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, Ancestry.com 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.