Bookmark and Share

In and amongst the fevered pro-iPad ravings today, I thought I’d throw a bit of a wrench in the works, as I’m not of the opinion that the thing is all it could have been. Mind you, I’m definitely pro-iPad, I think it’s a great device, I just think it could have been a lot better.

With that in mind, here are some things I really think can be done better:

The iPad’s 3G support is artificially limited to AT&T. The thing is, AT&T has lousy coverage, which I can attest to, as it has zero coverage here. Would have been lovely if you could have contracted for data with your actual 3G provider. I understand Apple and AT&T are feeling around in each other’s pants, but it’s the experience of the consumer that’s at issue here for me.

The iPad’s display resolution requires significantly degrading 720p HD; it should have been 1280 by 960 for that reason, and also because that would have kept the same DPI as the iPod, which is pretty decent, although even that is outperformed by, for instance, a Motorola Droid. Now, the 4/3 aspect ratio is fine; that’s about paper sizes and I think is entirely appropriate. But if the long-way resolution was 1280, a 1280 x 720 medium-HD image or movie would fit on there perfectly with controls underneath, not to mention subtitles that don’t overlay the picture, etc. 1024 was a very poor choice.

No IR emitter. A what? Your television, surround system, DVD player and many more devices can be controlled by a remote that emits infra-red signals. Such an interface consists, in general, of one transistor, one IR diode, and a hole in the case to send the IR light through. What a great media controller the iPad could have been, putting the likes of Harmony remotes completely to shame. Oh, well.

No front facing camera. There is a world of communications out there that uses webcams; that is, cameras that face the person at the computer. If the iPad had a camera like that, any time it was online, you could web-conference, or you could make podcasts, or just take pictures of your beautiful (and/or goofy) face. Nope. I’ll miss this capability.

No rear facing camera. The iPad would have made a great inventory controller if you could have pointed it at a barcode, and it could have been able to read it. For that matter, applications like Delicious Library allow you to catalog your own library of DVDs, games, books and so forth. Very nice to do this. Unfortunately, you can’t with the current generation of iPad. A real shame. And something that darned near every phone out there already has. What were they thinking? Were they thinking?

No CF/microSD/etc slot. Ouch. If we could expand our storage, then the number of apps would could use expands as well. Plus, we could swap in various movie libraries, music libraries, etc. It’s a doddle, technically, to do this, and very inexpensive… so I rate this a real fail.

No direct USB connection, so camera/drive connection is annoying as well, and for the same reasons. If I’m out in the field with my DSLR, it would be *very* nice to either upload images to look them over on the larger display, or to use the iPad as a tethered USB controller for the camera, with preview, remote focus and remote fire. I can do that with my laptop, but I’m looking for reasons to stop carrying my laptop here.

Uses cables to sync… wifi, duh. here we have this great machine with a superfast radio connection to the host/parent computer (at least 10 Mb/s), and we’re still stuck in the 1980′s cabled world. Cables get tangled. And lost. Plugs wear out. Fail.

Uses cables to charge — a charge pad would have been great here, and they’re really starting to show up a lot. Imagine just setting the iPad down to charge, instead of having to plug it in. As with the computer connection, cables (and chargers) get lost, and connectors wear out. A charging pad would have been a much better way to go.

The iPad’s bezel is simply too large; it makes the iPad bigger to no advantage. I don’t buy the “thumbs go here” argument. I hold the thing from the back, open-handed, sometimes with a finger orthogonal to an edge to stabilize it. If the iPad has to be this size, why can’t I just have 1280×720 resolution, then, instead of this huge, dead black area?

It’s a little heavy. Just a little. I’m of mixed opinions about this, because the reason it is as heavy as it is, is that it has two large batteries in it. I’d probably just smile if there were three of them, but again, the weight… tough call here, but since I have to actually use the thing, I guess having it handle well in my hands is very, very important, and half the lifetime would be ok with me. I wonder if the thing can be modded to use just one battery. An interesting idea, no?

OS limited to no multitasking. I think that’s a serious error. What about messenger type applications, that need to be listening to the network all the time, and react immediately when you get a message. Would have been nice, but not this time around.

512m of non-expandable memory (not storage) is tight for apps+data. This is a different issue than the many GB of storage for your music and videos and apps is; this is operating RAM where the programs need to reside when they’re actually running. You’re not going to be doing a lot of fast image processing on this thing with that kind of configuration, and that’s really too bad, at least in my view.

The curved back — put it on a table, and it’ll rattle around, especially if you try to type on it. Further, there’s no easy way to use your fingertips to grab the back (and this is probably one of the reasons why it has that awful acreage of bezel area.) You should be able to lay it on a table or a flat stand and work with it, and you should be able to hold it safely and steadily in your hand without wrapping your fingers around it. Now, again, I can see why they did this: that curve makes the iPad seem thinner than it actually is, and that’s all warm and fuzzy because people like thin. Thin is in. But I submit to you, dear reader, that functional is more important. And by going with the fat bezel and the curved back, they tossed functionality away for fuzzy and useless feel. If I can’t use it… that’s not good.

So there you have it. Keep in mind that I really like the device. I’m just not in the group of wide-eyed “it’s magic!” Apple worshipers. For the money – which is considerable – I just want the most I can get. I fully expect devices running Android to create competition in most, perhaps all, of these areas, and I hope that’ll motivate Apple to step up where they’ve missed the boat.