Apple iPad: Top 21 Reader Questions, Answered
Comments and questions have been pouring in since Apple announced the iPad two days ago, and we’ve been going through all of them so we can offer help and information to our readers. We’ll be tackling more iPad subjects in Ask iLounge in the near future, but for now, here are the answers to all of the major questions we’ve been asked.
21. Q: Is the iPad going to replace the iPhone, or is it a netbook replacer? - Matt Siddon
A: Neither, really. Unless you can fit the 9.56-inch by 7.47-inch iPad in your pocket and make telephone calls from it (hint: consider a trenchcoat and Skype), or if you’re willing to give up calling functionality in favor of carrying a dedicated voice-only cell phone, the iPad is not going to replace the iPhone. By the same token, netbooks have quite a few features that the iPad lacks: video cameras for video chat, compatibility with full-fledged Windows PC applications, considerably greater storage capacity, integrated SD card readers, USB ports, and so on. Some people will gladly give up these “extras” in order to gain the iPad’s superior screen, multi-touch interface, and other benefits, but others will go for the lower-priced netbooks instead. If you look at the iPad as “another option that some people will prefer” rather than as a “direct replacement” for existing products, it makes more sense.
20. Q: “Does the iPad have a dock for the iPhone and iPod?” - Dave
A: No. Though it’s easy to imagine a cable with Apple’s Dock Connectors at both ends, capable of connecting an iPhone or iPod to an iPad, this cable has not yet been announced, and Apple is currently treating the iPad as a device that requires iTunes synchronization with a PC or Mac, just like the iPhone and iPod. As you’ll see for yourself when you use the very much iTunes-like “iPod” application on the iPad, this doesn’t totally make sense, but given the low storage capacities of current iPads, it sort of does.
19. Q: “Since the iPad OS is the iPhone OS, I read somewhere that you cannot download stuff like PDF documents off the Internet. Is that true?” - Hendra
A: Good news: that’s completely false. The iPad, like the iPhone and iPod touch, can download and display PDFs. Moreover, the iPad is capable of creating PDF documents that can be displayed on other devices.
18. Q: “I really love my iPod touch… does any one know if the iPad’s Wi-Fi is free or not?” - Lamees
A: Both versions of the iPad include 802.11a/b/g/n antennas that are more powerful and capable than any iPod touch or iPhone; they work on more networks and can achieve higher data speeds. That said, Wi-Fi will still operate in the same way as on these devices: if you have a home or office Wi-Fi network, and are already paying for broadband service, access will be totally free.
When you go outside of your home or office network to a restaurant, airport, or elsewhere, Wi-Fi costs will vary from place to place. Some restaurants, stores, and airports offer free Wi-Fi; others charge daily or monthly fees. Users of the iPad with 3G networking—who pay for AT&T 3G service on a monthly basis—are given access to every U.S. AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot without additional charge, providing access at Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and other places.
17. Q: Regarding the iPad’s lack of support for Adobe Flash: “Are people still using [Flash] for anything other than cheesy web videos?” - Dan Woods
A: Unfortunately, yes. Some web sites have built their entire interfaces in Flash and consequently deny access to any user who doesn’t have the Flash plug-in installed. Since the launch of the iPhone, fewer developers have been building whole sites in Flash, and some of the Flash sites have created non-Flash versions. We hope this trend continues and accelerates.
16. Q: “How hard would it be for Hulu to offer HTML5 versions (of at least the movies)?” - MelM
A: Right now, Hulu’s free, ad-sponsored streaming is extremely appealing for people (including us) who prefer not to purchase TV shows and movies we’d only want to watch once or twice. Unfortunately, Hulu has said that it’s going to start charging for at least some videos this year, which could quickly kill any value that it offers relative to buying content through the iTunes Store.
From a technical standpoint, it’s not difficult to switch from Flash to HTML5, but it does require companies to write and roll out new video players; this takes some time and effort, but is worthwhile in the long run. It also requires consumers to have HTML5-compatible browsers, which are relatively new, and thus less popular and numerous than ones that work with Flash. That said, YouTube and Vimeo are already making the switch, and others will follow. It’ll just take a little time. Expect Hulu to charge for its implementation, regardless.
