iPad+ review – Real world

It’s been about 5 years when I had flown a non-Oneworld carrier (Delta) within the United States.  This meant having no status with them and making a flight change should have already been a warning sign.  Anyway, long story short, I was very surprised by the steep cost of the “extra baggage charge.”  Essentially, I had to pay an extra $60 since I had check-in two pieces of luggage.  Furthermore, since one bag was 6 lbs over weight (over 50 lbs is considered overweight) after trying to load balance with the other bag, I got charged an additional $90 for a total of $150 which was probably more expensive than the ticket themselves.  I even asked how much it would cost to check-in 3 bags, all under 50 lbs, but the system was well built and that option would have cost $150.  Oh well.  Thankfully, all my bags made (unlike my recent trip to Botswana) my final destination.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine the hell I would have raised if they didn’t AFTER paying that much.

Since I just paid for baggage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my flight had WiFi service for only $7.95.  After paying $150 for baggage, frankly, paying another $7.95 was a no brainer.  Of course, with WiFi, I was able to use my new iPad and all its wireless functions.  The provider Gogo Inflight Internet, works on a series of cellular antennas providing air-to-ground (ATG) internet across the U.S. and provides internet service to several airlines.  This is completely different from the satellite based system used by the now defunct Connexion by Boeing.  The Gogo system uses CDMA EVDO as the wireless protocol and can apparently send 12-27Mbps to an airplane.  My personal experience with the service was actually pretty good.  I measured the speed by downloading the Speedtest iPhone applet and getting the following results (average of 5 tests): 1101 kbps down, 270 kbps up with a 19ms ping.  The only other thing I found interesting with this service is that it only works above a certain altitude (since these are basically cell towers pointed up) and during cell hand-offs, there is momentarily delay (10 seconds?) in service but really fast downloads afterwards.  I wasn’t able to test this, but apparently, the service also works up to 100 miles off the coast.  This essentially means that a single cell tower has the power to transmit that far.  Aircell, the infrastructure provider, also provides internet service to business jets – in case you have one.

Anyway, back to the iPad.  Now that I have been using this for almost 10 days straight, I thought I’d share my real world experiences here.  First, what is most interesting is that while there is only one iPad (at least for now), no iPad is the same. This might be the distinguishing aspect of the iPad – not too hot, not too cold, unlike WinCE or Android devices, there is a well defined hardware specification that further consolidates the “look and feel” both physically and the user interface.  This not only allows for a vibrant market of 3rd party add-on’s, but allows software developer’s to create really unique yet consistent applications.  The other neat thing about the iPad is that its location and situation dependent.  Specifically, when you use an iPad in the morning, it can be a newspaper reader.  At work, it can be your note taker, voice recorder and presenter.  Back at home in the evening, it doubles triples as an entertainment device, movie player, etc… all different – from one device.

The newspaper applications (I use WSJ, New York Times, USA Today) are really good on the iPad.  It allows the newspapers to display their look-and-feel and uniqueness yet, given the fixed environment of an iPad, going from one layout and interface to another is intuitive (when you swipe a finger from left-to-right, they all work the same) and very easy.  Furthermore, while the display is smaller than the Kindle DX (which I also own), the color adds a level of fidelity which allows for more information to be displayed.  Having used the DX which I felt was too large, the iPad is actually the right size.  Similarly, using similar apps on an iPhone, the layout is more menu based and there is more finger flicking while reading the article.  Yes, its a little heavier than I like, but that is a small price to pay.  The biggest difference between the iPad and other readers like Kindle and software based readers (such as Zinio) is that its fast – important from a “real world” feeling perspective.  By the time the iPad 5XY comes out in the near future, there will really be no reason to print on dead trees any more.  Other major differences (which aren’t a big deal for me since I don’t use them) is the lack of cut/paste for iBooks and the lack of a voice reader (perhaps a future upgrade?).  Similarly, the Kindle reader on the iPad does not allow cut/paste or voice reading but more important, the subscription based items do not get sent to software based Kindle reader (which means no BusinessWeek and The Economist for me).  This wouldn’t be so bad if iBooks had subscriptions items such as magazines, but they don’t – yet.  However, once they do and/or the Kindle app on the iPad accepts subscriptions from Amazon, I would ditch the Kindle completely.

