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Apple's new iPad WiFi 3G reviewed.
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MikeB
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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 8:24 pm    Post subject: Apple's new iPad WiFi 3G reviewed. Reply with quote

pocketgpsworld.comApple is a strange company you either love them or hate them… One thing that nobody denies is that they make great and well designed products, the latest of which is the iPad. This is already on sale in the US and will start to become available at the end of May beginning of June in other countries.

The demand for the iPad is so high that Apple have been having to continually revise international launch dates and extend US shipping dates. Though it is possible to buy iPads in the Apple stores in the USA.

So what is this new Apple iPad phenomenon are we seeing the same sort of euphoria we saw with the iPhone? Is all this interested justified or is this just a brick doomed to failure? Read on to find out what I think in our first comprehensive look at the iPad…

Eagerly anticipating the arrival of the iPad
Now when the iPad was first announced I liked the look of it, but was determined not to be one of the first to get one. I thought I would wait and see what others thought before splashing out my hard earned dollars on the latest bit of Apple kit. Well that plan fell to pieces when the pre-orders for the WiFi 3G version were announced. Mine was delivered on May 7th: two days before I arrived in Florida to pick it up.

The WiFi only version has been available in the US for some time, and it far outsold the initial estimates. I had absolutely zero interest in this version as it did not include a GPS, nor could a GPS be connected to it. In my mind that defeated the objective of having a small(ish) portable device. Also although there are many WiFi hotspots all over the place it is inconvenient trying to find one when you need to read your mail, or send a few tweets so the 3G was essential as well.


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With this in mind I eagerly awaited the arrival of my iPad: WiFi, 3G and 64Gb memory. In fact it has been quite some time now since I have had the "childhood" impatience of waiting to get my hands on something new. It was quite a thrill again. Importantly unlike my childhood urges which often resulted in disappointment this was entirely different… The iPad is wonderful!!!


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The day we arrived in Florida the iPad was sitting on my hall table waiting for me to open it. I had to control myself and do a few chores before I attacked the packaging, knowing full well that if I started to unpack the iPad then other important things would not get done. When I finally got round to opening the packaging I found my bright and shiny device pre-charged and ready to go.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
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I was surprised at both the size and weight of it. You can look at specs and try to figure out exactly how it will look and feel, but to actually hold it blows away all your pre-conceptions. In reality the iPad is about 1" smaller than an A4 notepad in both height and width, and weighs a fraction more. In fact the Apple case feels like it weighs about a third of the iPad itself. The result is a device that weighs a lot less than a bag of sugar.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
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What is the iPad?
So what exactly is the iPad? It is not a phone for sure, it wont handle voice calls. It is not an eBook, though a big new feature of it is iBook. It is not a laptop. In fact is is a whole new genre of device. In the past we have had tablet computers, but they never caught on, too expensive, too heavy and lacking in real mobile functionality. The iPad on the other hand has grown and incorporated features from the revolutionary iPhone. This initially makes it difficult to sell to anyone other than the "Apple Fanboys" but having said that if you pick one up you will be a convert. My wife was an ardent iPad sceptic, not understanding what it was or how it could change your lifestyle. After getting caught in a traffic jam and seeing the traffic flow apps (Beat the Jams) her attitude started to change. Then when sitting in the car reading the Daily Mail on Safari (while I was in Best Buy) she really got converted. Now I have to wrestle the device from her when I want to use it.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
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So the answer to what it is really depends on what you want to do with it. It is a gaming machine. It is an MP3 player. It is a Video player. It is a mobile office. It is a navigation device. It is pretty much whatever you want it to be. And that is where and how it will make its mark, because it is something new that is an enabler. It is not a device targeted at a single market, it is more of a lifestyle gadget breaking existing usage models encompassing a multitude of uses.

iPad Applications
At launch there were 150,000 applications available to run on the device. Most of these were compatible by virtue of the fact that the iPad can run all the iPhone apps. However with a lot more real estate the iPhone apps now run at 480x320 resolution in the centre of the screen or 960x640 by doubling the size. The double sized apps don't look too great close up, but there are a few surprises. The best surprise (for me) is that our CamerAlert and any other apps using the MapKit (Google Maps) render the maps at normal density. This means that the maps look great but other user interface elements look a bit pixelated. This is not too bad, just not ideal.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
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Of course there are some native iPad applications. These make use of the full size and capabilities of the iPad. This includes some new UI features such as Split Views (a 320 pixel strip down the left of the screen) and Pop-Overs, a popup window. These allow a lot more flexibility when designing apps and make full use of the screen size. As time goes by more and more iPad specific Apps will hit the App Store.

