After the Hype
iPad launched with typical Apple fanfare. Now that it’s not the next big thing, it’s time for a second look to see if it’s still a big deal
From the Print Edition:
Adrien Brody, September/October 2010
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You'll want an accessory case with built-in prop: the prop to stand the iPad up like a picture frame for photos or videos; the case because a glass screen and scratchable aluminum body shouldn't be carried unprotected, especially when it comes from the factory looking this pretty.
Tasks to Tackle
Audio and Video: The iPad is the iPod/iPhone experience writ large when it comes to music and video. You can load it via the familiar iTunes software and stream music wirelessly from Pandora and other online services. The only musical advantage over Apple's pocket players is the built-in speaker. For video, though, the iPad is a major upgrade (under appropriate lighting) with its much larger screen. Movies rented from iTunes or streamed from Netflix look great, particularly when holding the iPad horizontally.
The major stumbling point here is iPad doesn't work with Adobe's popular Flash software, the Web standard for media delivery and animations. Jobs has issued a fatwa against Flash, so there's no reasonable chance the iPad will gain this capability in the future.
And at the risk of stating the obvious, there's no way to play a CD, DVD or Blu-ray disc on the iPad, as you can on a laptop.
Communication: All iPads can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi (but unlike every computer on the market, plugging in an Ethernet cable isn't an option). The three Wi-Fi-only models differ only in memory capacity: 16 gigabytes ($499), 32 gigabytes ($599) and 64 gigabytes($699).
For an extra $130 at each memory tier you can buy a 3G iPad model that's compatible with the AT&T wireless network, so you can surf from just about anywhere. When the iPad first launched, it had an option for unlimited data at $30 a month. The higher-end plan now tops out at 2 gigabytes per month, for $25. Streaming two hours of music a day for a month would nearly eat it all. Watching movies will consume roughly 1/4 gigabyte per hour and blow your monthly allotment in about four flicks.
Even with a cellular data plan, you can't make cell phone calls with an iPad, though the device does have a built-in microphone and speaker plus support for Bluetooth wireless earbuds. There is a workaround of sorts if you sign up for Skype, which lets you make computer-to-computer calls to other Skype users for free, or call cell phones and landlines for a few cents a minute. Skype on the iPad only works when you're connected via Wi-Fi, though, not the cellular network.
Down to Business: iPad comes with e-mail, calendar and contact software, and Apple sells word processing (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers) and presentation (Keynote) programs for just $10 each. But compatibility issues hamper their relationship with the industry-standard Microsoft Office. For example, I tried editing a friend's film treatment, saved as a Word file, while traveling with an iPad. The Pages program was happy to open the file, after warning me that my fonts and formatting would change and my footnotes would disappear. I don't work in a vacuum-I send documents back and forth with editors and collaborators. Smashing the formatting in such an exchange is frowned upon. Similarly, the Keynote presentation program will accept PowerPoint files, but won't save them to PowerPoint format.
Just getting your documents into and out of the iPad is a kludge. You must e-mail them back and forth to yourself or sync to your computer using iTunes software. But iPad won't support a USB stick or SD card.
My biggest problems getting work done with an iPad, though, were entering and editing text with no physical keyboard. The sensitivity and size of the screen make it more practical for typing than on-screen picture keyboards on smaller devices (an iPhone, for example), but it's still a lousy way to enter much more than a brief e-mail or text message. The lack of physical feedback when you press a "key" will slow most touch-typists to a crawl and lead to typing mistakes. The autocorrect system is pretty smart, but it's no substitute for typing accurately in the first place.
Letters and numbers are on separate on-screen displays, so you have to toggle between the two if you want both facts and figures in your text. The on-screen keyboard doesn't have arrow keys, so to fix a mistake you have to try touching the screen precisely where you want an edit point to appear-it's a time-consuming task. You could connect an external or wireless keyboard to the iPad, but this is a multi-piece solution that makes iPad less portable and clumsier.
Comments 2 comment(s)
Chris A — February 10, 2011 3:45am ET
Rick.firstname.lastname@example.org — April 11, 2012 10:14am ET
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