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Gadget patrol: the new iPad

(You knew this was coming, right?)

Comparing feature lists and statistics doesn't really work on Apple's products, because that's not what makes them sell.

Selling on feature lists only works if you're trying to differentiate your product from a pack of close rivals in the same niche. Apple 2.0 — post-1998 — sells by inventing a new niche and then defending it, by staying out in front of the pack of me-too products.

So what's the new iPad like?

Subjectivity reigns. (If you want to know about the A5X processor or what it looks like inside, go hit on Anandtech or iFixit).

What I can tell you is: it's a little fatter than the iPad 2, and a little heavier. A new iPad minus the smart cover is about as fat and about as heavy as an iPad 2 with the smart cover. Existing folio cases for the iPad 2 fit the new iPad, although they may be a bit tight. It slid into my ZaggFolio (which I swear by, because it's the best bluetooth keyboard case I've yet found for the iPad in terms of keyboard feel) reasonably easily, but getting the new iPad out of it again required some muscle power (and a death grip on both the back and the front of the iPad).

Speed: is the same as the iPad 2, subjectively. (No surprise, as all the extra performance of the A5X goes into servicing the extra pixels.) Battery life is, well, not obviously different. (I haven't had it long enough to run it down.) Camera: again, I haven't used it yet, but it's supposedly the same unit as in the iPhone 4S, so no surprises: a jolly good snapper for a portable device that isn't marketed primarily as a camera.

Speech recognition: I haven't spent much time with it. You hit a keyboard button and start talking to your iPad. Then you hit it again and it transcribes what you said. This doesn't seem terribly useful to me in its present state, but I will note that in my test dictation it missed two words and didn't mis-transcribe anything. It's much easier, when editing, to spot a missing word in a sentence than to spot the wrong word in a sentence. As a writer of fiction, I'm going to experiment with using speech recognition as a tool for capturing dialogue, while using the keyboard for interstitial/descriptive prose.

Broadband: there are no LTE networks in the UK. I bought a pre-paid data-only 3G SIM from Three, pre-loaded with 12Gb of data (valid for 12 months), and used a SIM Clipper to cut it down to fit the micro-SIM carrier. I chose this option because mostly I'll be using the iPad where there's wifi — the 3G SIM is purely for emergency roaming, so I wanted a long expiry and enough data to cover 1-2 days a month of intensive use (for example, while staying in one of the many hotels that charge £15/day per device for wifi).

Which brings me to the bit you've all been waiting for:

The screen.

The retina display is gorgeous. It has a higher contrast than the iPad 2's display, so even classic iPad apps look a bit brighter and more colourful. Weirdly, it's when running a retina-ready iPad app that I felt a little disappointed at first; the old iPad screen wasn't bad, unlike my eyeballs, and at arm's length I wasn't usually aware of the pixels.

What drove the improvement in quality home was reading. The Amazon Kindle app is retina-iPad compatible, and switching from it to a different ebook reader (Stanza) using the same typeface size made it glaringly clear that something was going on with font antialiasing. Simply put, reading text on the screen using an ebook reader app on the iPad is indistinguishable from reading on paper (except for the backlight). I'd rate this as a better reading experience than any e-ink device I've tried. And as I've only got the one pair of eyeballs, and they're not getting any better, that feature alone was well worth the price of entry as far as I was concerned.

The important point to note is that the virtue of the iPad 3 display is entirely dependent on the apps supporting it. There's a flood of re-compiled retina-ready apps coming through the app store right now (it started about 48 hours ago), and for text-oriented apps the process looks (from the outside) to be quite straightforward, but I suspect a lot of iPad games (especially the less profitable ones) may not see an upgrade. Games rely on artwork, and while art that was prepared offline can be rescanned (I'm thinking hopefully about Machinarium here), some may not be available in any higher resolution and may have to be re-made from scratch.

As to what it's good for ...

The iPad was launched as a media consumption device, but it's mutating rapidly into a proper computing platform. Yes, there's a walled garden for apps: some folks find this more than a little annoying. But as someone with eighty-something relatives to support, knowing that they can't easily shoot themselves in the foot with their computer is actually a plus point. Meanwhile, the restrictions on what can be sold via the app store appear to be relaxing — as witness, for example, this Python for iOS. At the iPad's launch, the official word was "there will be no interpreters on the iPad, ever". And now they're happily selling IDEs. You can start by selling a locked-down platform and then open it up gradually, but you can't go the other way; so I expect the iPad to slowly become more useful for general-purpose computing over the next year. And there are some forthcoming apps that I'm rather eager to see: Scrivener for iOS, for example. (Scrivener is a really nice book-oriented authoring tool for OSX, and now Windows and Linux; having an iOS version with Dropbox support would make my day because at that point the iPad will turn into a full-fledged author's tool, lighter and more portable and with better battery life than any laptop I've met.)

109 Comments

1:

I am computer support for my family as well.... Hmmm. Kindle works on the iPad.... My wife has a kindle fire, has been bugging me for an iPad....

2:

Kindle Fire is a very different machine -- paperback sized, fits in a jacket pocket, more limited to media consumption (you wouldn't catch me trying to do real work on one). There is actually a niche for both of them, they're so different.

3:

The word on it being as good as paper might actually induce me to buy a Nyarlathopad: that's a technological milestone I've been waiting for.

I wonder how it stacks up against the iPhone (and, for that matter, any Android smartphone) for someone who mostly browses the web on the move... Even at home, it's handier to take the internet out of my pocket than to fire up a laptop; and much of my online activity - comments to blogs included - happens out of reach of WiFi.

Which leads to some interesting questions about those mobile data tarriffs: the iPad is a device for consuming a *lot* of bandwidth.

4:

Wow, I knew about Gambit (the Scheme interpreter) but not about Python. Cool! Seriously tempting, even though it has to conform to Apple guidelines on arbitrary code execution. (On one hand, I understand Apple's concerns. OTOH, Python scripts aren't typically vectors for trojans and the like.) Still, it might be useful for prototyping scripts.

