As we all know, the iPad debuts across America this Saturday, and the buzz surrounding the release is on par with the iPhone release back in 2007. In fact, demand for iPad pre-orders have matched up with the iPhone’s, and may even be greater when the device becomes available at the weekend.
Why, then, has it divided many opinions of analysts and consumers alike? As with any Apple product release, an unprecedented amount of hype surrounded the iPad, stretching back to the mid-noughties when we first heard of Apple’s plans to release a tablet. Immense speculation built up in the weeks and months before the actual iPad announcement as to the functionality and design of the product, with the design being leaked on the net days before Apple’s keynote.
Why, therefore, has it divided so many opinions and made so many people question; do we need an Apple iPad or any tablet device? I believe that a lot of people expected Apple’s tablet to be have iPod like functionality, but to resemble the iPhone so closely and run the iPhone OS was a little too predictable for me. To me, there was no ‘one more thing’ feature that made the product unique. Yes, the iPad’s a great device and offers a lot of things to many consumers, but the shock element wasn’t there, either because we’d already heard so much about it or simply because it was too predictable.
So who is the iPad aimed at? To me, the iPad is going to be used in two environments: around the home and out in a casual place such as a coffee shop. Naturally, Apple have catered for this by offering both a Wi-Fi and 3G model of the iPad as well as offering different capacities ranging from 16GB to 64GB.
For the user planning to use an iPad around the home, the Wi-Fi version will suffice, and save a bit of money too; the Wi-Fi version starts at $499 where as the 3G version starts at $629. It’s undoubtedly a perfect device for those places where you don’t usually have a computer available, namely the bedroom or kitchen, where the iPad could be used in place of a laptop for many of its features. One big advantage that Apple have with the iPad is that anyone who’s used an iPod Touch or iPhone will know how to use the iPad straight away.
The great thing about the iPad is the same thing that made the iPhone the most popular phone on the market: apps. With the countless applications ready to flood the iPad’s app store in the coming months, the possibilities of how we will use such a device are endless, and that’s in addition to Apple’s applications. Not only will you be able to do a bit of light browsing; manage emails; watch movies and read books, but you’ll no doubt be able to use it as an interactive recipe book in the kitchen and as a TV guide in the living room. Of course these are just a few examples, and the thousands of developers in the ADC are bound to think of far more things to use this great piece of hardware for.
It all sounds great, but there’s the 3G version to consider too. If you can do all that over wi-fi though, why spend the extra $130 for a 3G connection? There are obvious reasons why some people wouldn’t want or need the 3G model, with the main reason being the form factor. It’s not the most portable device in the world, although it’s more portable than your average notebook, and you’ll probably have reservations about knocking it around in a bag after paying over £500 for it! Let’s face it: the iPad’s limited in how it can be used on the move. If I saw someone walking down the streets of Manchester using an iPad for an app such as Google Maps, it would look a little strange. Why use an iPad when you can pull out your lightweight, pocketable smartphone to do the same job?
Despite this, there are still compelling reasons to spend the extra money. Firstly, by buying a 3G iPad, you aren’t tied in to any form of a data contract. You can choose to buy a data plan as you use it, or purchase a monthly, rolling contract. In the States, 250MB of data puts you back $14.99 where as the unlimited data plan costs just $29.99. This is a great bonus for users, as they can buy the 3G model to future proof their purchase, and if a series of great, data intensive apps come out then a data plan can be purchased month by month.
Although the wi-fi and 3G models are virtually identical hardware wise, only the 3G model will give you a GPS transmitter too. As I pointed out, we don’t know what developers are going to do with the platform, and if a great app comes out in a few months that’s focused around GPS and location aware services, and you’ve only got a wi-fi model, you’re going to be kicking yourself!
To me, the question of whether the iPad is a good product depends on your lifestyle. Of course it’s a great product, with lots of great features, but I couldn’t personally see myself fitting it in to my lifestyle. Any browsing on the go is accomplished via either my smartphone or my smartphone’s internet connection tethered to my laptop. If I want to watch a movie, I’ve usually got my Macbook Pro with me most places I go, and my iTunes library is on my laptop and my iPod.
For many, the iPad will help complete their collection of mobile devices, fitting in somewhere between their smartphone (quite possibly an iPhone 3GS) and laptop. Whether it’s needed in the market is yet to be seen, but going off pre-order levels, it’s going to be a huge hit and an interesting market to watch evolve next to the app store.
Those of you in the States will be able to get your hands on one if you’ve pre-ordered by Saturday, while those of us in the UK have to wait until ‘late April’. That is unless you try and buy an iPad using the BundleBox service where you might get it earlier and cheaper than waiting for the official UK version.
Either way, will you be getting Apple’s tablet device, especially given Steve Jobs will be offering you an iPad with a bargain launch price? Let us know in the comments!