How low can we go for a tablet that lets mom do everything she needs?
December 6, 2011 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Can I justify an iPad for my mom or will the Kindle Fire or Galaxy meet her needs?

My siblings and I are thinking about getting my mom a tablet for Christmas. I've been a mac user for 17 years and I love the intuitiveness of Apple's OS and the price has always been worth it for myself. My sister is a PC/Android person but is open to Mac products. I am the tech person in the family that will teach her, load the thing and troubleshoot it.

Mom is in her late 60's but has become very good with computers in the last 6 years. She installs software on a PC and managed to find Facebook all on her own. She has enjoyed playing Soduku games on my iPhone in the past but isn't great with using a touch screen yet. I think that's something that she will pick up if she doesn't get too discouraged.

She spends a lot of time up in the office on the desktop PC checking email, looking at stocks and playing Facebook games. Even the dog is mad at how much time she spends up there. In the past she has said she wished she had gotten a laptop instead, so she can do internet things on the couch downstairs. The only reason she is still on a PC is because of Quicken (she doesn't like how the functionality switches between releases, let alone between Mac/PC versions). She would use this in the house only, with wifi.

She would use a tablet for:
1. Email. She checks her Comcast account online, but I can get that working in Mail (or let her continue using a browser).

2. Internet. Shopping, looking up stuff etc. I don't see her using You Tube or streaming movies.

3. Facebook. This is a big one. She's on Twitter and Facebook and loves playing games. Slot machine and gambling games are big but she's really into "Gardens of Time" which seems to be a Facebook-only Flash game. I don't know if there's a reasonable way to make that work on any tablet.

4. Facetime. She's had Skype for more than 5 years but refuses to talk with me "on her computer" because it's not intuitive. If she knew she could Facetime with me I think she would love it. I realize that many tablets don't have cameras and this would only be a bonus for the iPad.

5. Reading - not so much. She reads a lot (romance novels) but I don't see her using the device for reading. All of her books are free and exchanged between friends. She might be open to reading free books.

As much as I like the idea of an iPad we're not sure she needs something so expensive. If the Fire was the solution that would be great price-wise, but I don't want to get her something she is frustrated with and gives up on. We think she'll want a big screen so she can see better (an iPhone screen is really small for her to look at) but my sister is concerned about weight. She'd most likely be using this while sitting on the couch but she's really strong and healthy and has no disabilities. I've used iPads but have no experience with any other tablets/platforms.

We would hands down go for an iPad if it wasn't for the price (yes, even refurbs are expensive). Is there a clear winner here?
posted by Bunglegirl to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No currently-extant tablet is going to work for your Mom's facebook games. Performance and interface issues make them unworkable on the tablets that support flash; the iPad doesn't at all. And Adobe has announced the end-of-life for mobile flash, making it unlikely the situation will ever improve.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:29 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a netbook for those things. The Fire is great...for all the things she doesn't do - for example, my 1-year-old Asus Eeeeeeeeee netbook can't play a Netflix stream for more than a couple of minutes before it pukes and I can watch for hours on my Fire.

But media aside, the netbook is best of all worlds - cheap, portable, not terribly heavy, has a keyboard, display is larger than a Fire, has wifi, plays Facebook games, will fit in a big purse. And if she decided she wanted to read free Kindle romances (and they are legion), I really like the Kindle app for PC with the size and in-bed-propping-up-ability of the netbook.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. See also.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:01 PM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: I saw that before I posted, jeffamaphone, but that question is asking about a device for audio books for a disabled person—very different from what I'm looking for in a tablet.

So, I've fleetingly thought about a netbook, but know nothing of what to look for specs-wise from a PC, let alone a netbook. I'll take any recommendations if people think that's a better option.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2011

For me, it's not so much whether a device technically meets someone's needs, but whether it's something they're going to enjoy using. Early reviews of the Fire are that the touch screen is finicky and inaccurate. The other part of the equation is which device is going to be easier for you to support. That factor also leans heavily toward the iPad.
posted by Hylas at 2:28 PM on December 6, 2011

I don't think you could read this review of the Kindle Fire and be ok with getting it over the iPad, particularly for what your mom wants to use it for:
"The best way to think of the Kindle Fire is as a decent e-reader that can do some extra stuff—namely, play videos and browse the Internet. For $200, that's not a bad deal—but just make sure that it's one you're willing to make."
The iPad is going to blow it out of the water for everything except maybe the e-reading part, but if that's what you're interested in, you'd really want an eink Kindle. I'm saying this as an Amazon stockholder who has been trying to get everyone to buy as many Kindles as possible :(
posted by danny the boy at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2011

Best answer: I own a Fire, an iPad and iPad2 and measuring smartphones/tablet market/audience is how I pay the bills.

I think the Fire is an awesome device for media consumption, specifically consumption of music/video/TV/books from Amazon--in some ways it's better than the iPad for content discovery and purchase/playback. But general purpose Web use it's far inferior to the iPad.

