Apple iPad: Good or Bad for Travelers?

Last week, Steve Jobs gave a keynote speech introducing Apple’s answer to the tablet computer – the iPad. Watching the announcement online, I was both pleased and disappointed with the new Apple iPad.

The size and weight are wonderful. It is quite easy to travel with a 10″ screen that weighs only about 1.5 lbs. The built-in keyboard and numeric pad seem easy to operate and the battery life of 10 hrs – one month on standby – is extraordinary. I also like the multi-touch, similar to the iPhone, as well as the bright color LED-backlit screen.ipad

The iPad is an excellent eBook reader. With the bright display, you won’t need an external light source to view text as required with the Kindle and other e-ink displays. Images and videos come alive in full color rather than grey scale. The base model comes with four times the storage of the Kindle DX.

But it’s not just an eBook reader. Videos and slideshows from your last family outing will be easier to share with the large screen. Showing photos from The Grand Canyon elicit squints on the iPhone’s screen; showcasing them on the 10″ iPad will more likely evoke “ooohhh”s and “aaahh”s.

There is a 3G option with each model, very helpful if you desire internet access outside a wi-fi location. The 3G service does not require a contract but does add $130 to the initial price on top of the $30 per month for unlimited bandwidth.

And that is not the only downside.

There is still minimal support for multi-tasking, with minimal meaning some of Apple’s own pre-installed programs are allowed to run in the background (i.e. Mail communication with servers), but you can not read an eBook and stream Pandora at the same time.

Apple’s storage choice is odd as well, offering 16-64Gb of space: Larger than the Kindle DX’s 4Gb but much smaller that the typical 160Gb netbook. My 32Gb iPhone fills up quickly with apps, music and movies I access on the road so I was hoping the larger physical size would come with greater storage capacity.

The lack of USB ports, HDMI out, and a camera are a deal breaker for some. Anyone looking to replace a laptop will be upset that the iPad still needs to be tethered to another computer for all of its syncing.

If you can live without the 3G antenna – or if you have a 3G phone already – there are netbooks available for $200-300 less. They are not as lightweight and are a bit stingy on battery life, but they have larger hard drives to store your favorite programs and more photo/video content.

If you are an adamant early adopter, a huge Apple fan, or someone lacking a 3G device, then the iPad will appeal to you. Personally, I will wait until the next generation to see if they fix some of my perceived flaws in the device.

Is the iPad really just a supersized iPod (well, supersized on steroids with 3G)? Will you be camping out on the first day of sale to get one? Do you think your Kindle will beat an iPad any day of the week? Let us know your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I blogged on this last week, and for me the pros are: price, data services, eBooks, and iPhone app support. The cons are: no camera, confusing form factor, and iWork. Hopefully once developers get going, they’ll cook up some iPad apps for world travelers.

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