Digital Life: The world’s hottest gadget
We meet in an anonymous office block amid a mazy industrial park. My contact slides the package across the desk and quietly leaves the room.
Now I'm alone with the first Apple iPad in Ireland.
Even before the gorgeous 10- inch glass screen on this tablet computer lights up, the first thing you notice about the iPad is its weight. Unfortunately, the second thing that strikes you will probably still be its weight.
Yes, Apple's new machine may be handsomely crafted from aluminium and feel sleeker than a baby seal — but it tips the scales at 1.5lb (700 grams).
In one sense, that’s light but not when you consider it’s intended to be held in one hand while you swipe at its touchscreen with the other. Many people have labelled the iPad a giant iPhone — some intending to be dismissive, others meaning to compare it favourably to the best-selling Apple mobile.
If you've used an iPhone or iPod Touch, you're already intimately familiar with the iPad. It works exactly the same way, offering you a web browser, email, music, video, maps, etc, controlled by taps of your fingertips.
The chief differences, then, are the luxury of the larger screen and its screaming speed. The iPad is, in all senses, bleedin' rapid. Whether scrolling around Google Maps, flicking through a webpage or browsing your music collection, this computer doesn't pause for breath, responding without hesitation. And all this with a 10-hour battery life.
Despite its obvious prowess, though, it's hard to swallow Apple's breathless description of the iPad as “magical” and “revolutionary”. With some justification, you could well ask whether you'd be better off buying a small laptop or netbook.
But if you accept the iPad as a device to casually consume content (web, email, video, etc), rather than a serious machine to create with (for instance, the onscreen keyboard is just about bearable), then it begins to make sense.
It's early days yet for the iPad store. It can run all 150,000 apps designed for the iPhone — and many look great. But new iPad apps in the pipeline that will capitalise on the big screen may be the clinchers.
The iBook app, for example, which turns the iPad into an e-reader to rival Amazon's Kindle, is a little short on books yet but first impressions are memorable for its slick interface.
So should you spring for one? The iPad doesn't officially go on sale in Ireland until later this summer, so you have time to save up for the estimated €500 price. It certainly can't replace your primary computer and doubters should wait for wait for version 2.0. But Apple fans will find it to hard to resist the seductive pull of the iPad. www.apple.com/ie/ipad
Thanks for Pat Phelan of MAXroam (www.maxroam.com) for a look at his iPad.
AT A GLANCE
Huge battery life
Simple and pleasing to use
Glossy screen hard to see in sunlight
Limited functions compared to a laptop
Tiring to hold for long periods