So far I have managed to get through most of this article without mentioning GPS and navigation. In my view then of the best uses of the screen size is for mapping applications. It really brings mapping to life. No longer are you stuck with a tiny screen trying to find the balance between map scale and visible features. The screen is of sufficient size that you no longer have to compromise. I already mentioned the Google Maps, and Beat the Jams, but there are many more available: iNavX, CoPilot and Memory-Map.

ALK's CoPilot Live HD
Almost as soon as the iPad WiFi-3G was available ALK released CoPilot HD. This has a new interface with the map and an information panel showing on the screen at the same time. Although it does look extremely nice it is somewhat less than practical as an in-car solution. The iPad is simply too big for most cars. I am sure that I will find a solution that will allow me to mount mine in the small confines of my Mercedes sports car, but in general it will either be dangerous for visibility or covering some of the cars controls. Having said that it will be ideal for truckers, or in the motor-home where of course it will double up as an entertainment centre during rest breaks.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
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GPSNavX's iNavX universal app
GPSNavX were also quick off the mark to release their marine navigation application iNavX for the iPad. This really showed the capabilities of the iPad. Although the iNavX app does not use all the new features of the iPad UI it does show what can be done with it. I am sure that over time the interface will evolve to take advantage of the new layouts and pop-overs. The iNavX app is interesting in as much as it highlights the third option Apple have made available to developers: Universal Applications. A universal Application is one that will run on both the iPad and the iPhone, but is a single application on the AppStore. iNavX is also unique in that it uses Fugawi's X-Traverse system to transfer data (GPX waypoints etc) between your main computer, Garmin GPS, MacENC or any other compatible system (which is most) and the iPad/iPhone. This is a feature that TomTom, Navigon and ALK should look at for getting user content into their apps.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
Click on image for full sized picture.


The above images really highlight the difference between the iPad and the iPhone.

Memory-Map HD preview
Finally I have been looking at a PocketGPSWorld Exclusive: Memory-Map on the iPad. Once again a familiar app that I started using way back in 2002 on my old iPaq 37xx has now joined the ranks of apps on the iPhone, and I have the privilege to be one of the first to use it on the iPad in a full HD version. Here having the additional space on the screen opens the way for a terrific user experience. Once again Memory-Map have had to jump through the Apple hoops to enable the import and export of data, it is a bit convoluted, but it does work.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
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iPad Hardware
Getting back to the iPad hardware side of things. The most important features for me are GPS, battery life, and Wireless reception. All of these have been the weak points on the iPhone. Well I am pleased to say that Apple have learnt their lessons and have not just improved them, but moved the goalposts and raised the bar…

GPS Performance
Starting with GPS I have been running hot and cold about the GPS on the iPhone. For some reason in the UK and USA it works OK, but elsewhere it takes ages to get a fix, and sometimes fails to. I was in St Lucia testing some GPS Marine apps last month and I didn't get a single GPS fix whilst testing. Well Apple seem to have surpassed themselves with the iPad GPS. I get fast fixes and much more accurate than the iPhone. To test this I developed a simple diagnostic app that showed me the GPS info returned by each device. The iPad constantly reports a sub 10 metre accuracy, where the iPhone struggles to make 50 metres and often drifts out to 2500 metres relying on cell positioning.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
Click on images for full sized picture.


Battery Life
Then there is the battery life. My iPhone had a reasonable life until I started to use the GPS and bluetooth etc. Over time that has diminished and now I am lucky to get 3-4 hours out of it just reading emails and maybe tweeting a bit. With the iPad the challenge is to actually run the battery down. I have had it running for 4 days without charging, using it for web, tweeting, reading the paper, GPS apps etc. Eventually it had got down to about 35% before I accidentally charged it up overnight. Even taking it on a run using CamerAlert with mapping on display it only used less than 10% in just under an hours drive. That is using 3G data, GPS and moving maps.

