iPad - Too Early to Declare a Winner
Competitors are racing to catch up and
possibly beat the iPad
Another non Apple
tablet, this time a 2008 product from Dell.
Part 2 of an article on
why you should wait to buy an
iPad. Click for part 1.
Apple's claim that their iPad
comprises the most advanced technology is contradicted by the
reality of some surprising limitations the device suffers from.
Even if you love the idea of a
tablet type device, maybe you might be well served to wait until
Apple (or a competitor) comes out with an improved version
tablet with fewer limitations and better overall use and value.
With the market evolving so
quickly at present, today's devices will be technologically
obsolete in very short order, and tomorrow's devices may be very
much better and more compelling.
Software - Several Reasons to
One of the strong features
of the iPhone family is its massive range of programs -
currently described as being in excess of 150,000 applications.
Up front we have to qualify
this number. It seems that in some cases, individual book
titles are being counted as applications, and 'vanity' programs
being offered by companies that are little more than a bookmark
to access their website are also being counted as applications.
The real number of useful,
independent, programs is much less. It is way too
subjective to try and put a number alongside this, but let's say
it is somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 - still a remarkably
huge number, of course.
The good news is almost all
of these programs will immediately run on an iPad too. But
the bad news is they are hard-coded to fit on the iPhone's
320x480 pixel screen, which is slightly less than one quarter
the resolution of the iPad's screen (1024x768), so when running
on the iPad, you either have a tiny app all by itself in the
middle of the screen, or you magnify it in size. But
magnifying it doesn't make it bigger and clear - quite the
opposite. The text and graphics become fuzzy and
Developers are of course
rushing to release iPad versions of their programs. At
present, many iPad versions are simply an enlarged interface
version of the iPhone app, but with no new interface
enhancements to make better use of the extra screen 'real
estate' available on the iPad.
This too will change, as
developers start to completely rethink and redesign their
applications. But there's less than 100 applications, as
of launch date, that show true imagination and enhancement, and
which make advantage of the new potential of the iPad.
There is also an interesting
trend. While most iPhone apps are either free or priced at
perhaps $0.99 or $1.99, it seems that many iPad apps are being
priced at much higher points - $4.99 and $9.99. Overall,
some commentators are estimating that iPad apps are twice as
expensive as iPhone apps.
This may be similar to what
happened with iPhone apps. They started off being priced
at higher levels than they are now at, and possibly iPad apps
will drop in price too as competing apps become more prevalent,
and as the app developers, just like Apple, switch from trying
to maximize the dollars they take from 'early adopters' to
settling down for the long haul with a marketplace that is more
The lack of app
alternatives, and their current high prices, is another reason
to put off buying an iPad now.
Current Limitations of the iPad
- Another Reason to Wait
The iPad is a lovely device,
in many respects. But it suffers some surprising omissions
that will surely be addressed and resolved in future versions.
Some shortcomings are
software based. If Apple subsequently releases a browser
that supports Flash, that will probably be able to be installed
on previously purchased iPads and iPhones. And perhaps
also if a new OS supports some type of multi-tasking, that too
could be added to earlier models.
But hardware weaknesses are
locked in to the model you own.
Lack of camera(s)
Most notable of these
hardware weaknesses is no camera. A true high end device
would have two - a lower resolution webcam on the front of the
iPad for video chatting, and a high resolution camera with LED
flash on the back of the iPad to take video and still images.
You may recall that the
latest tiny iPod Nano units come complete with a minute video
camera, and of course all iPhones have a medium resolution
camera/camcorder. It even seems there is the physical
space inside the iPad to fit one or two cameras, so the omission
of the camera is truly surprising and very disappointing.
One of the things the iPad
could potentially be truly good at is an internet chat device,
but the lack of a webcam massively reduces its appeal.
This omission (which might have been based on a shortage of tiny
sized camera units) will almost surely be speedily resolved in
the very next release of iPads.
New Wireless Connectivity
At present, the iPad
supports all four current versions of the 802.11 Wi-Fi spec (a,b,g,n)
and so this is a stable mature capability. It also has
good Bluetooth capabilities (version 2.1 + EDR).
But its weakness is in the
types of data coverage provided by wireless companies. In
the US, it is compatible only with AT&T's type and frequency of
wireless data service.
There is a huge growth in
new types of wireless data service at present, with the range of
different and incompatible 3G services already available now
being supplemented by new types of 4G (ie even faster) data
service. The iPad can use none of these, only AT&T's 3G
and 2.5G (EDGE) service.
It seems likely to expect
new model iPads may add further wireless connectivity
Doesn't do double duty as a
This may never change, but
it is a surprising omission. Why doesn't the option that
offers phone-type wireless data go one small step further and
promise full regular voice phone capabilities. If it could
do that, it would address one of the overall weaknesses of the
iPad - the problem with the iPad is that, for most of us, it
doesn't truly replace any other piece of electronic gear we own
- instead, it becomes yet another gadget for us to buy, to carry
with us when we travel, etc.
