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Five ways the iPad's still better than my iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 was supposed to leave the iPad in the dust--but Apple's big tablet is hardly obsolete.

iPad and iPhone 4: see, they can still be friends.
iPad and iPhone 4: See, they can still be friends. Joshua Goldman/CNET

Last week I endured a crazy line and my own nagging doubts/consumer guilt, and pulled the trigger to buy an iPhone 4. In our CNET office, I feel like a bit of an apologist. Many fellow editors are bullish about Android, and I already owned a 3GS. My purchase couldn't be fully justified, other than via one bit of logic: the iPhone remains my most-used gadget.

I also, as you might recall, own an iPad. It's been a surprisingly useful device, more so than I even expected. Even so, Apple's tablet has gotten tough love from tech editors since the iPhone 4 launch. A number of bloggers have even claimed that now that they have iPhone 4s, their iPads are rendered effectively obsolete.

That's ridiculous.

I felt compelled toward the iPhone 4 for its video and camera features: FaceTime, and a higher-quality still and video camera. Having a child, I've justified the camera upgrades as worth it for out-of-town relatives and quick snaps. I traveled last weekend and left my iPad at home deliberately--a test to see if I'd find the iPhone 4 as useful. Sure enough, I dearly missed that big old iPad. Yes, its screen resolution now seems weak compared with the impossibly fine-pixeled Retina Display. It still lacks multitasking and iOS 4, at least until the fall. But it still has some serious advantages, ones big enough that I won't be ditching my iPad anytime soon.

  • Battery life: The biggie. The iPhone 4, like my old 3GS, still has problems at the end of the day, making me take actions to conserve my usage. The iPad defies attempts to drain its battery; I can't even imagine how I could get it to drain completely in a single day short of playing videos nonstop. On any given morning, I can forget to charge my iPad and be just fine. Even if only a 30 percent charge remains, that's usually more than enough for some basic e-reading and light e-mail over a full work day.

  • Screen size (dpi notwithstanding): The iPad still has a greater pixel resolution than the iPhone 4 (1,024x768 vs. 960x640), even if its dots-per-square-inch pales in comparison. Text does seem fuzzy now in comparison with the iPhone 4, but videos and pictures still look better to me. I'd rather watch Hulu or YouTube videos on my iPad than on my iPhone.

  • Multiple panes for e-mail and other programs: Even without iOS 4, the iPad's pane-splitting tricks make e-mail management and browsing far superior to the scroll-list method the iPhone still employs. I regret not having e-mail threads yet, but I'd rather be able to read an e-mail and see other e-mail headers without having to swipe back and forth.

  • Writing: Either with the onscreen keyboard or via a Bluetooth keyboard, writing on an iPad is feasible. It isn't so much on the iPhone, beyond basic note-taking.

  • Digital magazines, PDFs, and e-reading.: Chalk it up to the screen size or a lack of Retina Display support, but the iPad's still the place to go for any digital publication, including a wide variety of admittedly overpriced magazines and surprisingly robust PDF readers. The iPhone 4 is technically capable with its A4 processor and similar specs, but that tiny screen will always make it harder. And, despite the impressively fine dpi on the iPhone, a 9.7-inch display is simply easier on the eyes in most instances.

I still maintain that the iPad is really competing for time with my laptop, not my iPhone. In most usage cases, I'm generally caught with the question, "Do I take my laptop or my iPad?" I never ask that about the iPhone/iPad, because my iPhone is always with me.

Do you own both devices? If so, how have you found living with them? Which one would you rather have?