Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Apple’s iPad

Apple’s Special Event is over. The dust is settling. And a bunch of things we didn’t know about the iPad have started to become clear. We’ve assembled them all into this new article, the Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Apple’s iPad. There are actually more than ten things in the list—a couple are sandwiched in there—so read on for all the details!

10. GPS. “Where did the iPhone’s GPS go,” you might ask after hearing no reference to GPS during the launch event, “and wouldn’t it be handy?” Semi-good news here: the iPad still has GPS—at least, the more expensive version with 3G does. It’s cell tower-assisted GPS like the iPhone 3G and 3GS, and can help with Maps and other apps, including turn-by-turn navigation applications. Note that GPS on the iPhone 3G/3GS is a real battery killer, so it’ll be interesting to see how it does on the iPad.

9. Storing Files. As demonstrated in Apple’s new iWork applications, the iPad lets you create and store documents in a more conspicuous way than any past iPod or iPhone, but where are the files hidden? Apple has created a less geeky version of the iPod Disk Mode for iPad, displaying a dropbox folder on your computer – like a flash drive – so you can share the iPad’s contents with your PC or Mac and vice-versa. This will also likely be the place where photos go when they’ve been transferred to the iPad with the iPad Camera Connection Kit. It remains to be seen whether files in this folder will be synchronized automatically to iTunes with the rest of the iPad’s contents.

iPad back

8. Different Bodies For 3G + Wi-Fi iPads. If you haven’t seen Apple’s iPad gallery page yet, you might have missed the presence of a big black plastic antenna stripe and SIM card compartment on the top back of the 3G iPad. It runs through the top and is part of the unit’s front bezel, as well. Apple hasn’t revealed the top or bottom of this model yet; it was not being shown on the floor at the launch event.

7. Micro SIM and 3G Service. For whatever reason—likely to either prepare carriers for a similar switchover with the iPhone 4G or a smaller future model—Apple’s SIM card tray for the iPad uses a new Micro SIM card, also known as 3FF SIM, that isn’t yet widely supported by carriers. It’s physically smaller than prior SIMs and, surprise, easier to lose if you remove it. Because of this change, you can’t just pop in any old 3G SIM card and expect the iPad to access a foreign country’s cellular network no matter where you are; carriers will have to choose to support it. It will take a little while, maybe longer, to see which carriers are willing to jump through this particular hoop to support the device.

6. Verizon. Whatever’s going on with Apple and Verizon right now is going to be worthy of a book some day. The iPad not only is launching without Verizon involvement—no exclusive for AT&T, but no second carrier announced—but Apple appears (underscore appears) to have left out CDMA hardware support in the 3G version altogether. We’ll know for sure in late April (or May) when the iPad 3G arrives; Apple hinted broadly that other carriers and deals may be forthcoming.

5. Multitasking and iPhone OS 4.0 Pricing. Since Apple really, really wanted to let people know that iPad has a 10-hour battery, there’s a very good chance that Apple is holding off on adding battery sapping multitasking to the iPad and iPhone until it can hit the big “4.0” version of the iPhone OS (as if the massive changes to iPhone OS 3 for the iPad weren’t enough to merit a higher version number than 3.2). The iPad already can play iPod music in the background as you do other things, but not run videos and browse the web, or have multiple web pages on screen at the same time. Clearly the questions of pop-up windows, multiple app windows at once, and the absence of iPhone OS stock and other widgets are all conspicuous ones right now. Will Apple fix these issues in iPhone OS 4.0? Will it charge for iPhone OS 4.0 on the iPad?

ibook

4. Missing Handwriting Recognition. Highly surprising during the iPad launch was the lack of any reference to using a pen interface with the iPad for taking notes, drawing, or other input. While this won’t matter to some people, the absence of handwriting recognition software on an OS level means that you won’t be able to scribble notes in the margins of your iBooks, jot down thoughts without a keyboard, or see hand drawn lines converted into vectors for simple sketching and flowcharting. Third-party apps (hopefully iPhone OS 4.0) may fill the gap partially, but until Apple adds support to the OS—and truly good styluses appear—there are problems.

iPad

3. Microphone and Speaker Oddities. Quite possibly the weirdest design elements on the iPad are a top-mounted microphone hole and a bottom-mounted set of three metal mesh speaker grilles, both totally unlike other Apple products in design. While it makes a little sense to move the microphone as far away from the speaker as possible, the little hole is unlike Apple’s mics on MacBooks and iPhones, most similar to the one on the fifth-generation iPod nano. Three speaker grilles for one speaker? Our guess is that the mesh was too easy to damage in a larger single opening, and Apple didn’t have another place to radiate the sound through.

Microphone and Speaker Oddities

2. Dock and Screen Changes. Another interesting little surprise is that Apple conceived screen-related changes depending on the device that’s plugged in: connect a keyboard and the virtual one disappears, providing more reading and typing space; connect a video dock or cable and the iPad can display separate or the same content on an external display. There’s serious potential power in this—imagine using the iPad as a controller for a game or app on a separate television or monitor. It can happen.

iPad

1. Component Out, Gone? (Updated: No, but still weird!) The iPad (finally!) supports playback of the 720p videos sold through iTunes as “HD” TV shows and movies. Yet Apple surprised a lot of people, us included, by removing all references to iPad support for the component video output cables used by iPods and iPhones—the ones that might be able to take advantage of this higher resolution video. Instead, Apple shows the iPad as compatible with the same lower-grade composite video out cables, and the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter, which permits 1024×768 video output on a projector or monitor—audio through the iPad’s speaker or headphone ports only. Will there be a new component cable for the iPad? Is Apple trying to differentiate the iPad from, say, Apple TV by not allowing it to output 720p videos? Or is some agreement with movie/TV studios regarding copy protection/HDCP to blame? It’s hard to say at this point.

Updated: Apple has changed the iPad specs page to include support for both the Component AV Cable and Composite AV Cable. Thanks, Dyvim!

Much, much more on the Apple iPad appears in our First Look article, complete with a full 12-minute interface walkthrough video in 720p resolution.

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