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My Take on the Apple iPad or is it iPADD?


By Louis Trapani - Posted on 01 February 2010

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Earlier this week, on Wednesday, January 27, 2010, Apple announced the long rumored tablet device. Like many Apple announcements, it has generated a flurry of talk in the media and tech circles. Not since the Apple iPhone announcement three years ago have I seen such a reaction to this new device, the Apple iPad.

There had been much excitement and anticipation among the tech crowd leading to this long awaited announcement. I was not among those on the edge of their seat waiting for this mythical device. So going into this announcement, I was a bit ambivalent about it. As an artist, I knew how nice a tablet computer could be used for creative applications. With that said though, I figured if Apple was going to make a tablet Mac computer, they would had done so by now. So if it were to be a Mac tablet, I would have been very surprised.

I figured this new device would be either something completely new or something of an offshoot of the iPhone/iPod touch line.

It turns out it is more of the latter than the former. Though some would argue that it is a completely new platform. I think of it as the further expansion of the iPhone and iPod touch platform, and that is a good thing! Yes, it does go beyond the iPod touch with specific applications written directly for the device, so it is not only an overgrown iPod touch, but really that is just what it is, and as I said, I am not saying this as a knock. If this was a completely new platform, I would be very disappointed with it. As furthering the iPhone/iPod touch platform, I think it is fantastic!

Why do I feel this way? Well, if we are to think of it is a new platform, it is not very imaginative and it is a very closed system. Like the iPhone/iPod touch, all apps need to go through Apple's approval process, there are no standard I/O ports, etc., etc... It is obviously not that. It is plain and clear that it is building on the platform of the iPhone/iPod touch, it is even essentially running the same OS. Once we see it as another iPod touch type of device, it all makes sense and it turns into an inspiring and awesome device.

Before I go any further, it should be noted that this is not a review of the new Apple iPad. I have yet to hold or even touch the device yet. I am responding solely to the announcement, the published specs, and reaction to it. I have seen the entire Apple announcement headed up by Steve Jobs and have seen some video demonstrations of it of those at the event who had the opportunity to test it themselves.

Let's first tackle the name. iPad. It simply makes sense. No, I never associated the word 'pad' with any feminine hygiene product. Yes, I am male. As well as growing up with sketch pads around me all the time. A pad is a writing or drawing tablet of paper as far as I am concerned. In fact, I think iPad is a more appropriate name for my iPhone since I hardly ever use the phone app on it. So if I were to have any issues with the name, it would be simply that the name is more fitting for my iPhone and iTablet may had worked better if the iPhone was named iPad.

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Now I said that iPad may had been a more fitting name for the iPhone, well, at least my iPhone since I hardly use it as a phone. But it would not be the first mobile pad computer from Apple. The first is of course the Apple Newton MessagePad. It was my first PDA and tablet-like computer. The Newton was way ahead of its time. My Newton (MP 110, see photo on right) is still running today. Granted, I am not using it, but it is still running. Even today, it did things right out of the box that the Apple iPhone, iPod touch, or even the new iPad does not do. Plus, unlike the Palm devices that dominated the PDA field after it, the Newton had personality and charm.

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When the Newton first arrived on the scene (1993), it was like the Star Trek PADD had been realized (PADD is an acronym for Personal Access Display Device). It was seen heavily during Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and its various spin-offs as well as to some degree in the original series (a much bulkier version, looking less... digital).

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The Newton and Palm devices opened the floodgates to many other pen-based hand held computers back then. In addition to being reminiscent of the PADD from Trek, they were also some similarity to "the book" -- What book? The book from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (if you follow me). It was a computerized talking intergalactic encyclopedia (with a wonderful sense of humor) that you could carry with you while go hitchhiking across the galaxy.

There was no doubt that when Amazon first released their Kindle, it was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy realized, except it was not the very colorful interactive book we knew and enjoyed from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy television series of the 1980s.

Enter the Apple iPad. With its gorgeous full color screen (1024 by 768 pixels), its interactive multimedia capability, all that is missing are the large friendly letters on it spelling out "Don't Panic!" When I tweeted out something to that effect, several have tweeted back to me saying they plan on having "Don't Panic!" engraved on the back of their iPad. If one isn't sold commercially, I am sure many will make their own cases with it on it.

Okay, the iPad is a very flashy device even without Flash support. Remember, this is in the same family as the iPhone and iPod touch despite others saying otherwise. As I said, it is running the same OS (albeit customized for the iPad). There's no Flash support on the iPhone and iPod touch, so be it. It hasn't slowed down sales of either. Flash is overused as it is on websites. With HTML5, it will render it irrelevant. (See Merlin Mann's comment on Flash in regard to the iPad). I've gotten by for almost three years now with the iPhone without Flash. Even with the Flash plug-in enabled on my desktop and laptop computers, I avoid websites that use Flash too heavily. It slows things down and much of the time it is unnecessary. The problem is not so much the iPad not supporting it, it is Flash itself and its overuse.

