The “iPad” review – which one to buy or should you upgrade?

In case you are here and you don’t know me. Let me do the honors – I am a gadget lover who for the time being is a huge apple fanboy. I did get all the 3 generation of the iPads on the 1st day of release and am an avid user o the device.And, if you are contemplating buying the iPad and haven’t made up your mind on which one or upgrading from the older model to the new one, you are at the right place.

In this post,  I will give you my take on which generation iPad you should buy since all of them are in the market starting from as low as $250 for the 1st generation device. Since there are active users of all the 3 generation  of the device in my household, I thought I can potentially provide my unique perspective 🙂

Generally, I don’t concentrate on the technical review since there are people out there who are doing this for a living. If you are interested, my favorite  website theverge.com has a great tool for a comparison of the 3 iPads. Also, here is the review of the “new” iPad.

No, I don’t do that. What I will do is to provide you a usability review of all the 3 devices. Some retailers and even Apple is still selling all the 3 generations of the iPad (new and refurbished). So which one do I recommend? All of them !!! And depends … Read on….

The first thing is to understand the reason about the huge success of the iPad. Yes, part of it is the design and the hardware. It’s cool. But believe me, with all of them having an aluminum unibody design, they all look equally cool. At the end of the day, the real reason for the success of iPad is the iOS, the apple ecosystem and the apps !!! It’s all about the apps. And iPad currently has the most number of tablet optimized apps when compared to any other platform. Way more …. There IS an app for that…

So, the second thing to understand is the fact that the iOS and 80% of the apps still works fine on all the 3 gens of the iPads. So based on how far you want to push your device, you can do fine with even an iPad 1 :). Click on the following matrix to see what’s possible on each of the devices:

User experience Matrix for the 3 iPads

User experience Matrix for the 3 iPads

So as you can see, based on what you want to do with the device, all 3 devices can do the job for you. So, if you are looking to buy a new device or deciding on an upgrade, click on the following summary matrix to help you make that decision:

Comparison b/w the 3 iPads

Ipad 2: The hands on review !!!

Last friday evening, after rushing to the nearest apple store after office and standing in line for couple of hours, I had in my hand – Ipad 2. The new king of tablets !!! Or is it? You will find out at the end of this blog post 🙂

Hardware:

I am not going to go too deep into the specs of this cool device, since my favorite site Engadget has done the needful. Here is an article that compares the iPad 2’s hardware with its competitors. As you can see, the Motorola Xoom probably edges out the ipad 2 in specs. But I Have fallen for the hardware before and know from experience that its NOT a fair indicator of the ultimate device experience.

In terms of design iPad2 leaves everybody behind. Its amazingly cool looking and sleek (I still can’t believe how thin it is) and more importantly, the lightest. I have handled the Motorola Xoom and believe me, you will immediately notice how thick and bulky it is (Walk into a Verizon store and try it yourself). I think thats a big Pro for iPad in terms of usability. Also, in terms of speed, I think iPad 2 will leave everybody behind. The synergy of its own SW and HW is what Apple thrives on and iPad 2 is fast. Real Fast. I compared it with my old iPad and for same operations in some apps, the iPad2 was almost 2x to 3x times faster. Of course, other more credible people also agree. Also, the battery life lives up to its legendary 10 hours.

Also, the hdmi mirroring, “smart covers” and advanced airplay are some real cool features included with the ipad 2.

However, I was disappointed with the camera quality on the iPad 2. I think there is just one purpose for those on the iPad 2 – video chatting (which was of pretty good quality when I tried Facetime).  Otherwise, the videos that I took were of OK quality.

Software:

Again, I am not going to go too deep into the iOS features. I am assuming that you have used the iPhone or the old iPad. If not, you are missing out. Again, its all about the apps. As I recently tweeted, the iPad has over 70,000 apps written specifically for it. Android 3.0 has probably 50 and the rest of the competition is not even out with their products. Thats a HUGE advantage for the iPad.

