Since the wraps finally came off Apple’s iPad, the buzz on the internets has reached a deafening fever pitch, as everyone from MacLife to Engadget to the Huffington Post to… well, us has scrambled to make known their reactions to this touchscreen-driven piece of shiny new tech. We suspect the luster’s already starting to wear off, though, and if you’re actually planning to rush out and buy an iPad on day one, here are a few things you should probably consider:
What will you actually use it for?
If you’re interested enough in the iPad to follow news of its release, odds are you may already own a few gadgets that already replicate most of what it does. Hell, if you’re reading this site, you probably own at least a PC and a game system of some kind, and we’re willing to bet you can already read books without the help of a $500 device.
Above: Sure, it looks cool now, but do you really need it?
Smartphones and laptops already enable web browsing and email on the go, and any number of less cumbersome portable devices can play games. Kindles, iPhones and similar devices already offer a way to read digital books for those who really want it, tablet PCs are already in wide use by serious visual artists, newspaper and magazine content is often freely available on the web, and very few people have ever really needed the ability to create spreadsheets on a handheld tablet. Granted, it’d be cool to blow into a boardroom and show off a badass presentation on one of these. For everything else, however, there are already cheaper, more practical alternatives.
Yes, it’s a sharp piece of technology, and given Apple’s track record, it’s going to be fun to use. But other than satisfying a lust for new gadgets and shiny things, can you think of a real need for a device like this? Apple’s betting there’s an untapped niche market between smartphones and laptops, but it’s hard to imagine people leery of either device suddenly stepping out of the woodwork to drop half a grand on this thing. Which brings us to our next point…
It’s too expensive
Apple has a history of going a little overboard when pricing its products, and it’s telling that Apple CEO Steve Jobs considers $499 to be “an aggressive price point” (read: cheap) for the most bare-bones iPad with 16GB of storage and no 3G functionality. For the sake of perspective, here are some other fun things you could buy for that much money:
An iPhone 3GS ($99) with 5.7 months of basic service ($70/mo.)
A PlayStation 3 ($300) and an Xbox 360 Arcade pack ($199) or Wii ($199).
A DSi ($170), a PSPgo ($250) and a new game ($30-$40) for each.
An Amazon Kindle ($259) and an 8GB iPod Touch ($184), with $56 left over for ebooks and Apps.
Eight new PS3 or 360 games ($60 apiece), or 10 new Wii or PC games ($50).
62 paperback books (at $8 apiece)
6,237 Super Bouncy Balls (around $.08 apiece)
Don’t expect games to jump in quality
If you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch user, you’re probably already well acquainted with the caliber of games normally made for the devices, which is to say you already know there’s a massive tsunami of bullshit drowning out a relative handful of quality software. Good iPhone games can be measured in the tens, which is discouraging when you consider there are tens of thousands of Apps in existence for the platform. Worse, even the games that are good tend to pale in comparison to offerings on the DS and PSP.
Above: They’ll likely be like this, but prettier
Although the iPad features a beefier 1GHz processor and a much larger 1024x768 screen (compared to the iPhone’s 320x480 resolution), better technology doesn’t automatically mean better games. Unless there’s a sudden jump in interest in the iPad from big developers cranking out high-end product (in which case you can expect to start paying high-end prices), the reality will probably be prettier versions of the same small-scale casual games and half-assed, awkward-to-control action fare. And on that note…
Touch-centric games will be a nightmare to control
Although we haven’t yet had an actual hands-on with the iPad, we mocked up our own ghetto cardboard facsimile – based on the device’s exact dimensions – to get a feel for its shape (if not its heft). And while it might actually be more comfortable than the iPhone for playing games that superimpose onscreen controls, playing games that require full use of the touchscreen – particularly fast use – is going to be slow torture.
Above: Yeah, this won’t lead to repetitive stress injuries, or anything
Possible lag issues on the larger screen aside, using the entirety of the iPhone’s touchscreen requires you to move only one finger to reach all four corners. Blow that touchscreen up to iPad size, meanwhile, and suddenly you have to move your entire arm. Not only could this get tiring after a while, but it absolutely means you’re going to look like a spaz when playing touchscreen-driven action games like Eveningstar (pictured above). At that, having an entire hand, wrist and part of your forearm obscuring the screen – as opposed to a single finger – is going to obscure crucial chunks of the action, leading to deaths you didn’t see coming.
With that in mind, we can predict that large chunks of the iPhone’s game library are likely going to suck on the iPad. At the very least, a lot of game developers are going to have to radically rethink their approach to touchscreen control, and that’s without even considering what motion controls will be like on the larger iPad.
The keyboard will be awkward, too
Even if using it as a gaming device doesn’t appeal to you, there’s still plenty to dislike about the iPad, starting with its gigantic onscreen keyboard. There’s a reason one of the very first peripherals Apple unveiled was a keyboard dock: trying to type with this thing is going to be a pain in the ass. The iPhone’s onscreen keyboard is bad enough, and that’s designed to be reachable by both a user’s thumbs, but having to stretch those thumbs to reach keys on the larger screen – or worse, hunting and pecking them with your finger – sounds like it’ll wear thin quickly, especially if you try to use it to compose documents through iWork.
Above: One possible solution
Of course, the iPad’s multiple touch sensors mean you could probably lay the iPad flat on your lap or desk, and just type on it as you would a normal keyboard. But really, who looked at this thing and wanted to do that?