By Todd Bernhard on Wed, 01/27/2010
The shine is off the Apple, so to speak. Now that the rumors have been put to rest, we can examine the iPad in detail.
There are some significant advances and as Apple would put it, elements of magic, in this new device. And make no mistake, I will definitely be buying one, if for no other reason than product research and to test my current apps and develop new ones for this unique device.
However, I must say I am disappointed in a few areas.
1) No camera. Speculation had been that there might even be two cameras, one facing forward, and one facing back, for videoconferencing. Alas, the lack of a camera puts a damper on this and also limits what developers could have done with their apps. For example, users might have been able to take their own picture and insert themselves into a game. Augmented Reality apps could have been huge. The fact that even the lowly iPod nano and the Nintendo DSi have cameras makes this absence all the more surprising. Even if a camera is added later, there will be millions of iPad's without one, and App developers typically have to target the lowest common denominator.
2) No multitasking. A more powerful Apple-designed custom chip ensures the iPad handles the extra screen resolution, but the iPad still doesn't run more than one app at a time. I would love to download movies while surfing the web and playing a game. It's a shame that I can do that, albeit slowly, with a $300 netbook but not this magical device.
NOTE: At least one reader wrote in that the iPhone and descendants do indeed support multitasking, to an extent, so I wanted to clarify the issue. Yes, Apple's own apps like the phone, email, iTunes and the App Store can be functioning in the background, Apple does NOT open up this functionality to third party apps, like games as mentioned above. If I am playing a game, I can't easily switch back and forth without losing my "state", depending on how clever the developer is. So the iPhone and other devices are capable of multitasking but only if those tasks are from Apple. This can be a good thing, as Apple can ensure those apps are well-behaved. They understandably want to make the experience a positive one and ensure that the phone's primary functionality is never compromised. Multitasking third party apps could create a performance drain and even cause reboots due to memory leaks. But with the iPad's faster processor, and the fact that it is not a phone, I am still disappointed that I cannot multitask third party apps. Perhaps I am a little biased because I am a developer! But I do understand the motivation, and again this won't stop me from buying an iPad. Also, keep in mind that Verizon-based devices cannot access the internet while using the voice network, so this is not necessarily an advantage other phones have over Apple.
3) No tethering. I spend enough with AT&T for unlimited data. The reality is that my iPhone is always with me, and an iPad would be an occasional companion. I would like to be able to leverage the 3G service my iPhone gets by connecting the iPad and iPhone via Bluetooth or a cable. To AT&T's credit, the $15/month for 250MB or $30/month for unlimited data, with no contract, is easier to deal with, but an iPhone owner with an iPad data plan will be spending $90/month for AT&T data service and that doesn't include voice service or a single text message.
4) Memory. What the classic iPod has been to music, the iPad will be to video. With higher definition video, 16GB will be used up pretty quickly. Apple wanted to achieve a low price point, but memory is cheap and this just highlights the 'locked-down' architecture. An SD card slot could allow users to add storage and leverage higher capacities and lower costs, but that's not Apple's priority. Apple does offer an SD card reader add-on, for importing photos, but it's not apparent that this could be used as extra memory for videos, etc.
Having said all that, I will indeed be buying one, but most likely the entry-level $499 16GB WiFi only model. I could be tempted by the 3G model and service if an iChat client with a camera was offered. That could be a killer-app but with WiFi becoming more prevalent, another 3G fee is hard to justify. Plus I would rather buy an iPad now and later buy the second generation iPad. Spending $1,000 now on the first generation would make me think twice about upgrading.