Apple iPad: The Next 20+ Reader Questions, Answered

Apple iPad: The Next 20+ Reader Questions, Answered 1

Following our answers to the Top 21 Reader Questions regarding the iPad, more questions have continued to flow in, so we’re answering the next set of them here. With certain semi-overlapping topics, there are actually over 20 questions in this list, taken from submissions to Ask iLounge and comments on the site, so you’ll also find more than 20 answers below. Enjoy!

20. Q: “Will the iPad recognize text fields in an imported PDF and will you be able to enter text in those fields via the integrated keyboard?” – Jeff Camp

A: The simple answer to this two-part question is “yes, yes,” but the specific timing and implementation of the “editable PDF” feature is a question mark. As demonstrated with the iWork suite, Apple sees the iPad as a more capable device for creating and editing files than the iPod touch or iPhone, and the company has already said that the iPad will be able to create PDFs using certain apps. The only question is whether PDF editing will be supported in Apple’s own applications out of the gate, or whether these apps will be solely for reading. If Apple doesn’t offer the feature, someone else will in a third-party app, but Apple should do so.

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19. Q: “Can you take ‘screen shots’ on the iPad as on the iPod touch by pushing down the Home button and the hold/lock button at the same time?” – Tim

A: This feature was not working on the demonstration iPad units at Apple’s launch event, however, it is one of the most valuable features added to the iPhone and iPod touch, and would be a disappointing omission from the final devices.

18. Q: “Is the iPad external keyboard compatible with the iPod touch? Many people are waiting for the release of an external keyboard. I’m hoping this is our answer.” – David Boyd

A: Apple’s naming conventions for accessories typically are designed to expressly delineate which hardware is compatible, and which is not. The company is referring to the accessory as the “iPad Keyboard Dock,” has shaped the plastic cradle specifically to hold the iPad, and has not made any statements about releasing iPhone OS 3.2 for the iPhone or iPod touch. For these reasons, there’s every reason to believe that this keyboard will not work when connected to a non-iPad device, and that even trying to combine them would look and feel awkward. However, since Apple has now created the framework for iPhone OS to permit both wired and wireless Bluetooth keyboards, it would not be impossible to expect these features to be supported in a subsequent software release for the iPhone and iPod touch in the future, enabling Bluetooth keyboards to work right away, and wired ones in the near future.

17. Q: “Any news as to if anyone is coming out with a portable combo keyboard/case for the iPad? If someone like Belkin or Griffin can create a case with a Dock Connector and keyboard, the iPad could function like a touch screen netbook.” – Jbg

A: There’s no official news on this yet, but we’re certain that companies are already working on keyboard accessories, including ones just like you described, right now.

16. Q: “Please please help me! I’m getting the Apple iPad. Which one should I get, Wi-Fi or 3G? Thanks.” – Troy Yearby

A: Though we can’t tell you which one is better for your budget and personal needs, which you haven’t specified, we can tell you that if we were only buying one, we’d go with the 3G version. We’re not thrilled about the $130 price premium, but given our experiences traveling – particularly overseas – having an unlocked device with the ability to buy blocks of wireless 3G data service would be far better than relying on Wi-Fi hotspots. If you don’t see yourself ever using 3G service, or selling the iPad to someone who does, get the less expensive Wi-Fi version or put the extra dollars into more storage capacity.

 

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15. Q: “Any way to do PowerPoint presentations from the iPad?” – iLouX

“I’m disappointed with a lack of video output (e.g. mini-DVI or anything). I can understand DRM-issues and all that jazz… But what’s the point of making a Keynote application if you can’t connect to a projector via an adapter (e.g. whatever-connection-they-decide-to-use to VGA)?” – Iggy

A: Iggy, Apple has already announced the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter as a $29 solution for this purpose, specifically indicating that the adapter is for use with Keynote. And iLouX, in addition to letting you create PowerPoint-style presentations directly from the $10 Keynote application, Apple says that its new iWork programs will let you import Microsoft Office documents for editing and saving into iWork or PDF formats. Both .PPT and .PPTX files are explicitly supported for opening on the device.

14. Q: “I was wondering does the new iPad… have a built in DVD drive so that we can watch our own DVD’s rather than downloading from the Net.” – Praveen Joseph

A: No.

13. Q: “Does the iPad or the dock have a connection to another monitor? Can the iPad drive another monitor? Can the desktop spread across the iPad screen and, say, my ViewSonic monitor?” – Robarooney

A: There are currently three known ways to connect an iPad to another monitor. First, the aforementioned iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter. Second is the Apple Composite AV Cable, and third, now confirmed after some confusion in Apple’s Tech Specs page, is the Apple Component AV Cable.

There are currently a number of unanswered questions about how specific applications will work with these accessories: it is currently known that, depending on how the application is written, the iPad will be able to output either the same content on its screen, or different content, to an external monitor. It would be unusual for the iPad desktop specifically to spread off of the iPad screen onto another monitor, however, as there would be no way to interact with the content there. Passive displays, such as videos, and mirrored displays, such as seeing the same game on the external monitor as on the device, seem like gimmes.

