext.".  For someone with only home or mobile numbers...they'd never know the difference.  For someone with business contacts...being forced to add a comma (pause) and delete the human-readable "ext."...that's just insanely shortsighted.

Very interesting thread.  I had no idea that people were using these devices without a PC in the home.
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by:4mrhodes
ID: 35480100
>diatribe against Windows because Macs are so much better....I am frustrated

Can't agree with you more there - I run a mutliplatform environment and have great things to say about Windows 7 and Snow Leopard. i am constantly at lost in regards to the viseral defense some mac users have for any complaint against a Mac and the disdain toward anything Windows.  Honestly, they both run great on my network, i have over 200 windows 7 clients and haven't seen a blue screen in a long time - and typically when I do see one it on my system where I am testing stuff that will likely cause problems.  But If I believed the MacWorld forums Windows users sit around all day wasting time rebooting their systems.

I get your point now - thanks for the clarification.  I don't think many people are using them with out a PC - I was just wondering if it was possible (curiosity, not something I plan to actually do), but I think eventually that could become more common for some users.  I also expect more and more websites to become mobile aware.

I never consider ignorant and dumb to be the same thing - everyone is ignorant, some more than others, especially depending on the topic - few people are truely dumb.
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