My Early Impressions of Apple's iPad & a Quick Hands-on Review

112 Comments

For a long time, the world has been searching for a device whose capabilities and design place it right smack in the middle of a phone and a laptop. But while some have argued that netbooks were the answer, to me they’re nothing more than cheap laptops. Today, that third device came out of stealth, thanks to Apple (s aapl). It’s essentially a super-sized iPhone with the power of a laptop. Thanks to an uber-mobile chip and stunning 9.7-inch IPS display, the iPad is an ideal device for today’s world.

Despite their evolution, laptops and desktop computers as we know them are essentially work tools. They’re designed for content creation — be that of writing blog posts (or a book), editing photos or creating videos. On the iPhone, we create content of another kind — personal, communication-centric content.

The iPad, on the other hand, is made for the consumption of digital media: games, music, photos, videos, magazines, news papers and e-books. Sure you can use it to check your email or work on a keynote, but the iPad’s primary purpose is to help you consume the ever-expanding amount of digital content on offer.

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iTunes App running on an iPad

So in many ways, today is a brand new day for content creators and owners alike. For if we’re smart, all of us — from large media giants such as Fox (s nws) to upstarts like my little company — will figure out how to build a new magazine/news experience that leverages the iPad’s powerful processor, great graphics, stunning display and most importantly, Internet connection. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say that today may be the day we start to rethink how we build web sites.

In the meantime, here’s a short and sweet hands-on review.

Despite the size, the device is light (1.5 pounds) and is easy to both grip and use. The screen size is ample, the processor powering is beefy and as a result, the iPad is amazingly brisk. And onscreen reading is easy on the eyes.

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YouTube Running on an iPad

Most impressive are its multitouch capabilities, which work anywhere on the massive screen. Since I was already familiar with the iPod touch and iPhone, figuring out how to use the iPad was easy.

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Will iPad Kill Kindle? I think so!

First the good stuff:

  • There is one single button on the entire device, which I think is just brilliant because it means fewer distractions.
  • There’s a sleep/wake button at the top, much like the iPhone.
  • There’s a headphone jack.
  • I like how the device switches from landscape to portrait mode so quickly in all four orientations.
  • The web browsing experience is easy and satisfying, thanks to an ultra-responsive touchscreen.
  • The Maps application is pretty stunning, especially the street view, which comes alive on the iPad screen like never before.
  • YouTube works as advertised, including the HD videos. It’s a damn shame there isn’t an iPad version of Hulu.
  • The iTunes store and iTunes Video work very well, and the music buying experience is no different than, say, on a Mac.
  • It’s simple enough to plow through a whole bunch of email very very quickly.
  • iPhoto is a much better experience on the iPad than you would imagine, especially the slideshows.

Now here is the stuff I don’t much care for:

  • The onscreen keyboard isn’t as great as I thought it would be.
  • The screen resolution of 1024 X 768, or about 4:3, is underwhelming.
  • There’s no way to lock the device into either portrait or landscape mode.
  • The decision to work with AT&T for a wireless 3G data is just straight-up dumb. It’s not like Apple doesn’t know how bad the performance of the AT&T network is. (Related GigaOM Pro report: “How AT&T Will Deal with iPad Data Traffic“)

And a couple of additional facts:

The device will work with any Bluetooth keyboard, but not with a Bluetooth mouse. The keyboard dock for the device will cost about $69. A case/stand is going to cost $39.

Bottom line: If I didn’t own a Kindle or an iPod touch, the decision to buy an iPad would be an easy one. But I own both, and even if I only owned one of them, it would be a tough decision. More thoughts on this device later, when I’ve had time to digest its impact and implications.

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112 Comments

Anonymous

Tried an iPad at Best Buy last night. I had dinner next door to a BB, so had to give the iPad a try. I do agree that the screen is gorgeous, text is very crisp, and overall display is sharp. I surfed to the websites that Safari has a problem displaying with a large enough font for comfortable reading on the iPhone/touch.

unknown

There is a button to lock the orientation in portrait / landscape, it is on the right side above the volume controlers.

Ipad User

There’s no way to lock the device into either portrait or landscape mode?

Yeah there is it a lock button on the side of it to lock it in any screen mode you want it in.and if you dont like the keyboard you can buy on that comes with it.