12. Q: “Does the iPad read to you like the Kindle does?” – Alexandra

A: The iPad includes accessibility features taken from the iPhone 3GS and 2009 iPod touch, including the “VoiceOver screen reader,” which can read text on the screen out loud. Though Apple has not specifically said whether this feature would work with iBooks, it has worked with virtually every other text-based iPhone OS 3.0 application on the iPod touch and iPhone 3GS.

 

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11. Q: “Is the GPS the same as the phone GPS?” – Becky

A: Apple has suggested that it is, using the same phraseology (“Assisted GPS”, “Wi-Fi” and “Cellular” for location services), and specifically referring to a Digital Compass, which was added to the iPhone 3GS.

10. Q: “If I have a cellphone, can I connect it to the iPad?” – Melvin

A: So far, the answer appears to be no, at least from a software standpoint. There’s no wired Dock Connector cable for this purpose, but also no reason that a cell phone with Bluetooth should be unable to talk wirelessly with either version of the iPad, both of which contain Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR chips. That said, Apple has released no tools to enable non-Apple cell phones to communicate with the iPhone or iPod touch—even for, say, contact synchronization—and only lets its own iPhones connect to other iPhones and iPod touches wirelessly for gaming and other apps. This isn’t to say that iPad-to-cellphone linkage is impossible, but for the time being, no supporting software has been announced.

 

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9. Q: “Will there be a way to access the Internet from the iPad using a wired connection?  We travel overseas fairly often and have often stayed in hotel rooms that have Ethernet but not wireless access to the Internet.” – L. Kelso

A: The simplest answer, and the one we’ve used for years, is Apple’s $99 AirPort Express, which unlike the iPad has an Ethernet port. You’ll have to self-supply or borrow the hotel’s Ethernet cable, but the AirPort Express provides a portable 802.11n-compatible router that will work. Apple has not announced an Ethernet to Dock Connector accessory for the iPad, and given the iPhone and iPod touch’s track records, probably won’t.

 

Apple iPad: The Next 20+ Reader Questions, Answered 6

8. Q: “I still have another question: can I access my home network drives/shares? I have almost all my movies, files and pictures on a home server, and I want to access them. If the iPad can’t do that, I don’t think its for me…” – RickjeWR

“In the General section of the Settings App on the iPad, I see a menu item called ‘File Sharing.’ I can’t find that item on my iPhone. Is it a new feature of iPhone OS 3.2? What can be configured there?” – Jan

A: The “File Sharing” menu item (found under the Settings application under General) is new to iPhone OS 3.2 and appears to refer specifically to the ability of the iPad to maintain a folder full of files that can be shared between the iPad and a connected computer. This folder will appear on the desktop of a connected Mac or PC as if it’s a flash drive. There are hints that the same folder will be enabled for the iPhone and iPod touch in the future, but no guarantees as of yet. Regarding access to home network drives, Apple has not announced native iPhone OS support for this yet, however, third-party applications such as Elgato’s EyeTV already enable wireless video streaming from a Mac directly to an iPhone or iPod touch, and there’s every reason to believe—especially given the iPad’s 802.11n support—that Apple TV-like 720p video streaming will be possible.

 

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7. Q: “What I’m wondering is whether I will be able to tether my iPad to my iPhone 3GS’ Internet connection. Through my cell plan, I have 6Gb/month of data access, which I don’t even come close to using. I’m hoping that through Bluetooth I’ll be able to piggyback my iPad on that data connection.” – JP Raadt

A: Thus far, Apple has not announced support for iPhone-to-iPad tethering, possibly because its presently exclusive U.S. partner AT&T does not support iPhone tethering at all. We have specifically mentioned this as a major miss for the iPad, and believe that all customers who have purchased iPhones with 3G hardware—and continue to pay for monthly phone service—should be able to take advantage of tethering for the iPad and computers, just as foreign iPhone 3G users can with computers today.

6. Q: “I would also like to know if the iPad can stream music from iTunes to external speakers using AirTunes?” – Tom Zosh, Wolfgang Rezny

A: There’s been no announcement on this yet. The iPad is, however, able to stream music directly to external Bluetooth speakers without using AirTunes, and since the Apple TV has AirTunes functionality, this wouldn’t be a major stretch for the iPad.

5. Q: “Can the iPad read a USB memory stick with the camera USB adapter?” – Hector Badillo

A: This depends on what you’re referring to. If you mean a Sony Memory Stick format card reader, the answer is “probably yes,” but if you mean a USB flash drive, the answer is less clear. Apple’s two piece iPad Camera Connection Kit is designed specifically to provide access to photos and videos found on a USB-connected camera or an SD card, not the file system of a USB flash drive. In the past, Apple’s since-discontinued iPod Camera Connector was able to connect to certain card reader accessories as well, but only synchronized camera-generated content from the connected cards. Our gut feeling is that Apple’s decision to name the Kit as a “Camera Connection” accessory signals that other types of devices will not be supported in any official way, but may work on a case-by-case basis.

