I don't exactly remember when I stopped using the iPad, but it wasn't without me trying to use it. We reviewed the WiFi version on AnandTech last year but it was the AT&T 3G version that I ended up using most of the time. For short trips around NC I'd carry it with me. It was the perfect car companion. Smaller and lighter than a notebook but functional enough to get me through any short trip. I tried carrying it to lunch and meetings around town but for the most part it wasn't portable enough for that to make sense. A smartphone was a far better companion.

For several trips around the country I remember trying to take just the iPad, but I always needed to work on an article or publish something extensive while I was gone. For months I boarded every plane with the intention of bringing only the iPad but I always ended up bringing a notebook as well. Even when I went on vacation last year I had to finish a review and ended up bringing a notebook just for three days of use. Eventually I just gave up completely and left the iPad at home. As I mentioned in our review of the first iPad last year, this is a device that augments your existing setup - it replaces nothing. You'll still need a computer of some sort and you'll still need a phone, you just get to have another device that's more convenient than both of those occasionally.

These days my iPad sits docked at my desk doing nothing more than charging and receiving updates. Yet every time I'm at an airport I look around and see tons of passengers with their iPads. It's the new ThinkPad. I see it everywhere and people seem to be happy with it. In fact, last quarter 17% of Apple's total revenue came from iPad sales.

AAPL Revenue Sources - Q1 2011
  iPad iPhone iPod Mac iTunes Store Software/Services Peripherals
Percentage 17.2% 39.1% 12.8% 20.3% 5.4% 2.9% 2.2%

Clearly there are some users who love tablets and can use them on a regular basis, I'm just apparently not one of them. That's not to say that I don't like the iPad, in fact there are a number of things I still love about it. In our original iPad review I wrote about the more relaxed computing experience the iPad offers for those of us who work at a computer during the day. It's fun to just sit on a couch and surf the web on a tablet. It's easier to show your friends web pages and videos on the iPad than it is on a notebook. You can pass a tablet around like a pad of paper while a notebook is far more clunky. The overall experience is just so much more intimate. In using the iPad, Xoom and iPad 2 for this review I even found myself missing parts of the experience that I'd forgotten about. Overall my stance hadn't changed. While I enjoy using a tablet and find it to be a more relaxed way of computing, it's the lack of performance, still not quite perfect ergonomics, the clunky multitasking UI and the lack of a convenient physical input devices that keep the iPad from being a part of my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I do believe there's clearly a future for tablets - the present day sales alone are proof of that. It's just that I believe tablets are on an evolutionary course towards perfection.

I'm currently typing this paragraph on an iPad 2 connected via HDMI to a Dell 24" display. If I wanted to I could even push the iPad to the side and use a bluetooth keyboard. This thing could easily replace a mainstream PC, it's just missing a few features.

There's no support for Flash. Like it or not Flash support is still an important part of the overall PC experience. Eventually Apple will either cave, become irrelevant or HTML5 will replace Flash entirely on the web. One way or another, this problem gets solved.

Multitasking is a pain. When the iPad first debuted there was no hope for multitasking, but now with the feature it's still far from magical. I need to tap the home button twice to bring up a task switcher, then tap or swipe/type before getting to the application I'm trying to switch to. There's no alt+tab (or cmd+tab) and no immediately visible task/dock bar of my currently running apps. Copying data between apps is a pain as I can't physically look at two things at once, there's just constant switching required to get things done. When I get a new email on the iPad I have to stop what I'm doing, go read the email and then switch back to what I was doing. The same goes for if I need to respond to an IM quickly while writing in Pages. With apps only running full screen and no support for windows, using a tablet can often times seriously reduce productivity. These are solvable problems. Apple and Microsoft figured out how to do it on the desktop after all, but we're just not there yet with tablets.

Alongside multitasking is the performance problem. With the original iPad even deleting several emails at a time was a bit choppy, and web page rendering performance needed tons of work. As always Apple does its best to hide the limitations of the platform but I must point out that even the iPad 2 with a pair of ARM Cortex A9s has lower CPU performance than a netbook with a single core Atom. The fact that you can't really tell most of the time is a testament to Apple's software engineering, but it doesn't change reality.

Ergonomics aren't perfect either. Brian Klug actually helped me realize this next point but the iPad and other tablets aren't great on-the-go devices. Tablets work very well when you're stationary but if you're up and about, moving around, a smartphone is a much better fit. Even when you're stationary there are issues. You have to be in the right physical position to comfortably use a tablet. Simply plopping it down on your lap like you would a notebook won't always work.

There's also the idea of synergy among devices. Even if you play within the Apple universe and own a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad, there's no magical way of sharing data and applications between them. I should be able to work on my Mac, step away and have my apps/data come with me. Your best bet is something like Dropbox but that's no where near the type of cohesive solution I'm talking about. Think HP's webOS touch-to-share but on steroids and you're on the right track.

