Monday, January 17, 2011

iPad and MiFi 2200 review

Verizon recently sent me an iPad along with a MiFi 2200 wireless hotspot for testing, which were quite the neat little pre-holiday surprise. There are hundreds of iPad reviews online along with the requisite photos and benchmarks, so my focus today is more on the overall ownership experience of the iPad and the flat-out utility of the MiFi 2200, and whether the pricing is something that can be justified in either case.

The wifi-only iPad pricing runs $499 for the 16GB, $599 for the 32GB and $699 for the 64GB versions. If you want 3g service with it (not available through Verizon at the time of review, but apparently will be coming soon according to rumour), you’re paying another $130 on each version. There are no other differences between the models beyond the storage or 3g capabilities.

The MiFi 2200 Verizon sent was a nice surprise. It’s a small wireless hotspot that’s extremely simple to use. The device is a bit wider and longer than a credit card and about as thick as a small cellphone, making it simple to toss into a laptop bag or a coat pocket while on-the-go. Activation is simple with included software and a USB plug, and a charge lasts for around 3-4 hours, depending on how many devices are being used. One of the neat things about the battery life, though, is that if the charge runs low you can just plug it into your USB port on a laptop and it’ll charge while still broadcasting a signal. Despite all that, the pricing might be a bit of a problem in terms of individual use-case scenarios. Verizon charges $269.99 off-contract, $169.99 with 1-year, and $99.99 with a 2-year contract. Monthly data plans are $35, $50, and $80 for 3, 5, and 10GB plans with a service charge of $10 per GB overages. While high for the average end-user, the device might be more attractive to businesses who have traveling employees, especially if they work on teams (such as accounting audit groups).

On a cold Sunday here in Toledo, I took the Mifi and iPad to a local bar without free wifi service to drink some Bloody Marys, eat some fried food, and watch my fantasy football team get destroyed for what seemed like the millionth time in a row. I hit the button on the Mifi to activate, joined the hotspot on the iPad, and the football app on picked up the live data immediately. I had 4 devices connected during the game at times including laptops and my iPhone, and the 3g connection held up beautifully, delivering data at completely acceptable speeds.

So about that iPad.... it’s cool. I like it. It’s fun. But... I have an iPhone 4, which honestly felt more responsive and powerful. The iPad’s screen also is lacking in comparison to the iPhone 4’s retina display, which is something I noticed almost right away and, once I noticed that, made it difficult to NOT notice. One of the promoted uses for the iPad is for book reading - and while books look beautiful on the screen, there are some blocks that make it an unrealistic reading device for me. The screen is a backlit LCD, which makes it useless outside in daylight. It also tends to leave my eyes feeling strained after less than an hour of reading. I can read my Kindle, in comparison, for hours without issue in any lighting conditions (including in the dark thanks to a killer light-integrated case). I also noticed that the form-factor doesn’t lend itself to using for long periods of time. It’s a bit heavy, and the beveled-edge is uncomfortable in my hand after only a few minutes. I found myself reaching my iPhone a lot more when I was sitting on the couch watching TV and wanted to send an email or look something up.

Still, the iPad does have some compelling uses and features. My kids, for example, wouldn’t put it down. They absolutely loved it for all of the reasons kids SHOULD love a cool device - web, facebok, games - they all work very well, and exactly as advertised on the iPad. I think that this illustrates a good use scenario for the iPad - sitting on the coffee table as a family entertainment device. The battery life, also, was incredible - it went for ages on a charge. The kids were sad on the day I sent it back, for sure.

That limited utility brings me back to the price. I would have a very hard time justifying the $499 purchase for myself (for the 16GB version). As an iPhone user, I don’t see enough of a difference to the utlilty and added features to make me feel it’s worthwhile - but my kids loved it. They used it more than I did by far and illustrated what a family device it was.

I am not personally buying an iPad in this iteration - but Apple could nail my purchase with only a few changes. First, the iPad needs a front-facing camera for video-conference / skype capabilities. This would bring my business-use scenarios right into prominence. Second, the form-factor: release a 7-inch iPad and square off the edges like the iPhone 4’s casing, and it will be much easier to use over extended periods. Finally, the display- initially pretty, but next to the “retina display” of the iPhone 4 it feels dated and grainy. Upgrading it to the resolution density of the “retina display” would go a long way to making the iPad even more attractive.

I also think that right now, the tablet market is just starting to explode. We are seeing tablets from almost every major computer and technology manufacturer - mostly running the Android OS. While Android is still very much in development, it’s rapidly maturing and becoming a more interesting platform. I think that buying a tablet of any sort right now might be a mistake unless it’s deeply needed, as the next several months will be bringing some very interesting hardware to market. Also, the next iPad version is (if Apple’s past product release cycles are a predictor) coming this summer, so waiting for that announcement might make sense as well - especially if you’re enamored by the iPad platform already.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)