Q: Thanks for your very thorough review of the iPad Wi-Fi. I’m in the elderly category, and therefore have little knowledge really of the iPhone or iPod touch, although I’ve had an iPod for 5 years. Your review naturally addresses the general populace, but as a senior I have a question that perhaps a younger person would not have: If one buys the Wi-Fi version, will one be able to use most apps without Internet access, or do most of them require Internet? I’m interested in playing games or entertaining myself somehow on long car journeys, for example. I have wireless Internet at home, so that’s covered. I’m assuming Safari does not work without an Internet connection, so web surfing is out, but I am unsure about the apps.
A: The good news is that you generally only need Wi-Fi access to do those things that actually need Internet connectivity. Obviously applications such as Safari and Mail fall into this category, as do the iTunes Store and App Store. Calendar and Contacts can be synced over USB from iTunes or transferred wirelessly via Apple’s MobileMe service, but even in that case a constant connection is not required to actually use these apps but merely to transfer data to them.
The built-in photos, videos and iPod applications do not require any Wi-Fi access at all. Instead, content is loaded on from iTunes via a normal iPod-style USB connection to your computer. In fact, you’ll find that for media content, the iPad syncs with iTunes in much the same way that your iPod already does, and all content is stored locally on the device.
Using the iPad for reading works in much the same way. Although iBooks and Kindle Books are initially downloaded to your device over Wi-Fi, once the download is complete they’re stored on your iPad and you don’t need any kind of Internet access to actually read them.
Likewise, the vast majority of games do not require any kind of online access at all. Some games offer additional features such as online scoreboards that you can use if you’re connected to the Internet, but these are not required to actually play the game. There are a few exceptions to this, such as multi-player games that require online access and some of the newer games that are more focused on social networking aspects that single-player enjoyment.
The bottom line is that most of the iPad functions that require Internet access are pretty obvious by their very nature: Checking e-mail, opening web sites, downloading new applications, and so forth. If you’re not concerned about doing those sorts of things while away from home you should be able to happily enjoy your iPad.