iPad launch – end of week one review round up

So the iPad launched in the US this week. I’ve decided to collate some of the writing and the imagery I stumbled across.

The jury is still out for me. As it has no camera, and Apple still don’t allow embedded Flash video, as well as the lack of multi-tasking, I think for once I will not be in the queue on day one for the latest in stunning objects of desire from Apple!

Apple has started accpeting iPad apps (Telegraph 1)

Apple will issue replacement iPad when battery runs out (Telegraph 2)

From the Timesonline:

It is hard to overstate how much fun the new iPad is. As a piece of computing consumer genius, it is difficult to think of another device in recent history that comes close and I am including the iPhone in that.

When you pick up the 1.5 pound slice of glass and brushed aluminium loveliness, the heft of it feels good in the hand. It seems smaller somehow than expected but the 9.7 inch screen is amply big enough to watch videos and surf the web. After the cramped conditions of smart phones, the space is very attractive.
There is not much else to say about the hardware – the LED-backlit IPS touch-screen display features 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. At the bottom of the device in portrait mode is the familiar Home button which takes you back to the iPad’s main screen.

There is a headphone jack, a microphone, a volume control, an on/off switch and a new feature – a screen rotation lock. This disables the accelerometer so that the screen doesn’t shift orientation when you don’t want it to. Very neat and much needed. There are also built-in speakers and the usual proprietary 30-pin connector. That’s it. There is no removing the battery.

As this is Apple, the connect between the lovely hardware and the software is snug. The instructions card that comes in the iPad box only has about a dozen sentences on it. There is a User Guide online but I did not use it, so natural and intuitive are the ways and means of navigating around the iPad’s software. The iPad runs the iPhone OS 3.2 – basically an tweaked version of the iPhone operating system.

You link up the iPad with your computer using the 30-pin connector, synch up with your iTunes and off you go. Pages load quickly and smoothly and the colours are vibrant. The user interface falls away and you are left to tap, swipe, pinch and stroke your way through the apps.

Because it is the applications that really are king here. There is browsing, of course, but most of your activities and most of the fun comes from the pre-loaded apps and the iPad App Store.

The one application you should download straight away is the iBook app.

Slightly worryingly, the UK Apple website does not yet have the same guide to what the iBook store contains as the US website. Whether this means that the iBook store will not launch in the UK when the iPad comes to Britain by the end of this month, it is not clear. Apple is not saying.

A lot of people will be buying the iPad to read books on it. The download experience (and payment) could not be simpler – there is a wide choice of books already in the US store – and the processing behind the simple swipe to turn the page is impressive. Prices are generally higher than Amazon’s rock bottom $9.99 but not too high to put keen readers off.

Most will want to buy a stand of some sort for reading – holding the iPad for some time is tiring. Certainly those holding one to watch a video on a long flight (a scenario I can imagine will quickly become a given for iPad owners) will need some way of propping it up.

As for tired eyes from the screen compared with e-ink screens, I found no trouble with it and the brightness can always be adjusted. Using the iPad outside in bright sunshine was a problem but I still preferred the reading experience to that of the Kindle. Amazon should be seriously worried right about now for their hardware Kindle business.

The second big use for the iPad will be gaming. There are more games apps sold for the iPhone than any other category and the extra room on the iPad should ensure more of the same.

I played with the RealRacingHD app ($9.99) and it was a totally immersive experience, as I tilted the device to steer using the accelerometer. My two boys were begging me to let them play some of the games they love from the iPod Touch in the bigger screen – unfortunately for them, I wanted to play them too. For instance, the Scrabble for iPad app from Electronic Arts is already one of the top sellers and I will be downloading it when I have finished this.

In fact that is one thing about the iPad. You do want to keep playing with it. (I never felt this with the iPhone.) In the course of this review, I have kept going back to it and not simply to double-check something. The touch screen cries out to be touched.

So will the iPad replace your laptop? I don’t think so, no. Because although it can do many of the things that the laptop can do – and in some cases do them much better, such as gaming, book reading and watching movies and TV shows, it still does not quite seem like a productivity tool.

Apple has tried hard to forestall this argument. Steve Jobs was at pains at the January launch to praise the three “Office” apps (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers; $9.99 each from the App Store). They work well – and in the case of Keynote, make the job of putting together a presentation seem like fun – but they do not carry the clout nor depth of the Microsoft’s word processing software.

Having said that, I was surprised at how easy I found typing on the virtual keyboard. It is roomy and while some critics say it still forces you to peck and tap, I found that I was able to do a fair imitation of touch typing. But I still prefer physical keyboards and I think my MacBook’s place on my work desk is assured. (However if I had to choose between the iPad and a under-powered netbook, I’d go with the iPad every time.)

I will be doing some email, updating Facebook, even tweeting from my iPad. I can see it becoming my chief method of consuming media. My iTunes library of music and movies – all happily synced – looks and sounds good on the iPad. An indication of the power of the iPad as a media device is that I did not even think to go to YouTube to have a look at the videos there. I wanted to see what downloaded (and paid for) films and TV clips looked like on the lovely screen.

Apple has ensured that battery does not hinder content consumption. The device comes with a touted 10 hours plus of battery life and reviewers have reported that the iPad regularly beats that.

My MacBook had become a serious alternative for listening to the radio via the BBC iPlayer and Pandora and the iPad will continue that. I also suspect that it will be the go-to gadget for movies and TV shows for my kids who instinctively understand the way the touch screen works.

Will the iPad be the saviour of the publishing industry? Not by itself, but it is a big building block in the bridge to a digital future for newspapers, magazines, Hollywood and TV companies. Their products look good on the iPad – the Wall Street Journal app is impressive – and the public might just accept that it is ok to pay for apps even as they shy away from web site subscriptions.