The list goes on and on. If you've ever spent sufficient time with a tablet you'll quickly be able to add to this list. The tablet is still in its infancy as a computing device and as successful as the iPad may be, it still has a long road ahead before it's anywhere near perfect. Just the items I've mentioned above are too much to address with a single product update, but remember that revolution comes about via constant evolution.


Apple iPad 2 (left), Apple iPad (right)

Meet the iPad 2.

The iPad 2
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  • FrederickL - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link


    I have to say that I largely agree even though I perhaps would not use PrinceGaz' somewhat "undiplomatic" description of the iPad's current customer profile! However, I am obliged to agree that tablets of this size are of little interest (IMO) until they are functional enough that they can _replace_ ones laptop. The case for buying an iPad (fine piece of content consumption kit as it is) falls down at that first fence as far as I am concerned. In general terms my mobile device needs are met by my Desire Z. A third or fourth generation10 - 11 inch tab with a full slide out qwerty (either Honeycomb or Win 8 ARM, the iOS is not to my taste) with more connection/plug options than you can shake stick at, with a docking station+large screen at home - now THAT would open my wallet!
    Reply
  • dhuhtala - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    I tend to agree - I've always carried a Blackberry phone instead of an iPhone just because it has a slide-out keyboard...I will not compromise on that! This makes the device really practical and I use it a lot.

    That's why I'm closely watching the ASUS eee Slider - a tablet with a slide out keyboard - that sounds like it will be much cheaper than the Xoom (rumour has it at $500.

    The Tegra 2 probably won't meet my requirements for playing MKV video files though, from what I've gathered...

    http://www.reghardware.com/2011/03/15/preview_tabl...
    Reply
  • solipsism - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    You’re the minority. The majority of buyers just want something that works, which is why the techtarded people of the world are jumping into simpler devices for email and browsing, not building their own PCs and running a home-brew version of Linux. Reply
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    A netbook can check email and browse the internet for significantly less money. Most people I know, even the techtarded as you so colorfully put it, realize this and do not buy an iPad.

    The people I know who buy iPads are college students who get Mommy and Daddy to pay for it, and hipsters.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    I couldn't disagree more.

    I would say that technically savvy people are the ones who are MORE likely to buy an iPad.

    I say this as a technically savvy person who has not yet bought an iPad, but can see the appeal:

    Firstly - the iPad is lighter, thinner, and has better battery life than most netbooks.

    Secondly - it's more capable, in that u wont have to wait around for Windows or whatever OS you're using to load, the apps are designed for the platform and the device's capabilities so it's actually quicker. Games, for example, are much nicer to play and to control on an iPad when compared to a netbook.

    Thirdly - it's more convenient in certain situations - u dont need to find a table to set it on or put it on ur lap - you can just hold it, such as when standing up or walking along, or where ur sitting at a table with food all over it.

    Fourthly - it's touch screen, extremely advantageous in certain situations. For example, the iPad makes a much better presentation device than any netbook can.

    It's such blind ignorance of a lot of people on here to assume that it's non-techy people who buy iPads. It's the non-haters, who buy iPads. The people who want to embrace the latest technology and actually see what it's about before dismissing it with some pathetic stereotype.
    Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - link

    It's a "for fun" device, so if you buy it for some thing else, I doubt your "tech savyiness".

    And for some, not being able to read stuff you've written to your own device, is a show-stopper. Calling this "hate" is silly.
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    It pretty much is a toy, but I really think smartphones are better toys. They're smaller, and you carry your phone anyway, so why not game on it to kill some time between appointments? Reply
  • Rick83 - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    I still stick to my 5" tablet (though something slightly larger might work also...but 7" is already too much).
    That I can carry around all day (when I want to, and keep a separate non-smart phone that does telephone well enough) and yet it is much more useful than the 4" and 3.5" smart phones. I can comfortably hold it with one hand, buttons are nice and big in landscape mode, the dock gives me USB host, there's BT for keyboards as well, dock with hdmi-out, analog video-out...basically it does anything I would ever need, in the ideal portable form factor.

    It could do with a marginally better touch screen and build quality, and performance and stability aren't that great, but considering it predated the first iPad by about 6 months, I'm willing to accept the odd quirk. Also, it still works after quite some use over the last 18 months, with no visible battery life issues.

    I hope that the mini-tablet form factor will be explored some more in the future, I would be willing to replace my current device with something similar once the warranty has expired...

    Oh did I mention that it cost me less than a third of an iPad? (But, no, no flash either ;))
    Reply
  • tzhu07 - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    I've been trying to figure out a use for the iPad, and the only thing I can think of is that it's good for doing really simple things and taking notes. Also, when you take it out in front of a client during a lunch meeting, it tends to impress them.

    But, yeah, I find that there isn't really a need for a device that bridges the gap between a laptop and a smartphone....yet.
    Reply
  • vision33r - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    It's all about the Apps, regardless which OS they are useless without apps.

    The iPad has tons of productivity and enterprise ready apps. Would like to see an iMovie clone on Android or some quality productivity apps. So far only iOS has the most real apps.
    Reply

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