Friday, July 29, 2011

Top 12 misconceptions about the Apple iPad

The iPad is quite hip these days. It is, in fact, leading the tablet market by a huge margin right now. But no matter how popular the tablet gets, people always have wrong notions about it. They are very confused when buying one. So here I am, clearing out some of them.

I figured I might be biased in this matter, being a new and happy iPad owner. So I asked the iPad community over at Reddit for help. I asked them:
"What are some misconceptions you had (or people have) about the iPad?"
I got a lot of answers. There were several wrong ideas people have, or the Redditors had before they got an iPad. So I sorted through them and picked the best and most common ones for this post.

So let's get started with the misconceptions.

It does not let you multitask

This one might not be so big these days. Since version 4.2 of iOS (current is 4.3.x for iPad), you can run multiple apps on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch simultaneously and switch between them quite easily. Still, people might think otherwise and it may be a dealbreaker for them.

So let's get it out of the way: You can press the Home button at the bottom of the screen twice in succession and the iPad displays a bar at the bottom with the recently used apps running in the background (they don't slow you down). You can close them from right there and also switch to them when you want.

Lack of Flash is a glaring hole

This is a huge one. Even I thought, before getting the iPad that because there is no Flash Player plugin for the iPad (Apple hates it), so much web content will not be usable. There's a YouTube app, but what about the rest of the Internet?

Actually, once you get an iPad, you will not feel the need for Flash. At least I don't and several others on Reddit thought the same. There's a YouTube app. Moreover, if you are surfing around and encounter an embedded YouTube video in a website, the app will play it right in the web browser like a plugin would. Also, there are apps for most of your news sources and other online services that will play their video content directly. When surfing the web in the web browser, you will most likely not even come across some content that you don't have a plugin for (except for the occasional Silverlight on Microsoft sites. Ahem)

The iPhone (or other phone) can do everything the iPad does and thus the iPad is a waste of money

People might think: The iPhone is a phone, has GPS, and runs all the apps out there. Why would I need a bigger second one that doesn't even make calls or receive texts? In reality, there's much more to the iPad than just a big screen.

First of all, the iPhone does not run all the apps. There are so many games available only for the iPad. You can take productivity apps into consideration also. Sure there will be an iPhone as well as an iPad version of an app that lets you edit documents (Pages, maybe). You cannot possibly work on that tiny screen on a phone as comfortably and as productively as you could on an iPad in the same flight or bus or coffee shop.

Of course, an iPhone is not a complete replacement of an iPad. I am not saying that everyone needs an iPad, but if you are thinking of getting work done, don't think that you will be able to do the same work, in quantity or quality on an iPhone (or any other phone in that matter) instead of an iPad.

It is a complete replacement for a full-sized computer

Tablets might be the future. But the future isn't here yet. There is still a whole lot of stuff you can do more efficiently (if at all) that you cannot do on an iPad alone. You will not be able to make a perfect home movie on a tablet right now. You cannot do photo editing with as much efficiency on an iPad as much as in Photoshop on a desktop computer. The list goes on.

Also, you practically cannot use an iPad independently, without a computer, as of now. At the time this article was written, iOS 5 wasn't (maybe still isn't) here yet. The next generation of Apple's mobile operating system will let users "cut the cord" and use their devices independent of a computer. But that is due in a few months from now.

Tablets at this point in time are made to be used between full-sized computers and smartphones. Yes, of course you can work in a coffee shop or in a flight and you can use your iPad in a conference or in a class very effectively, but you cannot make it the only computer you will have.

Every app available for it is perfect because Apple approves of them

Yes, Apple does approve the apps available in the App Store, unlike the Android Market. Things thus remain perfect and apps are bound to run when they say they will. But this does not mean that the app quality will be good.

Apple does not check how good the apps are. They only make sure that they work properly. If you come across a boring game or something with bad graphics, don't start ranting and complaining. Just give it a low rating on the App Store.

