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Thursday, March 8, 2012

iPad 3 - Disappointing

Apple announced its latest iPad yesterday. Many are singing its praises, but I continue to be disappointed.

The biggest new feature on the new device (Apple doesn't officially call it the iPad 3, but also does not give it any distinctive name to distinguish it from the last two) is the HD screen. Perhaps it sounds good, but was anyone really complaining about the graphics quality on the old iPads? Of course not. HD makes a difference when watching a movie or playing a video game on a 50" TV, but not on a less than 10" screen like the iPad. That extra detail is pretty much wasted. In exchange, we are stuck with a heavier device that demands more battery power.

The other big "improvement" is 4G support. This allows for faster download times for people who pay for 4G internet access from one of the big cell phone companies. Of course, such service is expensive. If you are really planning on making full use of streaming over a cell network, you will end up using many GB of data per month, leading to bills from your cell provider that could top $100 in charges on top of your normal cell phone charges. That is assuming you even travel in an area that has 4G. Most places don't. And many places that have 4G also have metro-wifi available anyway, which is faster and much cheaper, if not free. So what do most people get for 4G access? Well, your battery will drain about 10% faster.

Still missing from the iPad are any USB ports or ports for adding external memory. This makes it virtually impossible to add to the limited memory provided. It also makes it virtually impossible to add or remove photos, songs, or anything else unless you use the wireless connection. You also get no HDMI port so you cannot connect to your TV, where the HD might actually be useful. (Apparently, you can buy cables that convert the iPad's proprietary ports for use with other devices, but these are needlessly expensive - with the extra cost based on the fact that they are proprietary and not subject to competition).

Also still missing is flash support. Although I've never been a big fan of flash either, many web sites use it and rely on it. If you want to use any of those sites, your only choice is to dump your iPad and break out your laptop.

Why is Apple so hostile to interoperability? The main answer is that Apple wants you to use the device only they way they want. Apple has decided the best way to control media is to force you to stream it over the Internet. By limiting device memory and refusing to add input ports, it becomes very inconvenient for a user simply to store media on the device and view or listen to it even when not connected to the Web. That is the most cost effective way to use the device since you avoid paying expensive download fees to your cell phone provider. It is also usually the most convenient since wireless streaming viewers will tell you that they face regular interruptions caused by slow downs or interruptions in Internet access. The 4G technology attempts to address this but will prove inadequate as access is limited, and where available will likely be overwhelmed.

Having said all this, I am sure many people will enjoy the new iPad. Apple's reputation for making the user interface easy and bug free still gives it great appeal to many people who are willing to pay for that experience. But for me? I remain much happier with my year old Android Tablet from Toshiba.

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