Obviously, to make this all possible, the display has to be good.  On the iPad, the 9.7-inch 1024-by-768 resolution display is bright, crisp LED backlit with a wide 178 degree viewing angle.  This is possible because the iPad uses a new LCD technology called In-Plane Switching (IPS).  This was first developed by Hitachi to address poor viewing angle and color’s of LCD’s.  Furthermore, the iPad uses an LED back light versus some sort of fluorescent lamp used in many laptops today.  By using LED’s, you get both higher color fidelity (better color gamut) and lower power consumption.

For portable devices to be useful, the battery also has to be really really good. It is always frustrating to forget your AC adapter or not finding an outlet in the waiting area or on the plane itself.  If you are always in the habit of charging your iPhone (or your laptop, camera, etc…), you will be pleasantly surprised by the batter life of an iPad.  Honestly, this isn’t your typical laptop which claims 5 hour battery life and you only get 2 at most. On the iPad, they claim 10 hours and I actually get about 11.5 hours of non-stop video. Obviously, you’ll get a lot more power if you reduce wireless use and video playing, but 10 hours of what is essentially a full computer is very good.  Furthermore, if you are still in the habit of connecting the iPad, it knows if it needs to be recharged and will only charge when it requires it.  This is actually important for portable devices when you can’t replace the battery since lithium ion batteries have a fixed number of times you can charge them, thus reducing the number of charge cycles is one way to increase the life of the device.

Interesting, for the Apple accessories that you can buy with the iPad, I found them a little lacking:
  • Case – The case if pretty hard to get on the first couple of times until it “stretches” a little.  Unfortunately, when it stretches, where the case meets the display, the seam becomes somewhat loose.  Furthermore, with a case like this, you can use it with the stand or keyboard with stand (below).  However, the way this case is designed (unlike other 3rd party cases), this allows your iPad to stand in landscape mode to watch movies or as a photo display.
  • Stand – Fine in portrait mode and allows for charging, but it doesn’t allow you to display the iPad in landscape mode since the connector is in the way.  It would have been nice to retract the connector.  Unfortunately, this stand and the keyboard with stand (below) does not work with the iPhone.
  • Keyboard – The keyboard connects to the iPad via BlueTooth.  Just your regular Apple keyboard.  I will try to see if the iPad works with my other BT keyboards later.
  • Keyboard with stand – At first, I thought by having this accessory and the iPad, I wouldn’t need a laptop for most of my work related activities.  Unfortunately, this accessory is basically the stand and keyboard glued together.  Since the stand portion is at right angles to the keyboard, storing the unit in your briefcase, bag, etc… becomes rather cumbersome.  Also, just like the stand, you can’t put it in landscape mode.
One of the other biggest complaints with the iPad is the lack of an easy way to transfer files to it.  When you purchase applets like Keynote or Pages, you actually need to copy your Word documents or PowerPoint files via the Apps tab in iTunes.  Unfortunately, connecting your iPad to a PC will not mount it as a drive.  To alleviate some of these problems, I use the iPad version of SugarSync.  This allows me to keep all my files on various PC’s, laptops and now iPad in sync. 
Otherwise, the speakers are pretty good and loud.  Watching movies is a lot better than the iPhone.  Though holding it at a particular angle while seated in an airplane can get tiresome.  The only issue is if you purchase a lot of movies from iTunes, the HD version of the movies take up a lot of space on your computer. In my case, I sync using my SSD (ironically, the same capacity as my iPad – 64Gb) based laptop so I got a low disk space warning while doing this too often.  The Keynote applet is nice but doesn’t allow for much fine tuning (i.e., font size hard to change) and if you load certain PowerPoint files (especially large ones), it has a tendency to crash.
Finally, as I write this, due to both the international version being delayed and the volcano in Iceland, many Europeans stuck here have bought a LOT of iPad’s, leading to shortages in many stores on the East coast.  I have also heard that many campuses have started banning the use of iPad’s because of the strain it causes on their wireless networks.  It’ll be interesting to see how AT&T holds up when the 3G enabled version comes out later this month.  More then….
Your comments are always welcome.

Posted by whsaito

  1. William–really appreciate your thorough review. Great use of a flight!


  2. “their will be no need to print on dead tree’s”

    This statement alone makes the iPad well worth the purchase. Being able to print documents to a PDF and have a client use the Adobe Draw program to sign them is AWESOME!

    This same feature can be used for grading homework, editing scripts, taking notes, etc. The iPad is changing the way anyone on the go does anything with a computer.

    200lbs of books cut down to 1.5lbs. SOLD!

    Thanks for the very informative review.


  3. I loved your blog. Thank you.


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William H. Saito