Given what you've described about your mom, I don't think you'd go wrong getting an iPad--I bought one for my mom who's 70 and is not super computer literate and she's LOVED it like no other gift she's ever received--she's emailing, Facebooking, playing Angry Birds, Web browsing/e-commerce, and watching Netflix non-stop.
posted by donovan at 2:45 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

What I like about the iPad, and the way I end up justifying the cost, is that I've downloaded apps for $5.00 that would have cost me $30 on my desktop. I feel like I've got a thousand dollars of software on it, some of which I actually use!
posted by mecran01 at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2011

Best answer: Honestly, on the netbook specs...just go buy one in your price range. She's not doing anything that matters a bit about processor, she's not going to be working with large files, if you're going to care about anything care about battery life. If you can't buy one with the max amount of RAM in it, buy a replacement stick and have someone handy swap it out for you.

This one goes to 2GB RAM, has a big (not ultra-fast but it's fine) drive, and up to 11 hours battery life. It's a slightly better model than the one I'm typing on right now, which can do 8-9 hours on battery if I turn the display brightness down. I like it very much.

All of this assumes your mom has or will be getting wireless internet in the house, of course.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing that I'd get her an Ipad2. I own one as well as a Kindle Fire and a nice laptop. I think everything she likes will be a blast on the Ipad. AND she can talk to you directly on Facetime or Skype, another app that does very well on Ipad. Kindle Fire, as donovan says, is about media consumption, especially from Amazon, which does not sound like your mom's thing at all.

Not that the Ipad2 is any slouch for media consumption she might like. Did you know if your mom is an HBO subscriber there's a great app for watching HBO on the Ipad? Also Netflix app does a nice job. Never mind the ability to access the large media collection in Itunes and on You Tube. A lot of magazines are on Ipad now, and look great. I could go on. She'll LOVE an Ipad.
posted by bearwife at 3:20 PM on December 6, 2011

P.S. You may want to check out something I don't know off the top of my head, which is whether Ipad2 user without a Kindle account can use the Kindle app anyway. That would open up Amazon's considerable selection of romance books as well as the new library lending programs that allow free borrowing of books -- like romance books -- that can be read via Kindle app. Then you essentially have a great Kindle Fire function for your mom on her Ipad2.
posted by bearwife at 3:24 PM on December 6, 2011

Best answer: I work with Android and love it, I'm not an Apple guy - the Kindle Fire and Galaxy are both Android tabs.

I wish I didn't have to say this - but go for the iPad2. Why? Because something inevitably goes wrong with Android tablets, whether they're running honeycomb or something older (haven't tried ICS yet.)

For your average young person, this isn't going to be a problem - these tabs work more or less. Ok, it froze? Restart, no biggie.

But for an older less confident person, the glitchiness will make them scared and insecure, they'll start to ask themselves if they're somehow breaking the shiny expensive toy, and they'll use it less and less. This isn't a problem for iPads, as far as I've seen.
posted by tempythethird at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to vote iPad as well, even though I own no Apple products and may never do so (Android phone, windows otherwise). Android is eventually glitchy and requires tinkering (great if you like to tinker for the heck of it). But many folks I know who prefer Windows or Linux on their desks say (in their own words) that time on the sofa (or wherever) is leisure time and their tablet/smartphone should be an stressless joy to use. Plus, if she likes games, I believe the iPad offers a better selection even if they're not wedded to Facebook. And if she's new to teh idea of a touchscreen, the iPad will probably be easier to learn on. This seems to suggest that the functionality bearwife mentioned is possible although you may need to read deeper into it.
posted by K.P. at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2011

Is your mom in a place where you could take her to an Apple Store or a Best Buy/Verizon where she could play with some of these tablets? I think that would tell you more than enough about her comfort level with these devices.

Alternately, $200-500 will get you a laptop more than powerful enough for the things she does.
posted by calistasm at 5:28 PM on December 6, 2011

Another vote for ipad2. I got mine a few weeks ago, and it's quite a joy to use. And beautiful, and elegant, and smooth. There is something special and satisfying about manipulating stuff on screen with your fingers, it's just a different kind of thing than a mouse or trackpad. And I have found several apps that are just plain *beautiful* to use and look at, and create art with, etc.

Someone mentioned Kindle on ipad - you can do it, BUT if you want to buy a book, you have to go to in safari, buy the book, then go back to the Kindle app which will sync it for you. I believe (someone correct me if I am wrong) this is due to buying Kindle books in-the-Kindle-app being an "in-app purchase", which Apple wants a 30% cut of. Amazon said "screw that" so you have to do it the convoluted way, but it's not bad at all.

For books, you can also get the free iBooks app from Apple, which has many free books and is a nice reader as well. I did this and downloaded the ipad user guide on it, which has proven very helpful. Highly recommended to do this.

Some Facebook games have corresponding App Store apps - you could check out her favorites and see if that's available for her. I play Words With Friends, and have a currently-going game with a player who I think is using it via Facebook.

I ordered mine online, and for the hell of it I decided to see if they'd approve me for the financing, and they did! I was surprised since I am just starting to rebuild my credit. If being able to pay for it over time makes it a more palatable choice for you, you could try that. The bank that services it is Barclays Bank. I believe it's interest-free for 12 months, or if paid off in 12 months, if the purchase is over $599. (my memory may not be perfect on this). They send you a credit card in the mail as well.