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So if it is just an oversize iPod touch, what makes it so good? There is more to it than meets the eye. On the surface (err.. no pun intended) it very much seems like simply a larger version of the iPod touch, and in many ways it is, but because of the larger size format, it opens it up to some incredible possibilities that just were not there before. In addition, there is the new Apple designed A4 processor that makes it very speedy with low power consumption. From all the hands-on reactions I have seen and heard, they all state it is speedy. So along with the larger screen format, processor and applications designed to take advantage of the iPad, we haven't seen anything yet. The possibilities are bountiful. We have seen some of it already with Apple's own apps which have been reworked and designed for the iPad. Plus there are the iWork apps that have been ported over with a redesigned interface for the iPad. For some applications that may have been unfeasible to do or too limiting to do well on the iPhone/iPod touch simply due to the screen size, can now take advantage of the iPad's format. It is not just games that can take advantage of the larger screen, but with it, you almost get a larger size virtual keyboard (which can be reconfigured on the fly), with apps like Pages coming to the iPad, it makes writing and other productivity apps more feasible, also I can see more specialized apps taking advantage of the larger screen such as home automation apps perhaps.

Apple is giving people a nice selection of options when it comes to models. Options are always good. The only real difference between them all at this point is how much memory each has and whether it includes 3G or not. They all have Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n --> yes N! Not even the latest iPhone 3GS included N). These are somewhat important choices because like the iPhone and iPods, you cannot add more memory after market. If you want to take advantage of the 3G data outside of Wi-Fi networks, you will need the 3G wireless radio hardware included in the 3G models. All this brings me to the following…

No contracts! Yes, you heard that right, no contracts for 3G service. You can sign up right on the iPad and cancel when you like. Currently there are two options in the US through AT&T one for I believe $14.95/month and one for $29.95/month (the latter for "unlimited" data). So you are not locked into any contracts. Which means, you can add it only when you need it.

The other factor relating to 3G is according to the specs, the iPad has "assisted GPS" only on the 3G models. I am not sure what "assisted" means here, but I imagine if you want the accuracy of GPS on it (and some apps may require it as is the case with some iPhone apps) you will want to get a 3G model. What is not clear is if you will need to have 3G service at the time in order to access the "assisted GPS" though.

Until learning of the no contracts 3G service option, it was a given for me that I wouldn't even consider getting a 3G model after being paying such a high price for it on the AT&T price plans for the iPhone. If only AT&T allowed tethering on the iPhone to the iPad. I somehow don't think they will offer it. It has been seven or eight months since the release of the iPhone 3 OS and the 3GS model and AT&T has yet to enable tethering.

3G without contracts means that the iPad could help avoid playing high hotel internet access charges by simply adding 3G when you need it to the iPad.

So now 3G seems like a compelling option for the iPad whereas before knowing this, it was something that I personally would have completely avoided. I am not sure if I really need it given the cost difference in the iPad pricing for it though.

Adding 3G to the iPad is adding a whopping $130 to the price. For something that personally I would not use that much, I am not sure how compelling 3G is for me personally as I am not sure I would be taking the iPad with me everywhere as I do with the iPhone.

I had tweeted that my iPhone now feels threatened by the iPad. It is with good reason too. If I had an iPad, I foresee my iPhone battery life getting much better because for much of what I use the iPhone for around my home/studio, I would now be using the iPad. Everything from using Twitter clients to accessing websites while away from the computer.

Will the iPad be as big as the iPhone? I doubt it. Time will tell of course. But whereas the iPhone filled a need for a mobile phone which almost everyone has these days, not everyone is using a pad or tablet computer/digital device. Not yet anyway.

Before the iPhone, I would carry with me a laptop, digital camera, iPod (PDA before that), and a mobile phone on a regular basis. It is all now incased in the iPhone. The iPad doesn't do that. It is not meant to do that. Some have cried out that there is no camera on the iPad. Well outside of video conferencing, I can't see the benefit of a camera on something the size of an iPad. Perhaps down the road in a future model we will see something along the lines of an iSight front facing camera for video conferencing (which like the iSight cameras for computers, it can take stills too if needed). Perhaps to keep the initial price down for launch, it was intentionally left off.

The iPad comes in three memory sizes: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. As with all things, I always recommend getting the largest you can afford. One of the more attractive features of the iPad is the Photo app. Being a photographer, I love being able to display my portfolio on my AppleTV and Macs and iPhone... and the iPad will make sharing them with others so much easier (compared to the iPhone's small screen). But it also means more storage for my all my photos. As a media device, you may be storing more movies and TV shows on it. All of this takes memory storage. Since you cannot expand the memory afterwards, it is important to get as much as you can afford. Of course, you may not need that much. It all depends on your digital lifestyle.

It is nice that Apple has given us options, I wish the price differences weren't so great between them all. The base iPad starts at $499 and the top model is at $829. That is a big difference.

Before the announcement, I was fairly sure I would not be getting the rumored device, not yet anyway. Since then, well... I can see some real use for it. I don't know. It is very compelling.

I don't own the device myself, but my understanding is that there is a box called the "MiFi," about the size of an iPhone, that turns ANY cellular data plan into a portable wifi network. So this part of your article is a non-issue (apparently).

There are two really fine articles on the iPad that you may enjoy. They talk about it on a far bigger scale than either the nitpicky quibbly articles or the "fanboi" articles:

http://www.macworld.com/article/146038/2010/01/ipad_future_shock.html

http://stevenf.tumblr.com/post/359224392/i-need-to-talk-to-you-about-com...

Louis Trapani's picture

I am familiar with the Mi-Fi, but to my understanding, you still have to pay high monthly fee for the service (possibly with a contract). 

 

Cheers,
Louis

Louis Trapani's picture

Here's an interesting and amusing Q and A post by Scott Kelby on concerning reaction to the iPad:

Why is Everybody So Angry about Apple's iPad?

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