A few days ago I really put it through it's paces using it from 8am in the morning to 2am the following day. With lots of browsing, GPS apps, tweeting, downloading pictures, and reading emails I was really hammering the iPad from a real user point of view. I was missing a few crucial applications to manipulate my images and upload them to the PocketGPSWorld.com website, but apart from that it worked wonderfully. And at the end of a busy day I still had 35% battery power left!!!

I really think that this is as advertised…

Wireless Communications
For Wireless reception I bundle both WiFi and 3G together. Initially some of the WiFi only iPad users complained about WiFi drop outs and weak or bad connections. This certainly has not been the case with my 3G version, infact quite the opposite. I have never had a WiFi dropout, and have managed to connect to all the HotSpots I have found (my excuse for hanging around Starbucks).

The 3G side of things is a little more tricky, as you might expect. Predictably in the USA AT&T seem to be playing silly billies. To activate the account you need to have a US credit card with a US billing address and that address needs to have good AT&T 3G coverage. If not you will get a strange message saying address unknown. To overcome this I managed to call in a favour from Lutz and got up and running using his credit card details. So far I have been really impressed with both the speed and reliability of the AT&T network, but then I am using it in an area which is mainly populated by English holiday makers so probably not a lot of heavy 3G users around. The only time I lost coverage was when watching the Space Shuttle Atlantis final launch on the coast at Cape Canaveral where I was 20 miles from the nearest town, and 10 from a major road. Even so I was still able to get Edge/GPRS coverage, but so slow it was not worth the effort.

iPad Accessories
The iPad was launched with a number of Apple accessories which will soon be added to by hundreds of 3rd party devices. From my point of view the 100% must have accessory is a case. The iPad is well built and strong, but cannot fit in the pocket so it will be in constant danger of being scratched and knocked. with the larger screen the opportunity to scratch it is far greater than an iPhone. The Apple case is interesting: it offers both protection and 2 formats to use it as a stand, the most interesting being lap or desk mode where it elevates the iPad by about 15 degrees for ease of reading. It can also be positioned vertically as a picture frame. The case is made of some type of anti-slip rubberised material, that while it does protect the iPad well does tend to mark easily.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
Click on image for full sized picture.


I also got the iPad dock connector. This was a mistake as, like the iPhone, the iPad will not fit on the dock with a case on. You would have thought that Apple would realize that users would have cases and make the dock to cater for it. Best advised not to get a dock unless you want to keep removing the iPad from the case which is not an easy task. I am currently considering modifying the case so that it will fit on the dock. It is possible that I may be able to do it with just some minor trims, otherwise it will be a large hole in the case...

There is also an iPad keyboard with dock. This has a standard sized keyboard, with some specific iPad keys. There is a lock key that instantly locks and unlocks the iPad, there are also keys for home, spotlight, photos, keyboard hide and iPod controls. The keyboard dock suffers from two issues: it cannot be used with a case, and the iPad must be used in portrait mode.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
Click on image for full sized picture.


An other accessory I bought was the camera connection kit. This allows you to attach one of two adapters to the iPad and transfer your pictures from the camera. There are 2 adapters depending on your camera type: SD card reader or USB connector. I did try to connect a USB stick to the iPad and unfortunately it didn't recognize it. However for cameras it works really well, transferring the images into the photo app.

Issues with the iPad
So far the iPad looks great, but there must be a downside! Well there are a few. The first I mentioned above: for most people the iPad will not be used as an in-car navigation device. The speaker is loud enough but the device is just too big for most cars.

The second is how you transport it. Having the case is all well and good to protect it, but because of its size it doesn't fit in your pocket (in the same way a net book wont). This means that you have to carry it in your hand, and believe me after a couple of hours shopping even the iPad starts to feel heavy. To transport it efficiently you would need some form of shoulder bag, or as I refer to it: "a man bag". No doubt we will start to see these hitting the stores soon.

Next: the screen is designed for touching with gestures etc, but very quickly picks up finger prints and smudges. It may be that I have very greasy fingers, but my iPad screen is covered with marks. This does not affect the viewing of the iPad in any way, just looks a little unattractive when the screen is off.