(Likewise, Vim is tempting. I hadn't know about that either until you'd mentioned it. However, it looks like the only way to get files in and out of the app is via iTunes. Importing and exporting files seems to be iOS's achilles heel. You'd think they'd have learned from similar problems with the Newton...)

I upgraded from the original iPad to this new one. For me, along with that magnificent display, the iPad also got thinner, lighter and more computationally powerful. The effect is not unlike when I upgraded my iPhone from 3GS to 4S.

BTW, I think iPad (3rd Generation) has the iPhone 4S optics but the iPhone 4 sensor. iPhone 4S has a 8 megapixel sensor as opposed to iPad (3rd Generation)'s 5 megapixel. (I suspect maintaining profit margins has something to do with this.) Honestly, though, isn't using your iPad as a camera awkward?

Nile: Does your laptop wake from sleep instantly? iPads do. (This is not an exaggeration.) Not having to wait for iPads to turn on removes a lot of friction from using them.

5:

Interesting. I wonder what Apple are doing diffrently, in the 'sleep' mode.

6:

I'd think a relatively lean OS and solid state mass storage might do that, likely explains most of it.

7:

hI Charlie,
FWIW , your site looks lovely on the Xperia S (I HAZ NU TOY >_ and as ever is eminently enjoyable even on a tiny 4.3 inch screen.

8:

but damn me it's a pain to get used to typing on..

9:

WRT to speed on exiting sleep, in engineering terms I'm not sure - although all solid-state certainly helps. But all the iOS devices are really optimised for the user experience. You touch something and it responds quickly and smoothly. Even my ancient 2G iPhone still manages to do that. So as part of their design process, waking up fast is written into the heart of the iPad - it's part of what makes it so compelling.

With Python files and similar, I suspect you might find you want to email them, use dropbox or something like SimpleText (on the iPad) and nvAlt or a similar client on your desktop. I started using this recently and constant, free updating of the files between the iPad and desktop over wifi is very nice. You might need to disable that and manually sync but it's a simple button press. And, of course, once you're home you can sync wirelessly with iTunes now too - that makes it nicer.

As for me - I upgraded from an iPad1 to an iPad3. It's appreciably slimmer and lighter. It's not subjectively faster - but everything is a little smoother and on the clock probably faster. It just feels nicer though.

I'd second Charlie's comment about the screen. Fracking awesome. I had no problems reading on the old iPad but this is chalk and cheese. It's... it's like reading a well written and printed book about art where they stopped and seriously considered the font size and quality compared to reading a very old paperback with yellow/brown pages. You can read quite happily on either in practise but it's so much nicer on the well designed pages. And although Charlie may not consume other media content, streaming video to it over AirPlay is also noticeably better. I'm guessing in the background Apple have worked some OS magic so things sent in Apple Universal format take advantage of all those extra pixels. But it does look nice.

10:

The thing I find totally awesome about this iPad is that it has a QXGA (2048×1536 pixels)resolution, which happens to be pretty much the same as the 30 inch WQXGA (2560×1600 pixels) Dell monitor I bought at the end of the summer with my new desktop computer.

AND on top of that the iPad is way cheaper than my monitor alone, never mind the computer needed to feed it.

11:

Given that the profit margin for Apple is an estimated 50% I'm wondering what Google is going to come up with when it enters the Tablet market.

12:

By and large I have no trouble resisting your evangelising the Way of Cupertino, but you just got my attention with

This doesn't seem terribly useful to me in its present state, but I will note that in my test dictation it missed two words and didn't mis-transcribe anything.

Courtesy of RSI I've been swearing at Dragon Naturally Speaking on and off since around 2000 and Version 4. I'm currently on, with v10.1, and still not enjoying the experience while being Extremely Grateful for its existence. At some point I'm going to have to test drive Apple's speech recognition to see if it's any better.

13:

The current MacBook AIrs have the same style of sleep; I believe it's called "Instant On."

There are usually a couple of different kinds of "sleep" states in computers; one is just powering down the CPU, display, and hard drives -- but it needs to be awake enough to keep the DRAM alive, and that draws power. Another would be to write the system state out to non-volatile storage (hard drive, NVRAM, or SSD/flash), and then read it in when waking up. In both those cases, a laptop will be at a disadvantage, compared to an iPad, since the laptop will have a couple gbytes of RAM, while the iPad (according to WIkipedia) has 512Mbytes or so. So less power needed to keep the ram going, and less RAM to shove around when necessary.

14:

I bought it to improve the reading experience. I've read dozens of books on my iPad 2, and so I know I'll get the usage out of it. The new iPad came in the mail yesterday, and reading with the Kindle app, which is newly redesigned for the new iPad, is unbelievably gorgeous. The fonts are razor sharp, and, as you mention, you cannot tell it from a printed book. Very nice.

I'm just getting into using Scrivener. Set up a new book in it the other day, and am looking into ways to sync it with editors on the iPad. Curious if you find it (Scrivener) worth the trouble, or does it mainly devolve into tweaking and time wasting rather than writing?

15:

I use Scrivener too. It syncs natively with SimpleText and with a bit more effort with Index Cards on the iPad. Index Cards is a more Scrivener-like interface though.

A word of caution - my Scrivener and SimpleText synced perfectly for about 3 days then stopped with no obvious reason. Since I'm currently writing notes and reminders more than long form writing, I've moved to nvAlt which is still syncing perfectly happily via SimpleText.

Again tangential... but if you follow the link to my blog there's a review of SimpleText and IndexCards, nvAlt and Scrivener and my experiences on the first page still.

16:

Alas, as I understand it, Apple license their speech recognition engine from Nuance. So it's probably no more/less accurate than Dragon Dictate.

