Everything you need to know about the Apple iPad

27 Jan

Yup, the tablet is very much real and we have just gotten off following Apple’s event online. It is indeed being called the iPad, despite many people who think that the name is a joke and it could have done better with something like an iTab or even an iSlate. We leave that to Steve Jobs to decide and concentrate on the real stuff.

What is it?  In short, it is very much a blown-up version of the iPod Touch/iPhone and comes in two versions – one with just Wi-Fi (a la iPod Touch) and another with Wi-Fi and 3G (a la iPhone). It runs a tweaked version of the iPhone OS that allows it to run all apps that are available on the App Store. Plus it adds some cool new apps of its own – like iWorks, (that’s like MS Office for Windows users) and an online book store, iBooks, from where you can purchase and read e-books just like you do on Amazon’s Kindle. And yeah, Steve Jobs actually mentioned something that suggested more like he took a leaf out of Amazon’s book (pun intended). On the specs front, you are basically looking at a device with a 9.7 inch 1024×768 pixel touchscreen display, a 1 GHz processor specifically created by Apple for the iPad and basically the same iPod Touch/iPhone functionality with much more display real-estate to show off your multi-touch powress. You can get a complete low-down of specs here

Who is it for? At the moment, Apple is pitching it between the iPhone and the Macbook, while claiming that it is much better than a netbook. We feel that the iPad could be a good device for entertainment and reading – books, newspapers, magazines… We are not completely convinced at the moment as to how badly the iPad will hit the netbook market (read the good, the bad and the ugly below), we can see it hitting the Kindle pretty bad. Starting at $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version  and $629 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi and 3G model (US prices) it offers much more fuctionality than the Kindle can ever offer, even with its upcoming application store.

Where is it available? At the moment, no where. It will be available in the US in March and prices start at $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version  and $629 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi and 3G model. While it is unlocked, it will run on AT&T’s GSM network in the US (3G version) and will use a micro-SIM card. Apple will announce its international availability sometime around June this year.

Now it’s time for the good, the bad and the ugly things of the iPad.

The Good:

The pricing: The 16 GB Wi-Fi and 3G version available for $629 is roughly the same price as that of an unsubsidised iPhone 3G (in India). Basically, you get a more powerful device with a bigger display at the same time. Of course, you don’t expect to hold this thing against your ear to make calls, we hope.

The content: The ability to run all iPhone apps on the iPad is a big plus. What remains to be seen is whether more app developers spend time customising their apps for the iPad. Add to that the iBook – the book store from where users can purchase and download e-books. The iPad might just become the best gaming console/e-book reader/personal media player/Internet tablet device. 

The performance: Initial hands-on impressions from some of the most reputed media/blog networks claim that the iPad is much faster than the iPhone 3GS. Add to it up to 10 hours of battery life and multi-touch and iTunes, the iPad dazzles in front of the impending competition in the Internet tablet arena (Seriously, do we have any competition there at the moment?).

The keyboard dock accessory: The iPad comes with an optional keyboard accessory that we believe would be a must-have accessory. That would make it much convenient to type since typing on a 3.5 inch display and a 9.7 inch display are two different things. However, we noticed that the dock places the iPad in portrait mode rather than landscape mode, which we think would be a more comfortable orientation.

The Bad

Micro-SIM: The iPad with 3G does not use a normal SIM but rather a newer variety of SIM cards. Why would Apple break the standard and go for the uncommon? So that people don’t start using it with carriers other than the ones Apple has tied up with. This would ensure that the carrier and Apple continue to rake in revenues without having to worry about losing the device to rival carriers. However, Apple has made it clear that the iPad is an unlocked device and will be available on prepaid only, The caveat: the data plan is available on only one carrier – AT&T.

The Ugly

No multi-tasking: What? So much processing power, such a big display and no multi-tasking? That’s right mister, eventually, the iPad is just a bigger iPhone.

No camera: Another booboo. Would have loved to have an IM client with video chat and lots of camera-based augumented reality apps.

No GPS: This one is a bit difficult to digest. Even the 3G+Wi-Fi version only has assisted-GPS support that doesn’t pin-point your exact location but rather estimates where you are.

Mono audio: Ahem, it seems like we will have to buy a nice speaker dock for this baby to actually get the party started. But will the current ones for the iPhone/iPod Touch suffice? Looks highly unlikely considering the size of this beast. Mind you, it has the same docking port as the iPod Touch/iPhone.

The verdict

Apple has managed to hit the sweet spot with its pricing albeit with a few hardware sacrifices. We reckon that the iPad will become the defacto best gaming device, e-book reader and probably even an Internet browsing machine. But will it send netbooks into oblivion? Naah, we need something that can multi-task for that, Mr Jobs.

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