From the realm of sci-fi to Steve Jobs’s stage: The iPad is official. What is it? What can it do? How does it work? Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s newest creation, all in one place.
It’s almost impossible to overstate the buzz leading up to this device. Immediately after the death of the Newton, rumours began trickling out about a follow-up from Apple; in the last five years, speculation and scraps of evidence about an Apple tablet have been a fixture in the tech media; in the last year, the rumours reached crisis levels. Today, Apple’s tablet has finally arrived, and we’ve got the full rundown, from specs, features, content and price to what it’s like to actually use one.
Here’s what it looks like on video:
• The guts: It’s a half-inch thick – just a hair thicker than the iPhone, for reference – and weighs 680 grams. It’s powered by a 1GHz Apple A4 chip, and has 16GB to 64GB of flash storage. From the looks of it, Apple finally got some use out of that PA Semi purchase, and built their own mobile processor. It’s also loaded with 802.11 n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a 30-pin connector, a speaker, a microphone, an accelerometer and a compass. Video output runs through and iPhone-type composite adapter at up to 576p and through a dock-to-VGA adaptor at up to 1024 x 768. No HDMI, no DVI – not even a Mini DisplayPort.
3G is optional, and costs more, not less. Along with 3G, the upgraded models include A-GPS. (More on this below)
Oh, and there isn’t a rear-facing camera, nor is there a front-facing camera. This tablet is totally camera-less, which seems a bit odd.
• The battery: Apple’s making some INCREDIBLE claims about battery life: 10 hours for constant use, with a one-month standby rating. Ten hours of constant use includes video viewing, so you could conceivable watch about six feature films before this thing dies.
How you hold it
Some models have Wi-Fi exclusively, while some have 3G as well. It’s with AT&T, and costs either $US15 a month for 250MB of data, or $US30 for unlimited data. With the plan, you get access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots as well. Best of all, it’s a prepaid service – no contract. You can activate it from the iPad any time, and cancel whenever you want. This sounds like a fantastic deal, until you consider how it’s probably going to brutalise AT&T’s already terrible 3G coverage.
The iPad itself is unlocked, so you can conceivably use it with any Micro SIM card . But what the hell is a Micro SIM card? For one, it’s not the same kind of SIM that’s in your iPhone, so don’t expect to just pop that in and surf for free. It’s a totally different standard, and the iPad’s the only device that uses it right now.
• The homescreen: It’s like a mixture between the iPhone and OS X: it uses the iPhone launcher/apps metaphor, but has an OS X-style shiny dock. It feels very spread out compared to the iPhone’s homescreen, though I suspect this is necessary to keep things from getting too overwhelming. For our full walkthrough of the new OS, check here.
• The browser: The browser is essentially an upscaled version of Safari Mobile, with a familiar, finger-friendly title bar and not much else. It rotates by command of the accelerometer. From the looks of it, it doesn’t have Flash support, but we’ll have to confirm. UPDATE: Yup, none at all. You can get away with that kind of thing on the iPhone, sort of, but on a 10-inch tablet it’s a glaring omission.
• Email: Mail again takes its visual cues from the iPhone, but with a lot more decoration: you can preview your mailbox from any message with a pull-down menu, and preview any message from within the mailbox, with a pop-up window.
• Maps: This one may be the most direct conversion from the iPhone, with a very similar interface through and through.
• Video: YouTube is available by way of an app, iPhone-style, which can play videos in 720p HD. iTunes video content plays back in a dedicated app, just like on the iPhone, and can also play back in HD. Movie codec support is otherwise the same as the iPhone, which is to say pretty limited.
• New apps: The iPhone app SDK has already been expanded for tablet development, including a whole new set of UI elements and expanded resolution support. The raw iPhone app compatibility is just a temporary measure, it seems – any developer who wants their app to run on the tablet will develop for the tablet. Some of the early examples of adapted apps, like Brushes, are spectacular. More on the SDK here.
• Ebooks: Apple’s also opened an ebook store to accompany the iPad, in the mould of iTunes. It’s called iBooks.
• iWork: Apple’ also designed a whole new iWork suite just for the tablet, which implies that this thing is as much for media creation as it is for consumption. There’s a new version of Keynote designed just for the iPad, as well as new version of Pages, (word processor) and Numbers, which is the spreadsheet app. Here’s what Keynote looks like:
What It’s Like to Use
It’s hefty. Substantial. Easy to grip. Fast. Beautiful. Rigid. Starkly designed. The glass is a little rubbery but it could be my sweaty hands. And it’s fasssstttt.
Brian’s detailed impressions in our hands on, right here.
Price and Release Date
• $US499: 16GB
• $US599: 32GB
• $US699: 64GB
• $US629: 16GB
• $US729: 32GB
• $US829: 64GB
Apple will ship all the iPads in 60 days – the end of March – to America, and just the Wi-Fi models internationally. It’ll be another 30 days beyond that for 3G models to be available outside our shores; Apple says they’re still working on carrier deals.