17:

Scrivener is merely an OK writing tool, but it's a brilliant editing tool. What it lets you do is look at the deep structure of a book or other long document, move stuff around, re-order plot threads, tag distinct scenes with metadata and use it for sorting/juggling them, and store your research. Oh, and don't get me started on the ability to click on scene A, scene D, and scenes J-P and DIY them in sequence as a single scrolling text (without scenes B, C, or E-I getting in the way).

Without it I wouldn't have been able to finish the last two Merchant Princes books -- too many plot threads/characters for my brain to keep track of. And it made "Rule 34" work a whole lot better.

18:

Fortunately, there are also much cheaper alternatives, certainly not with quite the same quality, but nevertheless rather astonishing performance given the 100Euro price point.

Back in 2010 I bought an Archos 7 and was rather disappointed, by a resistive display and piss poor performance of processor. I'm now working on a no name tablet with a rather nice capacitve display, 1GHz Cortex A8 and 512 MB of RAM for a cheaper price than the Archos and couldn't complain about performance or anything really, even though the screen is certainly not nearly of Apples quality. SD card reader is of course included and so is a full size USB port, as well as a mini and HDMI. Those cheap tablets have come a long way in the last year.

19:

This is not to offend anybody, but there is something I have trouble understanding: What makes iWhatevers so great? The new iPad for example was a big disappointment for me.

Everything is really very much the same, but it has a better display. Don't get me wrong: I have been pining for better displays on laptops for a long time, even if all the other components were only improved as far as necessary to drive the improved display.

IMO that's a long way from "carving a niche". I'd go so far as to call it a long overdue gradual evolutionary step that would not cause waves of excitement in any other segment of the market. A collective sigh of relief is more likely in the case of laptops.

(Disclosure: I still don't see the applications for a pad except as interactive control units for the really useful stuff at home like environmental controls, entertainment systems, cost control or at work in services and logistics.)

20:

Apple has control of the whole process - from the CPU design to the OS to the IDE used to develop for it - so they can prioritize certain things (like UI responsiveness or battery life). Android, on the other hand, is written for a series of general use cases and isn't optimized for any of them, and the makers of Android devices are completely separated from the people who write the Android code. Makers of Android devices also buy a lot of their components (like the CPU and graphics chips) from third parties, and they aren't necessaily optimized for tablets. All of this imposes a real ceiling on how polished and responsive Android devices can be.

The Apple OS knows exactly how the power circuitry of the iPad works and the engineers have tweaked the memory and video processor architecture to prioritize quickly coming out of sleep, and this lets Apple make devices that really are "instant-on". Android just can't do that.

21:

"Android just can't do that."

Well, not for a couple of months.
The strong rumor is that Google will be doing their own Android Tablet. I bet no corners will be cut there.

22:

Given Google's runaway success as a hardware maker to date, I'm sure it will be as good as the Chromebook and the GoogleTV put together! Look out, Apple!

23:

@FMguru Apple is also buying all its hardware from third parties, and Android makers have access to all the source code for optimising. What it really comes down to is many of the android hardware makers not caring if performance sucks enough to spring for either more dev time or hardware that works better with the existing code.

24:

I think if you've seen one and haven't gone "wow" then those of us that have gone wow probably can't explain it.

And that's OK - it's something that I think is so often overlooked, the differences between people. If all your thoughts about the iPad are using it as an interface for controlling systems that do anything, I'd say you're probably right. You already had wifi. You can now have a better screen to look at the controls on. So what?

If you try to put yourself into my shoes you might see why I think differently. I use it as a cross between a web browser, a book, a TV/video playback device and my old reporter's notepad. Of course as a book it's closer to a library. And thanks to the new screen, reading just got easier and better. As a TV/video device it just got better. As a note taking device it just added what has so far proved to be a good dictation tool. It still does what the first one did - just better, in a lighter item. That's special for me.

That won't make you change your mind about how you want to use it, I'm sure. But maybe an appreciation that not everyone agrees with your view of what an iPad is for will help you appreciate why some of us love the new one.

25:

Oh, and I don't think the new iPad is the niche-carver. The original iPad was the niche carver. The iPad2 and now the new iPad are the "defending its niche" steps.

They worked out at first how to make it work when no-one else had. Certainly not as a mass-market device - there were tablets around and in a very small number of cases they were almost essential tools. Now there are millions and millions of iPads out there. And one in arm's reach on either side of me. Oops. As with the original iPhone they defined a niche - it's easy to forget that prior to the iPhone everything had physical keys and many people had LCD screens and no apps. Now the Apple App Store is the largest and most vibrant of them all and it's hard to find a new phone without a browser, full colour screen and so on.

The iPad clearly works as a mass market device. There are people trying to catch up - and finding it rather had to do whereas with phones it was easier because there were a lot of phone manufacturers with expertise out there already. Now they're making sure that the competition won't catch up any time soon.

Despite Dirk's pot-stirring I won't hold my breath about the Google Tablet. They've lost the mostly eReader + some tablet-like niche to Amazon already. Various people with rather better hardware track-records than Google are struggling with the real tablet market - they can't do it at the same price. Maybe Google will do it - but their recent track record isn't so hot even on software services. For hardware, it sucks.

26:

I got an iPhone 4s a few weeks ago. Hello Siri... At first I was surprised by how good the speech transcriber was. Within a few days, it almost seemed that the speech recognition had degraded somewhat, with many more typos. I'm not sure whether this was real loss, or simply more experience. I'd be interested in finding whether other people have had similar experiences.

27:

I assume it strongly depends on how you speak.
If you put a pause between words or groups of words it will be more accurate

28:

I'm toying with getting a new iPad2. Being on a fixed income, the new models are just out of my reach.

I'd be interested to know how many of you have used 3G or 4G on a regular basis. I have an older Nook Color WiFi and an Android phone with 4G. WiFi is thoroughly ubiquitous here in Portland. I could probably count on both hands the number of times the cellular network was needed.

