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25 mai 2010 2 25 /05 /mai /2010 09:25

Apple is a strange company you either love them or hate them… One thing that nobody denies is that they make great and well designed products, the latest of which is the iPad. This is already on sale in the US and will start to become available at the end of May beginning of June in other countries (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ battery).

The demand for the iPad is so high that Apple have been having to continually revise international launch dates and extend US shipping dates. Though it is possible to buy iPads in the Apple stores in the USA (Sony VGP-BPS8 battery).

So what is this new Apple iPad phenomenon are we seeing the same sort of euphoria we saw with the iPhone? Is all this interested justified or is this just a brick doomed to failure? Read on to find out what I think in our first comprehensive look at the iPad… (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery)

Eagerly anticipating the arrival of the iPad
Now when the iPad was first announced I liked the look of it, but was determined not to be one of the first to get one. I thought I would wait and see what others thought before splashing out my hard earned dollars on the latest bit of Apple kit. Well that plan fell to pieces when the pre-orders for the WiFi 3G version were announced. Mine was delivered on May 7th: two days before I arrived in Florida to pick it up (Sony VGP-BPS9battery).

The WiFi only version has been available in the US for some time, and it far outsold the initial estimates. I had absolutely zero interest in this version as it did not include a GPS, nor could a GPS be connected to it. In my mind that defeated the objective of having a small(ish) portable device. Also although there are many WiFi hotspots all over the place it is inconvenient trying to find one when you need to read your mail, or send a few tweets so the 3G was essential as well (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery).

With this in mind I eagerly awaited the arrival of my iPad: WiFi, 3G and 64Gb memory. In fact it has been quite some time now since I have had the "childhood" impatience of waiting to get my hands on something new. It was quite a thrill again. Importantly unlike my childhood urges which often resulted in disappointment this was entirely different… The iPad is wonderful(Sony VGP-BPS11 battery)!!!

The day we arrived in Florida the iPad was sitting on my hall table waiting for me to open it. I had to control myself and do a few chores before I attacked the packaging, knowing full well that if I started to unpack the iPad then other important things would not get done. When I finally got round to opening the packaging I found my bright and shiny device pre-charged and ready to go (ACER Travelmate 2300 Battery).

I was surprised at both the size and weight of it. You can look at specs and try to figure out exactly how it will look and feel, but to actually hold it blows away all your pre-conceptions. In reality the iPad is about 1" smaller than an A4 notepad in both height and width, and weighs a fraction more. In fact the Apple case feels like it weighs about a third of the iPad itself. The result is a device that weighs a lot less than a bag of sugar t(ACER Aspire 3020 Battery).

What is the iPad?
So what exactly is the iPad? It is not a phone for sure, it wont handle voice calls. It is not an eBook, though a big new feature of it is iBook. It is not a laptop. In fact is is a whole new genre of device. In the past we have had tablet computers, but they never caught on, too expensive, too heavy and lacking in real mobile functionality. The iPad on the other hand has grown and incorporated features from the revolutionary iPhone. This initially makes it difficult to sell to anyone other than the "Apple Fanboys" but having said that if you pick one up you will be a convert. My wife was an ardent iPad sceptic, not understanding what it was or how it could change your lifestyle. After getting caught in a traffic jam and seeing the traffic flow apps (Beat the Jams) her attitude started to change. Then when sitting in the car reading the Daily Mail on Safari (while I was in Best Buy) she really got converted. Now I have to wrestle the device from her when I want to use it (ACER Aspire 3000 Battery).
So the answer to what it is really depends on what you want to do with it. It is a gaming machine. It is an MP3 player. It is a Video player. It is a mobile office. It is a navigation device. It is pretty much whatever you want it to be. And that is where and how it will make its mark, because it is something new that is an enabler. It is not a device targeted at a single market, it is more of a lifestyle gadget breaking existing usage models encompassing a multitude of uses (ASUS A3000 Battery).

iPad Applications
At launch there were 150,000 applications available to run on the device. Most of these were compatible by virtue of the fact that the iPad can run all the iPhone apps. However with a lot more real estate the iPhone apps now run at 480x320 resolution in the centre of the screen or 960x640 by doubling the size. The double sized apps don't look too great close up, but there are a few surprises. The best surprise (for me) is that our CamerAlert and any other apps using the MapKit (Google Maps) render the maps at normal density. This means that the maps look great but other user interface elements look a bit pixelated. This is not too bad, just not ideal (ASUS Eee PC 900 Battery).
Of course there are some native iPad applications. These make use of the full size and capabilities of the iPad. This includes some new UI features such as Split Views (a 320 pixel strip down the left of the screen) and Pop-Overs, a popup window. These allow a lot more flexibility when designing apps and make full use of the screen size. As time goes by more and more iPad specific Apps will hit the App Store (ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Battery).

