Turning to the Dark Side…

Well, I’ve gone over to the Dark Side, and bought an Apple iPad, because I need something that will allow me to slob out on the couch, while still being online. I’ve tried a cheap Android tablet, and while I have no problem with the device, the apps, for Twitter and email, absolutely sucked. I’ve also used my laptop, which does the job perfectly, as it should, it’s a clone of my desktop machine, but it’s too heavy to sit on my lap for long.

And to be fair, I simply wanted a new toy – it’s been such a shitty year so far I think I deserve one! ;-)

So, how is it? Overpriced by at least 50% is my initial impression, and that’s me being generous.

There also seems to be an assumption, by whoever designed the setup routine, that whoever buys an iPad will already have a Mac, and thus be familiar with Apple’s little quirks and stupidities – I’ve been using computers since 1992 (I might well be the only person who actually liked the Windows 3.1 Program Manager!), and this is the first time ever I’ve had to read the bloody manual for the basic setup routine – frankly, it’s clunky and unintuitive.

And, really, at a quid shy of £400, I expected a toughened glass screen, not a plastic one. Er, poking it with a knife-point in one corner reveals it IS glass – still feels and sounds like plastic though! Which, by the way, is supposed to have a coating that resists finger marks. Like hell it does – epic fail! True, they’re not actually visible while it’s running as with many machines including my htc Desire S mobe, but turn it off and there they are in all their greasy glory.

On the plus side – once you’ve got past the opacity of the system for sharing iTunes content (the steps should follow each other in sequence, not hide, as the final step did!) – the music quality, given the bizarrely mono speaker, is fine though again, at the price, I expected stereo! Mind you, I suppose on a gizmo this size, it’s academic, but it’s all about perceived value – for the price of a bloody good desktop computer they should at least go to the trouble of giving the illusion of value! Still, headphones are full stereo (not mono x 2).

The first hurdle was buying the thing. Initially, I ordered one from 3 on Wednesday, on a contract with 15GB data a month. Should have been here the next day – it wasn’t. It did give me time to think, while I was waiting, about just when the hell I’d get to use 15 gigs of mobile Internet – or 1 gig for that matter – and decided, after giving my piggy-bank a shake, that I could actually afford one, so I emailed and cancelled, on the basis on non-delivery. Never heard anything else from 3 other than the acknowledgement of my order. Odd, that.

Went online and ordered one, just basic wi-fi, from Amazon on Thursday, via expedited delivery, but when I looked Thursday morning, it was still sitting there with a delivery date of Monday. So I emailed them asking how come I’d paid a premium for expedited delivery, when First Class would have got it here in the same time.

Their reply, among all the weasel words about delivery times only being an estimate (not when I’m paying for prompt delivery, pal!), revealed, in passing, that they didn’t actually have any! So I asked, when if ever, they’d have told me that, if I hadn’t poked them with a stick, and cancelled that too!

Since then I’ve had several obsequious emails from Amazon updating me about my other orders in the pipeline!

And so, back online, and it’s Friday by now. Apple, of course, have loads of stock, at the full price, £399 – not a lot more than Amazon, truth to tell – but I had a look round to see if I could get a better deal. Lots of worse deals – a staggering number of people selling them at more than list price (is there a shortage?)  – and John Lewis had them at list, but with a 2-year warranty (1 year from Apple), so they got the order and it arrived this morning.

The thing that immediately pissed me off – even though I knew it was coming – was Apple’s sealed-box obsession, which means it’s impossible to repair if it goes phut! and no USB ports. WTF are they frightened of?

Apple sell a combined card reader and USB port adapter, which plugs into the charging/docking port, for an extremely ambitious £25, but I got one from Amazon for a fiver, plus a natty case and a pack of screen protectors.

So back to the iPad, and the first thing that strikes you is the weight, at 1.4lbs it’s decidedly not spoonie-friendly, and it’s a hell of a lot more than a Kindle. That, and the glossy screen, negate its use as an ereader. I might be a handsome bugger (in a good light!), but I don’t want my own face staring back at me while I read.

There’s more annoyance onscreen too, as the virtual keyboard only displays upper-case characters. Now I know this is so in the case of real-world keyboards, but it’s the first time I’ve encountered a virtual keyboard than doesn’t change according to case, upper or lower. Strikes me, like the mono speaker, that some penny-pinching has gone on here. No idea why, as the profit margins on these things must be huge – Apple’s balance sheet stands testament to that.

What really burned me, though, was the massive hassle setting up an Apple ID. I’ve had one for years (for iTunes), and so when it said input primary email address, I did. Then it panicked and said email address is in use!!! Well of course it bloody is!