29:

Revolting objects.
Do these roick when you try to type onto them, with NO sensory feedback?
Do they have proprietry locked-in stuff that only, normally EVIL-CORPRATNS (Like MicroShaft have?)
Are we gullible enough to believe that Apple ISN'T a multibillion-$CORPRATN, just after your money?
Huh.

30:

My original iPad was 3G enabled. I used it twice in two years. My new iPad therefore, is Wifi only.

Hope that helps.

31:

I saw the new iPad 3 at the local Apple dealer last Friday. The new hi-res screen is a delight to read from compared to other E-readers and tablets. One of the offspring had preordered one and after its arrival, was checking out its image capabilities - quite impressive.
That said, I haven't convinced myself to buy one yet - there isn't a iPad killer app at present that I can't do without or cannot be run satisfactorily on my ThinkPad.
[(thinks) - I wouldn't mind a ThinkPad with the iPad 3 screen resolution!]

32:

We bought an iPad (immediately appropriated by my daughter), and oddly (I'm not a gadget boy) I bought an Toshiba Thrive tablet, which I'm surprised I prefer (I live an admittedly Google/open source centric life).

The Toshiba sports actual living, breathing ports (USB, HDMI), making it (for my purposes) a better "general purpose" computing platform, especially since I'm not buying into the iCloud (I'm using UbuntuOne and Dropbox). I also installed a "Hacker's Keyboard" which had cursor keys.

At the moment, Apple's consumer sense is astonishing, but speaking as someone who owned a series of Macs starting with the 128K (which was *not* a great general purpose computing platform), their love of a consumer-gratifying simplicity sometimes crosses that fine line between elegant and constricting.

(For my daughter, it's elegant. For me, it's constricting.)

My wife and I are flying to Ethiopia (from rural California), and even after ordering a keyboard for the Toshiba, I'm on the fence about bringing it instead of my Linux netbook. The tablet offers better entertainment options and longer battery life, but no Emacs key bindings, none of my software, and few of my work files.

In my case it boils down to: Work, or play?

One positive from the tablet explosion: the increasing adoption of text files and text-based markups like Markdown (or Fountain for screenwriters). It's about damned time.

p.s. -- Charlie have you played with the Mac version of Sublime Text 2? Seems to be taking the Mac world by storm.

33:

I still can't work out how apple can get the plaudits and the free news coverage time after time, when their offerings are distinctly average when you get hands on them and compare them with their competition.

The ipad3 ends up just being a higher resolution screen over the ipad2(the GPU improvements are just used up pushing more pixels). However the resolution was never really the problem with the ipad2 - the price was. I happen to have a phone with the same dpi, so I can test out the text resolution on the smaller screen - and ho, hum is the result.

The ipad suffers from the original apple design decisions. The higher resolution ends up having to be a strange mess because of the original ipad resolution - can anyone say that straight HD video compatible 1920 wide wouldn't have made more sense, if they had had the option?

As for aspect ratio, I'm thinking widescreen would make more sense. That's what we have on laptops, desktops, smartphones, Android - is there really much point sticking with 4x3 - it makes it harder to carry and use.

Google are said to to have a $149-$199 7" tablet on the starting grid for May - with enough processor power to do what you need to do with a tablet (video, books, music, web, games). The major advantage here is the price is right for the mass market - people who won't throw $499+ on what they consider a toy, but will chance $150 or $199. Lots of nahsayers, but from my perspective they have carefully identified the sweet spot for the mass market and are going after it. Only question now is can they link together a complete offering and avoid the fragmentation issues the freedom of Android presents.

Key competence of apple does appear to be a really good PR outfit who can get free coverage on the news services around the world for an evolutionary upgrade. That's the neatest trick they pull ...

34:

Got mine on Friday.

It actually seems a little slower in some cases. I noticed text entry was a little bit laggy when entering text into a web page text field with the onscreen keyboard.

And some webpages render visibly, squares (1"x1"?) of the page being rendered down the screen. The Village Voice Runnin Scared blog exhibited this especially.

Scan-based PDFs (such as a Laundry RPG book) also render kinda slowly, at least the first time a page is viewed.

On the other hand, the Wacom sketchbook app finally pretty much keeps up with pen strokes.

35:

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Display Resolution: 800 x 480 pixel

36:

"(Disclosure: I still don't see the applications for a pad except as interactive control units for the really useful stuff at home like environmental controls, entertainment systems, cost control or at work in services and logistics.)"

I work on iPad software for pharmaceutical company sales reps. The iPad carries presentations about medications that the company wants to market, and manages various regulatory concerns about what can be marketed to whom, and what information can be tracked about whom.

The older version of the software ran on Windows tablet PCs, but the pharma companies are switching to iPads because they're much cheaper and less hassle to manage than full-blown windows machines.

37:

"Google are said to to have a $149-$199 7" tablet on the starting grid for May - with enough processor power to do what you need to do with a tablet (video, books, music, web, games)."

Maybe, but that's the Kindle Fire price range. Amazon has an advantage that they can increase the profit margin of the device through media sales, so they can get a decent profit without skimping on the hardware too much.

38:

Scrivener is merely an OK writing tool, but it's a brilliant editing tool.

I don't know if I mentioned this at the time, but thanks for pointing me at Scrivener. I actually don't write prose that requires that level of editing very often - but it's a fine tool for organizing notes on roleplaying game adventures.

Okay, that's the software comment; back to the reviews of beeping things.

39:

Even if the underlying software is basically the same as Dragon Dictate, what about the microphone arrangement on the iPad? The iPhone seems to be pretty good at filtering background noise from voice, and that's got to go a long way towards simplifying the dictation process. I'm wondering if this is working in favour of the iPad's system.

And no, I won't link to the voice recognition elevator clip.

