In the past few months I have begun to see more students pulling out iPads in class than ever before. One question that often arises, both in the educational community and in the technological market is, will tablet computers ever overtake the conventional laptop in popularity? Rather than focus on the competitive relationship between the two kinds of devices, I will discuss how even though tablets like iPads are becoming much more useful today, they still cannot fully replace a laptop.

First, what can the iPad do? In the educational sector, it has some incredible capabilities. Apps allow you to take notes, annotate readings, and create presentations. Plus the iPad can serve as a fully functional digital camera to take pictures and record video, in addition to recording lectures. One of my personal favorite apps that allows you write on photos to integrate them into presentations is PhotoPen. If you ever need to highlight certain aspects of a photo to share with friends or include in a class presentation, this is the app for you. Plus it can be cool to add moustaches to your friend’s picture, too. College students in particular like the iPad’s intuitive interface with many characteristics of the iPhone and iPod Touch, both of which are more common devices to see on campus. These include the spotlight search, seamless app deletion, iTunes, App Store, and many others.

Of course there are some limitations to tablet computers. Without a dedicated, default word processing option, for example, students are not going to think about going to their tablet to write a paper. Not to mention, typing out a report on a touch keyboard can be trickier and more time-consuming than using a traditional laptop. The lack of a large hard drive also means that you cannot store as many files as you could on a laptop either. However, it should be noted that iPads were never designed to be fantastic word processors or file storage devices, so these limitations should be entirely expected.

So will the iPad, or any tablet ever replace a laptop? Unless developers devise ways to mitigate some of the current limitations, I can’t see it happening. That being said, I always love when I can rely on a tablet to take notes and record lectures and not have to carry my bulky laptop around with me from class to class. When in doubt, you can always consider combination tablet and laptop computers to get the best of both worlds.

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