The iPad 2 has dual core processors. Many of the apps available right now for iPad are designed to utilize the old hardware and are not designed to use the new power of iPad2. However, some of the games that have come out (e.g. Infinity Blade) are amazing to play on the ipad2. And the fact that its sleeker and lighter makes the gaming experience much better.

One cool app that Apple released is GarageBand. Though this works on the old iPad, its blazingly faster on iPad 2. What it does is that it allows you to record songs with 8 separate tracks and provides amazing tools for creating those tracks. Here is apple’s page for Garage Band.  iMovie is another great app.

Take a look at the guided tours of the cool features that iPad 2 provides.

Of course, the flaw of iPad 2 and the only advantage that its competition touts is Adobe Flash support. Motorola Xoom just recently got its Flash Player and that’s one thing that will work in its advantage. However, don’t get too excited, most of the Flash content out there is not very touch interface friendly yet and don’t make up for the lack of targeted apps.

Bottomline:

I do think that the iPad2 is the coolest gadget out there. There may be tablets out there that have a better hardware specs, but nobody has its complete story together like Apple. Android is in the best position to catch up, but I don’t see that happening for atleast another 2 years.

If you are in the market for a new tablet, iPad 2 is the definitive choice in my opinion. The hardware is almost the same with most of the competition out there. The better design and the apps advantage makes it a no brainer.

If you have an ipad 1 and thinking of upgrading, you may want to wait. The cameras are not that great however the extra speed does matter. And as happened with iphone 3GS and iphone 4, most of the new apps coming out may be optimized for ipad 2 or may exclusively work on the ipad 2. However, when that happens, you can get it.  So I think that you can wait unless you have the extra dough 🙂

I had different reasons for upgrading. I had deliberately bought the lowest model of iPad 1 just because I knew I was going to upgrade to higher model. And I just won an extra 1 in a raffle that I was able to sell 🙂 And of course, the main reason is:

Now no more fights over iPad. Each of us has his own 🙂

iPad 2: Final Predictions

Here are my top predictions for the iPad2 event tomorrow:

Hardware:

Front facing camera 1.2 Mp
Rear Camera 5 Mp
512 Mb RAM
Faster processor (A5?)
Screen with 2x pixel density
Bigger speaker
Thunderbolt?
128 Gb version
CDMA version
Lighter and Thinner
Starting at $399

Software:

Photo Booth
IMovie
FaceTime
Widgets / Dashboard
Kill all apps button
MobileMe for free

Now, let’s wait till tomorrow to see how this stacks up against reality.

iPad 2: Predictions

The net is again abuzz about the next iPad and the potential features it will have. I am not going to join the crowd with predictions about the hardware because a lot of it is given – slimmer, lighter, dual camera, faster, NFC etc. Etc.

No. This is a different type of prediction. It has nothing to do with the hardware at all. After, my recent experience with 2 high feature android devices, I reached a simple conclusion – it’s NOT about the hardware, it’s all about the Software and the software ecosystem.

With Apple just announcing the download of its 10 billionth app and the recent change in terms about subscription (Apple keeps 30% cut of all app revenues), the logical thing for apple to do would be to maximize the volume of iPads sold. The more iPads out there in hands of the customers, the more leverage apple has with content providers, publishers and app developers.

So, here is my prediction – The app store will be a huge revenue generator for apple. So much so that it will subsidize the pricing of the hardware (As is done by the game console makers). When the next iPad is announced, the starting model will cost $399 or maybe even $350. Now let’s wait and see.

Apple Ipad: The ultimate review

Now that Krish has preempted me with his amazing  ipad review, I finally needed to get this in. On that note, here is the review of the magical device. If you followed my blog upto April of last year, you already know that I quite accurately predicted the advent of this device and it’s characteristics and its name. I pre ordered the iPad and received it the day it was launched and the world would never be same again …..

