Consumers buying into ‘it’ gizmos to stay on the cutting edge need limits

Apple’s new iPad, as well as other tech-gadgets, may be nothing more than a toy collector’s dream.

This past Wednesday, Apple made the long-awaited announcement of its latest product: the iPad. I immediately squealed with glee at the thought of having this beautiful piece of technology in my hands this spring.Kathryn-Lopez

Shortly following the mental kick I gave myself for not making the switch to AT&T from Verizon when I renewed my contract last month, I began spotting phrases like “no Flash” and “no camera” on my Google News feed. As I read further and conferred with fellow techies, I realized that Steve Jobs’s latest addition to the digital world might be nothing more than an extra large iPod Touch.

Nonetheless, this product is already a hit – the Tech Herald estimates 5 million will be sold in the first year – but why?

Because we, along with the rest of the digital world, love technology. The market may not be full of more reliable, user-friendly or advanced tools than those we already own, but those of us who have grown up in the Digital Age pine for touch screens, 3G and paperless lives.

It’s predictable that Apple’s iPad 2.0 will premiere a camera, USB ports, et cetera, but most won’t wait for that model.

“Being on the cutting edge is really important,” computer and information sciences professor Abbe Forman said.

Technology has infiltrated our daily lives, especially as students. Universities and other institutions have been making the shift to technology in the classroom and workplace environments.

“You come from a computer age,” Forman said. “You were all raised with computers. How would you feel if you walked into a classroom with a professor who didn’t know what they were doing [in terms of technology]?”

The answer? Annoyed. But while we expect access to the latest technology and people who know how to use it, we don’t need to jump the gun on products and services simply because words run on a battery and appear on a screen, not on paper.

Even the American Association of Neurological Surgeons is taking the step to supply 3,500 iPod Touches – not without an added fee, of course – to its attendees at a conference in Philadelphia in May, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Instead of being supplied with approximately 165 pages of material, the neurosurgeons will be forced to explore their PDFs on a 3-by-2-inch screen. Although this may seem more environmentally friendly, cost-effective and “advanced,” it may not be the better option.

Just for a five-day conference, the neurosurgeons will have to pay for the iPod touches, fiddle around on a small, difficult-to-read screen, take notes using a separate medium and learn how to navigate a touch screen.

Sometimes this advanced technology can be, in reality, less cost-efficient, less reliable and more difficult to use. While it’s important to stay on the cutting edge, we should spend our funds, time and energy on products and services that are actually worthwhile. When the iPad becomes more than a super-sized iPhone, I’ll be sure to make that switch to AT&T.

Kathryn A. López can be reached at kathryn.lopez@temple.edu.

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