Michael W. Perry

One very useful business application for the iPad would be a system for processing all the digital paperwork that executives and managers need to read, edit and approve every day. The iPad takes up little space in a briefcase, and, unlike smart phones, the screen is big enough to read even letter-sized documents.

Unlike a multi-use laptop where documents can easily get misplaced, it could be dedicated to that one purpose, with software that takes care of prioritizing and managing the flow of documents in and out. With the 3G model, work could go on almost anywhere. Easily held in the hand and with a fifteen-second startup time, even a few minutes in a cab or waiting in line at an airport could become productive time.

Apple iPad

The iPad is a beautiful looking device, if not a little on the big side.

It could do with perhaps a bit more features but I’m pretty sure it’s still going to be a relatively big seller.

Paul

I am looking forward to using this device, but I really think its the apps either HTML5 or cocoa touch apps that will truly define this device.

But I am disappointed it doesn’t have a camera for video conferencing, and perhaps I am wrong GPS is only available on the 3G versions.

Lastly men finally have a reason for buying tampons now, we will need them to clean that large screen!

senapang

OM.. fantastic article, well thought, insightful – loved it.

I think OM got the essence of the iPad with his insights (no other reviewer pointed out so far);
1. It’s a multi-content consumption platform
2. It’s a different kind of tool – which is personalized and communication-centric.

I’ll add one more :-)

I believe that with the iPad, Apple has set the right foundations for the digital future to position themselves for next-generation web-based applications serving as personal utilities in our everyday lives.

The iPad has covered all the bases for such a device to support next-gen web-based applications by providing;
1. Multi-touch gestures to provide a superior user experience in the way a person engages with the web application.
2. Internet connectivity with WiFi and 3G, I suspect that Wimax will be added to the list in the near future as the take up rate of Wimax starts to climb.
3. The right combination of screen size/weight vs. device mobility. The longer battery life adds on to the mobility. It amazes me that they could do that with a device so thin and so light.
4. Supported by the complementary Mac ecosystem – iMacs or MacBooks for content creation. In that sense also, the iPad is not a multi-purpose tool.

I personally will get one (maybe 2nd generation), but I do have a personal set of concerns and limitations rants;
1. It looks like it’s trying to have the best of both worlds – convenience and high fidelity. Kevin Maney makes a compelling argument against having the best of both worlds in his book ‘Trade Off’. It will be interesting to see how the the mass adoption of the iPad. Interestingly, one of his case studies was on the Amazon Kindle.
2. 2 core technologies are missing to make it a more connective & engaging tool – handwriting & voice recognition/speech technologies. The capacitive touch-screen should support handwriting recognition and voice recognition is already part of the core Mac technology. I suspect it’s a cost trade-off but I don’t see how it is possible for 3rd parties to do it as a system-wide support across all apps. Hopefully we will see these in the Gen 2.
3. Robustness of the device – can it withstand a slip of the fingers from standing height? It would be one expensive case of slippery fingers. Would love to see a glove/sucker device to be able to firmly hold the iPad in one hand and use the free hand to manipulate the iPad controls – not unlike the VESA mount for monitors. I would love to get it into my 6-year old boys hands – the iPad is a natural fit (like hand to glove :-)) for children. But you know how 6-year old boys are!
4. colours – yes I would love to have colour options on the iPad. Future job interviews may have questions like “what was the colour of your iPad?” to analyze a person’s profile :-P

My take:

It looks like the iPad is an addition to the Mac ecosystem in a new product category – not as a standalone product but a ‘complementary’ device, just like the Apple TV. Hardcore PC users will not have the opportunity to get the best of the iPad and not have the full- monty experience without either a Mac-mini, iMac or Macbook.

With all mac products, it will always be a closed platform; a win-win in my books. For Mac users, it’s always a trade-off between higher pricing/limitations/inflexibility vs. system stability/user experience/sense of belonging to the best of breed of computer users.
These devices provide an innovative and creative platform for user-centric web developers to complete the HW/SW Yin/Yang duality of the Mac ecosystem.
As with the introduction of revolutionary devices like the iPod Touch & iPhone, the iPad creates new behavious and appends to the existing set of behaviours, making our lifes more meaningful with computing platforms that complement our natural, more effective & efficient way of getting things done in our daily lifes.

