Last updated: January 27th, 2010
After months of speculation and rumors, it’s official: The Apple iPad is real. The device, announced earlier today by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, is designed to fill the perceived gap between the smartphone and the laptop.
With literally thousands of articles and blog posts being written about Apple’s new device, it’s easy to experience information overload. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive Apple iPad guide. It is our complete, constantly updated article on the iPad and its specs, features, pricing, availability and much more.
Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the Apple iPad, and then some:
Apple iPad: The Overview
On multiple occasions, Steve Jobs spoke about creating a new category of devices that would fill the gap between the smartphone and the laptop markets. He slammed netbooks for “not being better than anything.” He wanted something that would be better than a laptop at browsing the web and that could play games, movies, YouTube () videos and more.
The answer to that gap, at least for Apple, is the iPad. It’s essentially a giant iPod touch/iPhone () with a 9.7-inch screen, 16 to 64 GB of memory, and the ability to run almost every iPhone app in the App Store (). It can connect via USB to sync with your PC or Mac, play HD video, act an ebook reader and a lot more.
While there are a lot of functions, all of which we describe below, its killer feature is by far the price. While many predicted it would cost $1,000, the starting price of the iPad is just $499. For comparison, the Kindle DX, which also has a 9.7-inch screen, costs $489, only $10 less than the iPad.
Let’s get into the details of the iPad, shall we?
Apple iPad: The Specifications
Here’s what we know so far about the iPad’s specs. We’ll update this as more is revealed about the device:
– SCREEN: 9.7-inch IPS LCD screen. The LCD provides the backlighting, but most of the technology is IPS, or In-plane switching. This gives it a stronger viewing angle than most screens.
– RESOLUTION: 1024×768 pixels (132 pixels per inch)
– SIZE: 0.5 inches thin.
– DIMENSIONS: 9.5 inches x 7.5 inches x 0.5 inches
– WEIGHT: 1.5 pounds (1.6 pounds for 3G)
– CHIP: 1 GHz Apple A4 chip. They went in-house instead of going to Intel.
– MEMORY: Three models with 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB solid state hard drives.
– INCLUSIONS: Accelerometer, Microphone, 30-pin connector, Compass, full capacitive multi-touch, Bluetooth () 2.1, 802.11n Wi-Fi, 3G access on higher-end models
– BATTERY LIFE: 10 hours at full blast. On standby, it will last over a month.
Summary: It’s thin, it’s light and it’s fast.
The interface should be familiar to you; it looks a lot like the iPhone OS interface. In fact, it’s essentially a custom version of the iPhone 3.2 OS. Primary apps are housed at the bottom and you swipe left and right through your home screens to find apps. Steve Jobs even mentioned that it would be easy for people to pick up on the interface because so many people (7.5 million) have either an iPhone or an iPod touch.
There is a new SDK for developers to build apps specifically for the iPad, but all iPhone apps run in the iPad. iPhone apps can run either in their native resolutions or in a “double pixel mode” for full-screen use. Most of the apps we’ve seen run very well in double pixel mode. Developers will be able to modify their apps using the new SDK to optimize them for the iPad, though.
Most everything else is just like the iPhone, but larger. The keyboard is larger, although we have yet to see whether typing is more efficient via your thumbs or with all 10 digits.
Web, Email, and Maps
Just like the iPhone, it utilized Safari Mobile as its browser. It’s bigger, but not much else is different. And just like the iPhone, it does not support Adobe Flash, a plug-in that Apple simply doesn’t like.
In fact, most of the other standard web apps are the same between the iPhone and the iPad. Email, for example, utilizes a similar interface, but it does have more features such as email previews. Google Maps () runs on the iPad just as it does on the iPhone.
One app that did get some new features though was the Photo app, which now sports an iPhoto-like interface and some new multi-touch inputs that allow you to easily view and manage multiple pictures.
Apple’s tablet comes in two models, based on their connectivity. Both versions have Wi-Fi connectivity, which is to be expected. However, the higher-end model also comes with 3G access — for $130 more, you can have a 3G-enabled tablet.
If you want the 3G model, you have to use it currently on AT&T: it’s the official launch partner of the iPad. Luckily though, you don’t have to sign a contract to use the 3G connection. Instead, you prepay for however many months of 3G access you desire. It costs $14.99 for 250 MB of data per month, while you’ll need to fork over $29.99 monthly for an unlimited plan. You can cancel any time without any termination fee.
The iPad utilizes microGSM, meaning that it’s not specifically bound to AT&T. Thus, you can expect it to work on international carriers sometime in June or July. That doesn’t mean you can just stick in a T-Mobile or Verizon card though: Verizon and Sprint use the incompatible CDMA 3G format, while the iPad’s 3G modem doesn’t support T-Mobile’s 3G frequency.
Ebooks and Publishing Features
Apple essentially drove a dagger straight into Amazon and the Kindle’s hearts with the iPad. Not only is the device comparable in price to the Kindle DX, but it has its own bookstore: iBooks.
iBooks, announced today at the iPad event, is a new native application for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that allows you to browse, download and read e-books. At launch, five book publishers will have publications on iBooks: Penguin, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillian and Hachette. Left off the list is McGraw-Hill, whose CEO accidentally spilled the beans on the tablet a day too early. We think it’s possible that Apple handed retribution to McGraw-Hill for the leak, although you’ll likely see its books on the iPad at some point.
Here’s how Steve Jobs described iBooks:
“The iBooks app is a great, new way to read and buy books. Just download the app for free from the App Store, and you’ll be able to buy everything from classics to bestsellers from the built-in iBookstore. Once you’ve bought a book, it’s displayed on your Bookshelf. To read it, all you have to do is tap on it and it opens up. The high-resolution, LED-backlit screen displays everything in sharp, rich, color, so it’s very easy to read, even in low light.”