That is the real power and revolutionary significance of the iPad – it opens up a path to a future of interacting with computers that is compelling and potentially profitable.

But we are not there yet. The iPad has some serious flaws – for me the lack of a camera is simply silly. The use of Skype or iChat with a tablet computer seems so obvious that I can only assume that Apple left the camera out so that the next version could have one.

The lack of support for Flash technology for playing online video seems less of a cynical decision on Steve Jobs’s part – it appears to be more of a crusade against Adobe. To be sure HTML5 is coming and those blanks where videos should be may soon be a thing of the past as Apple’s consumer clout turns developers against Flash. But for the moment the blanks are just annoying.

The lack of multi-tasking is also a bit aggravating. It makes the otherwise seamless iPad experience a little staccato at times. You go into an app – you go out – and go into another one. Apple’s apps – like the iPod app – run happily in the background but those who want to have Twitter feeds open or their instant messaging on the go will be disappointed.

How much would you pay for this flawed but elegant bit of kit? In the UK we still have not specific date for launch nor any prices. Here are the US prices as a guide: there are two different versions of the iPad – Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + 3G.

Pricing starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, up to $829 (64GB Wi-Fi + 3G).

Those getting the 3G version – for those who really see the iPad as their device about town as opposed to around the home – will have to buy a data plan. In the US it is with AT&T and costs $14.99 per month for 250MB or $29.99 a month for unlimited data. We can expect similar deals in the UK. In the US Apple has negotiated a deal with AT&T where you can switch your 3G service on and off whenever you like from month to month, a pretty useful money-saving option.

A final key question is whether you should wait for the next version. Apple’s products have a history of getting cheaper even as they get more powerful and loaded with features. The iPhone’s price has more than halved in the three years since launch.

If you can stand it, I would say yes, wait. The iPad, already good, is only going to get better.

Steve Jobs kept repeating how “magical” the iPad was back in January. For the iPad, touching is believing. I know that I have a decent smart phone and a decent laptop and the iPad is therefore a luxury. And yet… it is one that I already feel I do not want to be without.

From the Telegraph on apps

Mixr: Music games and apps have always been popular on the iPhone and iPod touch, so the larger screen of the iPad should see them really coming in to their own. Mixr calls itself the ‘first ever professional DJ application’ for the iPad, allowing budding disc jockeys to mix and cross-fade tracks, add delays and auto filters, and do all of the scratching and cueing you’d get from a physical deck.

The Top 7 reasons I won’t be getting an iPad By Mike Butcher Gadgets

It’s hard to find a bad review of the new Apple iPad. Gadget gurus and tech commentators have been overwhelmingly positive about the device, which is being lauded as a new category for computing.
Moreover, the digerati have also decided in advance that the iPad will be a smash hit with the public – even though the public hasn’t seen it yet. The iPad will, it’s claimed, eat into 80 per cent of the laptop market.
So in the same spirit, I’ve decided to take an equally ludicrous, and thus equally valid position. I haven’t seen the iPad yet, but I predict that it will not be replacing my laptop or the general-use laptop of my wife and two young sons. Here are the top seven reasons why.

1. Couch surfing. Like the existing one in five Brits, I already “couch-surf” with a laptop while watching TV. This is supposed to be a core strength of the iPad. But my emailing and Tweeting and looking up Wikipedia to find out about the actors in a movie all happen in a seamless flow on my laptop, which can run several applications at once. Since the iPad does not multitask applications – you have to use application one at a time – this will make that much harder. So, no need for an iPad.

2. The iPad has been likened to a big iPod Touch or iPhone. Except there is one crucial difference. I have an iPhone. And it fits into my pocket. The iPad does not. So if I am forced to carry a bag, I may as well carry a bag with a laptop than can do myriad more things than the iPad – which has no camera, multitasking or complex applications, like PowerPoint. Plus my kids like iPhone apps like games. It’s always with me for them to play one, unlike an iPad.

3. The next iPhone will be better. In June Steve Jobs will stand on a stage and launch a new iPhone to replace the iPhone 3GS. It will probably have a better camera, multitasking applications and a better screen. I already reads books on my iPhone. I won’t need an iPad with a better iPhone.

4. You can’t really create content. Despite being more portable than a Netbook, the iPad has no camera and with no keyboard you can’t really do more involved writing or emailing. Plus there is no incenitive for Apple to add a camera as this may eat into its laptop sales.

5. The “edge case scenario”. Sure I can do email and web surf on the iPad. But what a happens when that email comes in from a work colleague that requires me to immediately edit a file then attach, then add in some video. Or perhaps resize some pictures for an article. It’s going to be harder on an iPad than a normal laptop. So I’d rather have the laptop handy, thanks very much.

6. My wife uses our second laptop for emailing, web surfing and shopping, in the main. The kids use it for playing simple web site Flash games on. The iPad will not run Flash. Yes there will be apps instead, but then we’ll be locked into Apple’s world, and my kids like a variety of existing sites, like Lego Games. My wife is just fine with the laptop and doesn’t need or want to ‘learn’ a new interface, thanks all the same Steve.

7. Two years ago when Mike Arrington of TechCrunch first talked about ‘couch surfing’ and using a really simple touch screen device to just use Web sites, he envisaged a $200/£150 machine he dubbed the Crunchpad. The iPad will be over double that price, and yet a swathe of clone devices are poised to flood the market with just such a device which will be, frankly, cheap as chips. I may just buy one of those instead.

8. Bonus point. I reserve the right to change my mind on all of the above. Once I’ve actually seen one.

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Not in the least bit copyrighted by Tim Aldiss 2012