May 142010

When I first heard about Apple’s new tablet computer, I have to admit that my first reaction was “So what? I already have a desktop computer, a laptop computer, and a netbook computer. What can the iPad do that they can’t?” Then I saw my first iPad, and my immediate reaction was “I want one!” 

As it turns out, there is not much you can do on an iPad that you can’t do with another type of computer, but there is a lot that I can do with an iPad that I don’t do on my other computers. Things like relaxing on the couch and surfing the web at the same time, or checking my e-mail while visiting the in-laws, or reading USA Today for free while waiting in the van while my wife is in the bank or grocery store.

The iPad comes in two versions, either a WiFi only version, or a 3G model (capable of accessing the internet via AT&T) which also is WiFi capable if you are near a WiFi hotspot. Both versions come with either 16, 32 or 64 gig of storage. I wanted the 64 gig 3G model, because one of my big reasons for wanting an iPad was for internet access away from our motorhome. Getting one proved to be a challenge, because every store I contacted was sold out. I finally put my name on the list to reserve one at the Apple Store in Tucson, and less than a week later it arrived.

I am no fan of AT&T, and I really wish the iPad was available on the Verizon network, but so far there is no verifiable indication that will happen anytime soon. So it is what it is. AT&T offers two different monthly pricing plans for the iPad, either 250 MB for $14.99 or $29.99 for unlimited data. You can change your plan at any time, but forget the cheaper plan. It’s a joke. I signed up for it, and in less than 24 hours I was at my limit, with no movies or music downloaded, just web surfing and checking e-mail. 

I was disappointed to discover that my iPad would not work with our Cradlepoint MBR1000 router right out of the box. So much for Apple’s “just turn it on and it works, first time, every time” reputation. I called the Apple Store, and they asked me to bring it in to see if they could figure it out. As it turns out, there is a setting on the Cradlepoint that I need to change, which the Apple tech assures me will remedy the problem. Since I switched to the unlimited plan, the conflict with my router is no big hassle, so I’ll wait and have one of my tech buddies talk me through changing the router’s settings, so I don’t mess up and lose Miss Terry’s WiFi access in the process. On AT&T, here in Apache Junction, the iPad works quickly, and I have no complaints.

UPDATE: After I originally posted this blog, my friend Greg White talked me through resetting the router, and now the iPad works fine on WiFi.

The first thing one has to understand about the iPad is that it is not a replacement to a computer, if you need all of the things a computer can do. I see it as a supplement. If I am at my desk, I may pop onto Facebook to see what’s happening, or answer an e-mail, or look around the internet, but to me, my desk is where I work, so I find myself feeling guilty if I goof off too much, and before long I’m writing a blog or a story for the next issue of the Gypsy Journal. With the iPad, I can park myself on the couch and play.

So if an iPad isn’t a computer, what is it? Well, it’s a great e-book reader, for one thing. I had an Amazon Kindle, and though I loved the concept, most of what I wanted it for were reference books. I discovered that photographs and charts look terrible, and are hard to see on a Kindle. On the iPad, they look great. I was also thrilled to learn that, besides Apple’s online book store, there is a free Kindle app, and once I downloaded it, all of the books I had purchased for my Kindle were still in my Amazon library, and I downloaded them to the iPad. Cool!

Being a career newspaper man, I am a news junkie. So I love the free USA Today app, which allows me to read my newspaper on the iPad. I can also read the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and a ton of magazines on it.

The iPad comes with a great street map, and the 3G model has a GPS chip built in. I can view maps in traditional street view, or Google satellite view, and the GPS feature allows me to find local businesses wherever I am. When I click on a business, I get the address, phone number, and other info, along with turn by turn directions.

We love music, and our iPod has thousands of songs on it. I can download those same songs to my iPad, and buy more from the iTunes Store.

For gaming, the graphics are fantastic, but I doubt that I’ll be playing games in the iPad. I have also seen movies on iPads on display at stores, and the picture is great. There is a Netflix app that allows you to download all the movies you could ever want to watch.

I could go on and on about all you can do with an iPad, but you can get most of that info online with a quick Goggle search. So instead, I’ll tell you a little about the features I like and don’t like, from a user standpoint.

First, the iPad is heavier than a Kindle, and your hands get tired pretty quickly if you are holding it like a paperback book. But if I prop it up on my chest while laying down, or on my stomach while sitting in a chair, it’s fine. (I knew I grew that stomach for something!) In the van, I prop it on the steering wheel and again, no problems.

