The New iPad Review (& a long winded story)

Hello world! It has been a very long time since my last blog but that’s because I’ve had my final year exams at uni. Thankfully, they went OK and more relevantly, they’re over – which means I can get back to typing whatever comes to my mind on M&M.

One article I’ve been meaning to write is a real review on the new Apple iPad (3rd Generation). For the sake of not sounding like a tool, let’s now brand this the iPad 3 – because that’s exactly what it is. And before you stop reading because you think I’m an absolute Apple fanboy, WAIT! I’ll tell you all the pros and cons of owning an iPad and it may sway your decision if you’re looking to buy one in the near future.

Copyright of Apple Inc.

So first, to understand where I’m coming from, let me tell you how I came to possess an iPad…

I’m a tech geek. I like owning the new glitzy releases. From my (biased) memory, I was one of the first in my circle of friends to get a Blackberry – back before they released a new range aimed at students and before the release of the iPhone. Initially, my loyalty to blackberry was too much and I surpassed opportunities to own the first and second generations of the iPhone. However, with their demise (yep, I saw that coming a few years before ANYONE else was saying it) and ultimate retraction from the consumer market, I jumped ship and went for the Apple iPhone 4.

Fraught with the antenna-gate scandal which lead to Steve Jobs telling the world they were holding their phone wrong, the iPhone hasn’t had the perfect PR campaign it hoped for. Then they went on to release the iPhone 4S – I was eagerly waiting for an iPhone 5 and had my cash ready for a juicy upgrade. No such thing materialised and instead they gave us the same phone with a faster processor.

The same was to be expected off the 3rd generation iPad, of which I had always had the opinion that it was simply a massive iPod touch (not iTouch like everyone seems to mistakenly call it!). And again, as with the world, I was right. A better screen and faster processor – not much too different from the iPad 2 – whatever the journos say. I was put off – and disappointed with Apple.

Moreover, my cousin and I once went to the Apple shop in the Bullring; he was ready to buy the iPad 2. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t see it’s appeal and it still seemed like a big iPod Touch! He was “this close” (imagine me indicating a gap of about 1cm small) to getting one but a fellow customer put the nail in the coffin to that dream – the guy next to us, whilst talking to a genius (whatever they’re called), asked “What can I use it for? Why do I need it?”, to which the Apple store guy replied “Well, it’s not really important, and you can use it for anything”. OK then…

Fast forward to a little while after the iPad 3 release (2 weeks maybe), I was out with my fellow Musk & Moccasin’er Asad, who happens to own an iPad 2. I held my first free iPad – free from the inconvenient tether that harnesses them to the desk at the Apple shop. It wasn’t a bigger iPod touch. No where near. It was a different machine. Free from the Apple marketing and Apple geeks, I could finally see the iPad for it’s intended purpose – it is for, as Apple say, the post-PC era.

Asad demonstrated some apps I regularly use on my iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, Safari. He showed me the multi-touch gestures that allow you to swipe through apps or come back to the desktop. Something so thin, something so powerful, something so multi-functional, it was now hitting me – this is why the iPad has been so popular. I turned to him after a minute or two and asked him, “Asad, seriously, would you recommend I buy one?” Yes, he duly said. I was sold. When Asad says yes to something, you know you can’t go wrong.

I duly looked on the Apple website and found that the new iPad and the iPad 2 had a price difference of £70. I figured that getting the new one would be worth the extra cash – you’d lose that in depreciation as soon as you get the thing anyway. But still, it’s a steep ask – you could buy a more-than-decent laptop for that kind of price. Then I realised that the phone networks sell iPads on contract – which meant I can get one and pay monthly for it and have 3G data. Duly, I scoured the net for the best deal.

Eagerly I found one I liked and ordered it. It delivered the next day. But I wasn’t in a rush to rip open the packaging.

Had I made a mistake? I definitely can do without it. I don’t need it. And it’s a little expensive. I sat in my living room with the parcel in hand for about half an hour. To my brother’s annoyance, I was being a pu**y. He said either you want it or you don’t. And obviously, being the younger brat of a brother that is a universal trait for all brothers, he urged me to open the packaging. I did it. After all, maybe I would feel differently if I held it in my hand.

I did. I got that same feeling when I held Asad’s iPad. I felt like I deserved it. It was my treat. I didn’t need it – but that’s exactly why it felt so good. It was an indulgence. I turned it on. And the first thing that hits you in the face is that better-than-HD screen.

OK that feature is good, yeah. But on a level, I don’t see the point. You realise the difference between the iPad screen and a normal HD screen but the difference is negligible. So for all those people who say the screen resolution is a reason to buy the iPad 3 – STFU. No it’s not. You wouldn’t (as Asad quite rightly says) upgrade an iPad 2 for the iPad 3. You’d keep the iPad 2. But if you didn’t have one at all, you should definitely buy the iPad 3.

