IPad Day 5: The Thrill is Gone

In my initial review of the IPad, I said that despite many of the issues both I and my friend had with the new device, I would recommend tech geeks get it now and everyone else wait until the 2.0 version which will likely fix many of the problems. I also said, that I hadn’t put it down since buying it. I played it with it for 5 hours straight and in truth, I have been playing with it for roughly that amount of time ever since. (I also said it was better than my Acer netbook; you can see what I really think in the comparison chart in the post before this one)

5 days later, the initial novelty of the IPad’s cute packaging, fun apps, and amazing graphics has warn off and the “what exactly am I using this for” question has set in. Let’s be clear:

  1. The IPad replaces no existing computer you might own & worse may simply duplicate your cellphone on a larger screen
  2. The IPad is not a stand alone piece of equipment – to initially turn it on, print, or sync files you need another laptop or desktop

So what does it do?

Unlike the video above, it does not replace your maxi; however, like the video above, it does facilitate you watching mindless videos in extreme clarity while pretending you are doing something serious and important. In other words, the IPad is a REALLY EXPENSIVE TOY with limited practical use.

Questionable Apps

When I first bought the IPad, I had imagined taking it to class and using it to do presentations with my portable projector. I had hoped to take notes electronically using both a note pad function that came pre-installed and I still can’t get to work and a “brainstorming” app that allows you to combine images, text, and unique backgrounds, and manipulate them with the move of your finger. I imagined these programs helping to map my process during lecture discussion and then being able to use them in print format later to reflect on the courses I teach. With the BlackBoard app installed, I thought I would also be able to transfer these notes in a more refined format to the class directly. While I was able to take notes on the apps that worked the only way to transfer the information was via attachment. Since only one app can be opened at a time, I was also at a loss for transferring info from other apps to the blackboard app.

I paid for a wordprocessing and presentation app which cost about $20 together ($9.99 each) so that I could write and present things quickly on the go and then export them to my laptop for refining later. I also paid $5.99 and then an additional $9.99 for printing capabilities that was supposed to allow me to print from the IPad and collect info from my home computer anywhere and print it as well. In my dream world, there would be no more showing up at a conference and realizing that I brought the wrong disc or worrying about compatibility issues with the conference software. None of that happened because neither the cheaper $5.99 printing app nor the more expensive $9.99 app worked.

With regards to accessing files on my home computer, large files simply timed out while transmitting making them impossible to capture on the IPad and leaving the files unlocked an accessible to anyone trying to hack my computer while I was away. Neither printing application would actually let me print from any of the others apps I had, including the brainstorm app I mentioned above. As stated, the IPad cannot multi-task, so if the program you are in has no print function, you cannot print from within it. What you can do in most cases, is save the item you are working on as a photo image, then you can upload the image to your email, and then download it to your home computer and print it. This requires 3 steps and 2 computers to do what used to only take 1 step and 1 computer. See the problem?

Cookies & Privacy Issues

Perhaps more frustrating for people who want and need to protect their privacy, like me (hello stalker), most of the internet related apps are perpetually on. This means that your social network accounts, email, amazon account, etc. are all logged on all the time. The cookies in these programs are not only designed to track your computer usage but also to consolidate the information. The last time I used a computer that did not let me delete cookies or otherwise void the cache, history, and cookies, I suddenly had private purchase accounts linked to my email account linked to my professional profile online, all of which should have been separate . I only figured it out when all of the sites started referring to me by my first name despite most of them being set up with my last name or nickname. When I tried to fix the issue after the fact, I had to cancel two subscriptions and re-subscribe for them to get around the software and I had to cancel my account with a place I have shopped for 10 years and permanently sever my relationship with them as a loyal customer based on their denial of having used invasive cookies and lack of willingness to reset my account information. It was a nightmare. Now multiply that by the fact that some of us out in the world have stalkers, ex-abusers, or other dangerously obsessed people in our lives from whom we need to keep our personal information, social lives, or other information safe. Or, if you have the privilege to never have been in that situation, imagine going for a job and thinking your private conversations, shopping habits, or maybe nudie pics of yourself in Tijuana, are all under a name your potential employer can’t find except … oopsies, the cookie monster spewed your info faster than he spews out cookie fragments in a pre-diet Sesame episode. Is your new toy worth that?

The privacy issue is also compounded by the inclusion of an automatic GPS in the device. On the one hand, if you lose your IPad it can be tracked via GPS. Along those same lines, if you get lost or go missing, your IPad’s GPS signal could be an essential way to find you or for you to use the map app to get back home safely. On the other hand, your location is uploaded to several of the apps on the IPad and to any of the websites or social network sites that track this information whenever you use them. Some of these sites, transmit your location via tweeting or sent email without asking you, so that your location is part of your signature. We’ve already seen how thieves are using this information to rob people’s homes, what about students or clients you don’t want knowing where you are when you are drawing boundaries with them about contacting you? Or that stalker …?

Hidden Fees and Fixes

While many of the apps are free on the IPad, as my story about printing proves, many of them cost money.  The IPad costs almost $400 more than its nearest competitor, while some costs are to be expected, that price should guarantee that the basic, necessary, software should be pre-installed. The fact that it isn’t is frustrating enough, but then if you pay for apps you need and they do not work properly … that is a major issue. Worse, with apps that require some sort of syncing with your home computer, if you complain about them not working, the response is that you have set it up wrong not that it doesn’t work; so you can give up on the refund now.

