We've managed to get our hands on an Apple iPad, which launched over the Easter weekend in the US. The first six hours with Apple's latest creation, the iPad, should be the best you'll ever have with the device but it takes a lot less than that to realise that the iPad falls some way short of the high level of expectations after the iPhone.
Apple does a stellar job in building up the illusion and the iPad is packaged, like all the firm's devices, very nicely. Once rid of the packaging you soon realise that a 10in slab of aluminium and glass isn't the most nimble form in the palm of your hand. You don't have to possess the physique of Poseidon to hold the device with one hand but if you do use the iPad for protracted periods of time then you'll want to lean it on something.
What hits the user first isn't the size or weight but rather the device's single most impressive feature, its screen. There's simply no word for it, the 9.7in IPS screen is breathtaking, striking much the same effect as the original iPhone.
Because it has a gloss finish, reflections are commonplace. It's a shame because the screen itself is bright and looking at photographs you notice that the contrast is also impressive. But any light source behind you is likely to impose a rather annoying flare.
It's not long after turning the device on that you are forced to connect it to iTunes and 'activate' the device. If you're an iPhone user then the settings, data and apps, if they are compatible, will be transferred over. In our case iTunes decided to give up the ghost halfway through the initial synchronisation.
If you're outside of the US and are willing to splash the cash on an iPad prior to its worldwide launch then you're in for a nasty shock. Apple doesn't want you to access its App Store before it releases the device to the free world. If you try and log in using an iTunes account which has a non-US credit card on file then you simply get a message saying that the App Store is not currently supported in your country.
This check isn't done using anything as technologically advanced as IP geo-location but rather just your account details. Unless you have a very generous friend who lives in the US, that shiny new toy will be pretty useless for the time being.
Once you get past the credit card checks and make it inside, it doesn't take long to realise that the iPad store isn't the same bargain basement App Store found on the iPhone. Rarely do you find applications costing less than £7 and free apps are few and far between.
Apple does provide an e-book copy of Winnie the Pooh for free and while beautifully illustrated, it's hardly the most technologically demanding application for the iPad. The interface is also nice but far from astonishing. So, by employing a simple networking trick, we downloaded the free ABC Player application, a sort of iPlayer for the US, and watched some telly.
The whole process was pretty smooth over Wi-Fi and we didn't witness issues with system performance or Wi-Fi connectivity. Quite how this will pan out with dodgy 3G networks is another question.
The issue we did have was with the positioning of the speakers especially when the iPad was held in landscape orientation. As the speakers are on one side of the metal casing, unless you hold the device so that the power switch is to your left, you will almost certainly block the three speaker holes. Even in portrait orientation, the device has to be held away from the body so as not to obstruct the speaker grille.
Unsurprisingly, given that the iPhone is still the standard bearer for mobile web browsing, the iPad's comparatively massive screen real estate improves the experience. The lack of Flash support is felt most when you try to view Flash encoded videos but you soon realise that your life can indeed continue without Flash in your Web browsing life.
Once you start entering URLs you realise that the iPad isn't designed to compose War and Peace. Unless the device is placed on a desk, you'll have one hand holding the device steady while your remaining digits grapple with a keyboard that provides no tactile feedback.
The iPad isn't any more portable than a netbook and judging by our initial Wi-Fi only tests, battery life isn't all that great either.
Check back on V3.co.uk later this week, as we'll be posting a full review of the Apple iPad, including our conclusions on the device's potential as a business tool.
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