40:

The microphone makes a huge difference in accuracy -- I'm cursing the one that came in my Dragon with Bluetooth package, because it won't play nicely with the reading glasses I've acquired since my last bout of using Dragon, and if it won't stay in one place relative to my mouth that affects the accuracy. So I was wondering how well Apple's version works if the device isn't held to the head, and you and Charlie have answered that question. :-)

The other thing that interests me is that Dragon is horribly resource-intensive, and Apple seem to have managed to get the engine to work well in a tablet hardware spec. Presumably that's partly because they've optimized the natural language commands to work with their OS, and the walled garden approach limits the ways in which third party software can fail to be compatible. (She says bitterly, having spent some time this morning dealing with the consequences of an incompatibility between Dragon and the latest Acrobat Reader.)

41:

Dirk, a friend brought one of those cheap androids to the pub last night. It was hysterically funny; three minutes to boot, then a chance to try and play Angry Birds at a frame rate down around 1-2 fps (spot the lack of a custom graphic chipset driver) on a resistive touchscreen that took 2-3 taps to register what you wanted it to do.

Oh, and when Ars Technica reviewed one, the 3 hour battery life turned out to be 40-60 minutes if you actually used it to do anything.

You get what you pay for.

42:

Some more experimenting: the speech recognition on the iPad doesn't actually do any transcription until the second time you hit the microphone button, i.e. turn it off. I suspect it's using a cloud facility to do the actual recognition, which would be a bit of a downer. I'd need to put the pad into flight mode to test that, though; I'll try it later.

43:

Siri definitely transcribes at an off-site location. If you don't have an internet connection the dictate button on the iPad disappears too - so I'm pretty sure it's all handled remotely.

44:

and apple get to publish your novels before your do.

45:

Off topic, but according to the evil rag the daily mail (no link given for obvious reasons) there are traffic wardens in Barrow in Furness equipped with small video recording cameras. They have apparently helped reduce the incidence of violence towards the traffic wardens.
I don't recall this sort of thing being done before in the UK, so to me it is another Halting State moment.

46:

I'd say that Apple have gone wrong, sometimes, when they've first seen a new market. But the iPad and the iPhone both hit their targets, and keep delivering as they evolve.

In this world of reprinted press releases masquerading as reportage, Apple has the comfortable virtue of delivering on their promises. You're still free to decide you don't want to use Siri, but what comes out of the box will work.

Even Windows gives you usable control of screen resolution, so that pixels, inches, and your eyes can get to a good balance. Apple does better. Linux, I am afraid, sometimes does far worse.

That's just one example of how Apple delivers. It's not quite a "Nobody got fired for buying IBM" situation, but Apple is a good bet.

47:

You forgot to add a smiley to that wise-crack. Right?

48:

I don't know about traffic wardens but the police in North Yorkshire have had them for over a year. In fact I had a nice chat to a copper wearing one which was how I found out!

Once you know what to look for, check for a "video surveillance in operation" marker on their vests - on the same bit as says "North Yorkshire Police" for me.

They record very wide angle, about 8 hours, and part of their routine is to turn it on when approaching any incident, off when leaving and download as part of the charging routine at the end of shift. But definitely a Halting State moment, yes.

49:

A very good idea. No doubt it saves a lot of "he said she said" down at the station or in court. A surveillance society cuts both ways. The police now find it a lot more difficult to get away with "old fashioned policing" ie beating up suspects and fitting them up with false confessions

50:

I think someone else nailed it, with the comment that Siri is a cloud-based application. I ran into trouble with transcription when I was running in 3G mode, as opposed to wi-fi at home.

On a side note, one of my friends noted that Google translate on the iPhone transcribes Korean much more accurately than it does English. Then again, Korean is more phonetic than English, so this makes sense. I guess this means we could solve all our transcription problems by switching to the International Phonetic Alphabet. What could possibly go wrong with a 107 character alphabet (with 50 diacritics and additional signs, no less)?

51:

If the speech recognition is via the cloud, that explains how it's managing to do it on that sort of hardware spec -- it isn't. :-) Does mean you need a pretty solid connection to the cloud, though.

Idea for panel at Eastercon - Charlie demonstrates writing a chapter using only iPad and speech recognition, with iPad screen mirrored to the big screen in the hall so we can all see. :-) [ducks for cover]

52:

I thought iPad speech recognition was *not* Siri

53:

Reading through the comments (here and elsewhere) the big draw seems to be the display. Two questions: is increased resolution not that big a draw on battery juice per se, or does the display just have a small weight when stacked up against all of the other functions running concurrently? The second question goes to the difficulty of engineering: is it just a matter of time until the new iPad's display specs are matched by most everyone else, or is there a critical dependence on Apple's superior ability to integrate components? There has to be a practical ceiling to pixel count simply by virtue of the intrinsic limits to human vision of course, but it seems almost too good to be true if there are handhelds on the market that are already skirting that limit.[1]

Oh, a third question I guess, though this is a bit more general: What sort of color models are being used these days? Is it still the old RGB/CMYK for the generic display, or has the art moved on to something like CIE XYZ for the newer devices?


[1]This also goes to variability of visual acuity in humans. My Dad and younger brother have (or had) at least 20/10 vision while mine is . . . not as good :-)

54:

That's so last year.

The latest crop has "Allwinner A10" CPUs that have taken over the cheap tablet market in China - that's a regular Cortex A8 at 1GHz coupled with Mali 400 GPU that has proper driver support and quite a punch besides. The kicker is of course, the mass market price of $7 for the those chips - which is how they manage to make those tablets so cheap.

Definitively no troubles whatever playing Angry Birds on this one (I failed my saving throw against Angry Birds the second day after getting the tablet ...), running flash or regular android apps. Unlike the Novo7, which has troubles in this department since it has to deal with the poorly supported MIPS CPU that has now fallen from grace. On my old tablet I couldn't even display PDF files without losing my nerve for lack of oomph in the CPU.

There is absolutely no comparison to older tablets in that price range. It has a proper capacitive 5-point touchscreen and is a very smooth experience in general. Resolution may be an issue for some, but I'm perfectly fine with 800x600 and more is available in more expensive tablets. (150-200 Euro, instead of 100 Euro - IMHO not worth it.)

