The iPad is a rather nice, if overpriced gadget, and it is only first generation hardware and software, so the following points are a bit nit-picky. Still, a bit of constructive criticism can often be helpful! So, in rough order of importance:
App Security is seriously lacking
A great many people will want to primarily use their iPad at home, as a casual web browser for family and visitors. Despite this, there is no current way of securing applications which are by definition, private and personal. For example, Mail and Calendar are only a finger press away from anyone that has access to the device. Now, it is true you can secure use of the device with a keycode, but in practise, you would want family members to know this and be able to use the device, but not necessarily access your email for example.
A proper User Account system would solve this problem completely, but is highly unlikely to happen soon, as it is at odds with Apple's "keep things simple" ethos. What is needed then is a way of applying a new security code to certain apps. Until Apple does this anyone that needs to keep e-mail or calendar data private only has two choices: They can disable their accounts and have to reenable them (and type their password in) each time they want to use them, or they have to lock the whole device and monitor people while they use it. Neither of these options is particularly ideal.
Just enable Bluetooth Filesharing, for pity's sake!
Out of sheer bloody mindedness, Apple is still refusing to unlock the bluetooth OBEX filesharing capability of the iPhone / iPad OS. This is infuriating as it turns the simple act of sharing documents into an exhausting hoop jumping exercise (it's great news for Dropbox of course...). It also means cool little gadgets like Polaroid's PoGo printer won't work.
Where are the Cameras? (Or, even my Nintendo DS can take funny photos!)
In this day and age it's almost incongruous to buy a newly released piece of technology that doesn't have a camera or two. Now you can argue that the device is not suited to being a camera, which is true. However, the lack of one means that a great many potentially useful apps are not possible. For example, augmented reality, font-recognisers, bar code scanning, OCR etc. Apart from anything, it is just undeniably useful to be able to take a snap of something for instant use within an iPad app.
I would be very surprised if none of the 2011 iPad variants come with front and back facing cameras, for Star Trek style video conferencing.
The touch screen keyboard is good, but...
Now I have to confess that this is far better than I could have dreamed, as I am an avowed hater of touchscreen keyboards, but the iPad's is wonderfully responsive. Where it falls down are:
- Missing keyboard functions: There are no Page up / Page down / Home or End keys for example. These would be real time savers when selecting text in combination with the Shift key.
- Autocomplete is overly difficult to override: When you type a word that isn't recognised and it pops up an alternative it is all too easy to have to resort to backspace to retype your word.
- Autocomplete lacks flexibility: Where are the options to add or delete words from the custom dictionary?
- Occasionally the device starts running slowly, resulting in noticeable lag on the keyboard. This doesn't seem to lose keystrokes though to be fair.
- Lack of customisation options: The special punctuation characters are split across two pages. It would be good if we had a choice of at least a few different layouts.
- Lack of a configurable clipboard of commonly used words or phrases. Of course, including this would be tacit admission that the touchscreen keyboard isn't quite as good as the real thing...
Too Heavy for our spindly 21st Century wrists
An oft-cited annoyance, but a fair one. The iPad is light enough to hold in one hand for a while, but you soon become uncomfortably aware of it. I expect the next version to be lighter.
Where is the Alarm Clock?
Amazingly, the iPad has no OS-native app to wake the device up like an Alarm Clock. There are of course many 3rd party apps that try and fill this void, but because the iPad doesn't open up multi-tasking to developers, all of these alarm clocks rely on you having to set them each night. To put this another way, there is no way you can just leave your iPad by your bed and trust it to wake you up each morning with your favourite playlist of songs. That is a real missed opportunity, especially as the in-case speakers are actually not bad.
For iPhone OS 4.0 I would like to see half a dozen alarms, configurable for the day of the week, which can reliably trigger sounds, specific songs or a playlist (with shuffle option). These should work no matter what app you've been using prior to putting the iPad into sleep mode.
Picture Frame App has ADHT
This is a nice idea but the execution lets it down in one simple respect, 5 seconds is too short a maximum duration for each new photo. Apple needs to make this fully configurable, so if I want the same picture to display for 30 minutes then I can choose to do so.
So what's good about it?
In the interests of balance, the following points are reasons for iPad owners to smile.
- The screen is spectacular, and is possibly the greatest way of interacting with your photos short of, I don't know, maybe actually printing them?
- It's not a heater. Unlike most laptops it won't slowly broil your lap.
- The design is a thing of beauty, and it really is a joy to handle (weight notwithstanding).
- Instant startup. For casual web browsing that doesn't require input, it is better than any phone or laptop I've ever used.
- Instant wi-fi. Slightly controversial this one, as lots of people seem to be complaining that there is a problem. My experience is that I don't need to wait for it to connect though - which is more than can be said for any generation of WinMob phone I've owned.
- A wealth of original, cheap apps to download. Although split-screen competitive Flight Control could endanger my marriage...
So is it worth the money?
I'd have to say "no", but would note that many desirable, luxury goods could have the same said about them. If you don't have any burning desire to get one my advice would be to wait until later in the year for a slew of Windows / Android based ultra-thin tablets that will have a lot more functions (and potential problems that come with added complexity of course) or wait until next year, when the 2nd generation iPad will almost certainly be available, with a camera and lighter form factor.
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