The Apple iPad is a bit of a misfit. Like an iPod Touch with a glandular problem, a complicated pricing scheme, and a name that will fuel weeks of late-night comedy monologues, the iPad has a rough road ahead of it.
More importantly, I'm a fan of disruptive technology--and for all the snickering, jaded, eye-rolling comments the iPad will get, it is going to change the way we think about mobile technology beyond the smartphone.
I'll get on my editorial jag in a minute, but first, let's spell out the specs. The iPad measures 7.47 inches wide by 9.56 inches tall by 0.5 inch thick, and weighs 1.5 pounds. Held in your hands, the dimensions and heft have a natural, magazine-like feel.
The screen is a glass-covered, oleophobic, LED-backlit, 9.7-inch capacitive touch screen that uses IPS (in-plane switching) technology for above-average viewing angles. Maximum screen resolution is 1,024x768 pixels. Video output is available using a dock adapter, but HDMI is not supported, and output resolution is constrained to 480p. Below the screen is a home button that looks and behaves exactly like the button found on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Matte aluminum wraps around the backs and sides of the iPad, tapering a bit around the edges. If you've ever held one of the latest unibody MacBooks, you know exactly the kind of feel and finish of the iPad's aluminum. Unlike the polished chrome of the iPod or glossy plastic of the iPhone, the back of the iPad seems less likely to show fingerprints and wear. Like any Apple product, though, expect to see a boatload of cases and screen protectors for the iPad by the time it launches in April.
The buttons, switches, and ports around the edges of the iPad will be familiar to any iPhone owner. A 30-pin dock connector sits on the bottom, along with a small integrated speaker; a volume rocker button and mute switch sit on the right side, and a screen lock, a headphone jack, and a pinhole microphone sit up top.
Under the hood you're looking at a 1GHz A4 processor of Apple's own making, along with 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.1, and a compass. Battery life is rated at 10 hours, and three storage capacities are available, including 16GB ($499), 32GB ($599), and 64GB ($699). A line of iPads with 3G wireless data support (microSIM) are due out in May with the same capacity range, only it will cost $130 extra for each respective model (i.e., $629, $729, and $829). If you go the 3G route, you'll also need to pay for an additional data plan (currently provided by AT&T with no contract), setting you back $14.99 a month for 250MB of data, or $29 for "unlimited" usage. As data plans go, those prices are very reasonable, but they are tied to the device and can't be shared with your phone or other Internet-capable devices.
Features Man, oh man--where to start? First off, let's be clear that the iPad is running a version of the iPhone OS (version 3.2 on the model I handled), and not a version of Apple's full-blown Mac OS. Aside from a few new features (such as iBooks) and a handful of interface tweaks to take advantage of the larger screen, the iPad operates very much like a scaled-up version of the iPod Touch.
Apps that have been around since the iPhone's beginning, such as e-mail, photos, notes, an iPod, calendar, contacts, maps, YouTube, and the Safari Web browser, are all installed on the iPad. Each of these apps, however, has undergone a makeover for the iPad's larger screen size. For instance, apps such as contacts and calendar now offer a split-pane view, allowing more content to spill out onto the screen. The iPod app now looks and behaves like a pared-down version of iTunes, complete with multiple library views, and the capability to create both standard and Genius playlists.
The most impressive app makeover by far, though, is Apple's photo app.… Read more