ipad? idunno …

Posted: January 27, 2010 in iPhone, Mac, Technology

So after all the hype and hoopla it’s … an iPad. But what are we to make of Apple’s self-styled “magical” new tablet device?

Maybe it was because so many of the rumours proved pretty spot-on or that we’ve such high expectations of Apple that despite the best efforts of Jobs and Co., this felt distinctly underwhelming in many respects. When Jobs started raving about “really great” Calendar and Contacts features, you could almost hear the sound of straws being grasped.

Obviously until we get one in our hands to play with, it’s impossible to offer a true judgement of the iPad but … well, there was no real “wow” factor that made you want to order one there and then like the iPhone, even before the advent of the App Store.

To be sure, those geek journalists who have played with it say that its speed, touch and vibrant screen have to be seen to be believed and clearly the launch demos of the New York Times, games, books, Brushes and iWork simply hint at the potential of the device. Most of us could not, for example, have imagined the range of apps available at the first iPhone launch.

The gorgeous-looking e-reader and iBooks aspect looks like a potential Kindle killer while its format and flexibility could yet save the newspaper industry from itself. Having video and games in this portable format will clearly be awesome too.

The pricing is certainly competitive but give it a year and capacity will increase and prices will surely drop further. Quite how Bermuda’s carriers will rip us off for data on this remains to be seen or indeed whether we’ll be able to do it on a non-contract basis as Apple has established in the US.

And yet while the iPad fulfills many of the wishes of those of us who, when first picking up an iPhone thought, “this is fantastic – but how much better it would be if you could do all this on a bigger screen”, it still seems lacking in so many areas.

First off the screen just looks ugly – the huge bezel is off-putting and the screen ratio looks odd. Torn between being a book reader and a movie screen, at first glance it seems to fall unsatisfactorily between the two but maybe in the flesh it might not seem as off-putting.

My biggest disappointments were that for an oversized iPod Touch, it repeated many of the same omissions. Something this size should arguably be more of a netbook than a Touch. You still can’t multi-task, you are still restricted to the Safari mobile browser which STILL doesn’t support Flash and there’s no camera. The phone I can live without but to still omit the other features that users have been crying out for seems odd.

The biggest letdown was the content delivery system. Anyone who has used the Kindle is blown away by how easily and seamlessly Whispersync works. The concept of building in WiFi and 3G connectivity costs into the cost of downloaded content seems a smart idea that can only get better. With the iTunes, App and now iBooks stores, you would have thought Apple would be in a very strong position to push this concept further but users will be asked to fork over an extra $130 for 3G functionality and between $15 and $30 a month for data (in the US). Now compared to cell phone data costs, that’s not a bad deal but surely the Amazon model is the way to go?

I’m not au fait with the ins and outs of the US telecom business and Apple’s relationship with AT&T but I would be interested to know why they went with this model – it was amusing to hear the audience audibly sink when Jobs announced Apple was continuing with AT&T which has taken so much flak for its poor 3G network in the US!

Anyway, to sum up, I think the New York Times’ David Pogue said it best: “Like the iPhone, the iPad is really a vessel, a tool, a 1.5-pound sack of potential. It may become many things.”

For now, as with most Apple products, I’m going to sit and salivate until the 2nd generation version hits the stores.

Meanwhile, for more in-depth iPad coverage, go visit MacLife, Engadget or Gizmodo.

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