I ordered mine online and elected to pick it up at the Apple Store. They sent me an email that it was ready to pick up in less than an hour.

Good luck with whatever you choose.
posted by marble at 5:54 PM on December 6, 2011

Best answer: Here is a game app called Gardens of Time, not sure if it is the same thing your mom plays. It looks fun, I think I will download it myself and try it out!

Note: When I'm looking for apps while I am on my PC, I find googling "app store" and the search terms for what I am looking for works well, but the search box on is kind of useless for finding apps.
posted by marble at 5:58 PM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: I'm a total Mac nerd but I'm a little surprised that even the Android folks suggest the iPad. I think we may have to shell out the big bucks but we'll look into netbooks too.

Marble, that IS TOTALLY the game she plays. I searched online for it last week (to see if there are apps for different platforms) and the FAQ says it's only for Facebook blah blah blah. She was building an Egyptian tomb last time I looked.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:06 PM on December 6, 2011

Bunglegirl, it says it was only released December 2nd, so that may be why you didn't see it when you looked.
posted by marble at 6:24 PM on December 6, 2011

It is the iPad, it is the only device I have given to 2 plus 70 year olds and they continue to use it with out any trouble shooting from me. We also gifted Kindles to the same two. Those devices were sent to the techno heap upon receiving the iPad.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:20 PM on December 6, 2011

Go iPad. They're the tablets that don't wind up getting returned a week later to the store they were sold at.

(seriously, I've seen first-person accounts of a software developer being told by store staff that he almost certainly didn't want to buy the 7" Android tablet he was about to for development purposes, because everyone winds up returning them, and that he definitely wanted an iPad instead)

Anecdata: my grandmother (who knows her way around a PowerBook for basics) and my luddite dad both love their iPads. 10" screen makes a huge difference versus a 7" screen — it sounds so minor but it's literally twice the screen size in person. The whole "it's a computer with all the Computer removed" thing really caught on with them.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:15 PM on December 6, 2011

I would make sure to keep screen size in mind for your purchase. The smaller tablets are great for people who have good vision, but I have known quite a few people who found the screens on many netbooks too small to use well.
posted by markblasco at 11:28 PM on December 6, 2011

We've got a Galaxy (and a Xoom), and while I'm less than expert with the iPad, I don't see anything it can do that our Honeycomb tablets can't. We might be somewhat limited users, however.
posted by troywestfield at 6:14 AM on December 7, 2011

I love my Fire very much. The finicky touchscreen is ... eh. That hasn't so much been my experience.

But the things I love it for the most are watching video and reading. It's perfectly fine for other stuff -- I do use it for web browsing, Twitter, Facebook, stuff like that, and I like it for those purposes. But those aren't its killer features the way they are killer features on an iPad (which I do not own, by the way).

On the other hand, BOY, the price of an iPad seems like a lot of money to spend for something that may or may not wind up being up her alley, since she can't play her FB games (as I understand it). If she winds up using it mostly for email and shopping online, the iPad seems like it's way too much device for her, since the desire to play FB games may get her just sitting with her computer anyway.

She'd probably have a great time with either an iPad or a Fire, but I'm not actually sure either of them is a good purchase for her.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:15 AM on December 7, 2011

Sorry, should add that I read more than one review that said if you're trying to decide between a Galaxy and an iPad, go with whichever OS you already are comfortable with. And that if you have any questions about the Galaxy (or Xoom), obviously feel free to memail me.
posted by troywestfield at 6:18 AM on December 7, 2011

Surprisingly, my husband's 90-year-old grandfather was given an iPad and has become pretty adept with it; he has never owned a computer but has used them in the past and had WebTV for email.

If Flash games are a big thing for your mom, as it's been said, most tablets are out.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:29 AM on December 7, 2011

HP is going to be selling a batch of refurbished Touchpads at the previous fire sale's prices on Sunday through its eBay store.
posted by duomo at 11:42 AM on December 8, 2011

Response by poster: I appreciate all of your advice and anecdotes. The iPad is a lot of money to spend and after reviewing your comments my sister and I were thinking about a netbook. But in talking it through and thinking about how she would use it we felt that an iPad would be easier to read (bigger, sharper screen), easier to hold than a laptop and use allow her to do everything she wants to do. It's more than we usually spend but she deserves something nice and useful. Worst case, my sister will take it if mom hates it and we'll get her something else.

The one flash game she's addicted to has an app, so that's taken care of. I can steer her toward games with apps, and she'll love playing Words with Friends with me. Either way, we'll also be getting a new wireless router (as hers is so old it's pointless—I bring my own airport when I visit). I'll let you know how it goes over.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:11 AM on December 9, 2011

Response by poster: Not only does she tell me she "loves" the iPad we got her, but she says she spends most of her time at home on it. Perhaps she likes the iPad a little too much! She's fairly tech-savvy for her age but watching the ease with which she navigated it for the first time made clear that the iPad was the best decision, despite the high price tag.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:26 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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