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Apple iPad Review


Apple iPad Review

There's been a lot written about Apple's iPad, but little of it, to date, has reflected the very real problems with this device. I'd like to correct this, not because the iPad is horrible, but because the iPad is simply good. And this is not what those in the lamestream media would have you believe. Instead of actually reviewing the iPad objectively, they have opted to ape Apple's marketing mantra, calling it "magical" or "innovative" or, worst of all, "a game changer." It is none of those things. It is just good.

The question then, becomes, is "good" good enough?

The iPad arrives with a key disadvantage. Everyone needs a PC and a phone, and while Apple's solutions for these needs aren't exactly thrifty, they are at least of high quality, and beautiful to look at. And, truth be told, they offer unique advantages over the competition. But the iPad is not a necessity. It's just a desirable bauble. An expensive bauble. A bauble that does not address any need or solve any problem. A bauble that does not replace anything you're already using, at least not in a way that justifies the expense.

And yes, the iPad is also too expensive, considering what you get. While $500 can buy you a decent Windows-based PC, with Apple's tweener device, you get the base model only, with no 3G support and just a paltry 16 GB of storage. $500 is not a trivial amount of money, especially in this economy. Case in point: While I use and adore my Kindle eBook reader, when the second generation device debuted last year at an exorbitant price (of far less than $500, by the way), I only awarded it two out of five stars. Most of the score dinging was because of the price.

So here's this thing you don't need. It does stuff that your other stuff already does. It sounds like a silly waste of time, doesn't it? There's just one problem. It is an Apple product. And while Apple has occasionally tossed out a dud, even those products were imbued with a level of design, beauty, and grace that is rarely seen elsewhere in the tech industry. So it is with the iPad. This is a quality piece of tech, nicely made and lovingly presented. That you don't need it is obvious. Such logical thinking, alas, is rarely part of the equation. And that's as true of the people who have reviewed the iPad so far as it is of the people who already bought one.

I'm hoping to spare you from making the same mistake. Don't be a statistic. Even if you really want one, and think you can afford the not inconsiderable cost, please. Wait. There will be a second generation device. It will correct the many mistakes that are present in this first iPad, mistakes that cannot be fixed with simple software updates. And if history is any guide, this second generation device will also be cheaper. So if you can wait, you will be rewarded, either via that new iPad or, perhaps, from a competing device that makes more sense to you.

If you can't wait--and, honestly, I get it, I really do--here's what you're going to get.

What Apple got right

The iPad is a beautifully engineered device and very much up to Apple's vaunted build quality and design. The performance is stunning. Unlike even the iPhone 3GS, the iPad never seems to be anything but snappy. Apps open crisply. Animations never slow the presentation.

The battery life is exemplary. Given Apple's usually exaggerated battery life claims, this is all the more impressive.

While I have quibbles with the dated iPhone OS that I'll discuss below, Apple clearly did the right thing by using this PDA-based system rather than the full Mac OS X. Apple's desktop OS, while excellent, is still big and complicated compared to the iPhone OS. So this is a chance to start over, and Apple is aggressive enough of a company to make it happen.

Dive into the iPad, and you'll see some high quality bundled apps. Mail is particularly nicely done, and good example of how an iPhone application can take better advantage of the iPad's onscreen real estate. Ditto for Maps, which is largely unchanged but again looks and works better with more space.

The iPad's Mail app works well in both landscape and portrait mode, and provides a nice test case for porting iPhone apps to a bigger screen.

The iPod application works well, though I don't find this device to be ideal for music playback, given that you can't tuck it in your pocket. You can, however, start music playing and do something else. Indeed, this is one of the few areas where the iPad (like the iPhone/iPod touch) can multitask.

The iPad's iPod application is nice, and sits between the iPhone iPod app and the PC-based iTunes player.

The iTunes and App Store apps move to the iPad in fine form, and I find the onboard version of the App Store in particular to be a friendlier (and easier) way to find iPad-specific apps than the PC-based version in iTunes, where these things are comingled in a confusing way.

It's easier to find iPad apps from the iPad version of the Apps Store than it is from the PC version of iTunes.

I happen to think that the iPad version of Safari is quite good, and in fact I'd argue that the lack of Flash support is a positive, not a negative. That said, in the short term, you'll see some video and online game sites that don't work on the iPad. But if the device is popular enough, and if HTML 5 takes off like I think it will, this limitation (such as it is) will pass.

Mobile web browsing done right.

Continue to Part 2...

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