THE WORLD OUTSIDE the United States joins the iPad hype cycle in mid-May with the international launch of Steve Jobs’s latest product. While details on South African availability are yet to be announced, it seems certain the first official launch wave will include us. But should South Africans be lining up for this device?
The iPad has no market on paper. It isn’t a laptop but does some of what a laptop does, and it isn’t a smartphone either. It’s difficult to imagine what you’d use it for, especially if you have a phone and laptop. But then you get your hands on one, as I have, and it all makes sense. While this certainly isn’t a phone or a laptop, it does cost far less than those vital bits of technology. My 16GB iPad was bought in the US for $500 – less than half the price of an iPhone in SA. Pricing is the most important bit of Apple’s strategy because it means people who don’t need but just want this device can have it without breaking the bank.
And that, perhaps, is what the iPad is – a “want” device. Certainly not something you need but rather a pleasant luxury. Its best uses are in consumption – and that’s where the iPad is unrivalled, be it phones or laptops. It can’t cost more than it does because most people wouldn’t be able to justify buying it.
Reading websites, electronic books and other publications on the iPad is a treat. The form factor makes it perfect for the couch, aircraft or even bed. In those places – where you’d typically relax with a book – the iPad beats both your phone and computer.
Books in both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle applications are great. But, of course, South Africans are limited in what they can do in that department.
The Apple iTunes Store is available in SA – but only for basic iPhone and iPad apps. South Africans aren’t allowed to buy music, movies, games or books. There’s a simple way to get around that – by lying about your location and using prepaid vouchers. But that depends on whether or not you want to support a company that isn’t interested in our market. It’s also more effort than most people will be willing to go to.
That’s not the only problem. By the time margins and other costs have been factored in we’re going to be paying prices in SA starting at R5 000 for the iPad – which immediately changes the buying decision and pushes the device out of the clever pricing strategy applied in the US.
If you’re happy with the elevated price and necessity for lying and loop-holing your way into decent content then we’re back on par.
The only criticism I have is that the iPad can sometimes be a bit awkward, such as when you’re lying on your side in bed, for example, or sitting upright in a chair without a table. I also found myself slumping over the device to enter text while sitting, which isn’t ideal. The screen is glossy and a magnet for fingerprints. Within minutes of using the device it gets very smudgy.
That said, my criticism fades when I go back to reading, browsing and watching – whether books, movies, photos of the kids or Twitter – in which case I can’t fault the experience.
The best way to describe the iPad is as a computing appliance. It’s dead simple to use and brings to mind the way in which cars have become uncomplicated. In their early days you had to know a bit about engines to keep a car on the road. Now we just drive them from A to B without giving a thought as to what’s under the bonnet and the iPad is perhaps the first computer that lets you get on with the job at hand without worrying about the actual computer bit.