Despite the fact that Apple has now sold more than 67 million iPads since its release two years ago, despite the fact that even the old iPad 2 is crushing Kindle Fire and despite the fact that sales of the tablet are still rising (they’re up 150 percent since last year) Apple’s iPad has many failings. This is what’s wrong with the world’s leading tablet computer.
The Screen Isn’t All That
The new iPad’s biggest sales point — the only real positive difference to affect the user, in fact — is its “Retina” screen. Those 3.1 million pixels on a 2048 x 1536 resolution, giving four times the number of pixels in an iPad 2 and a million more pixels than an HDTV can’t be bad, can they? After all, more has got to be better.
And when you look at Apple’s own features site, the improvement is clear. Move the loupe around the replica screens of the new iPad and the iPad 2, and the text of Treasure Island on the new iPad stays sharp while the type on the old iPad has fuzzy edges.
But who reads on an iPad with a magnifying glass? The smallest magnification on Amazon’s Kindle app produces text that’s about the same size and sharpness as a printed book, and even at full magnification, the blurry edges around the letters aren’t visible. The same is true of images. Apple’s marketing shows fingers zooming in on an image of a flower which stays sharp but for most people, the photos of friends and family on their iPad are viewed 1:1 as a slideshow.
For every user who isn’t a photographer or is so visually impaired that they’ll probably need the iPad’s accessibility features the screen on the iPad 2 is fantastic. Having slightly brighter colors and knowing that you can now zoom in without losing sharpness is nice but it’s not what users have been crying out for.
What we have been crying out for is the ability read in a sunny yard without feeling like were peering through gauze. Samsung has figured out how to do that with its AMOLED screen. If Apple had put half the effort it put into adding pixels we don’t really need into beating screen glare, we might have had new glass that provided real benefits.
The Battery’s a Bummer
And we’d have had them at lower costs. Those extra pixels might not be necessary but they are a giant drain on every aspect of the iPad’s workings, including power. The new iPad now packs a 42.5 watt-hour battery. That’s larger even than the 35 watt-hour battery in the 11-inch MacBook Air and much larger than the 25 watt-hour cells used in the iPad 2.
But that giant battery is being fed by the same 10 watt adapter that comes with older versions of the iPad. It’s like filling an Olympic sized swimming pool with the same hosepipe you use to fill a paddling pool. It’s no wonder that the new iPad can take as much as six hours to charge to just 80 percent — and if you’re using the iPad at the same time with full brightness, it struggles even to hold the charge.
If you like to read on the iPad in bed before you go to sleep, you’re going to need to put the charger on your bedside table or get used to losing usage for a large chunk of the day.
You’re Getting Less for Your Money
When Steve Jobs announced the first iPad, the biggest gasp of the show was for the price. At a hair under $500 buyers of the lowest specced iPad were getting a powerful little computer for a fee that was comparable to the netbooks it replaced. They might have been getting only 16 GB of storage, but that was enough to give them a reasonable selection of music, apps and videos.
One of the effects of the Retina display though is that apps have jumped in size as they load up on bigger pictures. Apple’s own Pages app has leapt from 95 MB to 269 MB. Numbers nearly tripled from 109 MB to 283 MB. iMovie used to be a svelte 70 MB. Now it’s 404 MB, and it’s no longer unusual for a top game like Infinity Blade or FIFA Soccer to weigh in at over a gigabyte.
As CNET has pointed out, although Apple limits apps to 2 GB, for owners of the cheapest 16 GB new iPad that barely leaves space for seven apps — and no music or videos. The new iPad has given us extra pixels on the screen but for budget-watchers those extra dots translate into less space for the content itself.
No Siri for You
Apple announced the iPhone 4s (which we now know stands for “for Siri”) in October 2011. It announced the new iPad in March 2012… without Siri. The prices for the two products are comparable. The functionality is almost the same — and almost the same, in fact, as the iPhone 4. And yet the new iPad lacked the single outstanding feature that Apple trumpeted on its new mobile phone.
As an act of discrimination, it’s hard to understand and even harder to justify. CNET has speculated that the absence could be because of Siri’s reliance on 3G networks, something not available on all iPads. Or, they say, it could be because Siri has been a bit of a disappointment. There’s no shortage of rumor suggesting the voice control app will be coming to iOS 6 but that would still leave unanswered the question of why we had to wait so long.
There’s no question that the iPad is a great device. It’s great for reading. It’s great for watching. And yes, it’s even good too for writing the odd blog post. But it could have been better. The screen could have solved the glare problem instead of a pixel problem it didn’t have. If it was going to have a bigger battery and a faster processor, it could have kept all those goodies for operations instead of giving them all to those pesky pixels. It could have let us tell it what to do instead of having to type. And it could have had a proper name too.