Worse, some apps have more and more hidden fees as you go on. For instance, I downloaded a free game app that only has two levels unless you pay $2.99 for the full version. That cost isn’t a big deal, so I paid it. Almost immediately, the prompt to buy the game was replaced by the suggestion I buy special tools to make it past the second level at a cost of 99 cents per tool in a 3 tool bundle per suggestions. The implication was that no matter how much I bought, there would always be something else to buy in order for the game to play properly. Other games were not so blatant, instead, they simply periodically interrupted my game to force me to look at ads for other games, cell phones, etc. And I don’t doubt each of those ads dropped a cookie on my IPad I can neither locate nor erase.

A major complaint about the apps in general is that half of them are designed for the IPhone and therefore do not look right when blown up to IPad size. While the app store separates IPad apps from IPhone apps, the apps that are for both get listed in the IPad section even if they are optimized for the IPhone. That means you can pay for an app that only looks good at 1/3 the size of your computer. Even if they were kept completely separate so you never paid for an app that was too small, the actual IPad apps are usually 2-4 times more expensive. So again, even though it is the same technology, bought at the same store, you have to pay $5.99 for something that used to cost 99 cents just because it is bigger now. And worse, since many sites are just now getting used to the idea of interfacing with the IPad the format keeps changing. Some of my apps worked perfectly the first day and have since been reformatted remotely by the website (like yahoo for instance) to work the way they think is best instead of the way the app designer did. I don’t think the web designers have IPads based on the changes made. The result is a almost always a hodgepodge that seldom benefits the user.

The worst offender in hidden fees however, has to be CWTV. While you can watch the most recent episodes of CW shows on your home computer, lap top, or even your netbook, they won’t let you watch them on your IPad. Whether you use the internet to access the CWTV site directly or the CWTV app it does not matter, CW has decided that you need to pay. So while PC users are enjoying tv on demand, IPad users are expected to cough up as much as $50 for a season pass to the same shows via itunes in order to watch them. They’ve even updated the web based player to prevent hacks.

Add to this the costs Apple itself has tacked on covered in my initial review, and you can see that IPad is a giant money pit. (In that review I point out that if you want to type anything major, protect your screen, or prop it up without worries about it slipping and sliding or the image jostling, you will need to by essential peripherals from Apple that run between $35 and $98 each.)

Video & Reader Limitations & More Hidden Fees

Remember my friend who bought her IPad with me? She pointed out that Netflix and itunes should be in this category as well. While these have always been pay sites, the fact that the IPad is configured in such a way as to prevent you from watching certain channels you could watch on a PC and is incompatible with most movie and tv sites like Hulu, unless you just want to watch kittens playing with the faucet or toddlers singing Lady Gaga on youtube, you have to buy membership in Netflix or itunes for the IPad’s amazing graphics to have any meaning. I use both already, so this is no big deal for me. In fact, I was excited that I could watch Netflix easily with the Netflix App on my IPad. However, my friend is absolutely right. If you want to watch quality programming on your IPad you will have to pay for it and given the price of the IPad and the fact that some content is free elsewhere that is truly wrong.

The other big thing the IPad was supposed to offer consumers was an all in one ebook reader. The problems here abound. First, the IPad suggested ebook library has a limited selection and the books cost $2-$5 more than any other e-book reader and for paper backs they can run as high as $10 more than buying it in store in hard copy. Again, the hidden costs associated with an already too expensive machine are enough to make a person do this:

That being said, you can download amazon’s Kindle software and shop a wider variety for a reasonable price. The complaints associated with this app will likely not bother people who have never had a Kindle. They include:

  • the screen for the IPad makes reading outside nearly impossible
  • the IPad weighs considerably more than the Kindle
  • the IPad does have voice software to read the books but lacks the ability to bookmark, highlight, and other reading tools associated with the newer Kindles

These issues haven’t really impacted me since I prefer hard copy books and as long as I can get a wide variety of books, I will likely use the Kindle app as is on the IPad. However, it should be noted, if the IPad is reduced to simply being a larger carrying case for your books and games, then you are paying way too much. Ebook readers cost around $200 regardless of whether it is a Kindle, Nook, or Sony’s latest entry into the market. That is $500 less than the 64GB IPad. Plus, the IPad is way less functioning than any of these other options.

I also maintain that while ebooks are convenient the number of offerings in multicultural, post-colonial, and feminist lit published before 2005 is dismal no matter what format you use. The IPad’s foray into this medium will only force more competition for ereaders and ultimately further erode the diversity of published material available to readers overall. This is a sad bi-product that cannot be laid solely at the feet of Apple but instead is an issue with publishers that all of these readers are exacerbating.

Conclusions

Ultimately, while I was initially enthralled by its sleek design and its amazing graphics, I have to take back my initial review of the IPad saying it was better than my Acer netbook. The IPad is too expensive for what you get.  Once you start adding up the price of apps, the glitches, and the technical limitations the IPad is little more than a game and music consul. If you own a smart phone or an IPod, you already have a much cheaper version that works all by itself without an additional computer.

If you want to watch movies on a bigger screen, nothing beats the clarity, sound, and size of the IPad for its screen class, however if you aren’t willing to pay to watch those movies, you are mostly out of luck.

5 days ago, I would have told you I was generally happy with my IPad and to wait for the 2.0 which would likely fix some of the more mundane issues like: screen visibility outside, crashing apps, too small apps, lack of USB ports, etc. 5 days later, I feel like I have been ripped off twice, first by the ridiculous price of the IPad and now all of the hidden costs and limitations. I would not recommend buying the IPad unless you have money to burn. If however $700 is burning a hole through your pocket, you do get a much larger screen, great graphics, and the coolest new toy for slightly more than a medium range, medium size, fully functional, laptop PC will cost you. (If money is no object, I’m sure that won’t bother you at all …)

2 thoughts on “IPad Day 5: The Thrill is Gone

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  2. Pingback: Apple’s Reasonable Judgment. « PostBourgie

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