Reviewed: the Apple iPad
I'VE read scores of reviews, rants and love poems about the Apple iPad, but believe me, all of your initial preconceptions dissolve once you get to hold the device in your hands.
You forget the hype and just experience what it does for you. It embodies user-friendliness. It is as though Apple has figured out how most people are now using the web and decided to mould the ideal product to make that experience as easy as possible.
Who uses their computer for computing anymore? Or the mobile phone purely for making calls? They are both bending towards some middle ground that the iPad alone stands upon. The first thing I do when I get my hands on a new smartphone or laptop is go on the web and consume multimedia content. This is pretty much the purpose of the iPad and it does it in such a glorious manner.
The iPad web experience
You cannot overestimate the power of a shiny 9.7-inch multi-touch 1,024 x 768 screen. This much screen real estate changes the game because everything that looks nice on the iPhone looks superb on the iPad, plus there's the added functionality this affords.
If you browse the web on your smartphone, you'll know that sites never look quite as good as they should.
The iPad presents web pages in a way that they can be properly browsed without having to resize, and media companies such as the New York Times have been creating iPad apps that present the material much like a magazine or compact paper.
If online has not killed dead tree publications already, the eventual ubiquity of the iPad and its ilk will. As has been pointed out, the only downside is that it does not display Flash.
Besides Flash video, if you're addicted to FarmVille or any other Flash-based games on Facebook you can wave goodbye to these.
The iPad as an e-book reader
One of the main selling points of the iPad is the iBooks app and the accompanying iBookstore. With a solid mobile-payment model through the iTunes Store and App Store, this has a ready-made market, but how much reading of books that will actually take place rests on the individual's tolerance for shiny screens.
I wasn't sure that I could comfortably read entire books in this manner. I prefer the experience of a physical book, but I would certainly download a few on the iPad.
The iPad user experience
Everything from Mail to Google Maps and iTunes is improved with a bigger screen: because there is more room, extra functionality can be fitted in so there's a lot less going back and forth as menus are overlaid to the left of the screen and it feels like you're using something in between a large desktop widget and the regular iPhone app.
For those worried about the limitations of a tablet device running on a smartphone operating system - judging by the apps already created for the iPad this won't be a problem.
Right now, the Wi-Fi-only iPad is available in the US, with several European countries to follow at the end of April. Ireland is not on this list, so for now, the release date is not yet decided. With a price tag of $499, we can expect a similar price point here.
© Silicon Republic Ltd