So last week we suggested you don’t really need an iPad. And that’s still true – in the sense that you don’t need an iPad to, you know, breathe.
Still, maybe you’re a little more positively disposed to Apple’s tablet than some people around here – but you need a little extra convincing. Apple’s own ads for the iPad are a little bit, shall we say, glossy and Generation Y. What about some of the more down-to-earth benefits?
10. Simple and, for the most part, reliable
Computers, because of their extraordinary flexibility, are also very complex. You can get yourself into all kinds of trouble, fiddling with your computer. And that complexity also has an effect on reliability.
The iPad, on the other hand, keeps things simple: tap icons to do stuff. Yes, it’s less flexible than a full notebook or desktop PC, but it has no moving parts, no removable battery to get dislodged, and no plethora of ports or indeed keyboard to get gunked up.
And if the iPad does start to slow down or stutter, a quick restart (by turning the tablet all the way off) clears up most issues. And because – as of iOS 5 – all your data is stored in the cloud, you can ‘factory restore’ the iPad anytime, reload your apps and other content and keep on going!
9. Instant-on is an antidote for the age of the ‘boot up’
“Let me show you this funny video on YouTube!” you cry to a busy family member, and then you both stand there twitching while the PC takes three or four minutes to boot up, by which point no one’s in the mood for funny cats anymore.
The iPad has a sophisticated “suspend” function which draws very little battery power, but which lets you reactivate the tablet in a fraction of a second: push the home button, slide to unlock, and you’re ready to go.
It makes the iPad as fast to use as a kitchen noticeboard, or a notepad by the phone, or a home weather station on the wall. And with apps for all those things, you won’t have to keep a kitchen drawer half-full of half-empty ball-point pens.
8. Silence is golden!
The faster the computer, the more heat its CPU generates. The more heat from its CPU, the more you need to cool it. And unless you’re some kind of super-nerd, your computer is air-cooled. And that means fans. Lots of fans. Whining, whirring fans. Sometimes so loud they interfere with quiet scenes in movies.
Even super-slim notebooks can have teeny-tiny fans in them. Mostly you won’t hear them, but there’ll always be that quiet time in bed when that little fan will kick in…
The iPad on the other hand, runs completely silent. Its more specialised CPU is dedicated to doing a few tasks really well, rather than every task okay. It needs less raw power, so it generates less heat.
Think this isn’t really a big issue? When your device makes a noise, it reminds you you’re using a machine. And when you’re reminded of that, you start thinking about how this isn’t as good as a paper book, or an old-school magazine, or maybe surfing the net on a big display with a full keyboard is better, etc…
7. It keeps the kids occupied – in a good way
One of the problems with plonking your kids in front of a TV or a PC is that you know, in some way, it’s just not as good for them as reading. But the iPad, with its massive range of child-friendly and child-specific apps, brings the best of both worlds.
There’s a booming market for storybook apps – from digitised classics to unique new puzzle books. And these app-books do things for your kids you used to have to do. Kids can tap on words to hear them spoken or spelled, they can have the book read to them, they can tap on pictures or objects in the world, and certain books include mini-games too.
Then there’s the space you save on the bookshelf – not to mention the cost to the wallet. The most expensive apps cost $15-20. Most cost $4. Compare that to $35 for a hard cover picture book. And if you teach the kids not to actually hurl the iPad across the room, those books are indestructible – and they always remember what page you were up to.
Beyond the books, the iPad has one of the best YouTube apps in the business. Here, there’s literally thousands of hours of bite-sized entertainment, from modern favourites to classics like Mr Squiggle and all those Sesame Street skits that were actually funny.
6. It’s a universal remote… and getting more universal by the day!
We feel sorry for anyone who spent hundreds on a universal remote in the last year or so. Well, maybe not, because to take advantage of the iPad (and iPhone) as a universal remote does require an upgrade of key parts of your AV stack.
But if you’re in the market for a brand-new home theatre, you should definitely pick something that supports remote control via an iOS app. Pioneer has some kit that does this, as do others.
Instead of holding an infra-red wand out at arm’s length and yelling at people to get out of the way of the sensor, your iPad-compatible AV receiver links to your home WiFi network. There, the app on your iPad communicates over the network, so no need for line-of-sight.
The iPad’s large screen means the sky’s the limit when it comes to remote functionality. We’re anticipating more and more features as this idea matures. EQ control with the swipe of a finger. Tapping sources. Tweaking the volume with a swirling gesture.
Or even using the iPad as a secondary screen, say, showing the electronic program guide while the TV is still running the program at full screen.
