The iPads Are Coming! The iPads Are Coming!

April 1, 2010

in Travel Tech

  • SumoMe

On Sunday, the Easter Bunny will reach into its basket and hand out candy and Easter Eggs to good little boys and girls. That is, if the EB isn’t run off the road and trampled underfoot on Saturday by men and woman rushing out to get their mitts on Apple’s new iPad.After Apple showcased the iPad in January I wrote a blog post raising this question: “I spent last September meandering around Europe as a travel writer. What if I had been able to take Apple’s newly unveiled iPad instead of a netbook and an iPhone with me during my trip?”

In my “first take” post I looked at how well the iPad might have performed the same functions that I used my other two devices for during the trip. I guessed that the iPad would have done a better job with some computing and communication tasks, but not as well (or not at all) with others. My conclusion was that since the iPad could not replace either my netbook or iPhone, I could not justify buying one and carrying it along on trips as a third electronic gizmo.

Of course, back in January, no one but Apple had been able put the iPad through any extended use in the “real world.” But in the last few days technology writers who have given the iPad a run for its money have published their “test results.” Here is a synopsis from reviews by three of those pundits:

David Pogue for the New York Times

  • “If you like the concept, you’ll love the machine.”
  • “…it really does qualify as a new category of gadget” and not a replacement for your laptop or iPhone.
  • “If you’ve already got a laptop and a smartphone, who’s going to carry around a third machine?”
  • As an e-book reader it is heavier to hold in the hand and doesn’t work as well in bright sunlight as a Kindle, but you can “turn pages” just like you would with a “real” book.
  • Right now, the e-book selection available from Apple is far less than that offered by Amazon.com for the Kindle, and the Apple e-books can’t be read on other devices.
  • Typing on an iPad held vertically is “a horrible experience” and “just barely usable” when held horizontal. You can buy the $70 keyboard dock, but then you have another piece of gear to tote around.
  • The iPad cannot play Flash video used by many Web sites.
  • There is no USB port (but you can transfer photos from your digital camera using one of two adapters sold by Apple).
  • You’ll want to buy the $40 iPad case which converts to a stand that will hold the iPad at a good viewing angle when you are watching videos or reading, even though you probably don’t need the case to protect the iPad.
  • Apps designed specifically for the iPad look great as will those originally made for the iPhone, but redone to run on the iPad. Existing iPhone-only Apps will probably work on the iPad, but will either display in a small size or in a larger size which may not display that clearly on the screen.
  • Apps designed for the iPad may cost more than iPhone-only apps.
  • Processor speed is fast.
  • Battery life equals or exceeds the 10 hours that Apple advertises.

(Click here to read Pogue’s “Reviews: Looking at the iPad From 2 Angles” and click here to read his “Apple IPad FAQ’s”, both of which appeared in the New York Times this week).

Walter S. Mossberg for the Wall Street Journal Digital Network

  • “…I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.”
  • “…it will have to prove that it really can replace the laptop or netbook for enough common tasks, enough of the time, to make it a viable alternative” and that will depend on how an individual person uses computers.
  • However, Mossberg found that he was using his laptops less and less as he continued his tryout of the iPad, finding his regular workhorse machines to be best for writing or editing lengthier documents and for viewing Websites that contain Flash video (which cannot run on the iPad).
  • The iPad is a better e-book and digital periodical reader than the Kindle.
  • Unlike Pogue, Mossberg liked typing on the iPad keyboard and said it was “more comfortable and accurate to use than the cramped keyboards and touchpads on many netbooks, though some fast touch typists might disagree.”
  • The “Pages” word-processing program for the iPad did not always accurately export documents in Microsoft Word or Adobe .pdf formats.
  • Mossberg echoed Pogue’s conclusion about running “made for iPad” vs. “iPhone original” apps.

(Click here to read Mossberg’s “Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close” for the Wall Street Journal).

Tim Gideon for PCMag.com

  • Lack of a USB port could be a “deal breaker” for some who might have otherwise bought an iPad.
  • Like Pogue, Gideon found that you will leave your fingerprints all over the iPad’s screen.
  • PCMag.com got slightly less than 10 hours of battery life in its tests.
  • Although Gideon used the iPad to type up his review, he thought that the optional iPad keyboard or the Bluetooth keyboard that comes with iMacs would be best for longer typing and data-entry tasks.
  • Gideon points out that a computer mouse won’t work with the iPad.
  • Although Gideon found that the Safari browser was easy to use with the iPad’s touch screen, he would have preferred using a Firefox browser for Web surfing. But he described the lack of Flash video support as a “bummer.”
  • His take on Apps was the same as Pogue and Mossberg: Apps made for the iPad look the best.
  • Like Mossberg, Gideon liked the iPad over the Kindle as an e-reader, but said: “What remains to be seen, however, is how it will be to read for long periods on the iPad. Kindle, and other e-book readers’ e-ink screens are known for being very easy on the eyes.”
  • Gideon was impressed overall with the video capabilities, although he said watching a movie on the iPad is not the same as seeing it on HDTV and that YouTube videos look worse on the large iPad screen than they do on the smaller iPhone display. He also recommended getting the iPad case to prop up the device for easier video viewing.
  • Although he found “Pages” easy enough to use, he Gideon questioned its value as a word-processing program. (PCMag.com plans to do a more thorough evaluation of the entire iWork suite in the near future).
  • Gideon’s bottom line: What the iPad does, it does quite well, although there is much it doesn’t do at all.

(Click here to read Gideon’s review of the Wi-Fi version of the iPad for PCMag.com).

Where I am on the iPad?

Unlike Pogue, Mossberg and Gideon, I haven’t laid hands on either the Wi-Fi only or 3G model of the iPad. And don’t look for me if you are at the Apple Store on Saturday because I won’t be there. I am at the same place I was two months ago: The iPad won’t replace my netbook and iPhone, I can’t justify the expense of buying it for those functions it might do better, and there is no room for it in my carry-on bag.

But like these three reviewers, my advice on whether or not you should buy an iPad would be: Think about how you use the computers and smartphones that you already own, or ones that you might buy in the near future, and figure out how an iPad could replace or supplement those devices in meeting your computing and communications needs. And, of course, if you have “the readies” as the British say, and want a new gadget, just go for it!

And while you are agonizing over your decision to buy or not buy, I’ll be working on being a very good boy indeed for the balance of the year. Then maybe Santa will slip on iPad under the Christmas tree for me because I know the Easter Bunny isn’t bringing me one this weekend.

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