What are the limits of the iPad?
Many earlier reports about the iPad complain about various elements – missing multitasking, the weight of the device or the lack of built-in cameras but I think these reports are missing a great deal about what is already possible on the iPad and where in just a little while the device may be heading.
- The lack of multitasking or the “I can’t listen to music while I work” complaint. While it is true that at the moment you can not run two or more third-party apps at the same time, it is, however, not at all true that you can’t listen to music while working in another app. In fact there are at least two different ways to accomplish this on an iPhone or, I think, on an iPad. see below for how to do this
- The missing built-in cameras or “how can I get photos onto the iPad” plus the related “you can’t do video calls/chat”. While it is true that the iPad does not have a built-in camera there are at least two ways to get photos onto the iPad. And see below for another possible third way which may even offer an opportunity for video on the iPad!
- The weight or “this thing is very heavy” (usually compared to an iPhone/iTouch). As the nearly 4+ year owner and daily user of a tablet convertible ThinkPad, a tablet which weighs in at over 5.5lbs with the extended battery and over 6lbs with the charger I have to carry with me (as even with the extended battery my battery life is only ~4hrs now) I do not have much sympathy for this complaint. But see below for a few ideas about how & why this isn’t much of an issue actually.
How to listen to music while doing other things on the iPad (or iPhone/iTouch)
To listen to music while you are working inside of other applications on the iPad you have at least two easy solutions.
Option 1 – iPod application. As you can see in Apple’s Guided Tour for the iPod application on the iPad, you can play music via the iPod application while you are running other applications. You can sync your favorite music from your iTunes on your PC or Mac and play back on your iPad. I would suggest you construct Smartplaylists (I’ll post an article in the future about how to do this – I use dozens) to have fine-grained control over what portion of your library you keep on your portable devices. You can also download and purchase additional music from the iTunes store (I don’t think you can download podcasts directly but I always sync my latest podcast subscriptions to my portable devices)
Option 2 – Streaming via Safari. A not entirely well know feature of Safari on the iPhone/iTouch & now on the iPad is that it is capable of playing back streams of audio (or video) which are formated correctly for HTML5 & Safari. And these streams will, at least on the iPhone/iTouch (and I suspect also on the iPad) continue running in the background if you close Safari and open another application on the device. This is not, to be sure, all sources online but it includes a large and growing number of sites. The MLB (Major League Baseball) iPhone application uses this “trick” to offer access to streams, via Safari, which can play while you are running other applications. Friends use this to stream NPR while they run other applications on their iPhones today.
and of course there is the less elegant but equally valid
Option 3 – listen to music via another device. Many iPad owners, including myself when I buy my iPad in a few weeks, will also own an iPod and/or an iPhone/iTouch. I certainly expect that as having my iPad will mean I need to use my iPhone for data & applications less frequently that I could easily play music either via the iPod application or via an application which does Internet radio (Pandora for example) on my iPhone while I run other application on my iPad. Though I have heard that the Pandora iPad application is a great experience.
And don’t forget that a solution to the complaint about the location of the iPad headphone jack is to use a bluetooth wireless headphones which I suspect will see greatly expanded sales in the coming months.
The missing cameras.
There are many options to get photos onto the iPad already. On the Apple website they list three.
- Sync via iTunes
- The camera accessory for the iPad which offers SD card reader & USB connection options via the dock connector
- Save photos from email to the iPad
- not listed by Apple but likely you can also save images from Safari to the iPad
But there is an interesting possibility which I have not see mentioned anywhere – neither on Apple’s website or in any coverage of the iPad. With the advanced Bluetooth capabilities of the iPad potentially Bluetooth enabled cameras, including video cameras, could be attached to the iPad.
Now as I mentioned I don’t know if this is a possibility and to be sure the current models of Bluetooth capable web cameras are mostly pretty ugly devices intended for use in an office, but it possible wearable Bluetooth capable cameras could open up an amazing range of applications to the iPad.
As I mentioned, I have been accustomed to carrying around with me all day long over 6+lbs of tablet computer & related devices. I don’t know if the iPad will be a full replacement in my daily usage but in a large range of situations the iPad will offer capabilities impossible with my current tablet and for me shaving off over 5lbs of devices I need to carry along with the ability to use a vastly smaller and more lightweight bag are huge advantages. I am eagerly looking forward to shifting to a much lighter and smaller bag, a bag without the weight of extensive padding to proteect my heavy laptop in favor of carrying an iPad (safely in a protective case that doubles as a multipurpose stand) in a much smaller & lighter (and to be frank better designed) laptop bag.
For a great collection of additional articles and coverage of the iPad see this Pearltree: