The iPad just went on sale in India today, and if you have been itching to get one for months now, this should come as great news. First things first, the iPad is shinny, its Apple and thus virtually irresistible once you play with it at a store. To top is all, Apple has priced the iPad well, very close to the US prices and cheaper than for what it sells in Europe, but does that mean you should run and grab one now? I recommend reading through this page before you make up your mind.
Apple’s iOS has been around for quite sometime now, acting as a catalyst for others to get their act together and innovate on whatever OS they were resting on. It soon became the benchmark against which all the other efforts were appraised and established itself as king when it came to ease of use and a glorious UI.
I for one was never smitten by the ‘beauty’ of it all, and the walled garden approach made me uncomfortable. Yes, there would be jailbreaks but with Apple looking to patching one exploit after the other, I didn’t want to enter into a world where the sum on my hopes rested on a jailbreak and thus the iPhone never really enticed me.
Then came the iPad. It was thought to be a large iPod Touch in sum and substance, but it sold. Sold very well. The iOS developer community, which was finding it hard to get visibility among the millions of apps on the store, suddenly has a new cat to bell. The result was that we saw some exception iPad only apps on iOS. Soon Apple gave in and added pseudo multitasking, this was when I seriously considered getting the iPad. The lure of a large multitouch screen was too great to pass and I ended up picking one up while in Dublin recently, partly because I wanted to see why there was so much hoopla about iOS and partly because Apple’s shinny new hardware is very hard to pass up once lay your hands on it.
It was finally time to find out what the big deal about iOS was. I had used it in the past, a few days at a time but its only when you use it consistently that you truly appreciate the strengths and weaknesses. A casual play will tell you that it is great for web browsing, email and photos. Play a few pre-loaded games and almost everyone is virtually sold. But own one for a few weeks, you realize that you cannot download files using Safari, deleting and adding music to it is a pain, and that the iPad is dependent on your computer for a lot of things.
1. Activation. The iPad need a computer to start up for the first time, I wasn’t such a fan of this approach. But the activation was painless and look a few seconds in total. The date and time were automatically pulled and this was a nice touch.
2. The Apple ID. This is what makes Apple what it is. It asks you for your credit card the moment you sign up and keeps your information for times to come.
3. The App Store. The famed App Store in all its glory doesn’t disappoint when you open it up. Look for an app for any service that you use and you will see an app for it. But once your done with the essentials, you move onto discovery. There you come across great like Flickpad (which makes looking at your Facebook and Flickr pictures a real pleasure), Flipboard (Facebook & Twitter as a magazine), Pulse and a few others. These apps then become a part of your daily iPad habits and you slowly come to realize that despite installing a hundred apps in the first few days, you’re only using a select few. At that time you think that may be Apple’s App Store is just a little overhyped.
But what you have to give credit to Apple for is the fact that they make it very easy for you to give them your money. To buy an app, all you do is click ‘Buy’ and enter your Apple ID password as you would for a free app and before your realize it money is gone from your account and you have the precious app already downloaded. You don’t even realize money is being spent. Nothing else on Android Market or the Ovi Store comes close to the sheer ease.
4. Notifications. There are push notifications from apps like Facebook, News apps along with the usual ‘you have mail’ kind of notifications and this is iOS’s weakest aspect. There are no symbols at the top bar telling you that you have unread messages, facebook notifications, tweets and so on and the only indicator is the number symbol that pops up into the app icon. The on screen notifications get hidden if another notification comes in and the system is not elegant. Fortunately, this something you won’t have to worry about much on the iPad, in most cases it is a secondary device to your phone and won’t be receiving anything your phone won’t.
5. The Polished UI. Yes it is very slick, but then so is Android and infact I prefer Android because it has a dedicated back button while on iOS you generally need to reach across to the top of the app to go back on most occasions. It terms of UI polish I’d prefer Android on my phone as compared to iOS where as on the iPad I’ll probably be happy sticking to iOS. Infact, in my book the iOS is better suited to the iPad than to an iPhone. Where iOS really shines is the fact that it never lags. Android and Symbian both have a tendency to cram up after a few days without a reboot and even the system apps struggle, but on the iPad everything remains speedy.
6. Dealing with Files. This is the problem area. The iPad doesn’t pop up as a flash drive when you connect it to the computer and all your transfers have to be done via iTunes. You need apps such as ‘Download HD’ to transfer files across effectively and this is a native weakness. No dropping music or video or documents anywhere and expecting that various third party apps will pick them up automatically. Similarly, if you want download video or documents using Safari, you will hit a wall. Again, third party apps come to the rescue.
7. Lack of Flash. We all know that the iPad doesn’t support Adobe’s flash. This means no flash games, and restricted flash video playback. But in the real world, it doesn’t make such of a difference. The games are still out, but because of Apple’s considerable influence, most websites offer iPad friendly versions on the video, especially YouTube so you are never missing much.
8. Jailbreak. For power users Jailbreaking the iPad is almost second life and they feel very restricted without uprooting Apple’s walled garden. Since the iOS 4.2.1 firmware, jailbreaking the iPad isn’t child’s play and most of you couldn’t be bothered. So does the iPad still remain an attractive proposition? Yes. The major reason people jailbroke the iPad was for the multitasking and since Apple has included this itself, we won’t have such a problem anymore. However, since VLC is off the App Store, new users who want to use the iPad as a video machine will have to go the Cydia route.
9. Which iPad to buy? The iPad comes in a bunch of configurations, all powered by Apple’s A4 1Ghz chip and 256 MB of RAM. The difference lies in storage space and whether or not you want a 3G enabled version. I choose a 16 GB WiFi only model for the simple reason that I am happy using my phone as a WIFI access point for the iPad, thus not only saving on monthly 3G costs, but also the INR 5000+ upfront. If you are serious about gaming on the iPad, you might want to consider getting a 32 GB version as some games are a whopping 600 MB+ in size.
10. But should you buy one at all? The answer of course depends on how much you want one. The iPad has come to India at the end of its life cycle, with the new iPad expected to be announced and made available in the next 2 months. However, chances are that the new iPad won’t be coming to India anytime soon and unless you or friends/family is planning a trip to the US, you can forget about getting one at a reasonable price any time soon.
All in all, the iPad is a great web browsing tool that lasts for about 8-9 hours easily, can play video for a solid 7 hours and serves you well as a bedside, couch or travelling device. The email client is solid, the web browsing limitations can be overcome and the app ecosystem is as good as it gets. No other tablet, even the Android Honeycomb powered ones, will come close to the iPad in the next 3-4 months, the time it takes for the developers to catch up.
If you have money to spare, the iPad is a great way to indulge yourself. It will not replace your laptop, but for most tasks it will come pretty close.
So, do you plan on getting one in the next few days?