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Apple iPad review

Jason Snell | April 5, 2010
It was hyped and ripped before it even had a name, and after it was announced, it was both praised and panned.

There are also some iPhone apps that have no iPad equivalents--they're just not on this device. Weather, Stocks, Clock, Calculator, Voice Memos, and Compass have all been omitted. But fear not: There are free replacements for most of them on the App Store, and they're generally better than their Apple equivalents. Maybe it's better if Apple just gets out of the way on this one and lets its developers lead the charge.

When you download all these apps from the App Store, they appear on the iPad's home screen, which has been slightly updated from the home screen on the iPhone and iPod touch. You can now set a wallpaper image behind the home screen, for that extra personalized touch. (This image is separate from the one that displays on the iPad's lock screen.) And the dock at the bottom of the screen can hold up to six apps, rather than the iPad's four.

Unfortunately, the main area of the iPad's home screen seems loose and a bit barren. Only four apps can appear in a row in portrait mode (and yes, if you, leaving wide spaces between each app. (Each home screen can fit five rows, or twenty apps outside of the dock, in portrait mode--everything shifts into a new configuration if you rotate the iPad to landscape, creating four rows of five apps each.) A tighter grid or larger app icons would have solved this problem. And the iPad, even more than the iPhone, is crying out for the ability to drop small widget-like apps onto the home screen. Who needs a full-fledged, full-screen Weather app when a small Weather widget with the current temperature and forecast could live on one of the iPad's home screens?

Wide-open potential

When I reviewed the original iPhone in 2007, I was reviewing a product that was relatively self-contained. It came with 16 home-screen icons--what we'd now call "apps"--and that was it. It was a year before the App Store launched, opening the iPhone's potential to anything that developers could imagine (and that Apple would approve).

The iPad, in contrast, arrives with the doors wide open. The iPad might come with 13 default home-screen icons, but there are already thousands of iPad-enabled apps available, with more coming seemingly every minute. I have no doubt that some of those apps are, by themselves, going to make the iPad a must-buy for certain audiences. Baseball fans and MLB At Bat 2010 for iPad. Graphic novel fans and the various comic-book readers. An avalanche of games will exploit the iPad's speedy custom-built A4 processor and graphics systems.

It might seem obvious, but it's worth saying anyway: The existence of the App Store and a thriving community of iPhone OS app developers exponentially increases the functionality of this device. As a device with 13 default apps, plus iWork and iBooks, it's nice and all. As the target of thousands of intelligent, creative software developers who already have two years of iPhone OS development under their belts? The sky's the limit.


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