55:

Dirk, #52, The iPad doesn't have Siri - which is a more complete integration to services such as the ability to say "make an appointment 3pm meet Jack, Priory Street" say and take that information, add a new event to your calendar and so on. It also (apparently quite successfully) takes things like "Do I need a coat today?" and tells you about the weather.

On the iPad there is (currently) only a voice-recognition tool that drives a dictation system. However, since the Siri commands for new line, spaces, punctuation etc. all work as described, and the dictation mode is not available away from an internet connection, it seems a pretty safe bet that it's using the same off-device processing and recognition system.

ScentofViolets, #53, the new screen does use more juice than the old - this is why the new iPad is slightly heavier and thicker than the iPad2. Apple decided that making it a little bit bigger but with a much higher quality screen and similar battery life (but slightly longer charging times) was the sweet spot in their design and so it's bigger to have more battery volume inside. More battery could have meant longer between charges or faster processors instead but it means more pixels in this version.

56:

Let me reference a post from last year concerning the "retina display". Understand, I'm not knocking the ad copy for iProducts; quite the contrary. I'm marveling at how close the limits are being approached by a consumer handheld . . . and for well under $1,000 at that. Will the current Retina specs be middlin' or even a floor five years from now? One can hope. I bought my latest TV in 2005 or thereabouts (when the last one had degraded from color to green-and-white) and went with a plasma screen because the LCD displays of the day had pixelation artifacts that made the movement of the ball during a game rather distracting. If I'd waited five years I could have bought an LCD set with better resolution and none of the defects for maybe half the price or less.

57:
More battery could have meant longer between charges or faster processors instead but it means more pixels in this version.

So this is kind of like real biological life; (good) vision turns out to be expensive, evolutionarily speaking. But the returns are often well worth it :-)

58:

"Will the current Retina specs be middlin' or even a floor five years from now?"

There is no point in going any better on a pixels/mm basis since the eye could not resolve the difference. That's an eye with perfect Human vision, which most people do not have to begin with.

59:

At some point in the not too distant future we are going to hit the wall of perfect quality, first of display hardware, and then of display software (3D movies will become indistinguishable from real movies).

I predict a lot of people losing their jobs. Hollywood actors, for example. Angelina Jolie looks are useless if you only need her for motion capture. And at some point even motion capture will be obsolete.

Porn industry will collapse, too.

On the bright side, child porn industry will collapse as well.

60:

There was an <Evil Corporate Laughter> tag which got lost.

On the other hand...

61:

My Guess is that in five or so years time the Hi Def Resolution will be much the same BUT ..the 'Screen ' will be Flexible and ... curl able ? A Snap of the wrist to a Thing that is like a Fan and you have a Touch Screen or Scroll the thing from a core like rod and an Ancient Scroll is brought up to date with the hardware being in the core of the Rod as it were.

If you lose the necessity for a 'Screen ' to be a rigid plate then all sorts of things become possible.

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2011/October/31101102.asp

64:

This is completely, unrepentantly off-topic.

I'm listening to Rule 34. The airline rant the Toymaker makes is fucking hilarious. (5.62? What am I missing? Is that a critical mass or something?)

Completely from everything else, that was hilarious.

Also, it ties in to trust and relation, as Schneier talks about in his recent slab.

(Although he didn't fantasize about skull fucking.)

65:

Yep, thats it as a first level flexiscreen. I do like the idea of a Fan Screen though. An OLED high Tech version of These ...


http://www.japangarden.co.uk/Buy-Oriental-Folding-Fans-c-486.html

66:

I'm still hoping that the entire screen can be scrapped and replaced with a monocle display, and eye tracker to replace the finger.

67:

It occurs to me that we have some very solid wiring to "drawing" with finger movements. Using controlled eye movements is going to be very different: can we even make the controlled movements?

68:

Well, one might add a voice input or even an EEG interface to "click" on whatever one is looking at (plus perhaps other commands eg zoom)

69:

One can (or one bloody hopes one can, as I'm going to attempt to build one in the next months), and use machine learning to classify and discard the saccades.
One of the problems is selecting the eye tracking technology; IR cameras mean whatever's doing the tracking has to be a little distance away and looking at your face, coils implanted around your lens have one very obvious drawback, and EOG return values drift over time.

70:

A word of advice from a longtime Three user; if that was all you're planning to use the SIM card for, they offer 500MB vouchers valid for 24 hours which cost two quid each, so the 12GB pre-load was probably overkill. Pretty good ISP though.

71:

I don't care about the iPad, but I will post a Scrivener comment as you mentioning it a while back brought it to my attention (and now I can't live without it)... Scrivener needs to have an invisible save/load as zipped option. I hate that it forces the user to do the scut work that the machine should be doing.

72:

...Yes, the new iPad, in my view, is really great. Which is what I expected. It is just a fucking awesome machine. I hated Microsoft for most of my formative professional career, and now that I'm getting into middle age, Apple becomes, not the 800Lb gorilla, but absolute fucking King Kong, for real this time. With like flashing lights and a stiletto at your neck.

73:

I didn't realise that stanza had been fixed for ios5: awesome!

"eighty-something relatives"

That's a *lot* of relatives!

74:

Craig: Scrivener needs to have an invisible save/load as zipped option.

It does. Look into its backup mechanism, which invisibly saves a zipped copy of your project in happy fun backup directory.

75:

The more famous you get the more relatives you have. A bit like winning the lottery.

76:

*snort*

Charlie means relatives in the 80-something age range. At which stage, you're beginning to look after them, contrary to certain Republican Party propaganda that has us Europeans euthanasing them before that point.

77:

It sounds pretty cool, but it still doesn't sound like a must have device (nor does any tablet made by anyone at this point). Still waiting for the solution that is going to make tablets useful for "doing things" rather than being really really pretty toys.

