So, Apple has finally announced its long-awaited tablet. As almost all our readers will know by now, it’s called the iPad, and it’s… essentially a glorified iPod Touch. In terms of looks, it’s basically a large iPhone, with the same buttons (or lack thereof), and a surprising amount of bezel for an Apple device.
It’s got a 9.7″, 1024 x 768 LED backlit IPS screen, with the requisite multitouch capacitive layer. Apple have put their own Apple A4 1GHz processor inside (which has a power drain light enough to get ten hours out of the battery, which is of course not removable), created as a result of their 2008 acquisition of P.A. Semi, will be available with 16, 32 or 64GBs of Flash storage, and connectivity-wise you’ve got Apple’s ubiquitous 30-pin Dock connector, a speaker, a microphone, Bluetooth (it can “even” connect to Apple bluetooth keyboards), 802.11n WiFi, as well as an accelerometer and digital compass, as well as the option of 3G, using a brand-new business model, which I’ll get to later. It’s running iPhone OS 3.2, and can run any iPod Touch/iPhone app, either letterboxed at native res, or upscalled to fullscreen, while developers can rewrite their apps to take advantage of the larger screen. There’s still no multitasking, but there’s some interesting new UI elements such as dropdown context menus, which are shown off in rewritten Apple standard apps, such as Safari, Email, Photos and Apps, and the new iWork for iPad. iTunes works on the device, and you can buy and download music and videos on the go, and Apple have even managed to get deals with publishers, meaning you can buy eBooks as well… for the price of a hardback copy. Apple are also coming out with a few accessories; a case which also acts as a stand, and a keyboard dock, which looks a lot like an iPhone dock with an Apple keyboard strapped to it.
And it starts at $499, in 60 days (the worldwide release for the non 3G models)
So what does this mean for WinMo and Android? Who’s going to be buying it? Read on for more.
(Oh, and there’s no camera, multitasking or Flash)
Link – iPad
Firstly, that new 3G business model. If you buy a 3G version of the iPad, you have the option of contractless data; $14.99 for 250MB a month, $29.99 for unlimited, on a prepaid month-by-month basis, paid for directly on the device. This is a pretty bold move, which will certainly appeal to some users. On the other hand, if you’ve got the cash to splash on a 3G equipped iPad, you’re probably gonna be the kinda person who wants internet, all the time, without hassle, and having to turn it on again every month could get annoying. Oh, and just a note; this is only on AT&T so far. Apple should be announcing information about other countries in the summer.
Secondly, who’s going to want this? Aside from the usual drooling Apple fanboys, the iPad will appeal to serious media users, the kind of people who want their HD video collection with them on the go, along with the Starbucks browsing crew, and certain kinds of mobile businessmen. Apple have hampered themselves in that last market; a software QWERTY on a 10″ touchscreen is too big to thumbtype on, and users will be forced either set the iPad down, or bring a keyboard and stand with them in order to get some serious productivity going. The case/stand and a bluetooth keyboard allows typing in landscape, but the keyboard dock itself only supports portrait, a rather serious oversight. Additionally, text selection and all other control requires you to reach up to the device, a flaw that is apparent in most touchscreen PCs, and one that is often mocked.
Additionally, these users in particular are going to be seriously hampered by the lack of multitasking, since many “roadwarriors” will be emailing, surfing and working on documents at the same time. The lack of multitasking in itself is practically criminal on a device of this nature; it’s meant to be better at browsing and music, but you can’t browse and stream music at the same time, whereas, say, my Touch Pro2, most certainly can.
It’s also for the market that don’t know multitouch from multitasking; the people who think the internet is just YouTube and Facebook, and who don’t need to modify or personalise and just want a clean, pretty experience.
The iPad is designed to be easy to use by anyone who owns an iPhone or iPod Touch, but interestingly these are one of the categories with least justification for buying this device, as they already have one with the vast majority of its functionality in a smaller package. The real question is, do you have the spare cash, and do you want the larger screen/improved App versions.
Now, to pricing. It’s probably best if I just quote Steve Jobs himself on this one;
“So $499 for 16GB of iPad. That’s our base model. 32GB is $599, 64GB is $799. 3G models cost an extra $130. $629, 729, and 829 with 3G.”
Aside from the slightly janky grammar (What, the iPad I receive is made up of 16GB of data?)… let’s break this down. It’s a lot less than some people were expecting, especially for an Apple product. Of course, many people will question the wisdom of buying the 16GB model; if you will be consuming large amounts of media, and don’t need 3G, then you’re in some ways better off going for an iPod Touch, depending on how important the screen size is. Portability also needs to be taken into account if you’re considering those two options.
In terms of internet pricing, Engadget have produced a rather fantastic chart comparing the cost of an iPhone to the iPad over two years, and if you don’t need voice and texting (outside of apps such as Skype), you may find the iPad a surprisingly good choice.
One final note on pricing; Apple (along with most other hardware companies) have a habit of using a 1:1 ratio when converting dollars into another currency. This might be great for the Japanese (499 Yen isn’t exactly breaking the bank), but it’s not so great for Europeans; $499 is currently £310, or €355. Fingers crossed that they’ll buck the trend when they come to the UK with the iPad.
So, the biggest question of all. What effect will this have on Windows Mobile and Android?
It’s actually surprisingly hard to tell. In some ways, the market Apple are most likely to be stealing from is the high-end media player market (Archos and their own iPod Touch), but they will also be taking users who don’t want a smartphone per say, and instead want a connected internet device/media player, with games and productivity applications on the side. Some of these people will continue to choose portability, but now that Apple have made what is quite possibly the first truly slick tablet experience, allbeit using a special mobile OS rather than OSX (don’t give me that rubbish about the iPhone OS being OSX, because that’s like saying that Windows CE is just Windows 7) or Windows, there’s going to be a big potential market. On the other hand, the fact that the iPad can’t make phone calls or texts outside of apps such as Skype, along with the fact that there is no multitasking (surely a waste of such powerful hardware) making receiving calls at any time out of the question, means that anybody who wants one device, and one bill, for voice and internet won’t be picking this up.
The iPad also has the ability to compete with the Kindle, but there are several reasons why it might not. Firstly, LCD screens are frankly horrible to read off for long periods of time, although they have their advantages (like being able to read at night without a seperate light). EInk also creates incredible battery life. Secondly, as pretty as books on the iPad might look, an Ereader with dedicated page-turn buttons will always be easier to operate, especially lying on your side when half-asleep. Thirdly, paying the price of a hardback for an ebook is frankly extreme, and removes one of the main advantages of owning an ebook reader.
The iPad is going to be a device to watch, for sure. Nobody can tell at this point how far the ripples of today’s announcement are going to spread, although Apple’s stock dropped within minutes of the unveiling and many people are underwhelmed. The very fact it’s an Apple product means it’s going to sell, and it’s going to sell fast, but whether it will be as big a success as Steve Jobs seems to be predicting is still in doubt.