The major bit of hardware missing from the iPad is surprisingly a camera. This seems to be a huge omission, even the cheapest phones have a camera on them. I am sure that there was a good reason that Apple decided to leave the camera off, but for the life of me I cant work out what it might be. How can I take geo-referenced pictures of things I see if there is no camera on my iPad???

Conclusion
So to summarise: I think the iPad will be a big hit, it already is in the USA. I suspect that the UK and other countries will see the initial iPad stocks sell out rapidly. But this will all be to gadget geeks like me. For it to be a success on the scale of the iPhone it will need to identify and define it's niche. Believe me it will as soon as people start to see them in action. The playback of video is just amazing.

PocketGPSWorld.com iPad Review
Still from Battlestar Galactica. Click on image for full sized picture.


To be honest I don't see the point in getting the WiFi only version. I really don't see a massive market for it unless Apple add GPS to it, and that is not going to happen with the current hardware. It is like Ford selling a car without an engine: it may look good, but it wont get you anywhere… Up until last week there was no option, but now the 3G version is available it costs an extra $130 but for that you get GPS and the 3G as well. Even if you never use 3G you still have a great LBS device.

The iPad is not perfect, but it is the best gadget that I have seen in a long time. I deliberately waited to produce this review after I had been using it for a week or two to ensure that my initial euphoria didn't pass. It hasn't!!! So love it or hate it the iPad is here to stay!
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alan_dr
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great review! Thanks Mike. I am sorely tempted. Can't wait to get my hands on one in the Apple store then I may be persuaded. Very Happy
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gajet
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm still aiming for a WiFi only version. The whole Micro-Sim thing appears to restrictive to me. The WiFi only version is £100 less than a 3g version. For £60 I can buy an unlocked MiFi router, which will accept any SIM, so I'm free to pick and choose from standard Mobile Web tariffs, and when travelling abroad I can buy a local SIM and continue browsing away by the pool.

I appreciate the MiFi router will be an extra thing to carry, but as the iPad is a bag sized thing I'm not sure that's an issue, also I get the benefit that the MiFi will also work with games consoles, my netbook and anyone elses Laptop that I care to let use it.

The GPS issue is a shame, however Jailbroken iPad's connect to Bluetooth mice and non-jailbroken iPads can be connected to the Tomtom mount, but ultimately I'm not sure I see the iPad as a GPS device, I'm not going to use it in my car, and when out and about, my Phone would be better, more manage-ably sized.
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alan_dr
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just had an email from Apple that the iPad will be in store from Friday.
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Darren
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

gajet wrote:
I'm still aiming for a WiFi only version. The whole Micro-Sim thing appears to restrictive to me. The WiFi only version is £100 less than a 3g version. For £60 I can buy an unlocked MiFi router, which will accept any SIM, so I'm free to pick and choose from standard Mobile Web tariffs, and when travelling abroad I can buy a local SIM and continue browsing away by the pool.

Plenty of users have proved that you can trim most standard SIMs on tariffs of your choice and use them in the iPad.

The MiFi is a neat device and as you say. more versatile but for me, the GPS is key and so a WiFi version is a non-starter.
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alan_dr
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you reckon I could cut down my 3 data SIM and use that?
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teecee90
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dont forget, if you have a jailbroken iPhone you can use MyWi to get 3G on a wireless only iPad. As already mentioned, if you also jailbreak the iPad you can get GPS via bluetooth. Personally I see no reason to pay the extra for the 3G/GPS version.
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Darren
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

alan_dr wrote:
Do you reckon I could cut down my 3 data SIM and use that?

I said 'most' SIMs because I'd read that a user on 3 did have it working until they sent a network update which disabled iPad usage. SIMs that are confirmed as working so far are O2 and Vodafone.

Of course they may also take steps to disable iPad usage but I'd hope they instead make iPad service plans at least equal to other offerings and not so much more expensive/restrictive as they are currently.

The one saving grace is it is unlocked so there is much greater incentive on all the providers to be competitive. I've a stack of PAYG SIMs here waiting for me to test on my iPad.

teecee90 wrote:
Personally I see no reason to pay the extra for the 3G/GPS version.
As I say, it doesn't suit everybody, but it suits me. I have no desire to jailbreak and mess about with a bluetooth GPS, for me it defeats the object of the device for me. But if that is a solution for others then great!