When Steve Jobs introduced the device, he said that this was a magical device. And he got a lot of flak for his hyperbolism. But he was right (Here I am, protecting him again :)). If you know Clarke’s third law of prediction – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.. I would thus argue that the iPad is a sufficiently advanced piece of tech to be almost magical.

Back in Jan, 2010, I would have been called too too futuristic or crazy, if I would have told you that there would be a small tablet like device on which you can watch movies, listen to songs, browse the web, do all your email and get all your calendars, read all the newspapers ( which have embedded slide shows and videos) , watch TV, create sketches, create and show presentations, do excel and word,  play interactive games and listen to nursery rhymes for my kid and read rich multimedia books and magazines,  remotely control your TV, Mac, PC or remotely control a flying barracuda helicopter or your car…….

But that device did come into being and as I have used it over the period of last 8 months, I have been astonished again and again with its magic. The device is so versatile and I have utilized it for so many things that I can’t list out all of it. But, here is a rundown of the major things that I use it for:

  • Read my morning newspaper on it (There are apps for USA Today, NYT, WSJ, NDTV and a ton more)
  • Carry all my office documents on it. Yes, as my colleagues will tell you, I have gone virtually paper free. For a while I was keeping count, and I saved 6500 pages of printouts in the first 2 months of it’s use.
  • Create and give presentations on it. The Keynote app is very decent and the iPad connects to a projector for big screen presentations.
  • Take all my notes on it. You can maintain a notebook (I use an excellent app called Penultimate) and the document management app ( Goodreader) let’s you write on documents.
  • Get my mail and calendar – it’s hooked up to my work email as well as gmail/ yahoo/ hotmail.
  • Watch Movies n TV on it. You have Youtube, iTunes, Netflix and Hulu Plus on it. What else do you need?
  • Listen to radio (Pandora, last.fm, NPR, hutke radio etc.)
  • There is bunch of interactive, learning kids apps n books that Krish simply loves.
  • There are very nice games on it. My personal favorites are FIFA, NFS, Avatar, Warchess, Angry Birds, Scrabble and Tiger Woods. But there are bunch more, probably a few thousand more….
  • There are many apps that lets you remotely control other devices. The remote app let’s me control my apple tv, then there is vnc for my iMac n rdp for my PC.
  • Read books n comics on it !!!!! This is just an amazing device for reading comic books.
  • Write blogs, like the one I am writing right now.

And I could go on and on and on. There are > 50,000 apps just for the ipad and growing by few thousands every day . The possibilities are endless.

So, what’s unique about this device? I will admit that there were other devices out there before this which could do some of the things that this does. But this is truly the first one which could do so many things and could do it so well and is so portable, almost like a book. True to The Apple spirit, this device is  true PERSONAL technology accessory. The interface / software is simply gorgeous and a pleasure to use. Also, the fact that you could easily take it anywhere with you means that you are freed from the shackles of the desk.

The ipad is so ahead of it’s times, that other companies will not be coming out with a viable competing product even after an year since its launch and in today’s tech world, that is an eon. And as per this report, in all  probability, we won’t see any comparable product for sometime to come.

We have had tablets before. But there was never a one that was packaged so right in terms of content, form and price. The iPad has started a new generation of devices that will soon flood the market. In due course, there might be viable alternatives, but this is where it all started, with a little bit of magic….

iVivek is back …..

After a 6 months hiatus, I have decided on kick starting this blog again. Though I havent been blogging, I havent stopped  gadgeting (switching from 1 gadget to another). To recount, I have tried out the HTC evo on the sprint network (the best android phone that’s out there) for a month, bought Amazon Kindle (the best e reader out there), spent couple of days doing hands on with 4-5 Windows 7 phones and of course bought the coolest device out there (the Ipad). And stood in line to buy iphone 4 (but didn’t actually get it). And don’t forget the Apple TV 🙂

So I have been busy and I am itching to share my experiences with you through this portal. And the best way to start this off is by an in-depth review of the iPad, the device that has had my attention since the last 6 months and has already transformed my lifestyle and habits in this very short period.