So far I have managed to get through most of this article without mentioning GPS and navigation. In my view then of the best uses of the screen size is for mapping applications. It really brings mapping to life. No longer are you stuck with a tiny screen trying to find the balance between map scale and visible features. The screen is of sufficient size that you no longer have to compromise. I already mentioned the Google Maps, and Beat the Jams, but there are many more available: iNavX, CoPilot and Memory-Map(SONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery).

ALK's CoPilot Live HD
Almost as soon as the iPad WiFi-3G was available ALK released CoPilot HD. This has a new interface with the map and an information panel showing on the screen at the same time. Although it does look extremely nice it is somewhat less than practical as an in-car solution. The iPad is simply too big for most cars. I am sure that I will find a solution that will allow me to mount mine in the small confines of my Mercedes sports car, but in general it will either be dangerous for visibility or covering some of the cars controls. Having said that it will be ideal for truckers, or in the motor-home where of course it will double up as an entertainment centre during rest breaks.Click on image for full sized picture (COMPAQ Presario M2000 Battery).
GPSNavX's iNavX universal app
GPSNavX were also quick off the mark to release their marine navigation application iNavX for the iPad. This really showed the capabilities of the iPad. Although the iNavX app does not use all the new features of the iPad UI it does show what can be done with it. I am sure that over time the interface will evolve to take advantage of the new layouts and pop-overs. The iNavX app is interesting in as much as it highlights the third option Apple have made available to developers: Universal Applications. A universal Application is one that will run on both the iPad and the iPhone, but is a single application on the AppStore. iNavX is also unique in that it uses Fugawi's X-Traverse system to transfer data (GPX waypoints etc) between your main computer, Garmin GPS, MacENC or any other compatible system (which is most) and the iPad/iPhone. This is a feature that TomTom, Navigon and ALK should look at for getting user content into their apps (COMPAQ Presario 2100 Battery).
The above images really highlight the difference between the iPad and the iPhone.

Memory-Map HD preview
Finally I have been looking at a PocketGPSWorld Exclusive: Memory-Map on the iPad. Once again a familiar app that I started using way back in 2002 on my old iPaq 37xx has now joined the ranks of apps on the iPhone, and I have the privilege to be one of the first to use it on the iPad in a full HD version. Here having the additional space on the screen opens the way for a terrific user experience. Once again Memory-Map have had to jump through the Apple hoops to enable the import and export of data, it is a bit convoluted, but it does work (COMPAQ Presario R3000 Battery).

iPad Hardware
Getting back to the iPad hardware side of things. The most important features for me are GPS, battery life, and Wireless reception. All of these have been the weak points on the iPhone. Well I am pleased to say that Apple have learnt their lessons and have not just improved them, but moved the goalposts and raised the bar…(Dell INSPIRON 1420 Battery)

GPS Performance
Starting with GPS I have been running hot and cold about the GPS on the iPhone. For some reason in the UK and USA it works OK, but elsewhere it takes ages to get a fix, and sometimes fails to. I was in St Lucia testing some GPS Marine apps last month and I didn't get a single GPS fix whilst testing. Well Apple seem to have surpassed themselves with the iPad GPS. I get fast fixes and much more accurate than the iPhone. To test this I developed a simple diagnostic app that showed me the GPS info returned by each device. The iPad constantly reports a sub 10 metre accuracy, where the iPhone struggles to make 50 metres and often drifts out to 2500 metres relying on cell positioning (Dell Inspiron E1505 Battery).
Battery Life
Then there is the battery life. My iPhone had a reasonable life until I started to use the GPS and bluetooth etc. Over time that has diminished and now I am lucky to get 3-4 hours out of it just reading emails and maybe tweeting a bit. With the iPad the challenge is to actually run the battery down. I have had it running for 4 days without charging, using it for web, tweeting, reading the paper, GPS apps etc. Eventually it had got down to about 35% before I accidentally charged it up overnight. Even taking it on a run using CamerAlert with mapping on display it only used less than 10% in just under an hours drive. That is using 3G data, GPS and moving maps (Dell Latitude D620 Battery).

A few days ago I really put it through it's paces using it from 8am in the morning to 2am the following day. With lots of browsing, GPS apps, tweeting, downloading pictures, and reading emails I was really hammering the iPad from a real user point of view. I was missing a few crucial applications to manipulate my images and upload them to the PocketGPSWorld.com website, but apart from that it worked wonderfully. And at the end of a busy day I still had 35% battery power left!!!

I really think that this is as advertised…(Dell INSPIRON 1525 Battery)

Wireless Communications
For Wireless reception I bundle both WiFi and 3G together. Initially some of the WiFi only iPad users complained about WiFi drop outs and weak or bad connections. This certainly has not been the case with my 3G version, infact quite the opposite. I have never had a WiFi dropout, and have managed to connect to all the HotSpots I have found (Dell Inspiron 6000 battery).

