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Friday, April 09, 2010, 08:05 am PT (11:05 am ET)

In-depth review: Apple's IPad and iPhone OS 3.2




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Things not to like

What's not to like about iPad? For starters, its the size of a small journal, so it's a little harder to carry around unless you usually carry a bag of some kind. It's not like an iPhone or iPod touch that just drops in your pocket.

The WiFi-only version loses a lot of functionality when you're outside of a hotspot. It's not just Maps and Safari and YouTube and Netflix that stop working; certain games wouldn't play.

Starting the iPad-specific Aurora Feint 3 without an available network makes the title refuse to launch, and losing a connection at any time kills gameplay. This is a really bad design for an iPad game, particularly one that is just a glorified shape matching puzzle. Given that lots of people are going to opt for the less expensive WiFi-only model, apps should know better than to assume and demand a perpetual network connection (unless their entire purpose is to stream data from a server).

Auroa Feint 3


On the other hand, there's a lot of richly worthwhile productivity apps (from Apple's own iWork apps to a variety of touch driven musical and photo editing or painting apps) that are fully functional without a network connection, making iPad more useful off the network than an iPhone often is.

If you were hoping iPad would serve as a mobile platform for Flash games like Farmville, you're going to be outraged to find that Apple is not only refusing to put Flash on it, but is also cutting off Adobe's prospects for porting existing Flash content into native apps.

If you use websites like Google Analytics that make use of Flash visualizations, you're also going to be seeing a lot of dead boxes with blue Lego tombstones. Apple is doing everything it can to turn Flash coders into HTML5 developers. This is great in the long term, but will be a transition issue for people with some particular need for a website that still uses Flash.

If you have problems with a limited feature set, you're going to hate iPad. It scrapes the difficult edges off everything derived from the desktop. Pages' footnotes and end notes are lost, tracked changes are all accepted and lost, 3D charts are reduced to 2D, Keynote's presenter notes and embedded audio files are stripped, and so on.

This is something like Microsoft's Pocket Office / Office Mobile, which similarly strips down desktop features for use on mobile devices.

In order to take advantage of the features announced in iPhone 4.0, including multitasking and a universal mailbox, iPad users will have to wait until the Fall. This seems like a wait, but it will still likely be sooner than Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and Courier, and Google's Chrome OS, none of which will deliver a comparable set of features.

iPad also has a few irritating little omissions. You still can't add an attachment to email; if you want to email a photo, you have to do it from Photos or copy and paste. Why isn't there an insert graphic button?

And if you have lots of photos on your iPad, scrolling through them to get to the newest one at the bottom is a pain. There's no searching by date, no recent pics, and new pics (such as screen captures) aren't automatically put in Albums or Events, so you have to scroll through all your pics individually.

No doubt such little annoyances will eventually be refined away, but overall, there seems to be a lots situations where there is one primary way to do things, and you often need to adapt to learn how you're expected to do it rather than there always being the button you want right where you'd expect it to be. Of course, this is a far cry from the experience of many tablet devices, where there doesn't seem to be either a set way or an intuitive way to very many things at all.

The most annoying thing about iPad is that it will change your base expectation about computers. I now find myself trying to flick at the screen of my MacBook or attempting to touch a text field on the display so I can start typing. Once you get used to touch, the mouse feels archaic.

Which iPad is for you?

Apple has started iPad pricing off at a very reasonable $499 for the 16GB, WiFi-only model. Before you spend more money on storage, consider how much extra content you actually will want to carry around.

Once you buy it however, there's no way to add more storage, so spending another $100 for an extra 16GB or $100 more for another 32GB might be worth the extra cash throw down.

The 3G option is an extra $130, and transforms iPad into an always on device, at least wherever AT&T is always on in the US.

However, that 3G option isn't something you can add later, and may add enough resale value to make it worth getting, even if you don't plan to pay for wireless service all the time. Fortunately, you don't have to, as the service is pay as you go, with no contract. It costs $15 per month for 250MB, and can be upgraded to unlimited service for $30.

iPad prices


All things considered, Apple has managed to clearly position it between the Mac and the iPhone and iPod touch with clever aplomb. What remains to be seen is how users will respond to Apple's new lineup, whether they will continue to buy up iPads at an iPhone-record setting pace, and whether those sales will translate to a drop in MacBook sales, or conversely, whether the iPad will attract more new PC users in the Apple Store.

There doesn't seem to be much fence sitting about the iPad; users either talk about it enthusiastically or seem to be completely opposed to its new form factor, its focus on doing a limited number of things very well, and its refusal to run things like Flash, Silverlight and Java, which nobody seems to have cared much about in a mobile setting until 2010.

Right now, iPad is the future, and has vast potential to become increasingly valuable as Apple tunes its OS and third parties create new apps. The pace of new iPad-specific apps is astounding, and includes lots of valuable titles that can be obtained for free. AppleInsider will be looking at a roundup of great apps separately.

On page 10 of 10: The Wrap Up; Rating; Pros; and Cons.