The question is not “should i buy it?” Rather, it should be, “How is the iPad going to make my life more meaningful and increase my Quality of Life?”

Only time and Apple sales figures will tell if the iPad is the answer to the latter question.

Kapil

When I first looked at the device I imagined this being a perfect device for my mom, shes hates using the standard PC & its complexities. She can really appreciate easy access to email, browsing using her hands which comes naturally to most people vs the mouse, video chat – but hang on this thing does not have a webcam? How can apple not include a webcam is beyond me.

But really the elderly can appreciate the no nonsense interface without worrying about the bells and whistles and complexity that we care about.

The other thing that is missing is multi-user access or personalization. What if my dad and mom need to share this device. That way they can configure separate email accounts, bookmarks etc. I dont think iPad has that. Again how can apple not think about that?

So I dont know, in its current form, this seems like a half-baked device. But I do agree, apps will break or make the iPad.

Steve Kuker

Great comments so far, I have a couple of questions about the ipad and since it’s now been a couple of days since it’s introduction maybe someone has the answers. How will software/firmware updates be done- over the air (would make sense, since ipad seems to have a full itunes program on board), or will you have to sync it to a Mac/PC? Now what about your iphone, will you be able to sync the iphone from the ipad? or will you still need a Mac/PC to do that? How can you print from the ipad? Battery life claims of 10 hours usage and one month of standby time are impressive, it would be great to see improvements like this on the next iphone. What I’m hoping to see is an iphone that can sync over the air without needing a connection to another computer, put a full itunes program on it, give it a docking station that has a full size keyboard/screen any takers?

Walt French

The iPhone can update apps and sync to a separately priced Apple service in the cloud, without connection to a desktop. Likely the same for iPad… harder to make it otherwise!

Battery seems based almost entirely on the display: Jobs claimed 140 hours for music, which uses a small fraction of the CPU, and no GPU or display. Apple defines its products VERY carefully in terms of “just enough” capability; that seems especially true for the iPad where $499 screams, “loss leader!” to me. My iPhone is already feeling a bit large and heavy; I’d guess many users would rather put up with the limited lifetime — especially now that they can better enjoy the web, contacts, etc on an iPad ;^> — than to drag along a heavier phone to go jogging, to a game or show, or all sorts of other places where you would want the slimmest possible, can-do-it-if-you-have-to capability.

Chris

I’m surprised at the limited mention of Microsoft in all of this. The iPad provides a fully functional feature set that meets the needs of well over half of all mass market consumer PC users. These are the ones who use a computer for email, photos, web surfing, music, casual games, video, and an occasional document, and are not interested in anything else. Apple simply needs to position this product towards that massive market for what the iPad does, which aligns well with what average consumers want. For years, they have put up with complex jargon, viruses, software updates, drivers, heck, they even had to buy special furniture to put a PC on and give it a dedicated place in their home. Here comes Apple offering a simple, cheap device that does a far better job at doing what consumers suffer on today with a Windows PC.

The iPad seems more like a missile aimed straight at the mass market consumer Windows PC (and not the techno-elite, who are all looking at the iPad for its limitations). Framing the iPad in the point of view of the Kindle or smart phone may actually be a distraction, and one that Apple will surely enjoy. Perhaps the questoin should not be whether you would use one, but whether your Mom or cousin would.

I’ll bet Clayton Christensen is smiling somewhere right now while watching all of this unfold.

jakyastikpress

I strongly believe that iPad is a revolutionary bridge builder between how we interact with computers. The future of computers is of course, cloud. No matter how people may condemn it but eventually, Apple is reinventing the way we look at our everyday computing. Additional features and all will come in iPad over time. I strongly believe that future is iPad, a much better iPad though but it sure it.

The thing is that iPad is giving probably everything an online life needs. I almost never use my computer for anything except web browser and Microsoft word. Like, the iPad is great for me at least and all those who just want to interact with the ‘content’ web has to offer.