Anyway, after an hour of farting about I logged into iTunes on my PC, and discovered that the problem was that Apple have changed their password format since I set up my ID. All it needed, to save wasted time and wear and tear on my temper (and probably that of everyone else with an ID dating back a couple of years), was for the iPad to display a message saying all ID passwords prior to a certain date must be reset. How hard would that be?

Anyway, it’s up and running now, and I’m listening to Emmylou Harris’s “Hard Bargain” album on it. The next task is to connect it to my PC and see if I can import my contacts and bookmarks – I’m not holding my breath.

I suppose, once I’m feeling less ill-disposed to the morons who made it so hard to set up, especially the Apple ID, it’ll turn out to be a good device. I’m certainly very pleased with the music reproduction.

Not worth anything like what it cost, of course – I spent most of my working life in shipping, where manufacturers had to declare the actual value of the good, not retail, and the difference was vast. I also spent the rest of the time as an industrial buyer, and it’s my guess that the factory-gate cost of an iPad is probably in double figures (it is, after all, mainly a scaled-up iPhone (most of the internal space is taken up by the battery,** hence the weight, of course), and the Guardian revealed last year that the ex-works cost of the then current iPhone was £3.95. Draw your own conclusions.

**Based on the pics here.

I would, to be honest, have rather had a Windows tablet, but they’re dragging their feet, and the Windows 8 front end is seriously crap, so this is the best tool for the job I want it for, and I suppose I’ll grow to like it in time, as everything works properly once you get past the needless obstacles in the way.

And yes, I do know that this seems a bit petulant in parts, but I’m so sick and tired of Apple fanboys telling anyone who’ll listen, and even those who don’t, how vastly superior their products are to Windows devices and, based on my iPad, and my long experience of Windows, they’re bloody not!

As for the Retina display, it’s OK, clear, and sharp, but so’s my laptop monitor – big deal. It certainly doesn’t live up to all the hype. The one thing that is totally unhyped, is music reproduction – given the constraints of its size, which usually means dismal sound quality, it really is excellent. Not room-filling volume, obviously (though it does depend on the size of the room!)  – I’ll plug it in to my system for that – but I confess myself impressed and, frankly, that’s not easy.

And the fact it is so massively overhyped is, I suppose, at the root of my dissatisfaction – the New iPad (not iPad 3, they’ve taken a page out of Amazon’s Kindle playbook there), has been so massively overhyped, both on TV and online, I expected more. A lot more.

What I got was a rather nice, surprisingly heavy, tablet computer. It does what I want it to, does it well and displays it very nicely, but here’s the thing – it’s really nothing special.

Fact is, and it’s something that time and time again advertising agencies forget – build something up too high in people’s expectations and the reality will never live up to the hype, simply because it’s impossible.

Had I bought this sight unseen, having missed the advertising campaign (I’d need to have lived in a cave), I confess, I’d have been impressed (setup clunkiness notwithstanding).

But I didn’t live in a cave.

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4 thoughts on “Turning to the Dark Side…

  1. Hi Ron can you explain to me a little more what you mean here please? ” the virtual keyboard only displays upper-case characters. No I know this is so in the case of real-world keyboards, but it’s the first time I’ve encountered a virtual keyboard than doesn’t change according to case, upper or lower.”

    My keyboard doesn’t do this.

    Here is what Apples free manual says which you can download from the iBook store. About typing…”uppercase
    Tap the Shift key before tapping a letter. Or touch and hold the Shift key, then slide to a letter.

    Turn caps lock on
    Double-tap the Shift key . The Shift key turns blue, and all letters you type are uppercase. Tap the Shift key to turn caps lock off.

    To turn this feature off, go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

    Enter numbers, punctuation, or symbols
    Tap the Number key . Tap the Symbol key to see additional punctuation and symbols.”

    A great app to get you more familiar with the iPad is APPSTART. It will give you a good grounding and review some of the better apps out there.

    Have fun with your iPad. :)

    • Ah – you’ve misread it. The key characters stay upper-case, no matter what you do to the shift key – not the text.

      On the other virtual keyboards I’ve used, when you hit shift, the keys change – useful as there are some forms of colour-blindness that can’t see blue.

      The virtual keyboard, in that respect, behaves like a real keyboard – just strikes me as perverse, when virtual keyboards can so easily be better that real ones, not to take advantage of that.

  2. A day later and I have to say that I’m now very happy with my iPad (though I stand by what I said re it being overpriced and overhyped, the latter giving buyers unrealistic expectations). It does exactly what I want it to – provides a platform from which I can tweet and email, and occasionally browse the web, without having to sit here, in some discomfort and a lot of pain, in front of my computer.

    It also links to my iTunes library, which is good. It would be better if it imported the library, since it only works if my PC is running and iTunes turned on. My library can be made accessible via iCloud, but at just under £25 a year, I’ll pass.

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