My iPad 3G: a Preview and Defense

So tomorrow, i will be giddily waiting in my living room all day for the Fedex man to drop off my new iPad 3G.  (my doorbell can only be heard from my living room).  I’ve already had several extended conversations with contrarians, and wanted to clarify my thoughts and expectations on my iPad, to address some common questions, and to justify why i paid for one.


According to wikipedia, an “early-adopter” is:

an “early customer of a given company, product, or technology; in politics, fashion, art, and other fields, this person would be referred to as a trendsetter. … In exchange for being an early adopter, and thus being exposed to the problems, risks, and annoyances common to early-stage product testing and deployment, the customer is given … preferential pricing, terms, and conditions. … Early adoption does come with pitfalls: early versions of products may be buggy and/or prone to malfunction (such as the Commodore 64 or Xbox 360) or prematurely obsolete (8 track tapesBetamaxHD DVD). Furthermore, more efficient, less expensive versions of the product usually appear a few months after the initial release.  The trend of new technology costing more at release is colloquially referred to as the “early adopter tax“.”

I think this term clearly illustrates what I hope to get from my iPad.  I firmly believe that this product has the potential to be “revolutionary,” and will dramatically transform the landscape of personal computing.  Also, given it conveniently being released in the window where I have 6 weeks of complete vacation and where I am celebrating my completion of Medical School, i decided to pay the “early adopter tax.” I clearly believe it’s not the most wise decision from a dollars and sense perspective, but that’s what early adoption is about.  (The $499 WiFi model might be more practical, though)

What’s So Great About Apple? Answer: They’ve Been Revolutionary in the Past

There are two companies that I have faith in: Apple and Pixar (which are strangely both influenced by Steve Jobs).  If there’s any Pixar movie that comes out, I’m excited to watch it, because I know that they have a proven track record of producing great quality products.  Some have been better than others, but there has not been a dud that Pixar has produced.  Until I see a disappointing Pixar film, I have no reason to suspect that a Pixar movie will not be good.

This is how I feel about Apple, especially when it comes to their top-tier products (Macs, iPod, iPhone).  They have each single-handedly drastically revolutionized their respective industries.  People are quick to forget that the mp3 player market was revolutionized and exponentially increased by the iPod.  Prior to the iPod and its click-wheel, other companies (Creative and Sony) were floundering around with minidiscs (which would record mp3’s to minidiscs at about 6x the speed of playing back a song), mp3-playing Discman, and clunky mp3 players (the Creative Nomad).  When the iPod clickwheel came out, it made mp3’s more accessible to the everyday consumer and came with a user-interface that was capable of even exploring huge music collections.

Same with the iPhone.  Until it came around, the smartphone market was reserved solely for businessmen (with Blackberries) and for tech-savvy folks (who were willing to put up with the clunky PDA-type Palm Treo’s).  Any effort on appealing to the mass markets (eg the Motorola Q) were awkward and ultimately unsuccessful.  The only touchscreen phone was the Palm Treo (which had a small screen and huge size).  The iPhone took the smart phone market and made it accessible and cool to the masses.  It was only until about Spring of 2009 where there was decent competition (with the Palm Pre and the second generation Android phones), which was nearly 2 years after the iPhone came to market.

Now with the iPad.  Currently, there is no mass-market tablet device, yet most people look forward to touch-screen interaction as the future (think about how people still ooh and aah about the interface that Tom Cruise used in Minority report, or pretty much in ANY futuristic movie).  There are several tablet devices such as the Thinkpad X Series that require styluses which have gained traction among artists and tech-fans, but they have not taken off.  If you look around the tech landscape, there are no sure-fire, realistic threats or competitors to the iPad that are coming to market soon.  People talk about the HP Slate and the Microsoft Courier with hopeful eyes, but both look to disappoint.  (Early hands-on reviews of the HP Slate were disappointing, and the Microsoft Courier was revealed to be just a tech demo today).  The reality is that the iPad has the potential to be the first tablet device that creates its own market, just as the iPod and iPhone did for personal audio and smartphone markets.

What Makes the iPad So Special?

Put simply, 3 things make it the ideal portable device:

1) Size: The iPad is to laptops and netbooks what the iPhone was to smartphones.  It’s sleeker, smaller, and lighter than you’d expect.  Weight is a HUGE barrier to portability.  I used to have a 4 lb notebook (Thinkpad z61t), which I did not enjoy taking around every day.  It was doable, but i eventually only carried it around when I knew i would need it for a specific purpose.  Because of its size, I switched to a 3 lb notebook (Thinkpad X301), which is light enough to carry around to most events, but I still take it out of my backpack if I know for sure that I won’t need it.  At 1 pound, the iPad is small enough that it can literally be taken everywhere.  (1lb is the weight of most backpacks)

2) Instant-On: Other than phones, all other personal computing devices require a bootup time, which serves as a barrier to use.  Whether or not the 45 seconds should actually deter you from turning on your laptop, the reality is that it often does.  The iPad, like a phone, is instant-on and will be accessible within seconds!

3) Battery-Life: the battery life of the iPad has been shown to be over 10 hours, even with heavy usage (video, etc).  The battery life of most laptops, even with extended batteries, run about 4-6 hours.  With this fact, battery life should almost never be a reason to not use the iPad.

So wait, then isn’t it just a big iPod Touch?

That is exactly what it is, and that’s why it has so much potential.  Size is one of the biggest barriers to interacting with the iPod touch.  The small size makes the keyboard small.  The small screen limits the amount of information that can be displayed (ie web-browsing on a phone is much worse than web-browsing on a full-size screen).  That’s like saying: “isn’t a Honda Accord just a bigger Mini Cooper”? Yes, they are both cars, but their sizes are optimized for very different things.

Alright, So What’s the Bad News?

Unfortunately, being an early adopter comes with a lot of risks.

1) Is There a Need? – Portable music is a must-have in our society.  Everybody has a phone.  But does everybody need a mid-size portable personal computer? Maybe the iPad will go the way of the Laserdisc, or maybe just become a niche product that only few people use.

2) The next one will be better – Even if the iPad proves to be a big hit, the next generation will obviously have some key upgrades (almost assuredly an integrated webcam).

3) No Peace and Quiet – While some people might like this, i do not look forward to the stares and random questions strangers might have if they see me using the iPad in public.  Sometimes it even might deter me from using it.  I was at the gym using a treadmill thinking about how useful it would be to watch TV shows while i run, but I would feel pretty lame doing it.  And typing out sermon notes at church will be awkward too for the first few weeks.

But yes… I’ll be posting my impressions and possibly a review after I get it.  And don’t worry, I’ll be pretty honest.


3 Responses to My iPad 3G: a Preview and Defense

  1. Steven Hong says:

    Good stuff. You almost convinced Cathie to get one.

    I, for one, was traumatized by the early adopter tax from the iPhone when they dropped the price $400 in a few months. Not that I see that happening for the iPad–but still, just on principle.

    And while Apple does put out revolutionary products, they had some duds/niche products on their record too (Newton, AppleTV).

    The iPad has gone pretty much how I thought it would–underwhelming when announced, hyped until launch, and selling steadily now that it’s out. And personally, I knew that though I wouldn’t buy one, I would be very tempted once I got to play with it, which is what happened when I went to the Apple store. I love how everything is so responsive, and how fast the apps, websites, and everything else load.

  2. Dan Choi says:

    how’s your ipad? your blog post was prescient of this article in the nytimes:

  3. c says:

    it adds an additional of 0.75″ to your phone.

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