78:

In my experience, those people who feel negatively about idevices *value different device attributes* than the attributes that Apple is emphasizing. I know a lot of Android users who have abandoned their devices because they were slow, and because every different device had a different flavor of the software, making it difficult to support. Apple has gone to great lenths to make their platform *standardized* and their response times snappy. These are *not* trivial. If you think the iPad is overpriced, don't buy one, but don't criticize the millions of very happy iPad users who DO find the price worth it. They and the press are not brainwashed; it's YOU that doesn't get it. [Nor is there any reason why you should. People have different values.]

With regard to aspect ratio, widescreen only makes sense in landscape mode; in portrait mode, your screen width would be too narrow. 4x3 makes perfect sense when you may be turning the device in either direction at any moment, even within the same app. Frankly, I can't imagine anything more ridiculous than a widescreen tablet the size of an iPad. Do you make it even wider? or cut down on the narrow dimension, thereby removing existing real estate? Neither would work well.

Finally, let me just say that I've been reading for two years about the next Android tablet that was about to compete with the iPad; NONE have been successful. How can you describe the iPad as "distinctly average" when there isn't a single viable competitor? The Kindle Fire is nice for what it does, and is indeed much cheaper, but it is vastly inferior in capability. Also, for me, ANY 7" tablet would just be too small; I WANT a screen the size of an iPad. [Again, my values need not equal your values.]

79:

Ah! I read it as him having 80 relatives who all go to him to have their computer's fixed.

80:

"If you think the iPad is overpriced, don't buy one,"

I do, and I haven't.
Apple has the highest markups in the business

81:

Gordon Adams @78: "people who feel negatively about idevices *value different device attributes*"

I think you're right about that. It's certainly true for me, except that I don't feel negatively about idevices. These things have done a great job of making middling-end equipment available in the consumer price range. Because of the large volume of units sold they also cut cost.

"Apple has gone to great lengths to make their platform *standardized*"

That's where I start to feel negatively: You get a niceish piece of hardware, and out of the box it's useless (for me). I don't own the thing. Apple does. I can only pwn it.

"4x3 makes perfect sense"

Oh yes, it does. But the consumer display market is dominated by devices that have the advantage of large scale production lines i.e. they are very similar to TVs. This doesn't make a lot of sense if you are, for example, in the business of developing software. Even if you rotate your screen by 90° it doesn't get better because whatever you do you have to overuse one dimension to compensate for the lack of space in the other. I think this is not only true for developer tools, but for all types of graphical interfaces for non-trivial software products and even some trivial ones.

82:

No it doesn't. By invisible, I mean I should be able to save/load "natively" to the compressed format. As it is, you have to step through the back-up process yourself. All L&L need to do to enable what I'm talking about is to have the current "hidden" auto back-up directory be a "hidden" project directory and have the load/save mechanism uncompress/compress to that (overwriting the "working" project folder when loading).
But whatever. First world problems and all that.

83:

My original iPad was 3G enabled. I used it twice in two years.

I have a 1st gen iPad with AT&T 3G support. I have never used the 3G but I have used the GPS support a lot when looking up things in maps. The GPS only comes if you get cell data support. Or at least that was the case on the 1st and 2nd gen devices.

Now if you don't travel around much that doesn't matter as much. But for me pressing the "where am I?" icon is a great thing.

84:

Does Twitter still claim a copyright for all photos posted via their service?

85:

It can sure feel like there's 80 of them at times. :)

86:

Apple has the highest markups in the business

Yes they do. And people still want to buy their stuff more than other companies stuff lately.

Apple devices do not have:
- a bunch of port.
- several ways to add storage
- the latest technologies (most of the time)
- ways for geeks to reprogram them in an easy way
- and so on...

Because MOST folks don't care about these things.

What Apple devices do have in general are:
- OS and patch support for a few years.
- Stores all over the US and in many places where you can make an appointment and get help for your question AT NO CHARGE. Repairs do cost.
- Free seminars at said stores on how to use your device in various ways. Real Estate, presentations, whatever.
- A generally consistent way to share data and use it on various devices. (Almost all companies that make the non low ball priced Android units skin their devices with layers of UI to make them different that the "other guy".)

And once you buy into the iDevice system your have a fairly big investment.

Most folks don't want to fiddle. They just want it to work. And if not work get help from a real person, not someone who may not speak their language as a native over the phone. If that.

Has anyone looked at the choices in cases and add on dodads for iOS vs. Android?

Kindle Fire is such a success due to it being a combination Kindle and Amazon device. Optimized for both. But the fact that it is based on Android doesn't matter to 99% of the buyers. To them it is their Amazon gateway.

IMNERHO

87:

'Apple has the highest markups in the business'

So?

Show me two other tablets with the iPad's specs at $500.

Cheaper tablets that require a $2000 phone contract don't count.

BSW

88:

You know, we've had this "Apple, Love It Or Hate It" thrash several times on Charlie's blog, and I've been through it umpteen times on other sites, and it just doesn't make a bit of difference. No one's going to convince anyone else that they're wrong, because we're all working from different first premises and different requirements. So why don't we all just accept that someone on the internet is wrong, but that they don't need our help changing their minds, and get on to more interesting and productive topics, like when I can get a sub $100 camera-equipped quadcopter drone that I can control from a tablet, any tablet.

Personally, I want to mount a small paint spray on a drone and use it to tag buildings in ways that were previously only available to trained pigeons (I got this idea while watching a documentary film about a tagger in NYC).

89:

The iPhones have been offloading the speech recognition from the start. Apparently Dragon is using the big increase in data to improve its overall recognition rate.

90:

I agree with the "no one is going to change anyone else's mind about iDevices" sentiment, but I do have to say that David L @86 nailed it for me: The reasons that people often cite to hate iProducts, really don't matter to most consumers. It's like a petrol-head complaining that family cars are naff, or the DIY-er who can't get their head round why someone wants to live in a turnkey appartment, or the grow-your-own folks that think supermarkets are universally evil and provide no useful services, or, or, or ...

