iPad: What's in it for you?
Jan 30, 2010, 9:04 GMT
Media get a hand on demo of the iPad during an Apple event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, California, USA, 27 January 2010. The launch of the new items was an Apple media invitation-only event. EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO
Washington - As usual, Apple created quite a buzz this week when it finally unleashed its long-rumoured iPad tablet. Beyond all the hype, though, most people just want to know how practical the iPad is. Will it fill a need that they have? Will it make their lives easier in some significant way? Will it allow them to do away with some of the other gadgets they currently carry? Is it worth the price? Read on for some answers.
Q: What is the iPad?
A: The iPad is a wireless, multi-function touchscreen device that incorporates many of the functions of other devices in use today, including notebook computers, e-book readers, smartphones, MP3 players, gaming devices, and portable video players. Aside from the fact that the iPad is designed to do many things, it has turned a lot of heads because it is put out by Apple, which is known for creating instant buzz with products that are both groundbreaking, easy to use, and stylish.
The iPad largely follows suit. Its dimensions - 13.4 millimetres thick, 242.8 millimetres tall and 189.7mm wide - make it about the same size as a netbook, but it weighs much less - at just. 68 kilogrammes (or 1.5 pounds), and it's significantly thinner. Plus, of course, it's mostly screen: the screen, in fact, is also just under the typical size of a netbook's. The iPad, however, doesn't fold out like a notebook. It's designed to be used as a reader. You can hold it on your lap or put it on a desk to read the newspaper online, check your e-mail, view photos, take notes, watch movies, schedule meetings, or listen to music.
To use the iPad wirelessly, you will, of course, have to subscribe to a wireless data plan, the same way you have to with a smartphone or a mobile phone with which you send and receive text messages.
Q: So will I be able to dispense with my smartphone, iPod, and MP3 player and just use an iPad?
A: Depending upon how you use those other devices, you may find that the iPad can replace them. But you probably won't want it to. Remember that the iPad is significantly larger than many of the portable devices that people carry today. Your smartphone can fit in your pocket, and the same can be said of your MP3 player. Although the iPad can be used in many ways, it's most likely best suited as an e-reader, a device on which you can obtain and read your online news as well as books and videos.
Q: A lot of the things the iPad seems designed to do require privacy. I don't want to sit next to someone on a train and have them read my e-mail while I type it on the iPad's large screen. How is privacy handled?
A: Privacy will be an issue - there's no way around it - when using the device in public. One of the features of the iPad that many rave about, in fact, and that Apple touts is the device's viewing angle, at a maximum range of 178 degrees. That means the iPad is easy to see from the side, without too much distortion in image.
Q: My smartphone has built-in web browsing, but I never use it because web access is so slow. Will the iPad improve on that?
A: Your smartphone's web browsing capability is hampered by two technologies: the underpowered processors in smartphones and the data network you use to connect to the Internet. The iPad improves on one of these areas: the device's internal processing power is significantly better than that of a smartphone. The iPad is powered by what Apple calls an A4 processor. It's fast for a mobile device. In real-world terms, the iPad is 80-90 per cent faster than an iPhone 3GS when executing code, and in web pages there is lots of code.
But web browsing, of course, can be hampered significantly by the speed of your wireless network, and here the iPad, at least on the road, is at the same disadvantage that your smartphone is. In the US, for example, people are up in arms over the fact that the iPad will run exclusively on AT&T's 3G wireless phone network, which is routinely criticised for its sluggish performance.
Even the best wireless networks in the world are slow compared to the broadband networks that a growing number of people are becoming accustomed to at home. Bottom line: The iPad itself, despite its beefy internal processor, will not be able to overcome any deficiencies in whichever wireless network you use.
Q: So the iPod seems like it could replace a lot of mobile devices I use. Does it also include a camera and GPS?
A: No on both fronts. These are two areas, in fact, for which the iPad has already been criticised. The iPad also does not include an SD card slot or a USB port, which many feel are necessary to get photos onto the device.
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