iPad Review: Game Changer or Expensive Paperweight?
Posted by Daniel Nations, iPhone Examiner, on April 5, 7:02PM
After months of skepticism about the iPad's market potential, I've come to believe there might just be a nice audience for it. Sure, techno-geeks are going to snap up the devices left and right -- and I'm sure if Apple put out a new doorbell, it would sell a hundred thousand units on day one -- but I think the iPad's true audience might come from an unlikely source: the family.
The device itself is a pleasant surprise that lives up to much of the hype, though it is not without its flaws. It is light enough and small enough that you might think you were carrying around a Frisbee, and yet it fits snugly on the lap when you want to read an eBook or watch a streaming movie from Netflix. And the display is awesome. From websites to streaming video to games, everything looks beautiful, and because it uses an in-plane switching (IPS) display, you can view it from an angle and it still looks great, unlike many laptops that lose color and clarity at an angle.
Even the on-screen keyboard is a pleasant surprise. I'm one of those awkward-fingered folks who can hunt and peck the iPhone's on-screen keyboard, but feels much more at home behind a physical keyboard. And while the iPad's on-screen keyboard doesn't give you that much speed or freedom, it is still 10x better than the iPhone's. In fact, when I don't need to get at a lot of numbers, and I put the iPad in a good position with a small incline, I can go nearly as fast as with a physical keyboard. Perhaps a few extra mistakes, but then again, if I plan on writing a book with the thing, I'm getting the wireless keyboard for it.
The native apps are great, but there are some bumps in the app store. It's easy to tell some apps were rushed out the door in order to arrive on day one. But I think these issues will quickly be resolved with a patch, so my only real issues on this front are the number of overpriced apps -- especially apps that are just ports of their iPhone versions -- and the app store itself, whose interface isn't nearly as easy-to-use as the iPad itself.
In fact, the app store stinks. In terms of failure, it doesn't come close to the WiFi issues I'll detail when it comes time to tell you why you should hold off on buying an iPad, but it is a bit of a disappointment. In fact, the iPhone's app store is superior despite the limited space.
You can get at a list of popular free apps through the Top Charts, but with so much more screen space, Apple should have fit a free section into the category page. I also miss the sub-categories for games, which I hope reappears as more iPad apps are released.
One area where the iPad really lives up to the hype is iBooks. The free Winnie the Pooh book shows the potential of the iPad as a reading device. Color photos, colored text, fonts that are easy to change and resize and all the special touches that we've come to expect from Apple. In fact, the only thing iBooks lacks is a big library of titles, which will come in time. But the availability of Project Gutenberg, which provides a wonderful library of (free) public domain books, should certainly tide us over until the iBookstore expands far enough where I can actually buy a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
And let's not forget Kindle app in this discussion. While it doesn't provide quite the page-turning details as iBooks, it is easily as functional an eReader and has a huge library of books available for it.
Convinced on the iPad? Here's why you should hold off on your purchase.
There is one glaring problem with the iPad that is quickly emerging as more people get their hands on one: WiFi. For a device whose primary function is to deliver the web in the palm of your hand, the WiFi signal stinks and lost connections are quire frequent. A side-by-side test of the iPad accessing the Internet and the iPhone (via WiFi) hitting the Web shows a definite problem with the iPad's ability to hook up with your WiFi. In fact, the device also lost the WiFi password on several occasions, forcing me to save it to Notes so that I wouldn't constantly be typing it in from scratch. (Not the most security-conscious decision, and something I hope is only temporary.)
The big concern here is whether the issue is hardware or software related. It might be easy to assume it is a hardware issue with the WiFi antenna, but issues with the device drivers can easily mimic hardware issues. And Apple had better hope it is a software issue else we'll be seeing a huge recall (and Apple will be seeing a huge repair bill).
WiFi issues aside, the iPad isn't for everyone. As great as it is at consuming the web, watching videos and reading eBooks, it is not a "must have" device, and in many respects, is simply an iTouch with a big screen. Though I have to agree with one reviewer who said the iPhone's screen looks really small after playing around with the iPad.
But the iPad is going to be a great addition to the family
Previously, I believed the iPad must do to movies what the iPad did for music if it was to be a big success. True, the iPad is going to sell regardless -- there are plenty of techno-geeks out there -- but if it is going to make real waves in the market, it is going to need a real audience.
And it may have one in families. Alongside with the web, the videos and the eBooks is the ability to become a great learning tool. From a child just learning to read by sounding out the words to Winnie the Pooh to special apps designed specifically with children in mind, there is a huge potential for this device to become just as 'family friendly' as the Nintendo Wii. And as a game machine, it could have added value for parents. While apps for the iPad are still overpriced compared with their iPhone cousins, they are still much cheaper than games for the Wii, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.