If the iPad truly could
double as a regular phone, at least it would save us the expense
and bother of having to own both an iPhone and iPad - except
that, there is probably a clue in the preceding part of this
sentence as to why this will never happen.
Apple would be loathe to
have its iPad sales simply replace its iPhone sales. So
perhaps we'll never see an iPad that is also an iPhone. On
the other hand, other manufacturers, who don't have a vested
interest in also selling phones, might be quicker to add phone
functionality to their competing devices, giving us another
reason to 'wait and see' how the market evolves before investing
$500 - $830 on a device that possibly might have a sadly short
In addition to big
enhancements, future model iPads may have some less essential
but still nice tweaks.
For example, the screen
might become slightly larger, or more widescreen in format, and
quite likely will become higher resolution so as to better allow
for true HD video playback (something it can't do at present).
Battery life may slightly
improve in future models, and storage capacity will surely
Some things won't change
The design and control
philosophy of Apple is such that we'll probably never see the
iPad offer direct raw access to its storage via a USB port, and
it will probably never allow for SD cards to provide
supplemental storage, preferring instead to force us into buying
larger capacity iPads up front.
These types of 'weaknesses'
merely reflect Apple's approach to the world, and you either
love it, accept it, or hate it. And, if you struggle to
accept, or hate this closed architecture, it is another reason
to wait until there are good open architecture iPad competitors
The Future Success and
Dominance of the iPad is Uncertain
For sure, Apple is currently
riding an extraordinary wave of success in the marketplace.
No-one can deny the enormous success Apple had and still has
with its MP3 players, and similarly no-one can deny the equally
deserved success Apple has had with its iPhone.
The transforming success of
both these devices in the markets they belong has given Apple an
aura of invulnerability, an aura that the iPad has basked in,
whether deserved or not.
But the new iPad is moving
closer to the computer part of the consumer electronic
marketplace than either the iPhone or iPod, and when we start to
look at computers, the Apple example is much less stellar.
No-one can deny that Apple's
Mac series of computers failed to build on Apple's earlier
success with its original Apple computers.
Apple was in a similar
situation when it released the Mac to the situation it now is
with the iPad. It was the first company to credibly offer
a new product - in the former case, a computer with an intuitive
graphic interface and mouse. There had been attempts at
graphical interfaces and mice before, but it was the Mac that
made it into a mainstream product.
But Apple's high prices and
closed architecture allowed Microsoft to attack its operating
system, and hordes of hardware manufacturers to attack its
hardware. While Apple/Mac enthusiasts maintain that the
Mac remains superior to the PC, its superiority has little
relevance in a PC dominated marketplace that these days has
largely ignored the Mac and moved on past it.
And, more recently, it could
be argued that the same thing is happening again with the iPhone.
At the time of writing this update (Oct 2010) Android
smartphones are outselling iPhones, for all the same reasons
that PCs ended up trouncing Macs.
Will a combination of high
price and closed architecture again trap Apple with its iPad?
This time the onslaught of competing devices can be expected
much more quickly than happened with the Mac - Google's Android
OS is already giving the iPhone a run for its money, and new
tablet devices powered either by Android, a Windows operating
system, or even a Linux based OS are expected to start appearing
not years later, but in the next few weeks and months.
Update Oct 2010 :
There are now more than 23 different manufacturers who have
announced plans to release iPad competing tablet devices over
the next some months.
preceding comments, we are definitely not saying the iPad may end up being a failed and withdrawn product, just like
Apple's earlier Newton table type device quickly became.
But you shouldn't feel the need to rush out and buy an iPad
'just because', and if you do buy an iPad, you need to accept
that you may have ended up choosing the Mac equivalent of a
tablet, with other tablets from other suppliers becoming much
more common and much better value.
To put it bluntly, other
manufacturers may develop superior products, and at better
prices. Impossible? Here's a
write-up of a new product that seems to have a dream set of
features, and which seems to be better than the iPad in every
respect. Admittedly, its release date and price is not yet
certain. But just as the best of the new Android based
cell phones are now more feature-rich than the iPhone, there's
every reason to anticipate other iPad type devices being as good
or better than the iPad, and at lower prices.
Again, this is a good reason
to sit back and watch/wait while the marketplace adjusts to the
new tablet paradigm and sorts out who the winners and losers
One last comment here.
If you can't wait to buy an iPad or other tablet device, you need to first read
our multi-part series 'A
Buying Guide to iPad and Tablet Devices' that walks you
through all the things you need to know about how to compare and
choose the best of the growing profusion of such devices for
The Bottom Line
'The early bird gets the
worm', or so the proverb tells us. But if you rush out to
buy an iPad, are you the bird - or the worm?
For most of us, we are
better advised to 'look before you leap'.
This is the second part of a two
part article on why you should wait
to buy an iPad. Click to return to the first part.
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9 Apr 2010, last update
21 Jul 2020
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