First Look at the iPad 3G

First Look at the iPad 3G

The iPad 3G is an iPhone on steroids.  That’s closer to the truth than you think.  When you run iPhone apps the screen displays a window roughly the size of an iPhone.  But you can click a 2x softkey to expand the window to the full screen.  The letters are a little fuzzy, but believe me, you’ll want those iPhone apps.

We picked up Norma’s new iPad 3G Saturday morning (May 1).  Just getting to the Apple store in Palo Alto turned out to be an effort because there was a parade that started about the same time as our 10 am reservation.  But we finally got into the store and got the new toy.  (Norma chose the 32 gb model with 3G.)  This entry is my initial impressions: the good, the bad, and … well, there’s really nothing ugly about it.

Out of the box the iPad is your typical, stylish Apple product.  The screen resolution is incredibly sharp.  At one point Norma complained that the screen was scratched.  What she thought were scratches turned out to be the meteor shower on the background of the wallpaper!

Norma picked the $14.99 per month data-only 3G plan that allows 250 mb data traffic. Luckily, the iPad lets you turn 3G, wifi, and Bluetooth on or off individually.  Pick the low-cost 3G plan and leave 3G off until you really need it.

Now, about those iPhone apps.  Despite heavy promotion by the New York Times, there is no iPad app that gets you the full publication.  The iPad app for the Times is their “editors’ choice” selection of articles.  You can download and use the iPhone app, but that’s it.  There is an iPad app available for the Journal, but you’ll look a long time on the Journal’s web site before you find it.  (Memo to publication webmasters:  when someone searches for “iPad” on your site the chances are excellent that they’re looking for more than just articles about the device.) The Journal’s iPad app is available only by hunting around in the app store.  (A lot of Journal content is available only to subscribers.)

But that’s really a problem for the publications, not Apple.  The folks in Cupertino have issues of their own.  Probably the biggest problem is the user guide which exists as a bookmark in the Safari browser.  Please, Apple, at least give us a clue on the little 3×5 card that’s the only documentation in the box.

Despite heavy promotion of magazine content, Apple doesn’t make it easy to find them. Forget going through the magazine’s web site.  Instead, launch the app store.  If you know the exact title of the magazine you want, search on that.  If you want to browse magazines, good luck.  There is no “magazine” category in the app store.  You can select New, Sports, Weather, and so on, then look around for magazines in that category.  Hey, Steve, how about a few more categories?  Or, at least, when we search for “magazines” show us a list of magazines.

On the plus side, the virtual keyboard is a pleasure, especially when the iPad is operating in landscape mode.  Unlike the iPhone, the virtual iPad keyboard features large keys.  Norma bought a wireless external keyboard, but hasn’t even broken the shrink-wrap yet.

Familiar iPhone features are part of the iPad operating system.  Pressing your finger into a text entry field lets you position the cursor.  Unfortunately, if you lift your finger too quickly you might accidentally mark a word for copying.  Exactly how you get rid of the copy highlighting is something of a mystery.

The book reader app is entertaining and easy to use.  The desktop metaphor is a bookshelf. The sample book included is Winnie-the-Pooh.  This, naturally, shows off the iPad screen since the drawings from the original A.A. Milne version are included.  But, once again, locating the book you want can be frustrating.  Apple is promoting certain titles.  They’re also promoting the New York Times best-seller lists (fiction and non-fiction).

Setup is pretty straightforward.  It will help if you already have an iTunes account with the application already installed on a computer.  Norma used a Windows Vista notebook computer to activate the iPad and finished with only a few problems.  There is one issue that arises if you have more than one iTunes account.  I had previously synched several iPhones through my iTunes account.  Naturally, iTunes thought I wanted to use that account for the iPad.  We successfully logged out from my account and logged in through Norma’s, but the damage is done.  Several iPhone apps that are installed on my iPhones are now also installed on the iPad.  Making matters worse, the iPad seems to have access to both iTunes accounts.  Stay tuned for more details.

Battery life is terrific.  Apple is using their proprietary low-power chipset.  Using only flash memory saves the energy consumed by hard drives.  We have yet to fall below 50% remaining battery.  My guess is the iPad battery will last for a couple of days in ordinary use.

In conclusion, the iPad is a nice addition to the gadget list.  It’s probably too expensive for the feature list.  You’re paying the Apple premium.  If you can afford that, you’ll enjoy the experience.

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