Apple iPad - Drawbacks & Advantages

A quick weighing in on what we’ve seen and heard about the now-confirmed Apple tablet

Ok, now that the word is out, let’s all just settle down and reflect a bit on what Apple has told us, and showed us about the new iPad. Most rumors about this thing have proven to be accurate. Why? Because this was the only obvious direction for Apple, if it really wanted to build the tablet. Sure, some of you wanted to see more from the iPad (Softpedia included), but we’re getting a good deal for that $499 price tag. Or so it seems.

· You get WiFi-only with the base model, yes. But, the Apple iPad isn’t really for geeks, is it now? Most people will be happy to get Internet access at home, via occasional hot spots here and there, the coffee shops and pubs they regularly go to, etc., so I don’t think Internet will be such a big problem for these people. And those who want the Internet at their fingertips all the time can just go for the more expensive models, get an unlimited data plan while they’re at it, and still spend less for more. Even though there’s still a good couple of months (maybe more) before we get to hold this thing in our hands, the iPad makes a lot of sense for all kinds of people, particularly for those who are not computer experts. And that’s Apple’s customer, right there. A monkey could use this thing!

(Seriously, does anyone have a monkey around, and would be willing to do some tests when this thing is out? Let us know. We’ll write about it.)

· Yes, Apple also ties the 3G model to a microSIM card that limits your choices for preferred carriers. AT&T is the only carrier confirmed to support the iPad in the US. The company is also one of the few that offers that pesky, tiny SIM card, which many people still wonder why it was even necessary to invent.

· Battery life. Apple says ten hours. Softpedia says, “Not likely” and, “Would you like to put your money where your mouth is?” That’s how sure we are the iPad will not live up to its name, from a battery life standpoint, just like the iPhone. Your regular iPhone user - who browses the web, downloads an app or two, sends emails and listens to music on their iPhone, every day - will tell you that he or she needs to recharge that baby once every 24 hours. Apple claims up to seven hours of video playback on the iPhone 3G, and ten hours on the 3GS. These figures don’t reflect our experience with any of the iPhones we’ve employed. Sure enough, graphics-intensive apps - like racing games, for instance - will drain the iPad’s lithium-polymer battery before you can even reach for the charger. Of course, this is one take on the matter, based on experience with other Apple portables. We truly hope we’re wrong here. On the other hand, the device really belongs in a bag, or on a tabletop, so it’s bound to either have a plug nearby, or always be close to its charger.

· I don’t think we even need to go into the whole size-and-weight thing, not to mention the design. Apple has always done well from both these standpoints, and will surely continue to do so with every upgrade / new product to come. You don’t need to turn the iPad around to see the sleek Apple logo on that finely finished aluminum casing to know you’re looking at a product designed at One Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

· But there are more aspects that can be considered drawbacks. Here’s one: for the love of God, doesn’t Apple see the importance of multi-tasking on such a device? Also, no camera? Not even one? We get that video conferencing was too much to ask from a 500-dollar Apple portable, not to mention the difficulties AT&T is encountering with its 3G network, but there are some things that simply need to be part of a device like the iPad. And one of those things is a camera. If a webcam was too much to ask for, then the ability to take a picture with the thing, include it in one of those fancy Keynote slideshows and email it to your loved ones really sounds like a key feature Apple missed out on.

· According to those who’ve had a go with it (following the end of Steve Jobs’ keynote address yesterday), the device is extremely snappy. No surprise there - it’s powered by Apple’s own chip. That should translate into many years of flawless operability, but also limitations, so we’ve got a good and a bad inside the 1GHz A4 silicon. Perhaps there’s also some hope for that ten-hour battery life thanks to the A4.

· Oh, how could we forget about the screen? Is that thing gorgeous, or what? It sure makes the iPad look like the device to watch video on (in bed, drinking your morning coffee, etc.). The increased real estate clearly provides tons of benefits for any activity, including using some third-party apps like Brushes. When the iPad is out, Brushes will be there to complement that glossy 9.7-inch display, its developer has confirmed, and we bet there will be quite a few artists taking things to a whole-new level, thanks to the iPad.

· “iPad”...hmm. We think Apple could have done a little better here as well. Of course, with no better suggestions for a name, we’re not going to weigh in on this too much. We just thought the company had it in it to come up with something better than the obvious name “iPad.”

It connects to a lot of neat accessories, like the iPad Keyboard Dock, which only enhances the tablet experience, combining Multi-Touch with traditional controls - a dream come true, for many Apple fans. The accessory combines a dock for charging your iPad with a full-size keyboard. Featuring a rear 30-pin connector, it lets you connect to an electrical outlet using the USB Power Adapter, sync to your computer, and use other accessories like the Camera Connection Kit.

· The storage capacities are OK. 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drive for $499, $599, and $699, respectively (WiFi-only models). However, 16 gigs may not be enough for regular use in the nearby future. Apps will get bigger, as developers try to take advantage of the increased number of pixels, video automatically gets bigger for the iPad as well, etc. Hopefully, this will not prove to be a drawback. So far, storage sounds good.

We could go on forever about the things we believe are good with the Apple iPad, and those that are not so good. Basically, the iPad seems to combine Apple’s best features with many of its restrictions. But we're going to save our energy for when it ships. In the meanwhile, why don’t you help us see what everyone thinks about this thing, what are the key points Apple has nailed, or failed to get right, and so on. Use the comments at will. With enough feedback from you, we'll be able to do another piece, based entirely on your comments.


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