iPad Crash Course: Everything You Need to Know
Yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the company’s long-rumored tablet device. Called iPad, it features a 9.7-inch screen in a half-inch thick enclosure weighing about 1.5 pounds. It runs the same operating system as the iPhone and iPod touch, with apps receiving a new interface optimized for the larger, multitouch display. Apple claims a 10-hour battery life, with up to a month of standby time. Pricing for the iPad came in lower than what many speculated. The low end model with WiFi-only and 16 GB of storage comes in at $499. The highest end model with Wi-Fi and 3G wireless access along with 64 GB of storage costs $829, still lower than the rumored $999 price point. Wi-Fi models of iPad will be available in late march, with 3G models arriving in April.
The user interface for iPad is very similar to the iPhone. Anyone’s who used an iPod touch or iPhone should have no problem adapting to the iPad. Like the iPhone, the iPad’s home screen can display several pages of applications. A stationary dock at the bottom of the screen holds up to four frequently-used apps.
Since iPad uses the iPhone operating system, all 140,000 applications from Apple’s App Store will run out of the box. You’ll be able to view the app at iPhone size, or zoom-in to allow it to full the screen. Apple also released an iPad software development kit (SDK), which will allow developers to update their existing iPhone app to include an optimized interface for the iPad.
Apple has retooled all of their iPhone apps for the iPad, including Safari, Mail, Photos and Maps. Apple also announced a version of iWork, Apple’s productivity suite, that is optimized for the iPad.
The most exciting aspect of the iPhone has proven to be third-party apps, and I think the same will be true with the iPad. Never before have developers had the opportunity to design a multitouch interface at this size. Apple’s own iPad apps look truly amazing and I can’t wait to see what third-party developers will come up with.
There are two classes of iPad models, one with W-iFi and another with 3G built-in for always-on wireless. Despite the overwhelmingly negative press regarding iPhone’s AT&T exclusivity, iPad is designed to work with AT&T’s 3G service in the United States. Pricing for 3G service starts at $14.99 for 250mb/month and $29.99 for unlimited access. There’s no contract and the device is unlocked. Despite being unlocked, the iPad, like the iPhone, is not compatible with Verizon’s EVDO network.
You might think that the 250 MB/month plan is useless, but I was surprised when I looked at my iPhone 3G usage data on AT&T’s site. Despite being a very heavy iPhone user, my monthly data usage over the past few months had averaged just 240 MB. That’s mostly due to the abundance of Wi-Fi access, available at home and in many places throughout the city. Like with the iPhone, AT&T will allow iPad users paying for their 3G service to access their thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots free of charge. For most people with Wi-Fi access regularly available, the entry-level $14.99/month plan should be just fine.
eBooks & The Kindle
iPad will allow Apple to enter the eBook market, which Amazon.com has long sought after with their Kindle reading device. iPad includes an application for reading eBooks. Built into that application is a new online store for purchasing new material.
iPad has a major advantage over Amazon’s Kindle, thanks to its full-color, touch screen display. Yet the Kindle remains lighter and its grayscale e-ink display can be easier on the eyes than iPad’s bright LCD display. Although the iPad doesn’t offer all the advantages of the Kindle, its form factor alone makes the reading experience far more comfortable than on a desktop or notebook. While Amazon recently announced plans for third-party apps on the Kindle, its limited grayscale display with no touch screen controls remains a major limitation.
Apple will be offering a number of accessories for iPad. In addition to a standard dock, Apple will also offer a keyboard dock, presumably to address complaints that extended periods of typing with iPad’s on-screen keyboard would be too difficult. When the iPad is docked, you can optionally have it display a photo slideshow, essentially allowing the device to double as a digital photo frame when not in use.
Apple will also offer a case that will let you prop the iPad in various positions, along with connect kits that will allow input of a camera or SD card for importing photos and videos directly into the device.
No word on accessory pricing or availability just yet.
There are some features missing from the iPad. Like the iPhone, it doesn’t allow for multitasking and doesn’t support Adobe’s Flash technology. iPad also doesn’t offer a camera, missing the opportunity to create a potentially great video conferencing device.
Multitasking is perhaps the most requested feature for the iPhone. Many iPhone users, including myself, have been hoping that the next version of the iPhone operating system will finally allowing multitasking. Currently it’s impossible to do things like listen to Pandora’s music streaming app while browsing the web in Safari. While Apple did not detail iPhone operating system improvements yesterday, the iPad’s lack of multitasking isn’t very promising. I think that eventually Apple will allow multitasking on both the iPad and iPhone, but it will require an app switching interface similar to Palm’s Pre that makes it easy to manage multiple open applications.
The iPad was perhaps one of the most hyped product releases in Apple’s history. While it doesn’t deliver on all of the rumors and speculation that surrounded it, the iPad looks to be a fairly solid device. What you may wonder is how the iPad fits alongside smartphones and notebooks. Tomorrow’s post will offer a perspective on that question. Stay tuned.