I have heard that because the iPad doesn’t support Flash, some websites will not load right, or won’t come up at all. So far that has not been a problem, and I have been able to access and view every website I wanted to, including my own websites, the Escapees forum, and many others. I can also follow links in websites with no problem

The glossy screen is also a fingerprint magnet, and in direct sunlight, the screen will give a lot of glare. There are screen protectors one can buy to remedy those problems.

I like the touch screen, and being able to make type and photos larger whenever I need to. For these old eyes, that’s a real plus. I am also very impressed with the iPad’s battery life. Apple claims 9+ hours of constant use on the 3G models, and 10 hours on the WiFi only models. I have found that to be true so far. I charged the unit up when I brought it home, and have about 40% of battery power left 36 hours later.

The speaker is so so at best, and while there is a jack for earphones, I don’t know how much I’ll use the music feature, since I can just slip my much smaller, lighter iPod into my shirt when I go for a walk.

I downloaded the free Weather Bug app, and I am very impressed with it. The graphics are excellent, and the GPS tells Weather Bug my location for up to the minute local weather info. One reader e-mailed me that they found its live weather radar very handy a few days ago when they were on the road and dodging thunderstorms and tornados in Oklahoma.

Other standard iPad features I really like are the notepad and calendar. Yes, I have both on my Blackberry, but my eyes older really need a bigger screen.  I also appreciate the fact that, unlike a laptop computer, the iPad does not get hot, no matter how long you use it.

There are other features, and thousands of apps that I am looking forward to exploring further, but based on what I have seen so far, I am even more impressed with the iPad than I was at first glance. I see it becoming my primary tool for media consumption, information access, and  web surfing. Like an American Express card, I won’t leave home without it.

So, is the iPad the newest must have gadget for every RVer? I don’t know, but it sure meets the needs of this RVer, and I’m glad I have it!

Thought For The Day – Suburbia: Where they cut down all the trees, and then name streets after them.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  12 Responses to “3G Ipad First Impressions”

  1. Hey Nick, since you just got a new IPad, you ought to read this CNN story on sleep deprivation:

  2. Hey Nick,
    What was the setting for the Cradlepoint? I need to change mine if/when I get the ipad. Yourreview will excellerate that I do believe.

  3. Nick, congrats on the 3G iPad! FYI, I just discovered a cool GPS-related iPad app you might enjoy. Check out (only $3)

  4. Did you have any trouble activating it? Did you use your South Dakota address? We’ve been told there’s a problem doing that which makes me hesitate to buy one of these.

  5. Sure wish you would have disliked the Ipad. Now I want one before we head off for our cruise.

  6. Have the iPad since the first day — April 3rd. Bad experiences with AT&T makes the 3G version something I wasn’t going to wait for. Since my iPad is Wi-Fi only, I set up my Verizon phone — a Palm Pre — as Wi-Fi hot-spot. I can then use the iPad to access the internet via my Verizon phone. A great solution!

  7. Hey Nick,
    You should loan it to the guy that wanted borrow your silverleaf monitor so he will know if he wants to buy one or not. HA HA!

  8. I would be interested in the cradlepoint setting too….

  9. In the Cradlepoint Network Settings, my router was set by default to mixed channels 802.11G, 802.11B and 802.11N. The iPad doesn’t work on N, so I had to change the setting to just mixed 802.11G, 802.11B in the drop down menu. Once I did that it worked fine. Changing the settings did not change the router’s performance with our laptop computers.

  10. Allways enjoy your blog and Bad Nicks also.
    I received the AARP Bulletin for May 2010 Vol. 51 No. 4 and on page 6 is an article “Forest Service Scuttles Proposed Fee Hike”.
    They received more than 4,000 comments on the proposed cutting of discounts to 10 precent for people 62 and older.
    So, no change in campground fees for older campers.

  11. Nick –
    I purchased an iPad on April 3, so I am in your camp when it comes to believing in this great device. I didn’t feel the need for 3G connectivity as I have an iPhone. It connected to my Cradlepoint wifi router immediately. Apple has addressed some Wifi connection issues on their support pages, and it is widely rumored that an OS update (3.21) will be available soon.

    Although both devices use the same operating system (OS) they have entirely different purposes and uses. I would disagree with your implication that the iPad has the same functionality as a laptop, but that does not take away from its place in my life. You and your readers may want to take a look at my review of the iPad at,_April_2010,_RV_Navigator.html

    Also I am sponsoring a iPad and other mobile technology for RVers blog at

    Everything on these sites is free and ad free – just places for RVers to share information.

    Ken, the RV Navigator

  12. The Ipad sounds like a good idea but I fear all of this modern communications has passed me by. More power to you for buying the latest gadgets and reporting on them. Keep up the good reporting. Maybe if I keep reading your blog I’ll catch up with 2010…………

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