Apple iPad: a Kindle killer?

by ron on January 27, 2010

Today Apple released their highly anticipated tablet device, which they named the iPad. To me, this name is too similar to iPod; iSlate or iTablet would have been better.

In a nutshell, think of this device as a huge iPod Touch.

Let’s go over some of the features of this device.

9.7 inch, multi-touch, LED-backlit, IPS display

The iPad screen is stunning. At 9.7 inches, it’s the same screen size as the Kindle DX, but it supports 1024 x 768 pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch.

The LED-backlit screen means that the screen can be viewed both indoors and outside in sunlight.

The IPS (in-plane switching) technology allows a viewing angle of 178 degrees, meaning that you can look at it from almost any angle and still see a crisp image.

Like the iPhone, the iPad supports multi-touch gestures, making the device very intuitive to use.

Web browsing experience

imageHaving the Safari browser displayed within the 9.7” display means that you can easily view the entire web page, without needing to constantly pinch and zoom as you do on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

The accelerometer is also extremely fast, meaning that you get an instant response from the iPad when you tilt the device from portrait mode to landscape mode.

10 hour battery

imageThe success of the iPad was largely going to be dependent on its battery life.

In a surprise move, Apple claim that you will get 10 hours battery life while browsing the web on wifi or watching videos, and up to a month of standby time.

Very nice!

Performance

image Everyone was very pleasantly surprised at how fast response was on the iPad.

Full blown games worked seamlessly, and all of the applications were extremely snappy.

Apple attribute these improvements to their new custom-designed 1 GHz A4 chip, which is the brains of the iPad.

The fact that a chip this powerful can also give you 10 hours of battery life is also quite a pleasant surprise.

eMail

The mail application has been improved, such that while in landscape mode you can see a 2 pane view with your inbox on the left, and the selected message on the right.

If you tilt the device into portrait mode, this results in zooming in to the selected message, and everything else gets out of the way.

Typing email is also enhanced due to having a large on-screen keyboard, with keys which are almost the same size of a physical keyboard. The keyboard doesn’t have any sensory feedback mechanisms though.

Photos

imageThere’s a very slick photo application which makes managing your photos a joy to use.

They have ported over many of the features available in Apple’s iPhoto product (faces, locations, stacks) over to the iPad.

The slideshows available are also extremely attractive.

You can even use the iPad as a digital photo frame, displaying one of your selected slideshows, which you charge the device.

Video

imageThe will be THE device you’ll want to have when travelling and you want to watch any kind of video.

The iPad’s dimensions aren’t quite 16:9, which means that you can either watch it in native 16:9 aspect ratio and have some black bands on the top/bottom, or double-tap to zoom into the video and get a slightly cropped video.

I don’t consider this a big deal, since the overall viewing experience is significantly better than anything else on the market.

YouTube

imageI like the convenience of having YouTube on my iPhone, but to be honest I don’t really use it that much due to the very poor video quality even when using Wifi rather than 3G.

The iPad changes all of this.

You can now even watch HD YouTube videos in excellent resolution.

The YouTube application itself has been revamped on the iPad, giving it a very clean and elegant look.

iPod

imageThe iPod application has also been revamped on the iPad.

Clean and elegant looks here as well.

Both wired and bluetooth wireless headsets are supported.

We all know that the speakers on the iPhone suck. I’m hoping that the speakers on the iPad are significantly better. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

iTunes

imageGet access to music, TV shows, podcasts and movies.

All of this can be done directly from the iPad via your Wifi or 3G connection, or it can also be synced with iTunes running on your desktop computer.

The interface has also been revamped, but there’s nothing much to mention about this.

App Store

imageThe iPad will allow you to tap into the existing App store, which implies that you’ll have access to over 140,000 existing applications (and growing by 10,000 to 20,000 apps per month).

All of these existing apps will run natively on your iPad. The issue, of course, is that of resolution.

These native apps, which were created in order to run on iPhones and iPod Touch devices, will run in their “small form factor” size on the iPad.

You’ll then be able to hit a “2X” button on the screen which will double the resolution of this app, making it almost fill up the iPad screen.

Some apps will look just plain weird in this larger resolution, but most apps will still be very useable.

Artificially doubling the resolution will also imply that the crispness of the image will degrade, making some apps look slightly blurry. But again, based on the demos shown, the blurriness is hardly noticeable.

As time goes by, developers will create native iPad applications, and also tweak their existing apps in order to support both the small and large resolution types, which will result in all apps looking great on both iPhones and iPads.

This is a great strategy for Apple, since it will imply that any other competitor will find it extremely difficult to compete with Apple due to the massive size and growth of the App Store.

iBooks and the iBook store

imageThe iBooks app is a great way to read and buy books.

Definitely much sexier than anything else out there.

Book text is extremely crisp, the pagination animation looks like you really are turning a page in a physical book, and even the display itself makes it appear that you are reading a physical book by giving it a 3D feel.

Apple are also launching a new iBook store, and will hope to also become the dominant player for all ebook content.

This will be an interesting battle to watch, since Amazon already have over 400,000 Kindle ebooks available in their Kindle store. Remember that you can also download the Kindle reader application for your PC, Mac and even your iPhone/Touch/iPad, since there’s a Kindle app in the Apple App Store.

We’ll have to see how the battle plays out between Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple’s iBook store.