The 3G side of things is a little more tricky, as you might expect. Predictably in the USA AT&T seem to be playing silly billies. To activate the account you need to have a US credit card with a US billing address and that address needs to have good AT&T 3G coverage. If not you will get a strange message saying address unknown. To overcome this I managed to call in a favour from Lutz and got up and running using his credit card details. So far I have been really impressed with both the speed and reliability of the AT&T network, but then I am using it in an area which is mainly populated by English holiday makers so probably not a lot of heavy 3G users around. The only time I lost coverage was when watching the Space Shuttle Atlantis final launch on the coast at Cape Canaveral where I was 20 miles from the nearest town, and 10 from a major road. Even so I was still able to get Edge/GPRS coverage, but so slow it was not worth the effort (Dell Inspiron 6400 battery).

iPad Accessories
The iPad was launched with a number of Apple accessories which will soon be added to by hundreds of 3rd party devices. From my point of view the 100% must have accessory is a case. The iPad is well built and strong, but cannot fit in the pocket so it will be in constant danger of being scratched and knocked. with the larger screen the opportunity to scratch it is far greater than an iPhone. The Apple case is interesting: it offers both protection and 2 formats to use it as a stand, the most interesting being lap or desk mode where it elevates the iPad by about 15 degrees for ease of reading. It can also be positioned vertically as a picture frame. The case is made of some type of anti-slip rubberised material, that while it does protect the iPad well does tend to mark easily (Fujitsu Lifebook S6120 battery).

I also got the iPad dock connector. This was a mistake as, like the iPhone, the iPad will not fit on the dock with a case on. You would have thought that Apple would realize that users would have cases and make the dock to cater for it. Best advised not to get a dock unless you want to keep removing the iPad from the case which is not an easy task. I am currently considering modifying the case so that it will fit on the dock. It is possible that I may be able to do it with just some minor trims, otherwise it will be a large hole in the case(FUJITSU LIFEBOOK P2120 Battery)...

There is also an iPad keyboard with dock. This has a standard sized keyboard, with some specific iPad keys. There is a lock key that instantly locks and unlocks the iPad, there are also keys for home, spotlight, photos, keyboard hide and iPod controls. The keyboard dock suffers from two issues: it cannot be used with a case, and the iPad must be used in portrait mode (HP PAVILION DV9700t Battery).

An other accessory I bought was the camera connection kit. This allows you to attach one of two adapters to the iPad and transfer your pictures from the camera. There are 2 adapters depending on your camera type: SD card reader or USB connector. I did try to connect a USB stick to the iPad and unfortunately it didn't recognize it. However for cameras it works really well, transferring the images into the photo app (HP PAVILION DV2 Battery).

Issues with the iPad
So far the iPad looks great, but there must be a downside! Well there are a few. The first I mentioned above: for most people the iPad will not be used as an in-car navigation device. The speaker is loud enough but the device is just too big for most cars (Sony VGP-BPS10 battery).

The second is how you transport it. Having the case is all well and good to protect it, but because of its size it doesn't fit in your pocket (in the same way a net book wont). This means that you have to carry it in your hand, and believe me after a couple of hours shopping even the iPad starts to feel heavy. To transport it efficiently you would need some form of shoulder bag, or as I refer to it: "a man bag". No doubt we will start to see these hitting the stores soon (HP PAVILION DV2000 Battery).

Next: the screen is designed for touching with gestures etc, but very quickly picks up finger prints and smudges. It may be that I have very greasy fingers, but my iPad screen is covered with marks. This does not affect the viewing of the iPad in any way, just looks a little unattractive when the screen is off  ( HP PAVILION DV3 Battery).

The major bit of hardware missing from the iPad is surprisingly a camera. This seems to be a huge omission, even the cheapest phones have a camera on them. I am sure that there was a good reason that Apple decided to leave the camera off, but for the life of me I cant work out what it might be. How can I take geo-referenced pictures of things I see if there is no camera on my iPad  (HP PAVILION DV3000 Battery)???

Conclusion
So to summarise: I think the iPad will be a big hit, it already is in the USA. I suspect that the UK and other countries will see the initial iPad stocks sell out rapidly. But this will all be to gadget geeks like me. For it to be a success on the scale of the iPhone it will need to identify and define it's niche. Believe me it will as soon as people start to see them in action. The playback of video is just amazing  (HP PAVILION DV8000 Battery).

To be honest I don't see the point in getting the WiFi only version. I really don't see a massive market for it unless Apple add GPS to it, and that is not going to happen with the current hardware. It is like Ford selling a car without an engine: it may look good, but it wont get you anywhere… Up until last week there was no option, but now the 3G version is available it costs an extra $130 but for that you get GPS and the 3G as well. Even if you never use 3G you still have a great LBS device (HP PAVILION DV5000 Battery).

The iPad is not perfect, but it is the best gadget that I have seen in a long time. I deliberately waited to produce this review after I had been using it for a week or two to ensure that my initialeuphoria didn't pass. It hasn't!!! So love it or hate it the iPad is here to stay (HP PAVILION DV6000 Battery)!

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