If there is one thing that Apple does right beyond everything else is marketing/PR. For example, I had one user telling me yesterday that Apple requiring iTunes was a feature. While disabusing this poor man twisted perspective on the whole tablet market I thought I would share what I titled “Tablets that aspire to be like the iPad 2 lack ambition.” (hat tip to Timothy Leary)
If you have been reading the press and analysts take on the iPad 2 especially when compared to the BlackBerry PlayBook you would think the device was made of gold and hailed the JesusPad. It truly amazes me how Apple’s successful marketing and product promotion has molded herds of followers. These are the same followers that until two years ago told us “who needs copy and paste?” or until last year said “why do we need multitasking?” Don’t get me wrong the iPad 2 has many things going for it like a strong developer base, solid accessory line, simplicity, and intuitive operation but on the other hand you cannot simply ignore its flaws.
So I thought I would share some reasons on why the iPad and the iPad 2 are a bad measuring stick for a solid tablet. This article is not targeted at the Apple faithful but rather the undecided who are hearing about how the iPad 2 unquestionably trumps the competition. There are certain things that Apple sweeps under the rug that nobody seems to care about due to the “Magical” nature of the device. You can then compare them to the complaints fielded against the PlayBook and tell me how they measure in your eyes. So here is my list of why the “Magical” iPad is not the ideal tablet we want the BlackBerry PlayBook, or any other tablet, to aspire to:
Ooooh Baby I love your Proprietary Dongles and Cables
RIM and Android tablets and smartphones have been really good about doing away with proprietary cables. Gone are the days you needed a headphone adapter and charging dock… unless you have an Apple product. No HDMI cable without a dongle and iTunes requires the classic Apple dock connector. Seriously didn’t these guys learn anything from the Treo? Did Cupertino miss the memo on MicroUSB? I realize some long time Apple users might see this as a plus for having the 30 pin dock connectors lying around but if you read Apples “Thoughts on Flash” explaining why proprietary is bad you kind of wonder if Apple realizes the hypocrisy.
Multitasking Like its the 1980s
Apple for some oddball reason is a firm believer that users cannot handle true multitasking. Don’t get me wrong you will hear iOS defenders clamoring how iOS 4 finally added Quasi-Multitasking and how that is “magical” but who are we kidding? The new “Magical” multitasking is limited to Audio, VoIP, Location, Local notifications, Complete tasks, and “Fast app switching” whatever that means. Talk about a forward thinking OS that all tablets should aspire to. Want to buffer a YouTube video while doing something else? No luck you will have to stare at that evil spinning wheel. Think you can run a chat, social networking, or IM client in the background? Only with caveats that require “push notifications.” Which leads me to..
Are they popup ads or notifications?
Whenever I see Apple’s compromise for “notifications” in iOS it makes me wonder where all the UI designers went. To call them “inelegant and disruptive” is an understatement. Running an IM app like Google Talk in the background in “Quasi-multitasking” world? That means you will see a new popup every time you get a new chat message. Very forward thinking just like if you…
Want to play your DIVX, XVID, AVI, etc files? Look elsewhere…
One of the things that always baffled me about Apple is that it almost seems like they are trying to make a market for video transcoders. They simply refuse to support any of the standard high compression formats other than their specific H.264 video encoding and don’t even try to throw any 1080p video content on it. Thats for games only for some odd reason. I guess the HDMI dongle is for older pre 1080p TVs to play games while it is connected by a cable? If you are an audiophile with FLAC and OGG files I would look elsewhere too. I realize that Apple is heavily invested in the movie industry along with selling videos and TV shows through iTunes but once again this is another limitation Apple places on customers that does not benefit customers.
The iTunes Ball and Chain:
I actually had the honor of having a colleague explain to me yesterday how iTunes was a “feature.” I had to really work hard to hold myself together. Apple’s iTunes is the AOL of the 21st century. Its is some of the most bloated software around and the beloved iPad is useless without it when you take it home. Last time I checked the first thing you need to do when you buy one is plug it into iTunes. You will also need iTunes for OS updates, Synchronization, and backup. We thought RIM was really old school in how they do wireless OS updates but the iTunes+iPad combo is an unnecessary ball and chain. While I realize many users appreciate the simplicity of iTunes and that it simply works it just seems like a “Magical” device should be able to be “Magical” without requiring a desktop program.
We don’t need no stinking Flash!
There is a reason Flash is installed on 99% of desktops. While some people have swallowed the Apple Kool-Aid without question you have to ask how this benefits users. I won’t go into the pros and cons of Flash since I am not a huge proponent for many reasons but to simply say it is not necessary… Just imagine if tomorrow Steve Jobs announced that the iPad 2 will support Flash. I can already see the droves of fanboys telling me how wonderful Flash is.
Old school cameras! We have your dual old school cameras!
Apple really went cutting edge with their “HD” back camera at 720p and VGA front camera. I guess users are so happy Apple finally added something they can live with cameras that were standard on phones 3+ years ago…
Nothing sounds better than a Mono Speaker
While it is understandable that phones have Mono speakers it doesn’t really make for a cutting edge video watching experience on a “HD” screen. I guess that is part of the “Magic”?
Scratch Scratch – Hey a New iPad came out
Even with the new “Magical smart covers” you have to admire how “scratch-able” Apple makes the aluminum of their devices. Even the new protective “Smart-cover” scratches the side of the iPad 2 though it has rubber bumpers to protect it from that. Users are also reporting that the proprietary dock cable scratches the aluminum due to the sloped design. But hey these users can always count on a new one to come out in a year and hope to resell their scratched up device.
This list could go on and on but it still baffles me that people hold the iPad 2 as the “holy grail” of what tablets should be. I didn’t even touch on topics like the laughable security and lack of free native/included office (word, excel, powerpoint) apps. To sum it all up the iPad is nowhere near the perfect tablet yet it has achieved “untouchable” status by many reviewers. I do easily concede that there are many things that Apple simply does “right” on their version of the tablet for their market but to assume it is the end goal for all tablets is ridiculous. Its not that these flaws are deal breakers but they do go to show why even the iPad has a way to go.
Let me know what you think in the comments!