Maps

imageThere’s not that much new functionality is the maps application, other than it is displayed in a much larger screen in high resolution.

High resolution imagery, such as satellite view or street view looks excellent on the iPad.

Actual use of the application itself is also extremely quick and responsive.

Calendar and Contacts

image image
The calendar and contacts apps look extremely polished, and I see many people throwing out their conventional organizers/planners in favor of the iPad.

Home screen

image The home screen does look elegant and polished, but I am concerned that it fits 20 apps per screen, exactly the same as on the iPhone.

I’m sure I’m not the typical iPhone user, but I’ve more than maxed out the amount of applications I can have installed and displayed on my iPhone.

The iPhone currently supports 4 apps per row, 5 rows per page, and 11 pages of apps. This comes to a total of 220 apps. That may seem like a lot of apps, but when you consider that there are over 140,000 apps available and around 15,000 new ones every month, then it becomes very easy to fill up your 220 app slots.

Whenever I want to add a new app to my iPhone (frequently!), I have to figure out which other existing app I’ve got to remove in order to make room for the new one.

There’s plenty of “gap space” available between the apps as they are displayed on the iPad’s home screen, so I hope that there are more than 11 app pages made available. My feeling is that it will be exactly the same as the iPhone, implying that the limite of 220 apps will remain.

Spotlight search

image Spotlight search is exactly the same as it is now on the iPhone.

It allows you to easily search across all of your apps, email, notes, contacts and calendar items.

Very useful, but nothing new to see here.

Keynote, Pages, and Numbers

image

Apple are also introducing custom versions of Keynote (Powerpoint competitor), Pages (Word competitor), and Numbers (Excel competitor) specifically for the iPad.

Each application will cost $10.

These apps will definitely come in handy, since you’ll be able to start creating mock-ups of presentations, documents and spreadsheets and then polish them up once you’re back on your desktop computer.

It will also allow you to modify existing productivity documents while on the run, and allow you to deliver a Keynote presentation simply by hooking up the connector for a display output.

Wireless, 3G, and a digital compass

The iPad will support 802.11n, in order to take advantage of the latest wireless technology.

It will also come in an upgraded model which will support wireless 3G, allowing you to connect to the Internet from almost anywhere.

Apple have negotiated deals with AT&T, where you can get an unlimited 3G data download plan for $30/month. You also aren’t locked into a service contract. You can cancel at any time. On top of that, the SIM is unlocked, meaning you can use whichever provider you like, as long as they support microSIMs.

The iPad will also come with a built-in compass, but notice that it won’t have native GPS. It will have “assisted GPS” which it will obtain by leveraging either wireless or 3G connections.

Accessories

image I’m sure that as time goes by there will be a whole slew of accessories made available for the iPad, but we’re already off to a good start here.

The first accessory is a dock for the iPad.

The second accessory is a keyboard dock. Note that the iPad will also work with an Apple Wireless keyboard as well since it supports Bluetooth 2.1.

There is a camera connection kit, which enables you to hook up the iPad to an SD card slot reader.

My favorite is the iPad Case, which is not only a nice looking carry case, but also doubles up as a device to prop up the iPad to make viewing a video or typing more comfortable.

There are also various accessories which will enable the iPad to output to TVs, projectors and external displays.

So what’s missing?

Even though the iPad looks amazing, there are definitely some additional features which many were hoping for.

The iPad does not have a camera. Imagine how cool this device would be to do Skype video chats.

As mentioned above, there is no native GPS module contained within the iPad.

Safari still doesn’t support Flash content.

There are no advanced notification capabilities.

There is also no sign of any multi-tasking capabilities.

It’s quite possible that some of the above features may be made available via the iPhone version 4 software upgrade which is rumored to be close to release.

Netbooks vs iPad

Doing a quick custom configuration of a Dell mini 10, with a built-in GPS, TV tuner, bluetooth, 160GB SATA hard drive, 1 GB RAM and Windows XP Home, this came to a total of $494.

So here we have a netbook priced at the same level as that of the iPad, where I can run absolutely anything I want. There are many other examples of netbooks which appear to be more functional and cheaper than the iPad.

The thing is that it comes down to the user experience. The user experience on the iPad will be far better than that of a netbook experience.

A netbook at the same or slightly cheaper price point than that of the iPad won’t be able to compete.

I believe that the iPad is going to kill off the netbook market.

WIll the iPad mean death to the Amazon Kindle?

image It will certainly mean death to the Kindle DX, currently priced at $489.

The entry-level iPad is priced at $499, so there is no reason whatsoever for choosing a Kindle DX over the iPad at the same price point.

The original Kindle (with a 6 inch display) is priced at $259, which is half the price of the iPad, so it’s possible that this device may survive.

The reality is that the Kindle is just a good e-reader. The iPad is SO much more. Would people be willing to pay twice the price for a device which not only is a better e-reader but also performs all of the features mentioned above? I think so.

By releasing the entry-level iPad at $499, I believe Apple have effectively killed the Kindle today. Kindle, may you rest in peace.

The bigger question will be whether Amazon’s Kindle store will survive the attack now led by Apple’s iBook store. Remember, there’s nothing stopping us from reading Kindle books on the iPad, since there’s a Kindle Reader app available.

The iPad will be made available at the end of March 2010.

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