Time will tell whether the iPad is suitable for long-term reading, but Apple didn’t hold back any punches in its quest to wrest the ebook crown from Amazon.
TV, Movies and Video
The video display itself is crisp and sharp, and that was on clear display when Apple demoed several movies on the device. The video interface is just like the iPhone’s video interface, with options for bookmarking, fast-forwarding, rewinding, etc. Oh, and it plays video in HD.
It also has an iTunes store-like interface for browsing videos, movie chapters, and purchasing video content. On the left-hand side you’ll find your viewing options with screenshots, descriptions and video length. On the right-hand side are graphs, either from that movie or TV show.
Still, this device is NOT a widescreen device. There is a lot of black space on the top and bottom when watching a film in widescreen mode. We expect that Apple will address this in future versions with slightly longer iPads, but for now you’ll just have to deal with it.
Summary: It’s great for watching movies, but it’s nothing revolutionary.
You really want to look out for the iPad as a gaming device, because EA and others are going to build some amazing games on this platform.
Several games were demonstrated for the iPad, including Need for Speed Shift and N.O.V.A. In Need for Speed, the driver moves the car by turning the tablet. Tapping on the device changes your perspective and zooms. You utilize the touchscreen to accelerate and change gears. Our estimation is that the game looks great — better than an iPhone game — but still doesn’t compare to the PC. In N.O.V.A., a first-person shooter, you can use thee fingers to open a door or slide two fingers to toss a grenade. There are more input possibilities with Apple’s tablet.
The same things that made the iPhone a popular gaming platform were apparent in these demos, however the iPad’s HD capabilities and its more advanced touch screen will make it a stronger gaming platform. And with all iPhone games running on the device, there’s already a big library in its collection.
Productivity and iWork
For productivity and business work on the iPad, Apple has introduced a new version of its iWork software specifically designed for the touchscreen device. It’s been in development for over a year, apparently.
A rundown of the key features and applications in iWork for the iPad:
– Keynote: Apple’s flagship presentation software has gotten an overhaul that allows you to easily view and add slides using the touchscreen interface. You can made edits, browse through slides and more.
– Pages: Word processing on the iPad goes through Pages, which allows you to type more effectively without a physical keyboard and provides touch-based formatting options. For example, dragging images on a page is easy since there’s auto-wrap.
– Numbers: Apple’s spreadsheet feature lets you design data cells and spreadsheets with the multi-touch interface.
– Cost: It costs $9.99 for each app in the app store.
It’s important to note that you can open Excel, Word and Powerpoint documents in iWork, meaning that you can work on your PC documents on your iPad.
Pricing was the biggest shocker at this event. While we thought it would cost in the $800 range (some thought $1,000 was more accurate), the true price of the cheapest model is actually $499.
As you can see from the image above, it comes in two editions: Wi-Fi enabled or Wi-Fi + 3G capable. There are also three sizes: 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB. Thus, the cheapest (Wi-Fi, 16 GB) costs only $499, while the most expensive iPad, the 64 GB model with 3G, costs $829.
Here’s the rundown, in order of price:
– $499: 16 GB, Wi-Fi only
– $599: 32 GB, Wi-Fi only
– $629: 16 GB, Wi-Fi and 3G
– $699: 64 GB, Wi-Fi only
– $729: 32 GB, Wi-Fi and 3G
– $829: 64 GB, Wi-Fi and 3G
In addition, you have to take into account the cost of 3G services. The iPad has 3G through AT&T alone currently, but there is no contract, meaning you can prepay or cancel at any time. For 250 MB of data a month, it costs $14.99 per month, while unlimited data is $29.99. It’s quite a good deal in our estimation, especially since you can cancel your contract at any time and you get access to any AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot for free (e.g. Starbucks).
The iPad, while it doesn’t have an official launch day, should land in stores at the end of March, 60 days or so from today or so.
Only the Wi-Fi versions will be in stores at that time, though. If you want a 3G version, you have to wait until April.
We’ll update this section when we have hard launch dates for both device models.
Above: The HP Slate
The iPad isn’t the only device to sit in this mid-level computing device realm. A slew of competitors were shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, and many more are slated to arrive in 2010.
While Apple may have the advantage of its brand and its loyal customers, watch out for some of these competitors, many of them running on the Google Android OS.
– HP Slate: A Windows () 7-powered tablet
– Asus Eee Tablet: An upcoming tablet that may run on Google Android
– Notion Ink Tablet: Another Android-based tablet
If you want to dig deeper into iPad competitors, we have a more comprehensive overview of nine tablet challengers.
What the iPad Lacks
While in a lot of respects the iPad is a sleek, powerful device that will surely create massive lines on launch day, it is missing a lot of features we had hoped would be in it.
Here are just a few of the things that you won’t find on the Apple tablet:
– No camera: There is no front-facing camera for video conferencing, and there is no back-facing camera for taking photos. This is a major omit from the device. Hell, most netbooks and smartphones have a camera or two.
– No multitasking: You cannot run multiple apps at the same time. To make this a useful device, it needs to be able to do things like run Last.fm while tweeting. This is one we hope Apple will fix with a future iPhone OS update, but for now it can’t run multiple apps.
– No HDMI Output: You can’t plug your iPad into your TV.
– No USB port: You can’t plug in your favorite keyboard into the device…or anything else, really. It will plug into your computer via the same cord you charge iPhones and iPod touches with.
We’re disappointed at a lot of the things that were excluded from this device. Gizmodo has a great list of other things the iPad doesn’t include, but the point is this: It’s a first generation device, and it’s not going to include a lot of the things we want. With that said, make sure you know the drawbacks before buying.