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Jetstar has been offering iPads for rental on its flights for some time now. Do they offer good value for even short-range flights? I took to the skies to find out.

In-flight entertainment is a tricky thing to get right. Carry a large book and you’re mostly sorted, but then you’ve got a large book to lug around. Carry a gadget and you may be sorted — but only after takeoff, and only if you’ve remembered to charge it — or owned it in the first place. That’s where services like Jetstar’s iPad rental comes in to play.

Recently on a flight from Townsville to Sydney, I took the plunge and rented one to see whether it made all that much sense.

Townsville can be a surprisingly dangerous place to be.
Townsville can be a surprisingly dangerous place to be.

Those who know me are probably scratching their heads right now and trying to work out why I wouldn’t be carrying my own iPad. The truth was, I did, but this was in the name of research — and just a little bit of curiosity.

I’ve seen many people at airports perusing the racks of magazines on display before picking one up to read in-flight; indeed, I’ve done the same myself many times. The iPad asking price is similar to that of a single magazine these days, so if you’re a speedy reader there could be some value there. Likewise, if you’re flying with your kids, there’s an inherent value in being able to keep them quiet, both for your own sanity and the sanity of your fellow passengers.

Jetstar offers iPads in-flight at three different price points. For shorter flights, $8 scores the “short and sweet” package — music, TV, games, eBooks and eMags. Longer flights within Australia and to New Zealand will cost $12 but you get a limited selection of movies to while away the time. International flights offer the same package, with more movies at $18.

Mmm. Settlers. There's part of my brain that says you don't need anything else.
Mmm. Settlers. There’s part of my brain that says you don’t need anything else.

Obviously, you’re never going to rent an iPad if you’ve already got a tablet or laptop, and it is worth knowing what you’re getting. The iPads in question are locked down at both a software and hardware level. There’s no way of checking the capacity (although I’d wager they’re the 16GB models) as they’re encased within a very heavy battery pack and case — and the only reason this became apparent was because at one point the rented iPad crashed, showing a charging symbol in the battery meter. That would make sense from a utility point of view, especially for shorter trips, as they could then be rented out multiple times in-between charges.

Just that tad chunkier than your average iPad.
Just that tad chunkier than your average iPad.

The software is locked down as well, which makes sense; it’s not as though you could install anything or do any content creation on it in any case. This is just content consumption at its most basic.

Here's the magazine rack. With ALL of the magazines on offer.
Here’s the magazine rack.
With ALL of the magazines on offer.

The games and magazines side works well, although its a pity the magazine selection is so low; when I tested it the titles tended towards women’s mags with only a limited selection on offer. Likewise the eBooks, which are kids titles exclusively. Again, in many ways, especially with the growth of tablet adoption in Australia, this is a niche play. Although on the flight I took, the rental trade in iPads was brisk, so clearly Jetstar is doing something right here.

eBooks, but only for the under-12 set.
eBooks, but only for the under-12 set.

What about video? Here I hit two problems. Firstly, JetStar provides earbuds but the pair I was handed was oddly gritty. That meant that it was hard to work out if they’d previously graced any other ears. Call me squeamish, but the prospect of intimately sharing ear wax didn’t appeal to me, so I used my own headphones instead.

Earphones of... dubious origin.
Earphones of… dubious origin.

The audio experience isn’t great. The case includes what must be a pass-through port to the actual audio socket, but it was either loose or damaged, as I got a lot of static in some programs. One minor added bonus here was the fact that despite the flight being short (and thus only eligible for the $8 rental fee with its TV-only restrictions) the iPad I tested on still had the movies package installed. You couldn’t count on it — and it wasn’t as though there was actually time to watch The Hobbit anyway, but more content is always welcome.

Digital magazine reading vs actual magazine reading
Digital magazine reading vs actual magazine reading

Alex’s verdict

Jetstar is a budget airline in every respect, and iPad renting is just another part of that. If you fly with other airlines (including parent airline Qantas) you may end up with in-seat entertainment for nothing, but then the fare structure (excluding specials) usually more than makes up for that.
Clearly if you’ve got your own entertainment via tablet or small notebook, use that — it’s not as though you get extra time to use the inflight iPad which is collected right when other electronic equipment has to be switched off. The odds of me personally renting another iPad are astonishingly low.

On the other hand, if you’re pondering buying a magazine or a book and like the look of what Jetstar is offering that month — which appears to be more in line with women’s mags than men’s and general entertainment rather than niche — it’s a fair if not great deal. Just remember to bring your own earbuds — it’s going to be tricky boiling the provided ones while in-flight.

0 thoughts on “Jetstar iPad review”

  1. It’s an interesting idea, but with the software being locked down, is there any sort of ‘settings’ to configure? I wonder whether there are any accessibility options, or the ability to change the brightness? I know that things like that would certainly be part of many users decision to use one.

  2. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your review.
    Jetstar have recently increased their magazine collection from 6 to 12 titles and increased the latest release movies up to 11 on international flights. The price points have been reduced to 2, one for domestic/trans-tasman and another for A330 international routes based on customer feedback and to provide further content choices. We look forward to your review of the recent enhancements and welcome any feedback.
    Regards,
    James (Jetstar)

  3. I just landed in Fiji, I accidently took the back cover off the ipad case revealing the 7.4v battery pack, Jetstar use a company called Inspired energy which by checking there website out I realized they seem to be a heavy duty battery company, with 4 hours to spare I Co tinted to fiddle, realizing that the 3 hours I was watching a movie, the 7.4v battery hadn’t even dropped down a bar of charge! The battery pack itself shows 6 bars, and the whole 6 hours of charging the iPad never had it even dropped a bar of charge, I was fascinated greatly of the long lasting dual batteries.. it was a very smart idea – I was very bummed ththat the home button was covered… at some point I was stuck in “Kids Time” by accident and I had to go into the settings to go back to the main menu (stupid) I had also managed to get to the iPads home screen, only app is called “Entertainment” no other apps… not even settings

    Anyway I was greatly impressed with the ipad and was sad when they took it off me half way during a good movie !

    Am renting it again on my trip home

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