Guide to Apple's new iPad: In the space of a few hours, Apple's new personal device has become the e-reader to beat.
2010-01-28.…….The Salt Lake Tribune
At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, e-readers and tablet computers were on everybody's minds. More than a dozen were unveiled, but all of them were compared to Apple's as-yet-unreleased tablet.
After Wednesday, the wait is over, with the high-profile debut of the iPad. Apple has a knack for creating product appeal in lines that have previously catered only to niche audiences. Here are some answers to questions you might have about the iPad (and we'll steer clear of the tech talk):
Why is it such a big deal? ---An Apple tablet computer has been predicted for nearly a decade, and prototypes have existed since 1983. With the introduction of the iPad, Apple has launched a "computerless computer," a device that has the power of a full-featured computer, but the simplicity of a phone.
How does it compare to the iPhone? ---The device is almost identical to a super-sized iPhone. Both run on the same operating system, and the iPad can run all of the iPhone's applications. The iPad has 3G wireless capability, but, unlike the iPhone, can't be used to make phone calls. Anyone who has ever used an iPod Touch or an iPhone will be instantly at home on the iPad.
What will people use it for? ---The iPad can run all of the iPhone's 140,000 applications, but it includes its own spate of features that place it squarely in the space between phone and computer.
Productivity -- The device can function as a lightweight computer, and will run word-processing and spreadsheet apps. Apple's iWork series will be available for $30.
Photos and videos -- It can also function as a digital media hub and host photos, music and video from its own memory or from other Apple computers in the home. The iPad can be hooked up to a television or projector for large-screen viewing.
Games -- Developers are betting on the iPad to be a casual game machine. Built-in sensors detect when the iPad is being tilted and moved -- in effect, the tablet is one big controller, and offers similar sensing to a Nintendo Wii remote.
How much will it cost? ---In a surprising move by Apple, the iPad came in lower than analysts expected. The entry level iPad will cost $499, while the beefiest version adds four times the storage space for $699. All of the models have built in Wi-Fi, but you can add 3G connections to use the iPad on cell phone wireless data networks for $130 on any model. Additionally, models equipped with 3G will cost $15 to $30 per month, but there's no contract if you choose to opt out.
Can I buy one now? ---Not yet. The iPad won't be available on Apple's Web site for preorders, so you can expect long lines, crowds and product shortages. The device is expected to hit store shelves in late March.
How does it stack up to Amazon's Kindle or other e-readers? ---The large color screen, full Web capabilities and potential as a multimedia device make the Kindle look drab and featureless by comparison. However, the Kindle's screen uses e-ink technology, which replicates paper reading much more closely, and is supposed to be easier on the eyes when using it for extended periods. The other big advantage is battery life; Apple claims up to 10 hours of general use in its battery, while the Kindle's sipping e-ink screen can get more than a week of use. In general, the iPad is more of a lightweight, all-purpose computer, while the Kindle is a specialized e-book reader.
What are the tech specs? ---The iPad uses Apple's proprietary A4 chip, so exact details on speed aren't known. Early hands-on tests reveal it to be snappy and able to handle the applications faster than the iPhone 3GS, the reigning smartdevice in Apple's line. The low-end machine ships with 16GB of RAM, while the highest has 64GB. All of the lines are equipped with Bluetooth 2.1, so they should work fine with Apple's wireless keyboard, for those who find touch-screen typing a little too futuristic. The screen is a wide-angle LED flat panel at 9.7 I inches, giving the device an impressively slim 0.5 inches of depth.
What's missing? ---Although Apple's iPad is a hugely complete device, there are a few things curiously absent. The tablet is missing any kind of camera, which rules out using the pad for videoconferencing. Tech types are also decrying the lack of "multitasking," which would allow the iPad to run more than one application at once. Instead, users have to quit one program to start another. Also not present is the ability to make phone calls, even in the models that have built-in cell phone capability. We'll just have to wait for version 2.0 for those features.