So watch this space …..

Apple Ipad: The game changer?

The wait is over & its finally here. If you were expecting it to heal the world, stop global warming & bring world peace, you would be sorely disappointed. But if you were a realist and just wanted a superior tablet device, you would be more than happy with the result. In fact, if you were reading my blog and saw the “10 predicted features” entry, you would fall in the later category  since I almost hit the nail on its head  with that one (and I am not being smug about it).

However, I am sure you have checked out the keynote on the apple website and gone through the reviews on the web and already have formed a liking or disliking to the device.  So before starting out, let me call out a few not so obvious things which would perhaps provide a different perspective (in its favor):

  • The Ipad is “ALSO” a jumbo ipod touch: Of course, it can run all our ipod touch apps, but it does a lot more.
  • The Ipad is the first tablet device that has come out from Apple’s steed. Its just the first in the line of many more to come. Remember when iphone came out? There was no app store and it just ran a couple dozen apps.
  • The Ipad runs a modified version of Iphone OS 3.2. So, when iphone OS is upgraded to 4.0 (with multi tasking support, UI enhancement etc.), in all probability, so will the OS on Ipad.

Here is a high level lowdown on features:

  • “There is an app for that (Ipad)”: Yes, all your apps run on the Ipad too. All 140K of them. That’s a huge headstart for Ipad. There are so many apps (esp. text based like stanza), that would benefit from its larger form factor (screen). And games look great on it too.
  • Beyond ipod touch Apps: There is a custom SDK for Ipad and  I think Apple gave a good preview of “what can be”. The iWork App was a great example of how some of the iMac s/w will be customized to run on Ipad. The customized mail/photo & you tube apps were also great. So was the NYT app. The possibilities are endless as we saw with the explosion of apps on iphone/touch.
  • The iBook: Though, I was not overly impressed with the iBook software, Ipad is definitely a better e-book reader than iphone or standalone e readers. I will be very excited to run stanza and other 3rd party e-reader apps (that also provide Free Books).
  • The Hardware: The high-resolution, 9.7 inch LED-backlit, IPS display, .5 inch thin, 1.5 pounds, Wifi, 3G , sleek, cool, star trekkish … Need I say more ? And a keyboard with dock !!! Watch out for 3rd party h/w accessories (like a small webcam that attached to the 9-pin :)). And the screen is great for watching movies !!!
  • The variety: There are 6 models available – from as low as $499 to $829. No dearth of choice here.

But, what’s missing?


  • No multi tasking, no flash support, no in built file management: These are the things that reviewers and critics have been shouting about all day. One thing they don’t realize is that all these features will probably be slowly enabled with OS upgrades (to the iphone / ipad).
  • No Camera: This is a pretty glaring miss but I am sure Apple knew that and they did not take the decision lightly. I am assuming hardware integration complexities or deadline for TTM (time to market) and hoping that its not just a product sustainability tactic (what to  put in the next version).

The biggest nemesis of Ipad is ironically apple’s own iphone/ipod touch. There are many of you who are thinking – “I got my iphone/touch and it can do the same things. Why do I need to buy an Ipad”. Well, wether you want to admit it or not, iphone(or touch) has its limitations (blasphemy!! you say.). But things like reading a book, watching a movie with someone or plain browsing a complex structured site would be much much better experience on the 9.7 inch screen of Ipad. And for a starting price of $499, its a great alternative to e-readers / personal media devices / even ipod.

Final Verdict:

Remember reading about the first Computer ? It was perhaps as big as a room and needed rocket scientists to operate. Now compare that to the UMPCs of today or even smartphones. Get the analogy? No? Think about the first gen ipod and then think about ipod touch. Perhaps got it now?

