My wife and I were sitting at the dining room table after the kids were in bed. I was paying some bills on my laptop, and my wife was using the iPad (with a plug-in keyboard) to send emails. In the course of our conversation, we realized we needed an old file that we had never migrated from our old Windows laptop to dropbox, so we proceeded to haul it out and boot it up.
As the machine was starting up, I realized that we now had 7 “portable” electronic devices for use by just two people:
- One Macbook Pro
- One iPad
- One Kindle
- Two iPhones
- One cordless telephone
- One Sony VAIO laptop
I found this sufficiently amusing that I needed to pull out an 8th device (a digital camera) to snap a picture of the other seven.
The funny thing about it is that there was a tremendous overlap:
- Three could make phone calls
- Four could read ebooks
- Five could play videos
- Five could send emails
- Seven could surf the web
Yet somehow, each one of these devices was out because it served a specific need just a little bit better than any of the others. Talking on the cordless handset is much more comfortable than using our cell phones (and doesn’t eat minutes), sending emails with a physical keyboard is more convenient than hunting and pecking on a virtual keyboard, and reading on a Kindle is easier on the eyes and less distracting.
This device specialization became particularly clear when I found myself bringing three devices on a day trip to Chicago when my iPhone alone would have been perfectly sufficient. Since I was attending to a personal matter, I didn’t feel the need to bring my office laptop to do work, and I wasn’t staying overnight, so my baggage was minimal. The only things I needed were the items that would make my trip more manageable.
Naturally, my iPhone was coming with me. It’s my communications lifeline, and I was depending on it to keep in touch with home and meet up with the family members I would be seeing when I arrived.
The flight was a little under two hours each way, so I thought it would be nice to download a TV show or two to watch. My iPhone was perfectly capable of downloading a playing videos, but it occurred to me that this might be a rare opportunity to use my iPad without trying to pry it out of the hands of my kids
. Its much larger screen would be a much better viewing experience, and at only 1.5 pounds, it was easy to bring along.
The other thing I wanted to do was read, and both my iPhone and iPad were perfectly suited to reading e-books. In fact, the iPad was explicitly designed for reading books. Yet, I still found myself wanting to bring my kindle instead. The larger e-ink screen is much more comfortable to read than my phone, and its 6 ounce weight made it easier to hold in one hand than an iPad while waiting in line at security or sitting at the gate. So the kindle came along as well.
For about 5 minutes, I considered bringing a fourth device as well – our GPS. The trip was going to involve driving in some unfamiliar settings, and having GPS turn-by-turn directions was going to be essential. We had one just sitting in our car’s glove compartment, but then I started thinking about the hassle… It would mean bringing extra cables to connect to the car’s power, and there would be the inevitable frustrating wait while it tried to search in vain for the satellite signals it knew from Boston before finally giving up and trying to re-orient. In the end, I decided to just pay the $40 for the TomTom GPS application for my phone and limit my devices to three.
In a few short weeks, I know that we will be adding to the plethora of devices when we purchase the hotly anticipated iPad 3. Why? Well… it will be much more convent for kids’ video calls with their grandparents than hauling out the laptop, and it will prevent the kids from fighting over the other iPad when we fly out to California in the summer. And this will might mean I will be able to use one of my other devices (the Kindle) in peace.
Or least I hope so. Maybe for 25-30 minutes. If I’m lucky.