Archive for January, 2010

Thoughts on Apple’s iPad

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Having just watched the video of Steve Jobs unveiling Apple’s long-awaited tablet, the iPad, I’m now ready to share my thoughts on the device.  First, the good parts:

For some tasks, the iPad will definitely be much better than a laptop or iPhone.  This includes surfing the web from pretty much anywhere (and in any position) and showing your photos to people.  Its size and weight also make it ideal for traveling, where it would have more than enough power for the average person.  With the right apps, it ought to be able to do some basic photo editing and upload photos to the web during a trip.

Unfortunately, the initial version of the iPad has some serious drawbacks.  Some can probably be solved with future software updates, but others require different hardware.  First, and most important (to me, at least), the iPad has no multitasking abilities, just like its smaller cousins the iPhone and iPod touch.  When I’m on my computer, I usually have an instant messaging client running all the time (two, actually, since I haven’t found a Mac app that does both AIM and IRC).  One way that I would use an iPad is to surf the web while lying on my bed, and I want to be able to run both Safari and an IM app simultaneously.  With a 1 GHz processor, the iPad should have plenty of power to do that, even if it can only display one app on the screen at a time.

Next, of course, is the lack of Flash support.  I’m not particularly concerned with this, as I generally don’t pay attention to Flash objects on websites, but it does need to be added to provide a complete web experience.  This and the lack of multitasking should be fixable with an upgrade to the iPhone OS.  Even if they impact battery life, I (and many others) would prefer having those capabilities.

Next, USB support.  In my idea for an iTablet, I had mentioned it having some USB ports and being able to access external drives, for such purposes as transferring photos from a camera’s memory card to a portable hard drive or accessing media that there isn’t room for on the tablet itself.  The iPad will have a camera connection kit for transferring photos from a camera, but where do you transfer them to?  The biggest iPad is only 64GB, and in all likelihood I’d have most of that filled up with other media (my music library alone fills almost 30GB at this point).  I can easily take 1GB of photos in a day, probably more if I’m really going nuts (trains in a foreign country, say).  That would fill up any remaining space on an iPad pretty quickly, forcing me to get a bunch of memory cards instead.  A much better solution would be the one I started this paragraph with.  An external drive would be far cheaper than a stack of memory cards with the same total capacity.

As a side note to the USB issue, it would be great if the iPad had some basic Finder capabilities to go along with being able to access drives.  Just the ability to create folders, rename files, and save the occasional file from the web would be enough.  It would only need to be able to deal with files from outside sources, be it the internet or a memory stick; the files associated with the various other apps can stay locked up in their hidden databases.

As a side side note, Amazon should port its Amazon MP3 Downloader to the iPad.  Even if I have to sync with my Mac before getting songs into iTunes, I still want to be able to download songs from Amazon on the go.

On to storage.  Only 64GB maximum currently?  For something that can store and playback HD videos, that seems insufficient.  Add in the much larger photos (for all we know they get transferred at full resolution from your computer), and you’re seriously crunched for space.  There really needs to be a 128GB version of the iPad.

And why is the GPS tied to the 3G service? If you’re using an app with built-in maps, or one designed to track your course or record waypoints, there’s no need for 3G service. GPS should just be standard for the iPad (and for all iPhone OS devices).

Finally, there’s the name. Steve Jobs had barely finished his keynote before the first feminine hygiene jokes started appearing. (Actually, the first one appeared back in 2006 as a Mad TV sketch parodying the iPod.) Please, Apple, change the name to iSlate before it ships.

The iPad has some great potential if these flaws can be worked out. Until they are, though, I’m inclined to pass on it and continue with my current tech usage patterns.