Anyway, you get the picture.

91:

agreed... what I would like to see is the underlying technology combinations for the consumer market that Apple are understandably proud of quickly trickle back to other platforms/devices. I really want a Retina screen on my ThinkPad!!

92:

Ah! I read it as him having 80 relatives who all go to him to have their computer's fixed.

Me too, at first reading. But you know, that would be an interesting scene for some story: the one technical guy surrounded by a swarm of friends and relatives, all wanting to know how to reset their iThings and help finding the Any key.

Any resemblance to actual tech support is...not particularly coincidental.

93:

<shudder> Even now I can hear him screaming and see his eyes wide in horrified panic as he sinks for the last time beneath the avalanche of importunate users.

94:

Last family get-together there were 45 of us on one Dartmoor farm. I've trained them not to ask for tech support by promising to sort things out later then never doing it. And lately, by letting my skills lapse - frex, I've never used a Win 7 system, or OSX since 2006.

I've resisted posting my rant about how unreliable my iphone is, and this morning I discovered the cause is probably the lumps of tinfoil wedged into the docking port. I either need a case, or I need to stop eating Creme Eggs.

re:Dragon Dictate: I used to work as a PA for someone with MS who uses DD to control her PC. It was (in the late 90's) slow and frustrating, but the best fun was to leave the mic near a radio and watch it make strange MegaHal-like poetry from the news broadcasts.

95:

Someone up thread remarked the Ipad is still a pretty toy, rather than a useful general computing device. I'm no Apple fanboy but since owning an Ipod Touch, I find it a pretty invaluable media access device. Sure, I can't really produce music or write on the thing. But as a pocket friendly gadget that can hold several books, albums, allow access to the web, stream media and so on, it replaces a laptop which I may have had to use otherwise. The I* devices are popular because not least, they simply work out of the box are intuitive to use and look cool. There are increasingly more apps and add ons to allow creating content now, even if it can't quite replace a full desktop suite of powerful programs. I'll admit I'll probably try jailbreaking this one when i upgrade, to see if I can get some standard networking tools working on it.

96:

Although as a counterpoint. Itunes on the PC is horrible software. I miss not being able to drag and drop. Also, not being able to rollback to previous IOS version is somewhat annoying. My 3GS is sluggish under IOS 5 now.

97:

As a counterpoint to that, I rarely use D&D to move or copy files even when I can.

98:

I always found AD&D was much better for hack'n'slash through filesystems ...

99:

I'm sure one could adapt this to filesystem management.

100:

What I do is have a WiFi iPad and when I need a cellular signal flip my phone into 'hotspot' mode. Works well.

101:

Itunes on the PC is horrible software.

I have no opinion of iTunes, never having used it. May I suggest Winamp? For my purposes - play me music and don't do anything crazy to the computer - it works fine. (Note that I have an MP3 player other than an iPod, and don't buy music from the iTunes store. YMMV.)

102:

{chuckle} There was a time when I'd have said that, but this was before I discovered Runequest (2nd Ed).

103:

Yeah, I like Winamp. It's my mediaplayer of choice for several years now. TBH I quite like using Itunes on the device itself. Being able to try and buy content directly. It's just the syncing concept and it's reliance on the clunky Itunes software when you connect to a computer I dislike. Previously I used an Archos Jukebox running the open saurce Rockbox OS. Drag and drop, treat just like a regular USB HD.

FWIW I know there are some shareware alternatives to Itunes but I've not found one that works well with the screenreader software I use.

104:

When my previous player died, I went out and bought an 5th gen iPod Classic off eBay, simply because it was said to be the last model that did not require iTunes. Oh, and I wanted tens of GB of storage.

Well, I didn't have to deal with Apple's sucking UI on the software. But oh, how horrible the hardware on the iPod was! It's got to be the most utterly horrible interface I've ever had the misfortune to deal with.

(I'm now using my Android phone, with a nice 3rd party player. The iPod was always going to be a place holder while waiting for the ideal touch-screen player to come from Cowon or the like.)

105:

I ended up getting the Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad instead of the ZaggFolio and then modifying an Insite Origami Workstation to take the Logitech: my fingers are just large enough that the thought of using the ZaggFolio was giving me hives. Since I use a carry case the increased width of the Logitech/Insite isn't a factor, the useability is great, and it will all work with a hi-res iPad when and if the budget allows.

As far as languages go, I installed a package called NovoCard which appears to be an attempt to give Hypercard capabilities to the iPad: unfortunately I don't know enough about how Hypercard worked to judge how close the attempt is, or how successful it will be in the long run, but if anyone who knows something about this end of things could give it a look and tell me whether I've made a bad purchase or not.

(I've skipped any links so that I can avoid link jail: if anyone wants to know more about the forgoing they should be able to get more details with the search engine of their choice.)

106:

Erm. "a bad purchase or not I'd appreciate it."

107:

NovoCard looks similar to HC at a distance; they use an extended version of JavaScript in place of HyperTalk, but that's probably an improvement.

Also due to show up on iOS in the near future: LibreOffice, Scrivener, Baldur's Gate ... it's actually looking like it'll mature into a serious application running OS by the end of 2012.

108:

Baldur's Gate iPad version? You've got to be joking...

*googles*

You're NOT joking!

*SQEEEEEE*

109:

Not entirely true; there is a point to going beyond the 264 ppi of the new iPad.

20/20 vision is defined as 1 arcsecond resolution, but many people apparently have 20/10 (corrected) vision, which is better than that, and when you hold the tablet close (I've found myself holding it at 12 inches every so often), you already (just) move beyond the 1 arcsecond limit, never mind the half arcsecond limit.

However, 250-300 ppi is very close to perfect and it's so much better than 100-150 ppi (or as phones without an i in the name tend to go, 200ish ppi) it's not even funny.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 17, 2012 12:08 PM.

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