The new iPad is like magic, but not perfect

OK, folks, I had a weekend immersion with the just-released iPad in Canada. I must say, it’s one thing to listen to all the hype on Apple’s newest personal device and another to use it, for three days like I did.

You can go online and read about all it does at: www.apple.com/ca/ipad/

What I will share with you are my personal thoughts on the functionality and usefulness of the iPad, a cross between the iPod Touch, iPhone and a regular laptop.

Pundits are arguing how good the iPad is, what’s missing and what the next version (I assure you, there will be a next version) might be like.

So here goes:

WHAT I LIKE

-Blazingly fast and responsive. It feels like my Intel 6-core desktop on all the stuff it’s designed to do.. including wake up after you temporarily turn it off. Great battery life.

-Even though it’s not multi-tasking – you have to close each program to start another – its speed makes up for that, so it feels like you are switching between programs, some of which open up to where they were.

-The auto-screen rotation works all the way around, so you have a choice of where the Spartan buttons are when you hold it, and it’s great for simply flipping the screen to the person sitting across you.

-Its minimalist in navigation, nothing new to Mac users, but Windows users (it works through iTunes on Windows PCs) will take a few tries to get the idea. Try Real Racing HD, $9.99 from the App Store…it’s a blast using the screen orientation to drive your car.  

-I was pleasantly surprised on how good the iPad Mail program is. I was able to set up three Microsoft MSN/Hotmail/Live account with just two minor setup items like Pop3 and SMTP. The iPad had Microsoft Exchange, Apple’s mobileme, Gmail, Yahoo and AOL ready to go. Nice.

-Calendaring is nice and well thought out. I like the 24-hour layout…let’s face it our lives today are 24/7 so shouldn’t the calendar be too.

-The App Store rocks more than ever, because of the larger 9.7-inch screen. It won’t take long before your expandable desktop screen fills up with apps, some of are free and great to try out. In fact, any Internet experience is great, with full screen views and off course, the smooth finger pinching.

-YouTube rocks, as it does on all Apple portable devices.

-It’s unlocked so you can put any micro SIMM card from any carrier worldwide and it simply works with reasonable data plans from local carriers like Bell, Telus and Rogers…with no contract. In fact most are monthly plans. Kudos to Rogers, for having the easiest “on-device” SIMM setup compared to the more cumbersome dance for the other cellcos. But since it easy to switch carriers, every month if you like, try out the Bell/Telus versus Rogers connections to find the best cellular coverage for you.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

– The iPad is an engineering marvel and belongs in an art museum, but it’s not easy to physically handle. It’s heavier than it looks and the bevelled metallic back makes it difficult to hold. It’s a slate, so you quickly get tired of holding it upright, whether standing or sitting. I recommend the simple charge dock to hold it upright on your desk. I predict many dropped units, so stock up on parts Apple. I often fall asleep with my BlackBerry in my hands, no harm there. But dosing off with the discus-shapped, densly packed and slippery  iPad is not a good idea.

-I can live without a mouse, after all, it’s a slate. The keyboard dock is nice, but by the time you buy that, the much-needed longer power cord extension and USB/SD reader combo pack, you are spending $150 more.  

-By biggest beef…no web-cam, a must tool for a go-anywhere personal tablet. All the money in the world can’t buy you one of those. Maybe the next version…I would gladly pay for the difference.

-An eBook reader it’s not. This is still an LCD screen, and yes a nice size, but can’t match the mage-like screens of dedicated e-book readers.

-Having a choice between WiFi and paid-for data plans is nice. But I was disappointed with Bell’s initially cool Mobile TV. Sure, it works great on the soon-to-comeI larger screen iPad version, but the catch is it costs eight bucks a month for either the live NHL hockey channel, or another eight bucks for half a dozen live stations like weather, CBC news, comedy channel and more. I am sure folks who don’t have access to a real TV can live with that. But why can’t I access the TV service from my WiFi connection like all other apps?  I now have to pay (after the free data trial is over July 31) for the streaming data…yikes! I have a love-hate relationship with Bell.

Keep an eye on this page as I will frequently add more comments.

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