Cool Apple iPad arrives in Canada

Our American cousins may envy our choice of 3 carriers: Bell, Rogers, and Telus but the iPad itself is flawed

I didn’t intend to get an iPad yesterday when I woke but the idea took hold with a fever at 9 AM. Then I remembered May 28th was the day they were arriving in Canada. What luck!

Like millions of people caught up in the hype, I just wanted to have one. After a day with the iPad I’m not sure if it’s a keeper or not. Internet videos are not watchable and it’s tiring to hold a computer in your hands when you’re used to them sitting on the desk.

By 9:40 AM I was standing in front of the display at Future Shop in Charlottetown by myself trying to catch the eye of a sales associate without losing my place in the line. I was the line.

What if they were already sold out? Within 10 minutes I had 2 helpful people trying to sell me one of the 20 units each store had been allocated along with sundry accessories and service plans. I had to cut them off the sales schpeil with “I want one.” Other than the pitch, the Future Shop staff couldn’t have been friendlier and more helpful.

Next came the wait for connection to one of the three carriers who provide 3G service on the iPad. Eat your hearts out with envy my American cousins who have to use AT&T!

Rogers was out since their service in Charlottetown is so bad I sold my Rogers iPhone regrettably last week. We tried Bell but after 30 minutes on the phone switched to Telus. Bell was completely unprepared for the iPad launch and was setting up accounts by hand. They were swamped.

Telus authorization took about 5 minutes over the internet. After an agonizing 100 minutes I was out the front door with my sparkling new iPad. Actually, my companion had the iPad declaring it was hers from now on. She already had set up her email account. Cool.

Not an iPhone

A sales associate enthused she was going to get one and replace her iPhone. Size does matter but the iPad is not an iPhone on steroids. Despite the similar look-and-feel, the iPad does not make phone calls, take pictures or videos, nor does it act as a GPS. Apple wants to sell us both an iPad and iPhone.

The iPad is essentially a cool device to check email, read e Books, watch videos and listen to music. Some iPhone apps will work on the iPad and newer iPad specific apps are being released weekly.

Email

My first email account – Gmail – took sometime to get working. The iPad wanted to configure it as imap and annoyingly refused to save the settings. I entered the information manually and that worked. My Hotmail account was easier since Microsoft have a standard configuration. Hotmail is getting a new interface this summer which is supposed to make it the best web mail client.

The iPad said there were 37 messages in my Inbox but there weren’t being delivered. By now I was in a car on the way to Halifax and there was no 3G service from the Confederation Bridge to Amherst.

Using Safari for a web based email client I got around the problem and most of it was junk mail as usual. I sent a message to the guitar player I wanted to see in Cole Harbour and went to sleep.

Surfing the web

Checking out Internet sites on the iPad was smoother near the Halifax airport. Sites snapped in place relatively quickly which was a big improvement over 3G surfing on the iPhone 3Gs. For reasons which aren’t obvious, sometimes the iPad will hang for minutes before it displays a site. Netflix for instance was very hard to get.

Like the iPhone you can re-size the page with 2 fingers. With the larger screen on the iPad, websites were easy to ready and navigate. Flash videos as expected failed to work so I tried You Tube which does uses Apple’s approved H.264 video format.

You Tube is a desktop widget on the iPad so getting there was a snap. The results were disappointing. The sound was great. The picture was really bad. How bad? Really really bad as in you won’t watch it.

Watching videos on the iPad

Apple’s website promises “The best way to experience email, the web, photos and videos. Hands down.” Wrong. Watching videos is a big disappointment on the iPad.

Videos are terrible with high amounts of pixelization. They don’t look sharp. They are so fuzzy I figured we had gone back to 1999. I imagine if you buy videos from the iTunes Store they will look great and that may be Apple’s plan – getting us to pay for content.

This was odd since no mainstream writer has mentioned video quality, which is a good example of how the media gush over products without telling the whole truth. Richard Bacon writes baloney in The Sun “iPlayer and YouTube are laid out better than their regular online versions and, with its vast screen, it makes the iPhone feel like a kid’s toy.”

Somewhat oddly, a You Tube Fleetwood Mac video embedded on NJN Network looked as good as it did on my laptop.

Sure enough, there is a problem with Apple’s choice of 3G chip. You Tube is sending only a fraction of the video to iPads.

According to reports from iPad users, the YouTube app will “dramatically” lower its video resolution if you are connected through 3G. The ABC TV app will flat out not play video if it’s connected to the internet via 3G.

Here’s the odd thing – the video preview for TV shows and such in the iTunes Store will stream at full resolution when connected through 3G. Some other apps, like Netflix, are also playing fine over 3G. The guys at TechCrunch reached out to carrier AT&T, assuming that this was something they assisted on, to help maintain their already infamously troublesome networks.

AT&T, point-blank, threw the blame to Apple. “It’s just a question for Apple,” an AT&T spokesperson told TechCrunch. Further investigation uncovered that ABC is actually blocking their video from going over 3G on purpose. Something to do with the TV rights and 3G being an open transmission or something. Sounds strange, but true.

Word is still out on the YouTube app. I’ve been told that the YouTube app on the iPhone is running at a higher resolution on 3G than the iPad on 3G. It’s definitely annoying that ABC is able to fragment the functionality of their app based on what connection you’re on (RIM actually does something similar for the BlackBerry App World). Hope you weren’t planning to watch Lost on your iPad while you ride on the bus. TFTS

To add insult to injury the iPad is country specific so You Tube blocks content to the iPad in Canada that is not blocked on my laptop. I couldn’t watch most of the Bob Dylan videos on VEVO or Bob Dylan TV on the iPad. They were either not formatted for the iPad or blocked from Canada.

When I get home I will iTunes sync with the videos I purchased for my iTouch and iPhone to see how they look.

As a parting comment, I don’t think holding an iPad in my hands for long periods of time is going to be fun. I got a crink in my neck last night from surfing the iPad for an hour. The angle of the iPad screen, which you have to support unlike a laptop, means your arms have to be either uncomfortable out in front of your body or you are looking down with a bent neck. We’ll see how that works out.

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1 Comment

  1. 3G is not a chip. The vcomment_IDeo over 3G is the same as the vcomment_IDeo on the iphone. The quality is determined by the encoding and bit rate. The quality is reduced when watching vcomment_IDeo over a 3G network to reduce strain on the network and perserve battery life of the mobile device. Watch the same vcomment_IDeo using 3G and then using WIFI. You will see an increase in quality with WIFI. The vcomment_IDeo quality over 3G has nothing to do with the hardware of the iPad.

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