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Apple iPad Review of Features – 25 Questions Answered

Technology > Apple > iPad

Apple iPadSummary. On Wednesday 27 January 2009, Steve Jobs announced the Apple iPad which is most simply and most accurately described as a larger version of the popular iPod Touch. This document reviews the benefits and uses for the iPad, and also answers the 25 questions that PC World was unable to answer.

Benefits. There are several benefits and features offered by the iPad that distinguish it from the iPod Touch.

  • Larger screen
  • Larger on-screen touch keyboard
  • External bluetooth keyboard option
  • Longer battery life
  • Faster processor
  • Ability to transfer pictures from a digital camera
  • Mobile broadband Internet access for $30 per month through a contract-free service plan with ATT providing unlimited data. There is also the option to use a mobile hotspot from Sprint or Verizon.
  • Relatively low price

Accessories. The iPad offers some amazing accessories, including a full-size keyboard. This means a person could leave a wireless keyboard at home and work, while using the built-in touch keyboard when traveling.

iPad Accessories

Industry Reviews Miss the Point. Within 24 hours after the iPad was announced, many technology reporters and industry bloggers began writing negative reviews criticizing the iPad by comparing it to more powerful notebook computers. The iPad is, like the iPod and iPhone, designed to be a very portable computing device that’s lighter and more durable than a typical notebook computer. With the increase in cloud computing, many people are computer independent. For many people, the iPad could be the only computer they would need. It can be used for browsing the Internet, managing email, word processing, spreadsheets, creating presentations, and about 140,000 other applications. However, there are some tasks that will still be better performed on a more powerful notebook or desktop computer such as video editing, advanced photo editing, and video conferencing.

25 Questions Answered. The inability of industry analysts to understand and evaluate the iPad was perhaps most clearly exemplified by the PC World article Apple iPad: 25 Unanswered Questions. Below are answers to the 25 questions or points that baffled the PC World staff.

1. How’s the keyboard? The keyboard is the same as the iPod Touch and iPhone, but bigger. What makes this technology really amazing is that it uses predictive intelligence as well as pattern analysis. For example, if you type the word “this” on a conventional keyboard and your fingers hit the wrong keys, you’ll end up with a typo. With this new technology, even if every single letter is wrong, the computer is able to analyze the pattern and placement of your fingers and figure out what you were trying to type based on the pattern your fingers made and what order you touched the screen. Those who want a full-size keyboard can use the Apple wireless keyboard (as shown above).

2. Is 250MB really plenty? This question refers to the $15 per month data transfer plan available from ATT. For some people, taking the iPad on vacation, or using it only occasionally to check emails and browse the web, the 250MB (about 8MB per day for a month) should be adequate.

3. Is the $30 plan really unlimited? For only $30 per month, there is an unlimited plan. According to an unnamed source at ATT, the iPad plan will most likely be the same as the iPhone plan, which is unlimited data for $30 per month. Except with the iPad, the contract is month-to-month, making it ideal for the occasional traveller.

4. What will all that extra traffic do to AT&T’s network? There are currently millions of iPhones being handled by AT&T’s network. The iPad will be very similar in its demands on the data network.

5. Will people not buy the iPad because it’s on AT&T? The iPad is unlocked, the AT&T service contract is only for 30 days, and the iPad uses technology that should work with other carriers. There is also the option to use a mobile hotspot from Sprint or Verizon.

6. Will you be able to use it on T-Mobile? See #5 above.

7. Will there be a non-AT&T 3G iPad? See #5 above.

8. Is the fact that everything runs in full-screen mode a problem? This hasn’t been a problem so far for iPod Touch or iPhone users. Having a bigger screen just allows it to display more and makes it more readable. In mobile devices, with such small displays, it’s not practical to have multiple windows open at the same time. Another reason for running in full-screen is to avoid processor intensive multitasking (explained below in #9).

9. Is the lack of multi-tasking for third-party apps an issue? The quick answer is, no. It hasn’t been a problem so far with the 140,000 iPod Touch and iPhone apps. A bad habit that many computer users have is the practice of leaving programs running unnecessarily. This slows down even more powerful desktop computers. To maximize battery life, and make the most of smaller mobile processors, it’s probably a good idea to keep users focused on one task at a time. Multitasking, and viewing multiple applications simultaneously is best done on larger displays anyway. In mobile devices, with such small displays, it’s not practical to have multiple windows open at the same time.

