The Apple iPad is imperfect but superb nonetheless
It may not re-invent computing but the Apple iPad does bring it a step closer to perfection, says Adam Maguire.
It’s the most over-hyped piece of technology the world has seen since… well… the iPhone. Curiously it is also the most criticised product Apple has released since the Newton, most of this coming before it was even available in the shops.
The iPad is Apple’s attempt to apply the successes of its iPhone into the ultra-portable computing category. This is the company’s unique swing at a netbook, albeit one without the low price-point and ‘Everything you’d get in a PC only smaller’ selling point.
Physically the device is an over-sized iPhone – the 3GS version that is. Its 9.7in screen is surrounded by that familiar black frame and cushioned below by the now iconic ‘home’ button that has graced the iPhone in all its varieties.
The back is curved aluminium with little to say for itself other than the Apple logo and some other minor details.
The software too is more than an echo of the iPhone. It runs iOS – the same operating system as Apple’s phone – and uses the same kind of menu structure but in a larger form.
But it is not a large iPhone – for a start it lacks the ability to make calls (officially) and does not even have a camera to take photographs or more importantly conduct video calls.
It is not a laptop either, not least because it lacks any physical keyboard but also because its OS limits its functionality to whatever Apple allows in its App Store.
So what is the point of the iPad?
Put simply, this device is a match made in heaven for casual computing.
The iPad excels where you want to quickly reference something online without having to power up a PC. It comes into its own when you quickly want to listen to a song but do not want to rifle through your CDs to do so. It stands head and shoulders above the competition if you want to play a quick game without having to set up your TV and console.
The battery life on the device is good, in fact you can easily see it holding up for days on end when left idle, but is ready for action the minute you hit the ‘home’ button.
Of course it can be so much more than this – its superb screen and App Store access gives it potential to be a workhorse as much as a design aid – but primarily it succeeds as a device for dipping in to.
However it is clear that the iPad is – like the iPhone – a device that will improve in stages, and improve it must. There are a number of glaring omissions from the tablet which really hold it back from being perfect and you cannot help but feel that it was a tactical decision by Apple.
As mentioned already there is no camera, so no video calls or conferencing can be made.
At present there is no multi-tasking and even when there is it is not going to be as easy to flick between items as it is on a traditional desktop.
The lack of any real interface – USB, HDMI or otherwise – makes the iPad a very 2D device in terms of its place in the digital home. It can only talk to iTunes and only when physically tethered; the ability to have it interact with a phone, TV and whatever else is an exciting idea that’s sadly over-looked.
All of these issues will be resolved eventually if they are not being so already. Even with them intact the iPad is a surprisingly natural and enjoyable piece of technology to use.
It is not the most powerful, it will not replace your computer (yet) but it is the kind of thing that you will wonder how you did without once you have one.