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”  (A Chinese Proverb). The Ipad is an important step in the right direction at the right time. However, its not a small step by any means. It has already stimulated the tablet segment and compelled competitors to invest billions in trying to build a better tablet. And something will come out of that.

So, come 2050, people will look back and definitely mark the introduction of this device as the game changer.

Apple changes the Tablet PC market

If you have ever tried to buy a tablet PC in the past, you will know that the choices have been very limited (and costly).  Even today if you search amazon for tablet PC, you would be presented with few viable choices that will make you switch to a tablet PC or get one as an additional computer.  If you explore the history of tablet PC (for e.g. at Wikipedia), you will find out that the first commercialized tablet PC was released by IBM in 1993 and the next big step in its evolution was in 2001 when Microsoft released the touch screen Tablet PC run by Windows. And since then,  nothing. Yes, no notable innovation in this field (mainstream table PC) for last 9 years and Microsoft has not helped with its unimaginative software capabilities for the tablet PC.

However, if you have been following the International CES this year, where companies introduced the hot products for the next year, the big news has been the Tablet PC. There have been 9 different tablet products from 9 different companies with an evolutionary changed design – ranging from the sleek tablet PC (sans keyboard) from HP to the hybrid 2 in 1 netbook-tablet from Lenovo (Read PCWorld’s article on the same here). And of course Microsoft’s rumored Courier device is also in the queue. So what’s the driver behind so much innovation this year? Many people argue that the advanced (& cheap) hardware that’s available now has enabled this innovation in the tablet segment. Well, there hasn’t been a huge drop in prices or a huge leap in hardware capabilities in the last 2 years.  So what’s the real driver? The answer is  – “Apple”.

Apple fundamentally revolutionized the mp3 player market with their ipod line of products and then did the same to the smart phones by introducing iphone. It literally created , revived or expanded those segments. With that track record, Apple’s foray into the Tablet PC  is what has made this the hot product of 2010 & beyond. With the buzz, interest & the demand that will be created by Apple’s  Tablet device, other manufacturers have either been pre-empted in their  effort to create their own tablet PC device or have been forced to not ignore this opportunity.

So, Apple has changed the Table PC market and the irony is that they have not even released their tablet yet 🙂 or even admitted to having working on it at all !!!. Now all we need to do is wait till 27th Jan for Apple’s event where Steve Jobs will (hopefully) change our world (again).

10 Predicted Features for Apple Tablet

The apple tablet will soon become reality (probably by end of Jan 2010) and right know its like a big jigsaw puzzle. As related bits and pieces become known, one can literally start putting the tablet together. Here is my take 10 features the tablet is probably going to have (or should have):

1. A 10 inch LCD touch screen: Well, there have been many reports in the media about Apple ordering 10 inch LCD screens from its suppliers in Asia. So this one was not that difficult to predict. Click here for the story about the same.

2. A touch keyboard with tactile feedback: This is going to be cool, as soon as you engage the keyboard, the touch screen will change(?) to provide a contour for the keys. No, this is no science fiction. Click here about the technology patented by Apple.

3. Capacitive touch screen: Ever wondered why the iphone screen won’t respond to a stylus? The answer is the capacitive screen (Vs the traditional resistive screen) and that has resulted in incredible responsiveness and has contributed immensly to the user experience and its success. So the tablet has to have this and obviously support the multi touch capabilities that was introduced with the iphone. Click here to learn about the different types of touch screens.

4. Iphone app support: Recent reports have surfaced that apple has asked its iphone app developers to super size their apps to work on larger screen. So the obvious inference is that there will exist a tablet version of many iphone apps. Click here for this story.

5. Support for iLife: Since its all Mac OS (even the iphone OS is), there is bound to be support for our favorites – iPhoto, iMovie etc.

6. iTunes & App Store integration: Goes without saying.