4. Q: “I would like to know if I have a PDF, TXT, Word, or ePub document already, can I add it to the ‘iBook Shelf’ on the iPad and have it function like was would be available directly from the iBook Store from Apple?… I already have a ton of eBooks I have collected over the years and if I can’t use them on the iPad, then that is a HUGE issue for me.” – DWY

“Has there been any indication that you can upload previously purchased eBooks on the iPad?” – Jordon

A: In the form that it was demonstrated during the iPad’s unveiling, the iBooks application specifically exists to display ePub-format files on the iPad, complete with font resizing, multiple font support, and preservation of title, chapter, and limited photo layouts specified by the ePub creator. To the best of our knowledge, Apple has provided no indication at all as to whether ePub books can be synchronized from non-iBook Store sources to the iBooks application. However, Apple’s decision to use the ePub format for the iBooks app—like its choice to support MP3 for the iPod and iPhone—strongly suggests that the iPad will let you view ePub-format books acquired elsewhere with this program. PDF, TXT, and Word (DOC/DOCX) files are all supported already in the device’s standard reader software; the only open question is whether iBooks will expand as an application to support them, and possibly next-generation interactive periodicals, as well.

3. Q: “My question pertains to the potential of ‘no more free media’ for us. I am not going to pay 20 bucks every six weeks to read the NY Times, another 20 bucks for the LA Times, and another 20 for USA Today, then another 15 bucks for a book, etc… My concern is not with the device at all, or the price of the physical device but this potential of having a $200-$300 bill just for media content.” – Jon

A: You’re not the only one concerned by this. There are many questions at this point in time as to whether Apple is encouraging a content lockdown by companies that have previously used advertising support to subsidize their publications, or whether it is simply suggesting that media companies create superior, value-added versions of their existing free publications for the iPad. Going forward, the media distribution model may be to offer basic content for free via the web, and augmented, media-rich content at a charge via a subscription, or it may be something completely different. In any case, “what’s best for consumers” is not completely clear cut in our view, as the publications you’ve mentioned—and many others—have been hemorrhaging money at an astounding rate, and in the absence of a viable revenue stream, the consequence may well be that the world loses entire publications and/or high-quality reporters in favor of whomever is willing to work cheap or for free.

2. Q: “Thanks for your thoughts on this, Jeremy. I was actually a little surprised to see you describe the iPad as a ‘game changing innovation’ since you seemed somewhat lukewarm about it in your First Look piece last week. I’m sure I’ll buy one as soon as they hit the market as it looks like a blast to me.” – Downing

A: Part of the challenge we face as writers and editors is separating the facts we feel obliged to report objectively, regardless of our personal opinions, from opinion pieces where we share our personal views more candidly. With rare exceptions—except for cases, which we have really cut down a lot on fully reviewing—News articles and First Looks are designed to provide mostly factual, low-opinion discussion of new products, saving deeper opinions and judgments for Editorials and Reviews. Speaking for iLounge as an organization, almost every one of us (sorry, U.K. Bob) is genuinely enthusiastic about the iPad as a product and a platform, but this particular device is one that we really feel needs to be used hands on before a person can render a proper opinion on it. Speaking for myself as an individual, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since using it, and I know that Dennis feels the same after his hands-on time, as well. It would have been worth having at some lower price if it only included media playback capabilities, the same screen size, and a few applications. With everything it can already do, and will be capable of doing in the future, it’s truly a very exciting product.

 

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1. Q: “Why is there no stylus for the iPad? There’s no reason for having pen/stylus capabilities for the iPhone since it’s so small but… The iPad seems to be made for students who want to write notes and jot down diagrams or math formulas in an iPad.” – Gord

A: With the iPhone and iPod touch, the answer was relatively straightforward—Apple CEO Steve Jobs specifically said that the stylus was ill-suited to these small devices, and praised fingers as an easier solution. For almost everything—except keyboard use, for some of us—this turned out to be correct. Third-party styluses were released for the iPhone and iPod touch, capable of letting users with gloved fingers or long fingernails access these devices’ touchscreens. These styluses will certainly work on the iPad, as well.

What about the iPad having its own special stylus? The emotional answer to your question is “we agree, there should be a stylus, so long as it adds something that your fingers can’t already do.” Right now, the key question with the iPad is whether it can properly detect a small pen tip-sized point of screen contact, or whether it is solely able to recognize larger, finger-sized impressions. It would be a real shame if the hardware was incapable of working with a stylus if the user supplies one, and the sort of thing that would cause many people to hold off on a later version of the iPad.

Thanks again for all of your questions! We’ll address additional ones in Ask iLounge going forward, so make sure to submit your questions using the Ask iLounge submission form!

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