Apple has announced the much rumored iPad (tablet) at their media event this morning. The device which resembles a giant iPod touch has been over twenty years in the making… but will it meet the sky-high expectations?
“Using this thing is remarkable — it’s so much more intimate than a laptop, and it’s so much more capable than a smartphone.”
- Steve Jobs
Apple since the late 90′s have been pondering if there was place in the market for a device like a tablet. Was there room for a device that wasn’t quite a laptop, nor a smartphone. The answer, they decided, was yes. And today that ‘middle-ground’ device was unveiled to hoards of Apple fans and the media in San Francisco.
The iPad, as they call it, runs a variation of the iPhone OS, optimised and tinkered with to look beautiful on a large display. It is thinner and lighter than any netbook, weighing in at just 1.5 pounds, boasting a 9.7″ IPS display. It has full multi-touch capability — WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR are also big players in the ‘guts’ of the device. Amazingly, this little device clocks in at 10 hours battery life [per charge] with over a month on standby.
Steve Jobs talked up the device as being “brilliant” for viewing and sifting through text on the screen. He used the Time website as an example, very swiftly cruising through the website.
All native applications for the iPhone OS will run on the iPad and devs will have the ability to rewrite existing code completely to support and make use of the new screen resolutions using the new SDK which is also to be released today. For apps that aren’t re-coded specifically for the iPad, the device will either run them at that native resolution (making the tiny iPhone app look lost in the middle of a giant black screen), at double-pixel resolution or upscaled to full-screen. The Facebook app was demoed in this way and received a mixed reaction from onlookers – several live bloggers said it looked ‘odd’.
At the event Apple demoed 3D gaming, a new version of iWork coded specifically for the iPad OS that takes advantage of its unique UI, and a new app called iBooks which will take on the likes of Amazon in the eBook space. Pages can be turned just like paper and are rendered beautifully in full-screen. Amazon will no doubt be worried by this, but Steve Jobs paid tribute to the hard work they had done pioneering this market and that Apple would be “standing on their shoulders”.
Naturally the iPad features Safari, Mail, Photos, Maps, an iPod app and all the usual built-in applications you see on your iPhone right now. Commentators live-blogging for sites like Engadget and TUAW who saw the demos in action said the scrolling and graphics handling was silky smooth and we were surprised to learn that the CPU powering all this was Apple’s very own silicon – a ‘ 1Ghz Apple A4′ chip to be precise. Is this going to be a move away from Intel and back to the PowerPC type days??
Two versions of the iPad will be available – one with wifi only and one with wifi + 3G. The entry-level 16GB wifi model is priced at an aggressive US$499, ranging up to US$829 for the top-end 64GB model with 3G. In the US, Apple will partner with AT&T for a pre-paid data package but unlike the iPhone all iPads will be carrier unlocked. The wifi-only version ships in 60 days time worldwide, while the 3G version ships in 90 days. Apple hope to have deals in place with international carriers by around June / July but one interesting point to note here is that it will use ‘Micro SIMs’ which we’ve not heard of before. Will Telecom or Vodafone NZ support these? We’ll be asking both parties for comment and will let you know their response. [UPDATE: Vodafone have confirmed availability of Micro SIMs for NZ, Telecom have confirmed no Micro SIMs for XT currently. Waiting to hear if these are planned.]
16GB (WiFi): US$499 (NZ$700)
32GB (WiFi): US$599 (NZ$849)
64GB (WiFi): US$699 (NZ$990)
16GB (3G): US$629 (NZ$890)
32GB (3G): US$729 (NZ$1030)
64GB (3G:) US$829 (NZ$1320)
The iPad will sync over USB just like the iPhone / iPod touch, and a dock will be available to pair a desktop keyboard with it, turning it into somewhat of a mini desktop computer.
So, what is missing and what does this mean for the iPhone? We were surprised to see no camera (Skype would rule on this thing) and no GPS (location-aware services on this thing sees like a no-brainer). [correction: it wasn't mentioned at the event but the iPad specs show that it does, in fact, have GPS]. Those seem like glaring omissions to us but then Apple always like to hold something back, knowing that the die-hard fans will buy it anyway and then also have to update to the next version to get those missing components. It also seems to have no Flash (thank god) and there was no demo of any kind of Push notifications, however this could still be there just not demoed.
In terms of what this means for the iPhone, well I think we can safely expect to see an iBooks app in the next firmware release at least. Yes, the screen is small but there are already eBook apps out there for the iPhone and they work just fine and there’s no doubt that Apple will want a slice of that market.
Can we also expect to see some of the facets of the iPad UI ported to the iPhone such as the customisable wallpaper on the homescreen and the pop-up contextual menus? Who knows, only time will tell. iPhone OS 4.0 was not unveiled as we had hoped and there were no other product announcements made.
Overall, although this is definitely an exciting product we can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by today’s unveiling. Maybe it’s because it looks so much like the iPhone OS that we couldn’t help feeling like we’d seen it all before, and maybe it’s because there were no new break-through features or apps (except for iBooks) – in fact, this thing actually seems to do less than the iPhone. In essence, it’s a giant iPod touch and while that’s cool we don’t think it quite lives up to the massive expectations we all had for this mythical device that has been 20+ years in the making. Close… but no cigar.
Will you be rushing out to buy the iPad? What are your predictions for NZ pricing and whether Apple will negotiate data packages with any of our carriers? Hit us up in the comments. Big, big thanks to Mak for his help with this article.