Typing on its touchscreen is slow and hard

This is another one that several people recommended I include. Even I was surprised at how good the keyboard on the iPad was. People get Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad so that they can type quickly and easily.

But the iPad does not, like other touchscreen devices these days, have a resistive screen. I don't know about you touch-typists, but I found typing on the iPad a great experience. The keys are large enough, so you don't usually miss them. You can tap multiple keys at the same time and the keyboard will still register everything perfectly.

If you do happen to make mistakes, there is AutoCorrect. It is an incredible piece of software that automatically corrects misspellings for you and learns as you use it. Don't go by what the Internet jokes say. AutoCorrect is good at what it does, though it might mess up very very occasionally.

It is better for content consumption than creation

I got this many times before I got an iPad. I was suggested that I shouldn't expect to do any actual work on it. But really, the iPad can be a great productive tool. From my use, I have noticed that psychologically, there might be fewer distractions when working on an iPad compared to a computer. Most of the time, when you are using an app, there are absolutely no distractions anywhere on the screen. Even opening a new 'window' in a web browser is slightly hard (needs two taps and about two seconds).

Also, it is small and portable, starts in less than a second and is easy and snappy to use. Flick it out in a plane or on a park bench. No need to wait for boot up memory hogging apps to start up.

By no way at all am I saying that the iPad is not good for content consumption, though.

You need to shell loads of money for all the useful apps

Yes, statistically, Android's Market has a higher percentage of free apps compared to the Apple App Store. But it's a common misconception that you will have to pay loads of cash to make the iPad useful after you buy it for so much.

I have had my iPad for almost a week and I'm enjoying it. I have not purchased a single thing from iTunes and I still have many games and all kinds of stuff. I might get Pages at some point, but it is not really needed. I understand that most good games on the iPad are paid, but they are mostly cheap. Also, for productivity apps, there are always free alternatives. Instead of purchasing an office suite or something, you can use the completely free Google Docs to work with your documents. There's a version of the site designed for tablets too.

It is simply a very expensive, but useless toy

The iPad may seem expensive, but its price is actually very hard to beat. Other manufacturers are clearly trying to compete with the iPad in terms of performance as well as price but the iPad keeps on selling like hot cakes. Why? It is simply hard to make a tablet that powerful and as perfect and sell it for so cheap.

Yes, I understand that it all depends on the country you buy it in too.

However, the iPad is not useless at all. If you have read the whole article up to this point, you should already know this. It can do almost anything.

You can install Windows on it to run older programs

This can be a rare misconception, mainly demonstrated by technology illiterates. No, you can't install Windows or anything on the iPad. It is a tablet made to be used with a full-sized computer.

That is all.

PS: Someone could get Windows 95 running on it, though. But you're not supposed to do that.

You can get a cheap netbook and do much more with it

This one is super-popular. People say that you can get a netbook running Windows and do much more than an iPad can. Well, if you are thinking of a netbook, you should have a primary computer already. If you have a primary computer and are getting a separate, smaller one, why buy something that is similar in function to the primary one, also more underpowered. The iPad 2 comes with a dual-core processor and runs apps that just work.

Why at all will you get a small, underpowered netbook when you can spend just a little more and get something that doesn't make you wait five minutes for it to boot up even after years of use?

It is just a big iPod touch

This is by far the most common wrong idea I have seen in peoples' minds. If it was simply a big iPod touch, why would Apple make it? Even if they did, why would people buy so many of them? The iPad is much more useful than an iPod. It's an iPod with a lot more. If you see the section above about the iPhone not being a replacement for the tablet, you will understand. Also, if you have read the whole article up to this point, you probably know that the iPad can be a really portable device that puts function and elegance together very well.


This post just cleared up a few misconceptions people have about the iPad. I am in no way saying that the tablet is perfect, that it is fit for everyone or that everybody needs it. Depending on who you are and what you want to do with it, it might be wrong or right for you. It's just that the above things are a few wrong notions people have about the iPad.