I know what you're thinking: another iPad article, Jasmine? Really? Must you? The answer is: "Yes, I must." Clearly, it is necessary for me to cash in on the buzz, too--I'm not letting Donald have all the fun! Honestly, though, if you think you're sick of hearing about Apple's latest wonder gadget, take a moment to consider how those in the tech media field must feel.
However, far be it from me to overlook the advantages of my position. Namely, I've already had my hands all over an iPad and I didn't have to shell out a cent for the privilege. This combined with easy access to dozens of people who've had personal time with the device has provided rich fodder for addressing the question on everyone's mind: what--and who--on earth is such a unique gadget good for? As it turns out, I do have a few thoughts on the matter.
First of all, the iPad is really much more suitable for the living room or bedroom than for true on-the-go use, so DON'T bother shelling out for the 3G version. Not only will you have to plunk down an additional $130 for the integrated tech, you'll also be bleeding $30 per month for unlimited data. For the majority of users, this is not going to be a day-to-day multimedia device that you cart around on your person. In the event that you travel with it--because let's face it, flying with this thing is a huge DO--you wouldn't be able to use the cell service in the air anyway, and most likely, your hotel (or someplace nearby) will have some Wi-Fi for you to hop onto. Heck, even planes have Wi-Fi now. Just make sure you pick up some headphones, since none come with the iPad.
Before we stray too far from the topic of using the iPad as an in-home entertainment device, DON'T underestimate the will of third-party accessory manufacturers. Currently, you can turn the iPad into an mini entertainment system by picking up the Apple dock for $29 and connecting some speakers to the back, or get a kickstand for around $50 and stream wirelessly to a set of Bluetooth speakers. But my money's on a speaker dock that seamlessly integrates the iPad and turns it into a totable AV system--surely that's in the near future. (Although the built-in speakers get plenty loud, it would be nice to have an all-in-one solution that props the player up and improves the sound.) And with apps for Netflix, ABC, and more already available, who even needs a regular old TV in the bedroom anymore?
iPad comic book viewing
Of course, music and video are but two of the diversions the iPad can provide. It's also being marketed somewhat heavily as an e-reader, but DON'T buy one if that is your main purpose for the device--unless of course you're really into comic books and graphic novels. It's not the best option for standard e-books because of the LED backlit LCD, which is not easy to read in direct sunlight and will most likely cause more eye strain than the electronic ink utilized by standalone readers such as the Kindle. However, comic books look fantastic on the iPad and are super fun to "flip" through. (Check out the video.)
Finally, DO plan on downloading plenty of board games for the iPad. The spectacular viewing angles and ample screen make it a great option for this type of digital gaming. And the social aspect that is inherent to these games further cements the device as a living room fixture, one meant to be shared with others rather than hoarded to oneself--a fact I proved to myself while trying to hold the thing up and tilt it around as required for multiple rounds of Labyrinth Lite. (Yeah, DON'T plan on much active gaming with this sucker.)
The gist is that I see the iPad as a fun, family entertainment device. Not only does sharing it somewhat justify the high price, but it just doesn't lend itself as well to utilitarian purposes. I asked around and--for the most part--my colleagues agree that a Netbook is a more suitable (and affordable) choice as a secondary computer for routine tasks like online bill pay, e-mail, and random Web research. And although today's announcement regarding multitasking does enhance the productivity of the system, I can't see many professionals choosing the iPad over a system running a full-fledged OS (with the notable exception of photographers, designers, and other artists).
Oh, and I'm just going to throw this last point out there as a personal gripe: DON'T consider an iPad or really any other device that relies entirely on a touch screen for navigation if you're OCD about fingerprints. Although the iPad features an oleophobic layer that makes it easy to clean, nothing prevents the smudges from getting on there in the first place ("fear of oil" my tukus). Yuck.
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