The Apple iPad

Well, it’s official. Apple has finally ended the months (and years) of speculation today, with the announcement of the iPad tablet. What is the iPad? Well for starters, think of it as an iPod Touch– just on so much steroids that it would make Jose Canseco jealous.

Ok, so there is a TON to cover here, let’s start with the hardware and specs, and WOW does this thing look great.

Hardware and Specs

As you can see from the pic above, this thing looks absolutely amazing. The multi-touch screen is a very sleek looking 9.7 inches (same as the Kindle DX), with the same fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating found on the iPhone 3GS. The front of the device really does look like a giant iPod Touch, with the only button being the home button.

Now as for the rest of the iPad, again all I can say is wow. Like the latest MacBook Pro’s, the case is unibody made out of one sheet of aluminum, and this means a really thin design. How thin? Try .5 inches thin! Yeah, this thing really is pretty much paper thin! And weight? Try 1.5 pounds! Yeah, in terms of looks, Apple seems to have yet again knocked this design right out of the park.

Now specs. This is a pretty standard set of spec, and pretty much what you’d expect:

  • WiFi with wireless N support (for the latest and greatest WiFi networks)
  • GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • Mic
  • Bluetooth
  • 1 GHZ Apple A4 processor
  • 10 hour battery (yes, 10 hours!)
  • Availability in three different storage capacities– 16 GB. 32 GB, and 64 GB

In addition to the WiFi-only model, Apple plans to sell a version with both WiFi and AT&T 3G (sorry Verizon users, today sadly wasn’t your Apple device day).

Now this is actually really interesting stuff here: Apple and AT&T will be selling this WiFi+3G version (in all the same capacities as the WiFi-only iPads) for $130 more than the WiFi-only model, and there will be no requirement for a 2 year contract. Think of it as pay-as-you-go Internet, with plans starting at $14.99 a month for 250 MB of data, and $30 a month for unlimited data. Again, this is pretty great as not only are you not tied down to AT&T for 2 years, but price wise, a regular laptop card will cost you $60 on pretty much any carrier, not to mention that it will also require you to sign a 2 year contract. Paying only $30 for unlimited internet without contract? Not a bad deal at all in my book.

Software

Ok so the hardware for the iPad is only one part of this awesome-looking puzzle, perhaps the bigger part is the software on the device.

As we wrote yesterday in the rumor round-up, the tablet runs the iPhone OS (version 3.2 if your wondering) instead of the full OS X found on the Macs. Now for a mobile device, this isn’t so bad as it means the 140,000+ apps in the App Store will be able to run on this larger device.

How are the applications compatible with an iPad screen twice that of the iPhone and iTouch? One option is to just put on the app and either run it in a smaller 1x version (basically a small box for the app surrounded by a lot of black), or to double pixel the app, scaling it to the iPad’s larger screen. This seemed to work pretty well for some apps when shown off in the demo today, but there is also another way: Apple announced a new SDK today for developers to make apps specifically for the iPad, and while this does require some work on the developers’ part, Apple is saying this will be a whole new “gold rush” like the original App Store was when it first came out, and from a user point of view, it should mean a lot nicer iPad apps.

YouTube on the iPad– looks a lot like the normal YouTube

Speaking of reworked apps for the iPad, Apple did this themselves, redoing pretty much every one of the standard iPhone apps from Calendar to YouTube to Mail and iTunes to Maps to even iPod (which now looks exactly like normal iTunes), with everything else in between– making them a lot nicer and more powerful than their iPhone counterparts.

The iTunes Store app now, for example looks pretty much like the real, regular iTunes, with even the ability to play back iTunes LP content. YouTube also looks great, with videos now not only playing back in HD, but with the look and feel of the real YouTube. Other apps like Photos have gotten some upgrades as well, with cool smooth transitions and even nicer sorting. In short, all the Apple apps, which were great on the iPhone and iTouch are even better here.

iWork on the iPad

Apple also announced a new version of iWork for the iPad, meaning now you can write notes in Pages, work on slideshows in Keynote, and make spreadsheets (for whatever reason you may have) in Numbers right from the iPad, and just like you would on a regular Mac. These will be available at the launch of the iPad for $9.99 each.

Sadly though there is still some bad news here, as Apple still seems to have left 2 things off the iPad, things we really were hoping to finally get– multitasking and flash video. Why we still don’t know, but this device is just screaming to play back Hulu and listen to Pandora while checking your email, so let’s hope Apple makes both happen and soon.

Books, Newspapers and Games

There is so much on this end and that it’s such an important part of the iPad that we’re going to separate it from regular software.

Managing and reading books on the iPad

Let’s start with the books and newspapers. For music and movies there’s the iTunes store; for apps, there’s the App Store; and now for books, there’s an all new store called the iBookstore. Basically, its a one-stop shop to download all the latest books (called iBooks), in the simple Apple way we’ve all come to know and love. Apple also has deals with not only book publishers but textbooks as well. If it’s up to reading and carrying a thousand pound textbook or one that is just an app on a 1.5 pound iPad, which would you choose (particularly if the iPad textbook price is much lower than the regular, non-digital version).

Not to mention that reading books on the device look great, and while it’s still to early to tell if it’s better than reading on say a Kindle or Nook, we get the feeling Barnes and Noble and Amazon are pretty nervous right now.

Newspapers also look great, and when the New York Times got up to show off there iPad version of the paper (which you can see in the first pic of the post),  it looked even better than the regular paper and much better than the Kindle version. Not only does the layout seem to perfectly replicate that of the normal paper, but it also has features like built in playback of videos, taking newspapers to a whole new level.

Gaming is the third huge piece of the iPad, and like with the iPhone and iTouch, Apple doesn’t look to be stopping their rush on the mobile video game market anytime soon. The iPad looks to be yet another sick gaming device, and when EA came up to show off an iPad version of Need for Speed Shift, it looked absolutely insane. Definitely PSP quality graphics with the fun gameplay found on the DS. How much further gaming on the iPad will be taken is up to the app developers, but the iPad definitely has the promise, and we got a feeling that there will be a lot of good apps ready to make full use of the more powerful iPad.

Wrap Up

Is the iPad perfect? No. As mentioned before it still lacks multi-tasking and Flash support (really big things), and other nice things to have like a camera, but this is all just the beginning of Apple’s attempt for a middle device between smartphone and laptop. Honestly, I think the iPad has a shot to be something big. Not from a media aspect like the iTouch was, but in terms of using for things like reading textbooks and newspapers or taking notes in school (using either the built in keyboard or more preferably a Bluetooth one– which we’ll get to more in an iPad accessories post). The interface is simple and easy– it’s the same iPhone/iTouch one used by over 75 million people (yes, 75 MILLION), in a package that looks incredible.

And here’s the biggest reason I’m looking forward to the iPad– the price. The  WiFi-only version of the iPad will be available  in just 60 days (think late March) for a very, very solid $499 for the 16 GB version, $599 for the 32 GB version and $699 for the 64 GB version. The WiFi+3G version will be available in 90 days (think April time), for $629 for the 16 GB version, $729 for the 32 GB, and $829 for the 64 GB version. For a device like this with so much more potential and power (such as with using this as an eBook reader) than a netbook, $499 is an entry price I think a lot of people will get into, and will help the iPad succeed where many other tablets before it had failed. And I know I’ll be saving up to pick one of these up when it comes out over the next 2 months.

What you think– you into the iPad or think there is no need for this between your iTouch and computer. Would you use it in school as your textbook reader and note taker or would you rather go with a netbook? Let us know in the comments.