My son was about a year old when I heard about an app called Starfalls ABC from an entrepreneur in the education sector. I soon added the app on my iPad which my toddler was already playing around with. A couple of months on, he was writing alphabets on the walls and had picked up an American accent while pronouncing the letters. By the time he was 18 months old he could make and read words on the tablet and by the age of two he was reading boards and hoardings when he could not find books. That’s when I thought he was going too fast — like a teenager driving a Ferrari, as someone said — and decided to wean him away.
Five years on, with Apple launching an iPad just for students, I think it’s time to reintroduce him to the iPad — yeah, dads seem to take on themselves the onus deciding the lifepath of their children. He has been using gadgets, but primarily to consume video. But now, I think there are enough apps to pique his interest and get him to learn stuff the school curriculum will not offer him at the moment.
Apple iPad 9.7-inch review
Apple’s new iPad 9.7-inch has been made with students in mind. It looks like any other iPad. But on closer inspection it looks like one of the older iPads. That is because the bezel is not as thin as it has been with the iPad Pro series. That is not really bad when you consider that lot of the customers who buy this will be first time iPad users. The rest of the device has nothing new in terms of looks. But the big difference in comparison to other iPad models is this one’s ability to work with the Apple Pencil. Yes, other iPads also work on other styluses, but this one has been optimised for the Pencil so that students can annotate notes and jot down references as they are studying.
The 9.7-inch Retina display has eye-popping colours though the audio, coming out of the speakers at the bottom, is not that loud when you compare with what the iPad Pro has got us used to. However, powered by the A10 Fusion chip, the performance of this new iPad is certainly not below par. In fact, running a graphic heavy, resource hungry game like Thumper it was clear that this iPad can really push performance. In fact, the other big resource strain for iPad users is the number of tabs open on Safari or Chrome and even here the iPad was up to the task. This will also be a big use case for this device with students using it extensively for research.
The battery lasts over 10 hours with regular use and that too on LTE. iPads have traditionally had good battery life and the new one is no exception. I did notice some heating when the device was pushed into gaming. The rear camera is actually quite good. This is important because VR apps will need to use this to work as they are supposed to. Earlier, I used to ignore tablet cameras which I thought were pointless. However, I am seeing an increasing number of iPad owners who use their devices as primary cameras, standing up in the middle of conferences to capture video. These users will not be disappointed by the new iPad’s camera capabilities.
Apple iPad 9.7-inch: The education tablet
Now, let’s get back to my six-year-old. As I did when he was a toddler, this time too I found a few good apps which I thought might interest him, and also teach him something new away from the worlds of Doraemon and the Avengers, and gave the iPad to him. After a few silent minutes — where I thought he was trying to watch stuff on YouTube again — he approached me with a barrage of questions: “Do volcanoes grow bigger? What happens if we cut trees? What are electric cars?” He’d just spent time figuring out Tinybop’s The Earth app, which subtly tell children how our planet works. It’s almost like a game that lets them choose between nature reserves and factories and see how both impact their planet. It teaches them how the earth evolved from a ball of fire to the green and blue globe we inhabit now. There is no text, no explanations. So the child has to come to you for answers.
He also used WWF’s Free Rivers app that show the impact of dams on the ecology and habitations. The results were a bit too stark and he got the message quite quickly. But unlike ‘The Earth’, I don’t think this is an app he will be going back to soon.
I nudged him to check out Froggipedia, an app that brings the front into your room without killing them on lab tables. Yes, this app made by a company in Ahmedabad, lets students dissect frogs virtually, see the different stages in their life and virtually bring them into their classrooms. My son’s reaction: “Are there more animals?” I was mildly scared, but then at least he was engaged and the frogs were all croaking away happily wherever they were.
I noticed that he’s also figured out how to search for apps on the iPad. Along with the iPad, Apple has also made some changes to the Pages app so that school work becomes easier. While you can use the pencil to make notes, it is also possible now to annotate on top of text with the pencil. Interestingly, these annotations are tied to the word and move if you type more. Also, there are easy shapes which can be inserted, making geometry notes possible on the iPad.
So what did my son think of the iPad? Well, he has not submitted a review, but has been asking me for the device every evening and, no he’s not watching Power Rangers on it.
Apple iPad 9.7-inch verdict
Priced Rs 28,000 and above, I would recommend the iPad for children of all ages as a good learning tool, which they can also have fun with. You will need to set some rules in place on how the time is divided between learning apps and games, because the latter can be more tempting at their age. I am not sure students needs the LTE version, so stick to a Wi-Fi only option. The Pencil is a good add-on, but expensive for just making doodle on notes. So think that over, or just look for cheaper alternatives, there are a lot of them in the market. However, I am convinced that going forward a tablet is something every child should have access to. Somehow they seem to learn faster with these.
iPad 9.7-inch with cellular price in India : Rs 38,600
Apple Pencil price in India – Rs 7,600