The first few days however, that euphoria gradually left me. It become an expensive toy, one that I probably couldn’t afford without sacrificing other things (a few Nandos trips a month for example!). And because I’d turned it on, I couldn’t refund it! I became bitter. I used it mostly for watching videos and surfing the net. For me, it wasn’t worth the money at all, but it was mine now. All mine.

I bought a case (yes, you really do need one with an iPad – one that allows you to tilt it upwards when flat or stand it up like a screen), and that’s when the usability factor kicked in. It went from being a nice-to-have toy to a valuable tool – just the way I like it. I started to take it into uni to make notes (using the Pages app – not as good as Word on the laptops, but still user friendly), and it was great for annotating journal articles (#finalyearproblems) using a nifty cheap app called Notability.

Playing around more with the app store, you realise that soon you can use the iPad for EVERYTHING. From watching TV (TV Catchup, amongst the usuals like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and 5 on Demand – all of which have iPad tailored apps) to playing decent games (Draw Something, Words with Friends, Tap the Frog – my current favourite, Angry Birds, plus much more) to actually being productive on it (Pages, Notability, Cloudon – which uses Microsoft like user interface for document editing), the iPad was meeting my technological needs.

I found myself neglecting my Macbook and instead, I was making use of the long battery life (I can easily get 10+hrs on it) and the extreme agility and mobility the iPad 3 provides (literally the size and weight of a really thin book). Add to that DropBox and my student life was complete – I had ALL my work with me EVERYWHERE I went. A massive benefit – especially for a final year student.

So it terms of productivity – it’s great. I’ve even told my sister to buy one. For use as a recreational tool – it’s even better. All the TV and internet surfing at the fingertips is brilliant.

The cameras… not so much. They’re shocking. Like if I was Apple, I’d seriously think about either ditching them or improving them significantly. Yeah, I get it’s for FaceTime, but seriously – that’s a let down.

You defo need to spend a bit of money post-purchase on a decent case and a few good apps to make your iPad really work for you. If you’re going to spend all that money buying one in the first place, it deserves an extra £20-30 to make it really personal and really add value to your life. You’ll find however, that most apps are free. Apart from Pages and Notability, I can’t say I’ve purchased any others I really needed to make the iPad better.

But bearing all this in mind, should you buy one? Simple answer – if you have the money, there’s not much other tech that will give you the added benefit. Not only will you become more mobile, you’ll (hopefully) feel good about being associated with the brand and having the “it” gadget. If you can put the money to better use, then I’d say stay clear of it. I don’t advise college students and kids beg their parents for one – you don’t need it if you can’t pay for it yourself.

Don’t kid yourself into buying an Amazon Kindle or whatever else in replacement for an iPad because they’re cheaper. It’s just not the same. Mind you, if rumours are true, you could wait a while and get a cheaper version of the iPad in the next few months or so.

Lack of flash is annoying, but less so from a few years ago. Most websites now incorporate HTML so that people on Apple devices can browse through their sites – proper commercial sense I’d say. If in doubt, go into the stores and check it out for yourselves.

On a final note – even though the battery does last ages, it also takes AGES to charge. I leave mine on the wire overnight and it manages to charge about 50-60% (I sleep for about 7 hrs a night). So if you’re completely out, you’ll need to wait 10 hours or so for 100% battery life again.

Oh and it doesn’t come with a Calculator or Weather app. And Apple, for some reason, haven’t included a set of headphones.

Overall verdict, buy if you got the money. Don’t if you can put that money towards a more useful purpose. Don’t bother upgrading if you have a previous generation of the iPad.

The point of the long story, by the way, was to demonstrate that a) my Apple fanaticism didn’t influence my review, as I didn’t get all excited when they released the iPad; b) to show that although I had a negative sentiment about it at first, it has actually positively impacted my ability to be ‘connected’ – whether you want that or not is another issue entirely; and c) hopefully it was mildly interesting and worth the read!

That’s all folks – thanks for reading if you got through it. Below are some of my favourite apps for the iPad.

CloudOn – view and edit all office documents for FREE.

DropBox – Cloud computing is the new USB Flash Drive. Catch up.

Notability – Great for taking notes, annotating, general university work.

TV Guide – Not only the best tv guide app but also let’s you record stuff on sky plus on the move.

Stumble Upon – just for those things that interest you.

Drawing Carl – my fav drawing app. Easy to use and quite fun no matter your age. My baby cousin loves this one.

Tap the Frog – my fav iPad game by far. Very Addictive.