10. How about the fact that it doesn’t have a camera? People who are serious about photography, aren’t going to take pictures with a cell-phone-quality camera. With many high quality small cameras in the $150 price range, there’s no sense duplicating that technology in the iPad. The iPad has a digital camera interface, so when coupled with your existing camera or new camera of choice, the iPad becomes the ultimate photo management tool. With a program like DSLR Camera Remote, the iPad becomes the word’s largest camera display and controller.

11. Why iWork? The iWork application suite from Apple includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software. These programs are easy to use, yet very powerful. One of the shortcomings of highly mobile devices is they usually don’t offer business-grade applications. Offering these programs on the iPad is a huge breakthrough and it allows the iPad to become a computing device that can satisfy 90% of most people’s computing needs. The PC World critic states, “I would have expected the company to roll out the far more consumery iLife in iPad form.” For those who don’t know, iLife from Apple is a suite of media development programs for video, photography, and music. The very nature of multimedia development is extremely processor intensive. Even on an 8-core Apple Mac Pro, when importing video, users are advised to use the 720p video setting rather than the full HD video setting. Most multimedia development is best done on a 24 inch or larger display. They also take huge amounts of hard drive space. So, it’s absurd to think that such applications would be available for an iPad.

12. What’s the thinking behind the pricing? Apple makes very high quality notebooks, yet was lacking something at a lower price for mobile computing. Rather than creating a netbook-quality computer, their decision to make a small touch-screen tablet makes sense as an offering to those who want Apple quality at a low price.

13. How good will the third-party apps be? The 140,000 apps that are currently available for the iPad will continue to be as good as they have been on the iPod Touch and iPhone.

14. How deep will the content be? The iPad offers full screen access to the Internet, so in that respect the content will be as broad as what anyone with a desktop computer can access. The new reader application from Apple includes ebooks through the iTunes store or available for purchase directly on the iPad. There’s some speculation about what content will be available in ebook format, yet presumably the offerings will expand in the same way they have with the movie selections available through the iTunes store.

15. Will Web sites redesign themselves to be iPad-friendly? Most savvy website designers have already made their websites mobile friendly and compatible with multiple screen sizes. The iPad has 1024×768 resolution, the same as many desktop computers, so most websites should work fine in their native mode. Any website that can’t be viewed at 1024×768 will be a problem for the thousands of people using notebook computers, netbooks, and desktops with screen resolutions set to 1024 x 768. Some people choose that resolution because it makes the text on the screen appear larger.

16. What happens to e-readers? When the iPhone was announced, nobody asked, “What happens to cell phones.” Although the iPhone is an excellent cell phone and it has captivated most of the mobile phone market, there are still people using less expensive models. The same will no doubt be true with the iPad. Some people will continue to use the Kindle and similar products even though they don’t offer the features and quality of the iPad.

17. Will Apple let other booksellers build apps for the iPad? They already have and these already exist with the iPod Touch and iPhone. There’s a Kindle reader application for the iPod Touch and iPhone, as well as other book reading applications. Since the iPad is a web-ready device, it can also access millions of online texts.

18. Is the battery life going to put a crimp in reading? Apple has announced that the battery life is expected to be 10 hours. In addition to this, there are third party external battery packs for extended use. However, it’s unlikely that someone would want to read more than 10 hours per day.

19. How long until we’re drowning in iPad clones? There are already other devices being developed, such as the JooJoo. If the iPhone clones are any indication, there will likely be many iPad-like devices available, yet they won’t offer the quality of the iPad.

20. What does iPad mean for netbooks? Netbooks may still serve a purpose, but they are larger and bulkier than the iPad. Because the iPad can perform most tasks that people need, it’s likely that the netbook market will decline.

21. What does iPad mean for Microsoft’s Slate PC? There are already many touch enabled Windows tablet computers. They are typically large, and because they run Windows, they are processor intensive with a short battery life. Any Windows-based system will be susceptible to viruses, spyware, and crashing.

22. What does iPad mean for Google’s Chrome OS? There will no doubt be other operating systems, devices, and platforms to compete with the iPad. Google is promoting a cloud-based dependent world with computing devices that require an Internet connection to be functional. However, for the many people who aren’t constantly connected to the Internet, locally run applications (like the 140,000 for the iPad) will still be necessary.

23. What does iPad mean for Macs? Apple has clearly stated that their iPod Touch and iPhone devices are running the same operating system as their desktop computers (based on Unix), although it is a slimmed down version. It’s surprising that touch screens haven’t already been integrated into the iMac line of desktop computers since, apparently, the operating system is ready for it. Perhaps future Apple notebooks and desktops will have touch enabled.