3G comes by way of AT&T, who’s offering the service without contract, for $US15 a month (250MB of data) or $US30 a month (unlimited). That’s why, unlike the iPhone, the iPad is actually cheaper off-contract.
Here’s Apple’s full press release:
Apple Launches iPad
A Magical & Revolutionary Device at an Unbelievable Price
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Apple® today introduced iPad, a revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more. iPad’s responsive high-resolution Multi-Touch™ display lets users physically interact with applications and content. iPad is just 0.5 inches thick and weighs just 1.5 pounds- thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook. iPad includes 12 new innovative apps designed especially for the iPad, and will run almost all of the over 140,000 apps in the App Store. iPad will be available in late March starting at the breakthrough price of just $499.
“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”
iPad features 12 next-generation Multi-Touch applications. Every app works in both portrait and landscape, automatically animating between views as the user rotates iPad in any direction. The precise Multi-Touch interface makes surfing the web on iPad an entirely new experience, dramatically more interactive and intimate than on a computer. Reading and sending email is fun and easy on iPad’s large screen and almost full-size “soft” keyboard. Import photos from a Mac®, PC or digital camera, see them organized as albums, and enjoy and share them using iPad’s elegant slideshows. Watch movies, TV shows and YouTube, all in HD or flip through pages of an e-book you downloaded from Apple’s new iBookstore while listening to your music collection.
iPad runs almost all of the over 140,000 apps on the App Store, including apps already purchased for your iPhone® or iPod touch®. The iTunes® Store gives you access to the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store with a catalog of over 11 million songs, over 50,000 TV episodes and over 8,000 films including over 2,000 in stunning high definition video. Apple also announced the new iBooks app for iPad, which includes Apple’s new iBookstore, the best way to browse, buy and read books on a mobile device. The iBookstore will feature books from major and independent publishers.
Apple also introduced a new version of iWork® for iPad, the first desktop-class productivity suite designed specifically for Multi-Touch. With Pages®, Keynote® and Numbers® you can create beautifully formatted documents, stunning presentations with animations and transitions, and spreadsheets with charts, functions and formulas. The three apps will be available separately through the App Store for $9.99 each.
iPad syncs with iTunes just like the iPhone and iPod touch, using the standard Apple 30-pin to USB cable, so you can sync all of your contacts, photos, music, movies, TV shows, applications and more from your Mac or PC. All the apps and content you download on iPad from the App Store, iTunes Store and iBookstore will be automatically synced to your iTunes library the next time you connect with your computer.
iPad’s brilliant 9.7-inch, LED-backlit display features IPS technology to deliver crisp, clear images and consistent color with an ultra-wide 178 degree viewing angle. The highly precise, capacitive Multi-Touch display is amazingly accurate and responsive whether scrolling web pages or playing games. The intelligent soft keyboard pioneered on iPhone takes advantage of iPad’s larger display to offer an almost full-size soft keyboard. iPad also connects to the new iPad Keyboard Dock with a full-size traditional keyboard.
iPad is powered by A4, Apple’s next-generation system-on-a-chip. Designed by Apple, the new A4 chip provides exceptional processor and graphics performance along with long battery life of up to 10 hours.* Apple’s advanced chemistry and Adaptive Charging technology deliver up to 1,000 charge cycles without a significant decrease in battery capacity over a typical five year lifespan.**
iPad comes in two versions-one with Wi-Fi and the other with both Wi-Fi and 3G. iPad includes the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi, and the 3G versions support speeds up to 7.2 Mbps on HSDPA networks. Apple and AT&T announced breakthrough 3G pre-paid data plans for iPad with easy, on-device activation and management.
Continuing Apple’s dedication to designing and creating environmentally responsible products, each iPad enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy-efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. iPad contains no brominated flame retardants and is completely PVC-free.
Apple today released a new Software Development Kit (SDK) for iPad, so developers can create amazing new applications designed to take advantage of iPad’s capabilities. The SDK includes a simulator that lets developers test and debug their iPad apps on a Mac, and also lets developers create Universal Applications that run on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Pricing & Availability
iPad will be available in late March worldwide for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 (US) for the 64GB model. The Wi-Fi + 3G models of iPad will be available in April in the US and selected countries for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad will be sold in the US through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date. iBookstore will be available in the US at launch.
*Apple tested wireless battery life by browsing web pages and receiving email over an AirPort® network, never letting the system go to sleep during the test, and keeping the display at half brightness. This is a typical scenario of use on the go, resulting in a battery performance number that is very relevant to mobile users.
**A properly maintained iPad battery is designed to retain 80 percent or more of its original capacity during a lifespan of up to 1,000 recharge cycles. Battery life and charge cycles vary by use and settings.