I love blogging on the go and I am sure iPad will be a great companion to my iPhone :)

param

well I am a heavy blogger and am always commuting. managing and running my sites over iPhone is not feasible for obvious reasons. at work I have a MacBook Pro 2.8 GHZ with dual graphics cards. When I am sitting at a coffee shop/friends’ offices/in commute etc, the iPad seems like a fantastic way to create content. I can hook my camara to it and upload pix/news/articles/comments to my blog. so its a very valuable tool for the webworker.

netbooks are just smaller cheaper laptops. this one is different. though if you ask me, I would love to have a MacBook Air (its so much more sexy) over an iPad, but the cost makes this a very good alternative.

i keep my expense sheets on Google docs anyway. I keep my documents and contacts too online. And so are my pictures. this is a perfect device for all that.

of course its not for those who want to run Avid Adrenaline on their machines to edit their YouTube videos. And its not for those who are looking for a traditional computing security (as in, I have so much gizmo power I COULD play Grand Theft Auto, on my netbook if I wanted, and that makes me feel secure).

lets not be negative. lets wait and see how people use this. much like we waited and saw how android turned out. or for that matter Windows Live (isnt that what MS OFFICE Online is called) or some other thing like that.

Jeremiah Staes

Let me first say I want to love this device.

Having a jailbroken iPhone, THAT is the perfect device. I can add a keyboard. I can run background applications (though I see why they’re hesitant, it does chew up battery life).

If I could have the jailbroken abilities of my phone plus a little more because there’s more horsepower (basic code editor/FTP?) I’d be totally in.

But it’s ridiculous the iPad can’t multitask as the jailbroken iPhone does it with ease. My friends, who almost all bought iPhones when they came out (and they’re of various technical skill, some novice, some techheads), have mostly migrated away to the Droid or Tour; the shine is off the iPhone because in it’s factory state it’s too limiting as users are starting to evolve.

I just can’t see paying $630 for a device I can’t do half of what other things at it’s price point could do. But, I don’t – and never plan to – own a Kindle. If I was enraptured by ebooks (I’m not, I use Audible for my “reading” because I don’t have the time) maybe I’d see getting this instead.

The future of this device? In kids’ backpacks. This would be awesome in as a textbook replacement, probably cheaper long term for districts, and allow for all kinds of great interactivity.

Rufus

Interesting details!

I’d sure like to see a video of someone trying to type on the iPad. So far I haven’t found one showing a person touch-typing in landscape mode.

Christian

The iPad will have its place in the market.
Not all users out there need to have a surfing device that can do 1500 other things too.
I would have loved to have iChat, Skype and the like on it with videoconferencing.
That said, isn’t everyone underestimating the power of the new built in apps? Aren’t those iLife like applications the seller for the masses?
Who out there aside from computer junkies like us is currently able to organize his computer? Most computers from plain normal users i get to see are cluttered with files from them all over the hard drive.
It’s really time to send the personal computer/desktop paradigm to rest. Those integrated programs (like the iPads Photomanagement, iTunes, iCal, AddressBook and so on) are the right way.

I expect the iPad to have the same synchronization options as the iPhone, that would mean access to Exchange Servers, Mobileme, Google cloud and the like.
SJ didn’t show that because we can imply it’s there, it always has been – the device runs Touch OS 3.2!

My Sony prs-505 will go to ebay as is my MSI Wind netbook. The iPad will replace them as my mobile internet device of choice when not being at a desk.
I hope i can store my Documents on iDisk or Dropbox to have the iWork programs read it from there.

Indu

I know i am in minority here, but failed to see what new this device offer ?
apart from of course the sleekness, lightweight etc.

Tom

How exactly would this be an easy decision if you don’t own a kindle? I’ve read books on my iphone and the glare is killer on your eyes. Simply put the main reason the kindle is so special is you won’t go blind over time from reading novels on it. Besides that the 64 Gigs of space (max) might be appealing to the average user but does nothing for me since I couldn’t even fit a percent of my media (music, videos, etc) on that. Seriously I think my first netbook from however many years ago had more space. As big as it is and as cheap as storage has become that’s just a shame that it holds a bit more than my iphone. I guess the niche isn’t people like me though…

copterdriver

My only question is can I use my Alltel/Verizon wireless USB with the WiFi version? I hardly ever use WiFi but I am dependent on the Wireless modem for internet access daily to check on websites I create and maintain. Everyone is complaining about it not having a camera… every cellphone these days has a camera. My Macbook has a camera I’ve never used… pointless complaint. Puzzling about the absence of Flash support in the browser too… like the iPad but waiting for 1.2 update

Kataphraktos

You did a list of 10 things the Apple tablet should have last summer. Would you like to revisit those? Short version: Lots of misses.