5. Actually, it is a good e-reader
We suggested in our anti-iPad article that you’re better off buying a dedicated e-reader instead of the using the iPad. Well, there will always be folks who hate reading on a transmissive (i.e. glowing) display, but for the rest of us, there’s reason to consider the iPad as a reader.
For a start, there’s that 4:3 display. It’s a fiddle for playing widescreen movies, but websites look better at this aspect ratio, and it’s a far more natural page shape. In portrait mode, 16:9 displays are much too long and skinny!
Also, you can have multiple ‘software’ readers running on it. Apple’s own iBooks store doesn’t stock every title, and they’re pretty expensive. Amazon’s Kindle system has lots of books, but some aren’t allowed to be sold to Australians. And there are straight-up, platform-independent readers like GoodReader that can handle everything from PDFs to Word .doc files. Pick and mix!
The iPad is best for people who normally like to read larger-format (as in page size, not text size – though you can change text size with a tap) books such as hardcovers or trade paperbacks. Indeed, the iPad weighs less than the average trade paperback, and as with all e-readers, it remembers the last page you were on.
That means getting “back into the story” on an iPad can actually be quicker than with a physical book… unless you use one of those fancy ‘bookmark’ things we’ve heard about.
4. It’s one of the best ways to read magazines
Where the iPad really shines for reading static text is with magazines.
Some titles have really embraced the format – US geek bible Wired is a good example – to create something that’s better than a paper magazine in almost every way.
See something you like on the cover? Tap it, and jump straight to that story. Article references a website or some online video? Tap the link and jump out to the browser.
What’s more, when you subscribe to an iPad-edition magazine, you get new issues as soon as they are released. This is great for foreign mags, as there’s no airmail delay, and the mags cost about as much as having them delivered by surface mail… which of course would see them arrive two to six weeks late.
Plus, digital magazines include lots of video, interactive elements, and fun tricks with layout – and think of all the trees you’ll save!
3. Best device for quickly checking something online
The half-a-bottle-of-red-wine-down knowitall has ruled too long at our dinner parties. He can sit in his chair and expound on something or other, secure in the knowledge that you’re just too full to jump up, run in to the study, boot the PC, load up the browser, type in the URL… agh.
With an iPad, you grab it, tap it, and within seconds have a whole range of articles refuting your guest’s claim that the QWERTY keyboard is laid out that way to slow typists down (It’s to split commonly occurring letter pairs in English – a subtle but vital difference!).
Of course this fast online experience goes further. Check the weather in an app with a single tap. Check a recipe in the same way. Go through the kitchen cupboards with the iPad in one hand, tapping your grocery order into a supermarket app.
Checking movie times is pretty good too. Do people still go to the movies, in this age of 65 inch LCDs and HD streaming?
2. One of the best video-call devices
Almost every sci-fi writer predicted videophones, but almost none of them predicted that video calling would piggyback on non-phone devices and be both incredibly easy and incredibly cheap.
For the fraction-of-a-cent-per-MB in data costs of the link to another Skype user, you and your best buddy in Stockholm can chat away for hours, with reasonable image quality, on a screen that shows faces only a little smaller than if you were at normal conversational distance.
Video calling apps on the iPad are extremely easy to use: enter your password, tap a contact. Because there’s only two cameras (front and back) and one microphone, there are none of those video and audio problems you can get on notebook PCs.
And the super-streamlined interface is actually easier to use than a regular telephone – you don’t even have to remember any numbers!
1. It’s the easiest to use
You might think this a rather subjective point. You might be a whiz on Android’s latest iteration, the web-darling Ice Cream Sandwich. But in Steve Job’s biography, there’s an anecdote of a six year-old boy in a developing nation, who has never seen a computer before, let alone an iPad, picking one up and playing around with the camera on it.
Yes: the iPad is a computer so simple, even a human can use it.
The iPad’s single greatest contribution to information technology is that it takes the ‘whuh?’ out of computers. See a symbol, tap it, something happens. That’s the whole exercise. You can go more in-depth if you want, tweak your settings, hack and jailbreak, but at the end of the day you can do a factory restore, hand it to your 80 year old grandmother and have her reading the newspaper in less than five minutes.
Apple has really nailed the user interface on iPad – at least where basic, everyday use is concerned. The iPad is, in many ways, the first computer that’s more like a TV – you switch it on and use it, and everyone knows how. You don’t need ‘an iPad guy’ on standby to ‘get your emails back’ or fix a mouse.
If you’ve got things you need to do online, and you don’t like messing around with computers, then you need an iPad.