15. Q: “Does [the iPad] have Word? Because if it does, it’s going to replace my laptop.” - Stephanie
A: Apple will offer a Word alternative called Pages for $9.99 starting on the day that the iPad launches. Pages has been part of Apple’s iWork suite of Mac applications for years, and the iPad version appears to be a very competent, touchscreen-optimized version of the program with far more robust features—image insertion and auto-flowing, templates for common types of documents, and support for multiple fonts—than anyone would have expected from, say, an iPhone app. According to a post-announcement comment made by Steve Jobs, Pages can export to Microsoft Word format as well. It can be used in horizontal or vertical mode with an on-screen keyboard, as well as with Apple’s iPad Keyboard Dock. Whether Microsoft will release an official version of Word for the iPad is a question mark at this point; we wouldn’t hold our breath.
14. Q: “If you can type documents, can you print?” - Bob
A: For the time being, the answer seems to be “only using a workaround.” The iPad is capable of creating documents in various formats, including PDF and iWork ‘09. Apple suggests that files will be “sent” in these formats to a computer, either via e-mail or the device’s dropbox folder, for printing. There are already apps for the iPhone that are capable of sending PDFs digitally to fax machines (see scanR, so we would imagine that there will be similarly smart alternatives for the iPad in the near future. Printer drivers will depend upon Apple and numerous third-party vendors.
13. Q: “I was really looking forward to a FireWire port. The music applications are very capable of making the iPad an audio interface.” - Devin Hord
A: Obviously, the iPad doesn’t have a FireWire or other MIDI interface built in, however, third-party developers have shown MIDI accessories for the iPhone: iConnectivity’s iConnect Music / iConnectMIDI, for instance, debuted at the iLounge Pavilion at CES and is currently awaiting Apple approval.
12. Q: “I see a lot of noise about the iBookstore, but I can’t find the blasted store itself. Anyone know where it is? What format are the eBooks in? Who do you contact to get other publishers listed?” - Al Kalar
A: For the time being, the iBookstore is solely available through a button located within the iBooks application on iPads—which, of course, are not available for purchase. Books are in ePub format. Apple has not provided any specific information on how other publishers can get involved in the iBookstore yet, but the company’s main telephone number is 408-996-1010.
11. Q: “Will the iBookstore be available for iPhone users and/or Mac users, too?” - NB
A: Apple has not said yes or no on this, but it would be almost unthinkable for the company not to offer sales of books through iTunes, and most likely through the iPhone and iPod touch as well. We’d put money on a mid-2010 iPhone OS 4.0 and an updated version of iTunes for these features.
10. Q: “What about Bluetooth support?” - Anthony
A: Both versions of the iPad include Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR hardware, capable of stereo audio streaming to wireless Bluetooth headphones and speakers, as well as connecting with wireless Bluetooth keyboards, the latter a first for the iPhone OS family of products.
9. Q: “For those of us with a Mac, can we get the new iWork software to use on our Macs?” - Kevin
A: For the time being, the answer is no. Apple has only announced the new iWork programs for the iPad, and not for the Mac. It’s unknown whether Apple will eventually bundle the Mac and iPad versions together (via promotional codes or other means), but right now, the iPad apps are designed to be sold separately for $9.99 each and downloaded through iTunes or the iPad itself.
8. Q: “I think on the iPhone 3G and 3GS the GPS is really more than just cell tower GPS, no?” - Tivoboy
A: Yes. The GPS on iPhone 3G, 3GS, and the 3G version of iPad is “assisted GPS,” which means that the devices each include a GPS antenna and GPS chip, but are assisted in determining their locations by use of triangulation with cell phone towers and/or Wi-Fi hotspots. This is faster than a traditional GPS, but less accurate. An interesting summary of the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of these technologies can be found here, noting that assisted GPS results are “much less accurate than those from regular autonomous GPS units,” with Wi-Fi locations being “much less accurate [than assisted GPS] and fail to meet the published accuracy specifications,” and pure cell tower triangulation falling even further in accuracy: median errors of 8 meters off versus 74 meters off versus 600 meters off.
7. Q: “What about Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support for the iPad mail application? Any ideas?” - Thomas
A: Apple has not announced this yet. We’d expect to hear something around the time of iPhone OS 4.0’s introduction in mid-2010; Exchange support for the iPhone came in iPhone OS 2.0, one year after the device was initially released.
6. Q: “Will there be a remote for the iPad?” - Martin
A: Yes. The iPad Keyboard Dock has music control buttons built into its function keys, and the iPad almost certainly supports Apple’s latest Earphones with Remote and Mic, which have a wired remote control built in. Other remotes of various sorts will likely appear, as well, and it’s very likely that the remote features of certain Bluetooth stereo headsets and speakers will work with the iPad as they do with the iPhone and iPod touch. Unfortunately, the iPad has no integrated IR sensor, which means that you’d likely need to dock it in something with IR built in, or wait for a Wi-Fi remote control accessory or app like Apple’s Remote for iPhone and iPod touch.
