NOTE: This is part 1 of a two-part review. In this part, we take a holistic look at the "iPad experience". The second part will delve deeper into individual apps and touch upon usage scenarios
If you've been following our Facebook page, or our forums, then you'd know that we got our excited little paws on the Apple iPad a while back. We were too impatient to wait for news from Apple on an international release, let alone one for India. So we got a colleague to bring it in from California. If you are as impatient and would like it NOW rather than at an unknown time from now, your options are limited: Your best bet is to do as we did and get it imported from the U.S. If the U.S. is not an option, then you would have to pay ridiculous sums of money on Ebay - starting at Rs 34,490 for the 16GB WiFi model! You can also check your local grey market. Prices are around Rs 30,000 for the 16GB and Rs 45,000 for the 32GB version. Our suggestion: don't pick the iPad at these Ebay or grey market prices, the Apple iPad simply isn't worth that price tag. If you do import the unit, the good news is that the Apple iPad's power supply is universal, so you won't have to worry about powering the iPad on our 220V lines: just plug it in and juice it up. Our unit was already charged to above 90 per cent out of the box.
Unfortunately, we don't have an unboxing experience to share with you. Due to the nature of how the Apple iPad got to us, its case was left behind. May it rest in peace on Californian soil. But unboxing videos are like mushrooms all over YouTube and chances are you already know what's in the box - not much at all - the box comes with the Apple iPad, a USB cable that plugs into the aforementioned universal power plug (a quick aside here: that USB cable is very short and it's very annoying to have the iPad tied to a wall socket with such a short leash), some documentation, those stupid Apple stickers, and that's it. Not even a pair of headphones with a $500 purchase.
While we don't have an unboxing to share, the thoughts that ran through our head when we first laid eyes upon it were: (1) wow, (2) it's smaller than we thought, and finally, (3) it's heavier than we would like it to be. The Apple iPad is all screen, well except for its bezel; that bezel, incidentally is just the right amount of non-screen estate - ideal amount of space to hold the Apple iPad, without triggering screen interactions. While we would like to see future versions to be all screen, along with some amount of dead space or finger-rejection technology -- we don't think this would be an obvious implementation for most users, and would make for a poor, unpredictable interface. We are sure of one thing though -- expect future revisions of the Apple iPad to tout two features -- slimmer, lighter. The Apple iPad is about 200gm too heavy for most postures which do not involve assisted support of the device. Do you imagine yourself sleeping on your back, holding the iPad above your chest and reading? Perhaps sitting down and holding the Apple iPad as you would a paperback book? Maybe, you foresee using it one-handed (mind out of the gutter sir!)? Under all these scenarios, the Apple iPad is a tad too heavy to make for a comfortable experience over an extended period of time.
If the weight brings a tiny frown to your face, the iPad's screen will turn it upside down and split it ear to ear. Switch it on and you will say wow. The Apple iPad's IPS display is a real winner with an amazing viewing angle. You can view it from any angle with very minor loss of clarity.
Buttons and port, from top to bottom and left to right we have: home button, dock port, speakers, sleep button, mic, 3.5mm headphone jack, volume control, orientation lock
Besides the gorgeous screen, the iPad has the iconic single home button akin to its smaller brethren - the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Sleep button along the top right edge, with a 3.5mm headhphone jack and microphone on the left side of this top edge; we also have volume controls along the right edge of the iPad, and an orientation lock right next to the volume controls. Here, we would like to talk about a very welcome introduction to the iPad: there is no wrong way of holding it. Turn it around and the interface follows you, it's amazing and very welcome. If anything, the iPad feels a little too quick and eager to change orientation - the orientation lock is thus a welcome addition. We would have liked the lock to also lock-in the home button, as hitting home while interacting with the iPad is a rare, yet irritating experience. While there is no wrong way to hold the iPad, third-party developers haven't been consistent in adopting and following Apple's lead in this UI aspect. Most will lock you to a single orientation which makes for a very un-iPad experience.
Next, we take a look at syncing the Apple iPad with a PC, and dealing with iTunes (spoiler: iTunes sucks).