They Really are a Scree-um: The iPad Family

Sometime in the summer of 2002 (or was it 2003?), there was a knock on the office door. Knowing that it was the postman, I got up and answered it. There was nothing at all unusual about this experience. As usual, I had ploughed my birthday money into the acquisition of CDs and, since then, music of all genres, eras and styles had been arriving through the postbox on an almost daily basis. However, this time, the courier wanted my signature and held a strange device in my direction. It was, I would later discover, a Microsoft Tablet PC…


It was also both the first and the last time I would actually see one up close and personal.


I think I asked what it was, or at least commented on its interesting design. The courier grumbled something unintelligible and handed me the stylus. I jotted my signature on the screen, thanked the man and excitedly unwrapped my CD.


That story is only significant for one reason: if I had not used one to sign my name as recipient of a new CD, I would never have known that Microsoft had ever produced a tablet PC before last year.


Almost a decade later, I would have to have been living in a cave on Mars not to have heard about the iPad. Its image, notoriety and market power completely revolutionised the computer industry, to such an extent that we’re still feeling those effects three years later.


To better understand the appeal of the iPad (and why it succeeded where Microsoft’s earlier version did not), you need to understand people. Firstly, Human Beings are innately social animals; our complex societal leanings are probably the reason that we have evolved to this point in the first place. As such, when a product, idea or abstract concept becomes a hot commodity, everyone wants a piece of it. In addition, there’s the value of familiarity. The Microsoft Tablet was strange, offbeat and odd, not many knew of its existence and few publicly praised it as the future of computing. However, the iPad was like an iPod that could surf the net. It was therefore perfectly suited to its time and place.


Western youth culture had adapted considerably in the first decade of the 21st century. Social media, social networking and mile-a-minute ‘geek speak’ were in; whatever didn’t fit into the last three categories was out. Kids didn’t watch movies as much anymore, we watched the good bits from movies on ‘Youtube’ or else we just watched them being satirized so many times on TV as to get sick of the original before the copies.


We didn’t write to people, we emailed them. We didn’t phone people, we Skyped them. What we wanted was Internet on the go. Internet on phones was a start, but Internet on tablets just promised more. Microsoft Windows, with its fussy multiple options, ‘right click this, select that, input this number’ mentality was never going to cut the mustard in this lightning –paced world of progress and information.


Conversely, Apple iOS may have been limited by comparison, but you could use it on a train.


People always go for the easiest option. ‘Myspace’, a global powerhouse website (and must-have virtual commodity of the early 21st century), died a painful death at the hands of Facebook, a site that was, in many ways, vastly inferior. A Myspace page could be customized with music, textures, bells and whistles. With Myspace you could blog regularly, communicate every thought and feeling to your friends (you could even invent all new emotional states unique to you and you alone) and go into massive detail about everything. Facebook was restricted to status updates and feelings were reduced to ‘poke’ or ‘like’. Facebook may have given us a new way of reading the phrase ‘It’s complicated’, but the site really isn’t. In the end, simplicity was the victor.


Twitter is now gaining pace over Facebook, yet again, its far, far more restrictive, but it is much easier (so I’m told). People are trying to get through their increasingly complex lives with a minimum of fuss and, by that yardstick; the Apple iOS is the best operating system in the world.


Yes, you can probably do more on a Windows PC, but who gives a damn? We don’t have the time to figure out how.


I have used a Mac since 2005 and whenever I use a PC, I am armed only with fuzzy memories of GCSE classes and basic experience to guide me.


To return, briefly, to the subject of music: contrast the shimmering, challenging pop music of the 1960’s (with all its long interludes, references to obscure literature and esoteric musicality) with the pop of today’s generation. Essentially, its ‘McMusic’ by comparison, you get a beat, a chorus (usually delivered within 30 seconds of the song) and a rapper, all in just over two minutes. Its music stripped of content, soul and emotion, yes, but it succeeds because its, well, easier. McMusic is easier to find, easier to buy, easier to talk about and easier to forget.


Now, the iPad (and its related family) are far more evolved, because in addition to being ‘Mc’ technology that’s easier to operate than a packet of crisps, they are also the best portable technology that has ever been created, actually packing far more power into that little frame than anything ever has before. Nothing stands up to the iPad, seriously.


The iPad is, in short, a design classic.


That should explain at least some of the appeal of Apple’s main man.


Feature iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4 iPad mini
Display: 9.7-inch IPS LED-backlit 9.7-inch IPS LED-backlit 9.7-inch IPS LED-backlit 7.9-inch IPS LED-backlit
Resolution: 1024×768 2048×1536 2048×1536 1024×768
CPU: Dual-Core Apple A5 Dual-Core Apple A5X Dual-Core Apple A6X Dual-Core Apple A5
Graphics: PowerVR SGX543MP2 PowerVR SGX543MP4 PowerVR SGX543MP4 PowerVR SGX543MP2
Memory: 512 MB 1 GB 1 GB
Storage: 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64 GB
Camera: Front-facing: VGA | Rear-facing: 720p Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP
Data Rate: 3G 4G LTE 4G LTE 4G LTE
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth: 2.1 + EDR 4.0 4.0 4.0
Accelerometer: YES YES YES YES
Gyroscope: YES YES YES YES
GPS: 3G Version Only 4G Version Only 4G Version Only 4G Version Only