This post was written by a good friend of mine who happens to have fantastic insight on everything tech/gadget related
I recently drove my daughter to the University of Washington for her freshman year. Everything seemed to be in order—she had a new account with Wells Fargo, she had a new phone, her books, and a cozy room to share with someone who seemed sane enough. I drove home no more concerned for my daughter than I naturally should be.
Two days later, though, she called in near hysteria. Apparently, she had spilled coffee on her laptop, and hadn’t been able to revive it. When I said I’d buy her a replacement, she asked if she could also get a tablet of some sort, and said that most of her friends could accomplish more on both a social and academic level with said gadgets. For the time being, I’m replacing just the computer. Then I’ll gift her with a tablet for Christmas…but which one?
As someone who takes pride in being frugal, my gut response is to buy her an older, still well functioning Kindle Keyboard. I could solve her technological problems with just a single Ben Franklin. But not so fast: if she wanted an ad-free model that provided Wi-Fi service, we’re looking at steeper prices (somewhere between $169 and $189). That’s nearing the Kindle Fire price range. If the Fire or iPad2 can provide her with more tools for academic success, as well as for social connectivity (hey, I want my daughter to be happy, too), then maybe it is worth checking out. After all, “frugal” doesn’t just mean “cheap.” It means “cost-effective” and “resourceful.”
The new Kindle Fire is dazzling for the eye that’s accustomed to the austere, black-and-white mode of the original. It operates using the Amazon Silk browser, which means the server can process demands on both a local level, and also on the Elastic Compute Cloud. If you want to free up some space by keeping a minimal amount of books on your Kindle, you can store the rest of your data in the Cloud. However, the internal memory of the Kindle Fire weighs in at a mere 8GB, and only 6GB are usable. There is no expansion slot to help remedy this.
The iPad2, on the other hand, comes with 16GB of internal memory, with variants of 32 and 64GB should you want the upgrade. This device also operates on a cloud system called—predictably—iCloud. This is a very important factor to my daughter, who’ll be saving a lot of information on the tablet, including movies (she’s a film studies major).
There are iPads capable of operating on a 4G service, but those are much more expensive, and some compromises need to be made if I’m going to spend more money. The iPad2 is a tad heavier, but it’s also a bit sleeker. Also, she’ll want to have a working camera on her tablet, which is a feature you won’t find on the Kindle Fire. I, for one, would forego the extra expense for this, but I must keep in mind that this is an investment for my daughter, not for me. And so being frugal isn’t just about what’s cost-effective, but also about what’s durable, lasting, and appropriate for her. By the way: the iPad2’s camera? It’s capable of 720p HD video.
It’s true that the iPad2 starts at $499.99, which makes it $300 more expensive than the Kindle Fire. And it’s true that I’d leap on a Kindle model were this a purchase for myself. But the iPad2 seems more flexible, more dynamic, and more likely to thrill my daughter at Christmas. I’m all for saving money now, but I get the feeling that the Amazon Kindle ‘s cheaper price is more an apology than a bargain, and that my investment will save me more in the long run. The iPad2, therefore, is the smartest and the most cost-effective choice, the buying it will allow me to maintain a sense of frugality. Besides, as an informed consumer, I understand that time, alone, will reduce the hit on my wallet—the holidays bring deals every year, making patience as much a virtue as frugality is.