Top critical review
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very versatile and useful, but there are other solutions to be considered
on 17 February 2011
Bought mine as an experiment for work, with some concerns over its usefulness, for a healthy discount and a standard Apple case included.
At the time, several months ago, it had iOS3 installed.
My skepticism seemed well-placed, because I struggled to find many useful apps for work. Sure, there was DropBox, basic email, and various (flawed and basic) word processors, but that seemed to be about it.
Of course, we found loads of apps for the kids, and they have loved it ever since. It has been fantastic for teaching numbers, animals, shapes, colours, letters, and so on, to our 2-yr old daughter.
Nevertheless I considered selling it on.
Then iOS4 was released, and for me this changed things a lot: the multi-tasking features made it considerably more useful, especially for work: now if I was listening to internet radio I could leave the app and start something else without the music fading. OR I could leave Skype/Fring running in the background when writing an email.
Finally I then found some very good apps that made it worthwhile: some useful work apps (even TeamViewer, where I can remotely access and control a colleague's networked PC/Mac anywhere in the world), more educational stuff for the kids, some fantastic newspaper apps (FT, The Economist, to name but two), and various reference apps (science, cooking, languages). The one app I found recently that I love is 'Air Video', which allows you to connect remotely to a PC/Mac on your home network (even if not at home) and stream movies from it: it works flawlessly!
I had an iPhone at the time I bought the iPad. Soon after iOS4 started working on the iPad, the iPhone started to feel fiddly and restricted. The much bigger screen and far superior battery of the iPad made the iPhone obsolete in my life. I therefore got rid of the iPhone and replaced it with a cheap Nokia with a much longer battery life.
So, the iPad has found a niche in my working day: it is my device for everything mobile except making phone calls from my O2 account (that is what the Nokia is for). For general purpose computing at home or a remote office, I have a MacBook Pro, which is of course a considerably more powerful machine that does many things that the iPad never will. But this is not such an easy computer to use on the move (e.g. on a plane or train), and this is where the iPad comes in very handy indeed. On the move, I now use my iPad over the superb '3' network in the UK, via a 'Mifi' dongle.
Other stuff which the iPad does brilliantly but is not well publicised:
Sat Nav: I run Navigon on it quite successfully.
Television: via the TVCatchup streaming service, or via iPlayer, it makes a fine portable TV.
Portable Radio: lots of useful internet radio apps.
Portable speakerphone: I use Fring and Skype for this functionality, and very well it does it too (better than the iPhone actually, because I think the iPhone's processor would struggle a tad with this).
Stuff I think could easily be improved:
1) The email app has handy features but I find it unforgivable that not even the font can be changed. Hopefully iOS5 will solve this.
2) The various word processors available are still very basic. For me, Office2 HD is the best.
3) iOS4 was buggier than iOS3 when it first came out (problems seem resolved now).
If you don't need
1) All-day battery life,
2) The processing power of a high-end laptop,
3) Fancy apps like 'Air Video' and 'The Economist',
then a light laptop like the MacBook Air makes a viable and much cheaper alternative than MacBookPro+iPad.