Now, I’m sure you as a developer and tech innovator would love to program and write content for the iPad. This means nothing in and of itself – it’s kind of a Reaganesque supply-side technology. Sure, one of the keys to the iPhone’s success was the apps, BUT this was a device replacing one or more devices, so people figured, hey, I need a new phone, I’ll get the cool one with all those awesome apps.

No matter how many magazines, newspapers, websites you re-write to be able to view or subscribe to on the iPad, most people aren’t going to be looking to replace a netbook with this. If I want a tablet-like device, I’ll go with a Win7 device like the Viliv X70, the new HP tablet coming out, etc. Multitasking, a real OS that runs the apps on my netbook, with the advantage of near instant-on and multi-day standby.

Apple’s success has been about redefining existing tools. Their Macs replaced clunky, ugly, unstable, poorly-supported PCs, their iPod replaced a jungle of standard-less mp3 players with something that just worked (both player and software), and the iPhone replaced just about every device in one’s pockets.

This iPad project will be a longer-term, very uphill battle for Apple. I doubt it will fail, but I also doubt it will drive revenue like Macs, iPods and iPhone did. Then again, not every project has to to be successful.

Robert

@ Anand Srinivasan

“The iPad is just one massively hyped platform that will force you to purchase more and more from iTunes”

That’s like saying McDonalds has drive through windows at their stores simply to force you to buy their burgers.

The last time I checked, you can play music in iTunes that was not purchased from the iTunes store. Steve Jobs has never shown up at my house in the middle of the night with some guy with brass knuckles telling me I had not met my monthly iTunes purchases.

I think this device will be a very big hit. I know many times while using my Kindle or Sony reader I’d want to look something up on the net and I’d have to go boot a computer someplace in the house. This will replace my book readers I suspect pretty quickly.

My bets are that Amazon is very worried about this device and it will put a very big dent in their Kindle business.

It always amazes me when a device like this comes out and people always complain that it won’t….fill in the blank.
Notice the iPhone gets better with each generation, this device will too. At least Apple innovates and brings out different devices. How many years did we sit with the same crappy cell phones because companies were too lazy to innovate? The iPhone has forced them to come up with new ideas. That’s a good thing me thinks. The iPad will be no different.

Craig

Amazed at the venom being spewed over … a product. Taking even the most cynical view of Apple – “Let’s gouge the style squad with another useless hyped-up gadget.” – does it really merit this much invective?

Look, either people are going to buy this thing and be more productive/happy, or they’re going to waste their money, and you will be the winner in the end. But right now, all the h8 smacks of the doth-protest-too-much flavor. The iPod and iPhone got the same treatment. Look what happened to them…

Rev

Not a word about whether or not you’re allowed to install any app, or if you’ll have to limit yourself to Apple-approved content from the App store?

That, for me, is the main reason for getting out of buying Apple hardware and looking to Android.

Also, how is the display stunning, but then later dissed for being mediocre 1024*768?

Daniel Peiser

ok that’s not an impressive resolution, but it’s under 10″ and you would have fast refresh (perfect for reading magazines and browsing-playing), great colors…

Daniel Peiser

Will you buy an iPad? I don’t have an iPhone or an iPod touch, so I will surely buy the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G version, and here’s why:

  1. I just want to check email, browse the internet and watch movies from my iBed
  2. Actually I am glad the iPad doesn’t have a camera because it gives you a good excuse to buy another one in a year or so
  3. I need a color screen to read books because I just look at the pictures
  4. I agree with Jobs that those ugly USB ports and memory card slots are useless and would ruin a beautiful design
  5. I need a third device to carry with me along with my Nokia 3310 and my EEE Pc
  6. Adobe Flash… is it that lightning fast guy wearing a red costume… right?
  7. I don’t want a small iPhone and the iPad looks just like augmented reality to me
  8. I have eyesight issues and I want to see my Apps bigger
  9. I just want a device to surf the web while watching tv on the couch
  10. It’s just the best toilet web browsing gadget ever. Totally.