24. How long until some or all of the iPad’s limitations get fixed? Because the iPad is built upon the first three generations of iPod Touch and iPhone technology, it’s likely that most or all of the glitches found in an initial product release can be avoided. This isn’t a new product, it’s a larger version of their existing product that is flawless — the iPod Touch.

25. Will the iPad save the publishing industry? Paradigm shifts are needed to help consumers think different. With the music industry, Apple was able to convince consumers to buy music instead of copying it for free. With the addition of television shows and movies to the iTunes store, Apple proved that consumers are willing to buy video content they might otherwise have access to for free. For this reason, it’s reasonable to think that consumers will buy books, newspapers, and magazine subscriptions for the added features and convenience they offer in digital portable form.

These were the 25 questions that PC World suggested were unanswered about the iPad. They are questions that other industry writers seem to be baffled by as well. One of the more absurd, sophomoric, and superficial attacks of the iPad came from The Huffington Post article, Apple iPad Review (PHOTOS): 9 Worst Things About The Apple Tablet. The article criticizes 9 points about the iPad. The review should have been titled, 9 Best Things About the Apple Tablet. Here’s my rebuttal to their 9 points of criticism.

1. The iPad Name. Some immature critics state that the name iPad sounds too much like a feminine product. This criticism is obviously superficial. The iPad name is consistent with the existing line of Apple products such as the iMac, iPhone, and Apple software such iLife and iWork.

2. The Lack of Multitasking. See response #9 above about multitasking.

3. No Camera. See response #10 above about not having a camera.

4. No USB. There are already hundreds of iPod and iPhone accessories that use the existing 30-pin interface just fine. In addition to this, there are numerous wireless and bluetooth accessories, such as printers and keyboards. The USB standard pulls power from the host device, and since the iPad is designed to conserve energy, USB would only cut into the battery life. There’s a USB adapter for those who must use the older standard. However, many home users are switching to wireless with printers, keyboards, mice, headphones, and other devices. So, it seems a bit late in the game to be complaining about the absence of a USB port.

5. The AT&T Deal. See responses #5, #6, and #7 above that address the unfounded and false concerns about the iPad being locked into AT&T. In fact, those who choose to go with AT&T will get one of the best data plans in the nation at $30 per month for unlimited data and no contract. Nobody has anything better.

6. No Flash. One of the benefits of browsing the web with the iPod or iPhone is that Flash is disabled, making pages load faster, and also making the Internet safer to browse. Most reputable sites conform to HTML standards. Even without Flash, about 90% of the content on the Internet will still be available. Website designers have, by necessity, abandoned Flash since most mobile devices (such as Blackberry and mobile phones) don’t support it. So, for content to be accessible to everyone, it needs to be presented using standard HTML. Furthermore, Federal laws and regulations stipulate that government agencies need to make their websites available to people with disabilities. Since Flash is primarily based upon animation, movies, and pictures, it’s not easily accessible to screen readers. Web designers prefer non-Flash design because search engines can read text, but can’t interpret Flash animation. Websites that are 100% designed in Flash, often lack page specific URLs, making pages in the site impossible to easily reference and link to.

* On 17 February 2010 it was reported in a Computerworld article that this issue had been resolved.

7. It’s Screen. It’s surprising to hear complaints about the iPad screen. The technology is similar to that used in notebook computers, desktop computers, and the iPod/iPhone. Millions of people are using LED devices and find them perfectly adequate. While book reader devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader have pleasant displays, they have very slow response times and lack color which is required for video, photography, and browsing the web in color.

8. It’s Price. It’s surprising that anyone would criticize the price of the iPad considering its capabilities and the fact that the price is about half what was expected for such a touch screen device.

9. Closed App Store. Windows and Apple both have approval processes to ensure that applications are secure, safe, and bug free. Apple will not allow pornography and other potentially offensive software to be sold through the iTunes store. Those who want offensive software and pornography have criticized this. However, the entire argument against Apple’s standards is foolish since there is so much unrestricted content on the Internet and there are so many web-based applications.

Hopefully consumers can see through the fog of reporting and recognize the true value and efficiency offered by the iPad.

Video Review. Below is video review of the iPad by Gregory Johnson.

Early Prediction. In June 2009, Gregory Johnson announced his vision for the next generation of iPhone with double the screen size, double the battery life, double the storage capacity. At that time, he jokingly referred to having two iPhones as being the only way to achieve those features. It appears that Apple’s iPad comes close to delivering the suggested features. The full message is below.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com