It really is a great device, for many purposes, web browsing, simple emailing etc it is so much nicer than a laptop/desktop. For me it is the ideal couch based computer.
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Darren
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With O2 and Giff-Gaff offering unlimited data plans (FUP applies) for £10 a month I'm hoping one of them will be my solution. I can add it when I need it and not bother when I don't.

And I can buy and top up a SIM when abroad for service their, simples Smile
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teecee90
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darren wrote:
It really is a great device, for many purposes, web browsing, simple emailing etc it is so much nicer than a laptop/desktop. For me it is the ideal couch based computer.


Agreed. For me (and most others I suspect) it will primarily be a couch gadget for web browsing, videos, email, ebooks etc. It wont be used as a navigation device by most people and for the rare occaission when I do need GPS I can live with a bluetooth solution.

Jailbreaking really is a no brainer in my view. It is really simple these days and I have had absolutely no problems with my jailbroken iPhone. The MyWi and backgrounder apps are worth the effort on their own.
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teecee90
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way .... dont tell O2 about MyWi - they are banking on your £10 per month ;)
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SpeedCam
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Just a suggestion / tip, like others I have purchased a standard SIM which I'm planning to cut to size, but I suggest people practice cutting on an old SIM before attempting final cutting exercise.

If you search eBay you'll be able to find iPhone Pay As Go SIM's that include 12 months free Wifi & 3g for £25 + a one off £10 topup. £35 for 12 months iPad 3g access has got to be a bargain.
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mikeprytherch
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 10:09 pm    Post subject: iPad = No Flash... waste of £400 ! Reply with quote

I've thought long and hard over the iPad, I use the iPod Touch for bedtime surfing at home but not having Flash really restricts web usage, however I don't mind so much as the Touch is really there for music and the odd movie when I'm flying. For me though, the iPad will be home based and its main use will be surfing the web/email/facebook etc., why do I want to pay £400 for something that wont work on site which has Flash, bear in mind most video is Flash based these days as well !

If the primary use for the device is Web Based (and I am sure that will account for most people), this device is over priced due to lacking core functionality such as Flash support, its clear that Jobs will never let Flash on his device so its clear its always going to be a £400 compromise which in my view is too much.

I'll wait for a decent competitor who isn't as short sighted as Jobs, maybe a larger Dell, or HP (if it ever comes out !), but Googles tablet certainly sounds interesting.

By the way, I did use an iPad last week and its a fantastic piece of kit which I would buy in a heartbeat if it supported flash.
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 10:34 pm    Post subject: Re: iPad = No Flash... waste of £400 ! Reply with quote

mikeprytherch wrote:
For me though, the iPad will be home based and its main use will be surfing the web/email/facebook etc., why do I want to pay £400 for something that wont work on site which has Flash, bear in mind most video is Flash based these days as well !


you do know that facebook now encode videos using non-flash format? and old ones are gradually being transcoded:
Quote:
"All new videos are encoded in h264 format, so we're playing videos natively in the iPad since it supports h264-encoded videos. It will load them full-screen, similar to what it does for YouTube videos."


the iphone specific bbc iplayer site also uses h264 format.

personally i don't like flash for websites. i also feel that any use of flash should be able to fail gracefully like javascript should too. i.e. if flash is not available (or javascript turned off etc) then the core functions of the site should still be accessible to all.

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gajet
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find the whole Flash issue to be exagerated.
When surfing on my iPhone I rarely feel like I'm missing out anything important on the web, and many embedded videos have been posted over to You-Tube anyway.
I do notice the nice absence of Flash based adverts.

The problem of waiting for Dell etc, is that they clearly are having issues coming up with something that actually competes. The iPads advantage is that it is an OS designed for touch screens and all apps are written for a touch interface, as soon as you shoehorn Windows 7 on a tablet, it starts to show that it was designed for a different input set and right clicking etc become troublesome and then the applications are also not designed to be touch friendly.

Android might work, but I'm concerned that Google are making the same mistakes that Microsoft made with Windows mobile and it is becoming a fragmented OS on too many different specced hardware devices.

WebOS would work well, but it's future is also shaky at present.

Windows Mobile 7 is an unknown quantity and remains to be seen how much developers embrace it.
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