Apple iPad: Everything You Need to Know

Posted: June 5, 2010 in apple, Apps, Appstore, iPad, iphone, Technology
The Hardware



• Size and shape: The screen’s aspect ratio makes it seem a bit squat, but this is intended to be a bi-directional tabl—err, Pad. The bezel is a little fat, but otherwise, this thing is basically a clean slab of pure display. It’s just .5 inches thick, which is a hair thicker than the iPhone 3GS, and measures 9.56 x 7.47 inches. Final weigh-in is 1.5 pounds without 3G, and 1.6 with. Says Mark, who’s actually held one:

 

magine, if you will, a super light unibody MacBook Pro that’s smaller, thinner and way, way, way lighter. Or, from a slightly different perspective, think about a bigger iPhone that’s been built with unibody construction.






• The screen: The tablet’s multitouch screen measures in at 9.7 inches, meaning that it’s got a significantly smaller footprint than the smallest MacBook, but a much larger screen than the iPhone. (That’s 9.7 inches diagonal, from screen corner to screen corner.) The screen’s resolution is a dense 1024 x 768.


Here’s what it looks like in photos, and on video:
Ipad Images

• The guts: It’s a half-inch thick—just a hair thicker than the iPhone, for reference—and weighs 1.5 pounds. It’s powered by a 1GHz Apple ARM A4 chip, and has 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of flash storage. From the looks of it, Apple finally got some use out of that PA Semi purchase, and built their own mobile processor, but that’s no totally clear yet. It’s also loaded with 802.11 n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a 30-pin iPod connector, a speaker, a microphone, an accelerometer and a compass. Video output runs through and iPhone-type composite adapter at up to 576p and through a dock-to-VGA adapter at up to 1024 x 768. No HDMI, no DVI—not even a Mini DisplayPort.






3G is optional, and costs more, not less. Along with 3G, the upgraded models include A-GPS. (More on this below)






Oh, and there isn’t a rear-facing camera, nor is there a front-facing camera. This tablet is totally camera-less, which seems a bit odd.






• The battery: Apple’s making some bold claims about battery life: ten hours for constant use, with a one-month standby rating. Ten hours of constant use includes video viewing, so you could conceivable watch about six feature films before this thing dies.






• How you hold it: You can hold it two different ways, and the software will adapt to both. Portrait mode seems like the primay mode, a la the iPhone while landscape mode—better for movies and perhaps magazine content—is a secondary mode. The Apple decal is oriented for portrait mode, so basically, just get ready for a whole bunch of HEY IT’S A GIANT IPHONE!! jokes.






Connectivity


Some models have Wi-Fi exclusively, while some have 3G as well. It’s with AT&T, and costs either $15 a month for 250MB of data, or $30 for unlimited data. With the plan, you get access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots as well. Best of all, it’s a prepaid service—no contract. You can activate it from the iPad any time, and cancel whenever you want. This sounds like a fantastic deal, until you consider how it’s probably going to brutalize AT&T’s already terrible 3G coverage.


The iPad itself is unlocked, so you can conceivably use it with any Micro SIM card . But what the hell is a Micro SIM card? For one, it’s not the same kind of SIM that’s in your iPhone, so don’t expect to just pop that in and surf for free. It’s a totally different standard, and the iPad’s the only device that uses it right now. Even if, say, T-Mobile released a Micro SIM card, the iPad can’t connect to its 1700MHz 3G network.


The Software


• The OS: The operating system on the tablet is based on iPhone OS, which is in turn loosely based on OS X. In other words, it’s got the same guts as the iPhone, as well as a somewhat similar interface. What this means in practical terms is that the UI is modal; you can only display one app at a time, and there aren’t windows, per se. There’s a new set of standard UI tools as well, including a pull-down menu, situated at the top left of most apps.


• The homescreen: It’s like a mixture between the iPhone and OS X: it uses the iPhone launcher/apps metaphor, but has an OS X-style shiny dock. It feels very spread out compared to the iPhone’s homescreen, though I suspect this is necessary to keep things from getting too overwhelming. For our full walkthrough of the new OS, check here.


• The keyboard: Input comes by way of an onscreen keyboard, almost exactly like the iPhone’s. Typing on it is apparently a “dream,” because it’s “almost lifesize”. Steve wasn’t typing with his thumbs, but with his fingers, as if it were an actual laptop keyboard. Navigation throughout the rest of the OS is optimized for one hand, though.


• The browser: The browser is essential an upscaled version of Safari Mobile, with a familiar, finger-friendly title bar and not much else. It rotates by command of the accelerometer. From the looks of it, it doesn’t have Flash support, but we’ll have to confirm. UPDATE: Yup, none at all. You can get away with that kind of thing on the iPhone, sort of, but on a 10-inch tablet it’s a glaring omission.


