Jumping into the iPaddling Pool

Is the iPad truly magical and revolutionary? I wade into the vast pool of coverage with my thoughts below…

Picture Credit: Apple

I’ve spent the past week testing an iPad, rather prior to its “official” launch in Australia, which will apparently be in the latter part of May. For the sake of disclosure, the unit I’ve tested with came to me via local importer MobiCity (many thanks), who sell imported US models at a sharp price premium to the US cost price. Quite how that price will vary with the “official” Australian pricing is at the time of writing impossible to say, because Apple haven’t announced local pricing as yet.
Anyway, with that out of the way, my thoughts on the device. Not a review per se, if only because there’s a TON of iPad coverage out there. You want it, you can go find it. Knock yourself out. More a baker’s dozen of selected iPad thoughts.

  • It’s not “Magical” or “Revolutionary”. I’m not sure what Stephen Fry was smoking. Then again, it’s not just a “Giant iPod Touch”, either. Yeah, it’ll run iPhone OS applications like a touch, but the size of the display and its resolution, along with the speed of operation open up some interesting new possibilities, although those will rely on the App developers coming up with new apps.
  • Pixel doubling — having bigger chunkier pixels on older iPhone OS apps in return for them taking up the whole screen space — works remarkably well. Perhaps I’m just more tolerant of chunkiness, as I’ve seen a lot of complaints that it’s “unreadable” or “unworkable” out there. Seems OK to me.
  • Having said that, some doubled Apps don’t work that well. Not because of screen clarity issues, but simply because the unit itself has different dimensions to the iPhone/iPod Touch. It’s most noticeable in fast action games that require handheld input — Street Fighter IV works pretty well on the iPhone, but the larger display on the iPad renders it virtually unplayable.
  • I’m not yet sold on iBooks. This is largely a personal preference thing, but the page flipping animation annoys me and rather forcibly reminds me that I’m reading an LCD display and not a page. I can happily read web pages, magazines and comics on the iPad, but books irritate me. The same thing was true with the Kindle for me, for what that’s worth.
  • It’s not that heavy. A lot of reviews have commented on the weight, and the only thing I can think is that they were expecting it to be “A giant iPod Touch” with the weight of an iPod. That’s not how it works, but equally it doesn’t thump down your fingers or leave dents in your legs, either.
  • Battery life is decent. Yeah, other reviews have said that, but it bears repeating. Long plane flights might drag it down a little, but over the course of a day using it on and off for web page browsing, a little video viewing, twitter and ad-hoc games of Bejeweled Blitz, I ran it down from 100% to about 75%. That’s perfectly adequate in my book.
  • It won’t replace my netbook. Then again, I’ve long held the view that a netbook is in essence a toaster — I use it for a couple of simple functions such as taking notes at press conferences and writing up the odd story on the train to and fro — and good at one simple task. The iPad is good at certain simple tasks, but for the things I use a netbook for, it’s not.
  • Actually, there is one way it could replace the netbook. If somebody built an iPad folio-style case that had a keyboard on the other flip side (if you follow me) I’d buy that. Haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. And if I just gave you the idea, then I want 25% of the profits…
  • Speaking of iPad accessories: Anti-glare protective cover. NOW.
  • I can’t imagine using it as a music player. Yeah, the speakers are OK if I was desperate, but the difficulty of plugging in actual headphones and then having to walk around tethered to this larger device make it a non-starter. Headphones for movie watching, however, is another thing altogether.
  • The mix of “universal” iPad/iPhone apps, and those that have a dedicated iPad-only version is fascinating. There’s a solid argument that you’ll deliver customer value with a universal application, but the temptation to double dip by getting customers to pay again will undoubtedly play a part in which way developers jump. I don’t imagine there’ll be quite the same fool’s gold rush of “free” iPad apps, leaving aside those that offer in-app purchases.
  • I don’t think 3G will be as big a factor for the iPad (especially in Australia) as it was for the switch from iPod Touch to iPhone. The size of the iPad and the need for a dedicated plan make it a less appealing portable option, at least for me right now, and WiFi fills the gap nicely. Your opinion may vary — and of course mine might develop over time.
  • The model I’ve tested is the 64GB unit. I reckon it’s overkill, and when I do purchase one (still waiting on those local prices) it’ll be the 32GB unit. I’m not likely to drop music onto it, only a smattering of photos, and videos I’ll be largely streaming to it, not storing on it. Even adding every single App I own (a lot of which I’d forgotten about, if I’m honest) barely made a scratch in its storage. It’s always a good idea to have some room to move, as you’ll inevitably fill the storage available to you, but still, I reckon the 32GB unit is the current “sweet spot” for the iPad. Depending on how much Apple Australia want to charge for it, of course.

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