;) Top 10 reasons NOT to buy the iPad are here:
http://www.bealoud.com/technology/apple-ipad/

Russ

Kudos to Apple for the effort. I can’t yet decide whether the focus on media consumption – i.e., not being everything to everybody – is exactly what will make it successful, or if they’ve left a hole big enough for Google to drive a truck through by not supporting more of an open app environment.

I agree leaving the camera out seems like an epic fail as it fits even with the focused media consumption position.

David Robins

I love apple products. I even own Apple shares, but I feel iPad is an evolutionary product and not revolutionary one. It is just a bigger iPhone or better hand held PC. Even the name is not right. Ask any woman what is a pad and they will tell you…

Jeff Dickey

Here’s my list of iPad 1.01 enhancements, that should be made before real customers pay real money for these things….
– Dual cameras, so you can do video calls over 3G or Skype;
– an SMS app at least as good as what ships on iPhone
– GPS on par with Ovi Maps.

It’s probably (politically) too late to rip out the 3FF “micro-SIM” and put a standard 2FF SIM in instead; I’d bet that was a condition of AT&T agreeing to let Apple sell the thing “unlocked.” Outside Japan and Korea, that’s going to be a big problem internationally, as far as I know.

My scale of 1 to 5 mice? Two happy mice and one big, stinking dead one. Guy Kawasaki’s “Don’t worry, be crappy” meme comes to mind, except that Kawasaki placed a very explicit caveat on that: it has to be at least as revolutionary as the original Mac. I’ve a very, very hard time (as an Apple fan who’s spent too much of my life with other crap) seeing the iPad anywhere near that category.

Sebastian W.

I wonder if other companies will be able to capitalize on the overall disapointment. Then again maybe there is still a disconnect between the voice of the web (technocrati) and that of the masses. It could very well be that this device will once again sell like gangbusters. The price point for an apple product is quite low. In a way this could for computers what the VW Golf is for cars.

Personally, I wish the device would have a native 720p resolution for media consumption, and support services like skype with video conferencing (Webcam included). The idea of sitting on the couch browsing the web or watching tv and then accepting a call on skype would be very appealing to me. OLED screen would be nice to, even if that meant the device would cost 300$ more.

I have a question, does the IPAD support tabbed browsing? So can I run a webradio (audio stream) in one tab and listen to it, while surfing other websites in a different tab? I am just curious what the limits are, since people are saying you cannot listen to music and run other applications at the same time.

Tguch

As a consumer mobile device, I am underwhelmed by the iPad — it appears to be a large iPod Touch (no voice), and it will primarily be used in WiFi hotspots (at least in the USA). Where this device looks promising to me, is for the enterprise user. I can see companies purchasing this device for their travelling employees – execs, sales, etc. Would love to see the iPad spur new enterprise application development. Om, any thoughts as to why Apple focuses on the consumer end-user almost exclusively? Also, I would like to understand better how this device could change the way web sites are built — any further (even technical) explanation is welcome!

Walt French

“Where this device looks promising to me, is for the enterprise user.”

Yes, use cases help clarify this device’s potential. I thought of the marketing or consultant types who bounce from office to office, making presentations, notes, etc. I think “killer app.” Another is, “student.” Leans a bit more to the consumption angle that others write about, but again, a near-perfect gearing to need is possible. Doctor. Realtor. I imagine others can come up with a very long list of identifications where the iPad can amplify and enrich the functional experience.

“Book reader?” I don’t think that’s a very well-defined category, any better than “magazine reader,” “TV watcher,” “music listener,” “web surfer” or a whole host of media-centric definitions.

I’d say that SJ Inc. has visited the future (in the form of all those non-dystopian Sci Fi movies) and come back with the little slates that people are always checking for their information interfaces. It’s just not a 6X8 shimmery piece of glass yet. Is this the first major paradigm shift of the 21st century?

Now THAT’s some serious Kool Aid!

kdilkington

“For a long time, the world has been searching for a device whose capabilities and design place it right smack in the middle of a phone and a laptop.”

You lost me here. Really? Has the world really been looking for a magical third device between laptop and phone or are you just regurgitating what Steve Jobs said in his presentation today?

DJ

I think it just shows how apple are determined to lead the way moving forward. The amount of free advertising apple gets every time they launch a new product is out of this world.

I have to agree, we probably don’t need it but by the time apple is finished we will all want it !

I do…

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