7. All in one hardware Features: It will have built in webcam, accelerometer, magnetometer, GPS, Wifi, 3G support and maybe even GSM/CDMA support. These hardware support will in turn spawn multiple usability features (e.g. state of the art mapping software)

8. Integrated E-Reader: Many news & media outlets are readying special content for the tablet and Apple is said to be in talks with many book publishers for selling through itunes. This one is again a no brainer. Even without special features r support, you can always read books/browse news using the tablet. Click here to read about the same.

9. Streaming content (music & tv): With Apple buying lala and being in talks with media outlets like CBS & Disney for TV streaming point to this feature. And of course, as long as it supports Hulu and Fancast,  we don’t really care about these deals (since they usually cost the consumers per use).

10. What’s it going to be called? After going through the rigor of naming my newborn, I sympathize with the marketing folks at Apple. But here are the probable names so far: iSlate, iGuide, iBook, iPad, iGod, iSteve and the list goes on..

The road to Apple Ipad (aka Tablet). Why we(I) need it NOW.

As the media and fanboy frenzy grows in anticipation of the ultimate device (our salvation …), I thought I will take some time to explore my own road to this mythical device and why we (I) need it NOW.

My dad was a geek when it came to gadgets and I guess he passed that on to me. So few years back, when I came into a position when I could afford these gadgets, the first ones I got was an ipod for my music, an HP Ipaq for carrying my mails,calendars and documents with me & a sony erricson phone (which I don’t remember the model). Though I would feel really geeky flashing 3 (fairly advanced at the time) mobile devices anywhere I went, it also felt really inconvenient. And my ipod could not play video so I had to keep a slew of SD cards (256MB each) for my Ipaq for watching the videos :).

Soon I realized that this was too much and I needed a change. I guess the industry also realized that and soon I could afford an Ipod video & a smart phone (HTC 8525). I was elated. I could carry all my media in my ipod and carry all my office stuffs in my 8525. Down to 2 devices. Right ? Wrong. Right about this time, my passion for books & reading had overwhelmed my home and my wife 🙂 There was no more room for the books I would come back home with on my weekend hunts. I found the answer to that problem while browsing the net one day – eBook reader. I have tried reading books on the PC before but without success – there is no way you can sit & stare at the PC Screen for 12 hours straight and enjoy it at the same time. But the eBook reader looked promising. And it turned out to be. So my next device was a the Sony eReader & I was back to 3 devices 😦 And with sony PSP, I was now at a record 4.

And then came the device that revolutionized the world and my life (in a small way). The iphone. Here again, I had the opportunity to combine 3 of my devices into 1 (and be cool at the same time :)). Of course, I was tied into a contract with AT&T and could not get my hands on the Iphone till the 3G model came out (which turned out to be a good thing though the 3GS model that my wife now owns would have been a much better proposition.). That brings us to today and why I need the iPad.

I am at 2 devices – Iphone & the eReader and almost ready to get the 3rd one – a netbook (the new craze on the block). No matter how well you can browse the net on the iphone and do stuffs, it has its limitations. A netbook would make me complete (again). It will also throw me back to the days when I was cool, geeky and highly uncomfortable carrying 3 devices around.

That’s why the answer has to be the Ipad. I need the Ipad and I need it now to replace all the myriad devices that I am about to carry around. It has to be my salvation. Since its a mythical device as of now, I can attribute whatever feature I wish for –

  • With inbuilt phone, all I would need is a bluetooth headset
  • With plenty of storage and high def screen, I can enjoy all my media wherever I go.
  • With its special low contrast reading mode, I can easily read my ebooks without straining my eyes or draining the battery
  • With built in 3G (or 4G) & an unmatched Apple UI, I can browse the web in ways that I cannot imagine ….
  • It will be a perfect gaming device with advanced graphics chip and hi def screen ….
  • And more ….

So here is my wish to Santa, if not the real thing, at least a release date 🙂 And yes, please keep it affordable – As always, I need to convince my wife that its worth the dough.