• Email: Mail again takes its visual cues from the iPhone, but with a lot more decoration: you can preview your mailbox from any message with a pull-down menu, and preview any message from within the mailbox, with a pop-up window.


• Music: The music player is even more hybridized, styled like a mix between the iPhone’s iPod interface and full-fledged desktop iTunes. Interestingly, Cover Flow seems to have more or less died off.


• Maps: This one may be the most direct conversion from the iPhone, with a very similar interface through and through. It includes Street View, too.


• Photos: The photo library app looks a lot like iPhoto, only adapted for multitouch finger input.


• Video: YouTube is available by way of an app, iPhone-style, which can play videos in 720p HD. iTunes video content plays back in a dedicated app, just like on the iPhone, and can also play back in HD. Movie codec support is otherwise the same as the iPhone, which is to say pretty limited.


• Calendar and contacts: The calendar app is desktop-like, until you open contacts and calendars, which look a lot like actual contact books and organizers. They’re beautiful, and dare I say a bit Courier-like.




Apps


• iPhone apps: This thing runs them! The iPad runs iPhone apps right out of the App Store, with no modification, but they’re either relegated to the center of the screen or in “pixel double” mode, which just blows them up crudely. Any apps you’ve purchased for your iPhone can be synced, for free, to your iPad.


• New apps: The iPhone app SDK has already been expanded for tablet development, including a whole new set of UI elements and expanded resolution support. The raw iPhone app compatibility is just a temporary measure, it seems—any developer who wants their app to run on the tablet will develop for the tablet. Some of the early examples of adapted apps, like Brushes, are spectacular. More on the SDK here.


Apple’s pushing gaming on this thing right out of the box, demoing everything from FPS N.O.V.A to Need for Speed. It’s presumably running these games at HD, so the rendering power in this thing is no joke.


• Ebooks: Apple’s also opened an ebook store to accompany the iPad, in the mold of iTunes. It’s called iBooks.

It offers books in ePub format, and makes reading on a Kindle seem about as stodgy as, you know, paper. To be clear, though, this is just Apple’s solution—unless they’re explicitly banned from the iPad, you should be able to download your Kindle app as well.


This store doesn’t sell magazines or newspapers, which’ll be relegated to regular app status. At this point, whether or not the tablet helps them out is in their hands.




• iWork: Apple’ also designed a whole new iWork suite just for the tablet, which implies that this thing is as much for media creation as it is for consumption. There’s a new version of Keynote designed just for the iPad, as well as new version of Pages, (word processor), and Numbers, which is the spreadsheet app. Here’s what Keynote looks like:

The interfaces are obviously designed strictly for touch input, but from the looks of it can handle every function that the old, mouse-centric version could, plus a few more. And man, they’re so much prettier. Each app costs $10, and you can get them all for $30.


• File storage: Unlike the iPhone, the iPad does seem to have some shared storage aside from the photo roll. The newly released SDK reveals that when you connect an iPad to a PC or Mac, part of it—a partition, maybe?—mounts as a shared documents folder.


Accessories


Right away, Apple’s offering three main official accessories: a book-style case, a regular dock and a keyboard dock. (Ha!)


The book cover doubles as a stand, so you can prop the iPad up in a few different ways. The keyboard dock hooks up with the iPad when it’s in portrait mode, so you can type longer documents, charge, or both. The iPad will also support Apple’s Bluetooth keyboards.


The iPad’s only really got one accessory port, and it takes an iPod dock connector. Apple’s solution for this? Adapters! So many adapters. There’s a Dock Connector to VGA adapter, a USB camera adapter (which gives you one plain USB connection, though it apparently only works for importing photos), a USB to SD adapter, and an included USB power adapter, which lets you charge by AC or USB. It’s essentially just an iPhone charger with a bigger brick.


The iPad ships worldwide in 60 days, but only in Wi-Fi versions. The 3G version will be another 30 days after that. Here are the prices:


Without 3G:


• $499: 16GB


• $599: 32GB


• $699: 64GB






With 3G:


• $629: 16GB


• $729: 32GB


• $829: 64GB


Apple will ship all the iPads in 60 days—the end of March—to America, and just the Wi-Fi models internationally. It’ll be another 30 days beyond that for 3G models to be available outside our shores; Apple says they’re still working on carrier deals.


3G comes by way of AT&T, who’s offering the service without contract, for $15 a month (250MB of data) or $30 a month (unlimited). That’s why, unlike the iPhone, the iPad is actually cheaper off-contract.


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