5. Q: “Really, a giant iPhone/touch took them years to develop?” - Dunkin’
A: Yes. Though the physical design has a certain inevitability (and a tremendous similarity to a 2004 design patent and “iPad” we speculated on back in 2004), getting the software side of the equation correct—as well as the pricing and components—has obviously been a huge, multi-year challenge for Apple. It’s easy to reduce the iPad conceptually to a “giant iPhone/touch,” but bear in mind how many of the technologies inside are at least relatively new:
* Twelve semi- to substantially-rewritten iPhone OS apps.
* Four all-new iBooks, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps.
* The 10” multi-touch, glass display, the screen for which is not “new” by any means, but the glass is a challenge to keep durable.
* The Apple A4 processor, based on the very new ARM Cortex A9 chip.
* The battery, which mightn’t be “new” in concept but needs to be squeezed into the entirely new iPad enclosure along with an entirely new motherboard.
4. Q: “The question I have is, what is the Apple A4 processor? Is it like the ‘Snapdragon’ 1 GHz processor that are coming out in newer cell phones? Faster? Slower? Obviously the processor speed is the same, but how do they compare?” - Dave
A: The Apple A4 processor appears to be a combination of an ARM Cortex A9 CPU with an ARM Mali GPU,* running at 1.0GHz rather than the 0.6GHz of the iPhone 3GS and 0.8GHz of the 2009 32/64GB iPod touch. You can read much more about the Cortex A9 here, and the Mali GPU here. The version of Mali inside the iPad is supposedly the Mali family’s lower-end chip; it appears to be capable of performing the same Open GL 2.0 graphics of the iPhone 3GS and 2009 32/64GB iPod touch models at a higher 1024x768 resolution, but possibly with lower frame rates, and likely with additional benefits such as simultaneous multi-display support. [Updated Editor’s Note: Ambiguity persists as of February 23, 2010 as to the exact GPU found in the A4, with developers’ notes from Apple suggesting that the chip is part of the PowerVR SGX family, though not the same chip found in the iPhone 3GS or iPod touch 3G.]
The critical features of Apple’s A4 are the tight integration of critical CPU, GPU, and memory components in a very low-power chipset, achieved by the design team Apple acquired from P.A. Semi. From a computing standpoint, A4 is extremely similar to the Snapdragon 1 GHz processor, but paired with what appears to be a substantially more powerful GPU than the AMD Z430/Adreno 200 found in Snapdragon.
3. Q: “Will it fry an iPhone or iPod if you plug it into an iPad charger?” - Ryarber
A: Apple hasn’t commented one way or the other on this topic yet, but the iPad charger produces considerably more power (10W) than the iPod or iPhone demands, despite all three devices sharing the same Dock Connector for synchronization and charging. It appears to be very likely that the iPad will take a very long time to recharge when connected to a computer, and much less time when connected to its power adapter. By the same token, the iPhone and recent iPods should be able to detect and prevent themselves from being overloaded by connecting to the adapter, but it’s unclear whether they actually will or not, and whether Apple will try to use this as an opportunity to lock out “unlicensed” iPod and iPhone power adapters.
2. Q: “Can you use the Camera Kit with an iPhone or iPod touch?” - Sander Evers
A: For now, the answer’s no. Apple’s web site calls it the iPad Camera Connection Kit, which isn’t a good sign: if it was just the “Camera Connection Kit,” the chances would be higher. Note that an almost identical USB accessory was released by Apple 5 years ago for the iPod photo as the iPod Camera Connector; apart from software—think iPhone OS 4.0—there’s no technical reason that the two iPad accessories shouldn’t work with iPods and iPhones.
1. Q: Regarding the iPad Keyboard Dock: “Plastic? Really? Hope it can take the weight of the aluminum brick. Any word on whether there is an Ethernet connection in the Dock, or whether backups have to be done over Wi-Fi?” - Sondergaard
A: The Keyboard Dock is, like Apple’s current keyboards, a mix of aluminum and plastic; the dock component is sturdy enough to support the 1.5-pound weight of the iPad. There is no Ethernet in the Keyboard Dock or the standard iPad Dock, and not only do backups need to be done via a wired connection to your computer, but if you connect the Dock to a wall outlet for fast charging, you can’t synchronize via a wired connection at the same time.
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