Apple iPad tablet
The iPad is undoubtedly the best known tablet computer in the world today. It was immediately popular with 300,000 sold on their first day of availability. Within a month of release, Apple had sold over 3 million iPads. Despite the arrival of many new tablet brands in Australia, the iPad still has the largest market share of any of them.
Features and models
The iPad's sophisticated multi-touch touchscreen is a 25 cm (9.7 in) LCD backlit "Retina" display (2048 by 1536 pixels) with fingerprint-resistant and scratch-resistant glass. The iPad is designed to be controlled by bare fingers, like the iPhone before it and like most newer consumer market tablet computers. It has a 3-axis accelerometer to sense the orientation of the tablet and switch between portrait and landscape modes, although it can be locked (mainly to enable reading in bed!).
The iPad on sale in Australia has three options for internal storage size (16, 32, or 64 GB). All data is stored on the flash drive inside the device and there is no option to expand storage. For each different storage size there are two connectivity options: Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and 3G (4G where available, which is mainly outside Australia). Prices vary depending on which options are chosen, ranging from A$539 (16GB, Wi-Fi only) to A$899 (64GB, Wi-Fi and 3G). For the 3G model, you will also need a data plan from a phone carrier (more information below). Prices are as at June 2012 from the Apple Store with free delivery.
At nearly 10 inches, the iPad screen is larger than the newer models from other manufacturers such as BlackBerry and Samsung, which have 7 inch screens. However, Apple chief Steve Jobs said in October 2010 that customers don't want a tablet screen smaller than 10 inches, and Apple won't be putting out a smaller version to match its competitors.
The iPad 2
The second version of the iconic tablet, the iPad 2, was released in March 2011. Slimmer, lighter, and faster than the iPad 1, with front and rear facing cameras for FaceTime videocalling. And it now comes in two colours - black and white!
The iPad 3
What does the iPad do?
The iPad is part of the new wave of consumer oriented tablet computers. It is designed for consumption of media such as books and periodicals (especially magazines designed to work on the iPad with embedded videos etc), music, movies, and games, and for general web and e-mail access.
The iPad comes with several applications, including the Safari web browser, Mail, Photos, Video, iPod, iTunes, iBooks, Maps, Notes, Calendar, Contacts, and Spotlight Search. But the real strength of the iPad is its link to Apple's App Store, because it can download and run almost all of the over 200,000 apps that were originally written for the iPhone, displaying them at iPhone size or enlarging them to fill the iPad's tablet sized screen. The iBooks application can be used to read books and other ePub-format content downloaded from the iBookstore.
The iPad is mainly for entertainment and media consumption. If you need a serious business computer then it probably won't replace your laptop just yet. However, as an email device it can be made more usable with the optional iPad Keyboard Dock (pictured here).
The iPad needs a wireless internet connection to get the best out of it. Connectivity options are Wi-Fi or a 3G mobile data connection to surf the web, stream media, and download and install apps and other software. A USB cable is needed to sync the iPad with iTunes on a personal computer (Mac or PC).
Wi-Fi may work in Australia's capital cities where you are more likely to find a hotspot, but if you need mobility then the 3G model is the safer bet for getting a connection. To do this, you will need to get a separate data plan with a new micro-SIM to insert in your iPad. However, it is not compulsory and you can just buy the 3G model up front and take up a data plan if and when it suits you.
The 3G iPad is sold "unlocked" and can be used with any compatible carrier. In Australia there are specific iPad monthly data plans offered by carriers such as Telstra, Optus, Three, and Vodafone. The cost of 3G data plans vary depending on monthly data limits and contract length, and should be compared for current prices for your intended usage between all the carriers when making a decision. If you may be travelling outside major cities then you should also consider 3G coverage, with Telstra possibly offering the widest.