[FoRK] What the hell just happened?

Michael Cummins michael at i-magery.com
Wed Apr 7 06:51:39 PDT 2010

I thought this was an illuminating article.  My wife and business partner
were both considering getting one (both own Kindles and iPhones), but like
some of the commenters here they weren't quite sure what they would do with
it.  They already had tools that fulfilled the needs they originally
imagined it would suit.



13 Glaring iPad Shortcomings

The iPad shows great promise. It's thin and sleek and not like any other
gadget out there. It was also more hyped than any new device in recent
memory. But is it worth buying? 

Given the cost, and a slew of drawbacks, the answer boils down to how much
you're willing to pay for a toy. 

We've been testing both a low-end and top-end iPad all weekend, also letting
family members age 9 to 59 try it out and offer their reactions, and our
overall conclusion is that while the iPad is fun to play with, it's hard to
figure out what role it fills that some other device doesn't do much better.
Here are the most severe problems we see:

It's Awkward 

You can't carry it on your hip like a phone, so it presents the same
portability issues as any laptop - you'll need a case of some sort to
protect it and carry the power cable. Even around the house, there's no
simple way to carry the iPad. It's too thin, heavy, slippery and expensive
to put under your arm. Several of our testers were seen carrying it like a
dinner tray, as a butler would, to go from the kitchen table to the couch.
Portability, shmortability. 

It's heavy
To be sure, at 1.5 pounds and with all this functionality, the iPad is an
impressive feat of engineering. But it's simply not light enough (a Kindle
ebook reader is about 10 ounces) and that heft adds to the awkwardness.
Holding the iPad in one hand for more than a few minutes to watch a movie or
read an ebook results in tired wrists. Even holding it with two hands to
read an ebook is tiring. Reading an ebook on a smartphone is ergonomically
much more practical. 

It's slippery 

We might ignore the awkward size and weight, but the iPad is also slippery,
and its aluminum back is ever-so-slightly slightly concave. You feel as
though it'd slip right out if you try to hold it under your arm. And on the
kitchen counter, it slides and twirls as you try to type or swipe the screen
(required for navigating). It needs rubber feet, but of course then it won't
be near as cool. 

The screen has too much glare

The iPad has the same glossy screen as Apple's Macbook Pro laptops and iMac
desktops. Unless you're reading in a very dim room, the glare will be
noticeable and can be distracting. Outdoors, even in the shade, the glare is
really annoying.

Forget reading in the sun

If you thought to take your iPad along for an outing in Central Park or at
the beach, forget about it. While bright and contrasty indoors, the iPad's
screen looks washed out and is almost impossible to view in bright sunlight.
The Kindle's non-glossy e-ink display fares much better outdoors than the
iPad's screen. 

Fingerprints are annoying 

Once you've used the iPad for a few minutes, among the most glaring
shortcomings (besides the screen glare) are the fingerprints on the screen.
With a smartphone, you can wipe the screen on your shirt or pants. The iPad
is too big for that. We're wondering what exactly to clean it with and where
we'll keep the cleaning supplies. 

It does not multitask

The iPad runs the same operating system as the iPhone, and as a result has
all of the iPhone's limitations. The most obvious of these is the inability
to multitask - or do multiple things simultaneously. The iPad can't run more
than one app at a time (with the exception of a few Apple apps, such as
iPod, the iPad's music playing app). While this is may be acceptable in a
smartphone, it's a major handicap in a device that Apple expects people to
spend hours at a time on. (11 iPhone Tips That Also Work on the iPad )

The browser is limited

The iPad also uses the same limited Safari browser that's found on the
iPhone. While much fuss has been made about the iPad's inability to play
Flash video, there are other things it can't do as well. For example, Safari
on iPad can't be used to create Google Documents, only to view them.

The virtual keyboard stinks

While the virtual keyboard on the iPad is much larger than the iPhone, it's
still awkward to type on glass. Even those who've used tiny, cramped netbook
keyboards will be disappointed by the lack of real keys and likely reduced
to one-finger typing. The iPad can be paired with a physical keyboard, but
even this is awkward, because the actions normally done with a mouse or a
trackpad on a desktop or laptop have to be done with your finger on the

There's no USB port 

The lack of even one USB port - the universal means of connecting just about
everything these days - means you can't connect the device to a printer or
other computer peripherals, such as an external hard drive. The iPad can be
connected to cameras, but it requires the purchase of a separate accessory
from Apple. 

iPhone-only apps look horrible

Apple boasts that many of the 150,000 apps already available on the iPhone
will also work on the iPad. What the company doesn't tell you is that when
enlarged to fit on the iPad's screen, these iPhone apps look horrible, with
images and text very pixelated. For this reason, many people will opt to buy
apps that are made specifically for the iPad, which tend to be more
expensive than their iPhone counterparts. 

The price is just too high 

$499 is just the beginning, a low-memory model that will fill up too quickly
for anyone with a big music library and/or an appetite for video. Toss in
ample memory and a 2-year, $280 "we'll replace it even if you drop it"
warranty at Best Buy, and you're out $1,000. Given the iPad's weight,
awkwardness and slipperiness, we think the warranty is smart. 

It doesn't replace anything 

The iPad will not replace your smartphone. Unless you can't type, it won't
replace your laptop. If you love books, you could argue it's a great e-book
reader, but let's see what your wrists say after a few days. The Kindle is a
better e-reader. Frankly, we're not sure what need the iPad fills, other
than the desire to be cool by owning a device that is in a class all its

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