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Apple details iPad's 'breakthrough' mobile contract

Offers to replace batteries too

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Apple's iPad will come with a monthly contract, a replacement option when the battery craps out and a button to stop the screen spinning round - and it'll even read bedtime stories to you.

With the iPad now available for pre-order, for Americans at least, more details of the device have emerged including an additional button which locks the automatic screen rotation, a 100-dollar service for replacing the battery, and the ability to read ebooks out loud, not to mention a monthly data contract.

Buyers of the 3G iPad will get a monthly contract in what Apple describes as a "breakthrough deal": paying $15 a month for 250MB of data or $30 for an unlimited plan, both of which are contract-free and can be picked up and dropped at will.

In the UK Vodafone charges a similar amount for its monthly service, though with a 3GB limit. That might seem like a lot more, but it's worth remembering that no one will be running BitTorrent clients on an iPad, and 250MB is a lot of farting applications.

That tariff is tied in with an iPad application which warns the user when the data cap is looming, offering the option to upgrade, cancel or reactivate the connection from within the iPad interface - much more like a hotspot connection than a mobile phone tariff.

The anti-rotate button will be welcome to anyone who's tried to read an iPhone screen when lying in bed: the problem seems to have passed most users by, but for remains a constant irritation for the rest of us.

The battery-replacement service sounds like a sop to prevent the inevitable complaints about the battery being non-replaceable. Apple will charge $99 for the service which sees sapped battery iPads replaced completely - but users will be responsible for backing up their data, cos Apple won't be syncing it to the new device. It's hard to imagine that more than a handful will take Apple up on the offer.

Reading out loud is another feature that's been slipped out with the details: VoiceOver will read whatever the current application is displaying, including eBooks. Amazon's Kindle had a hard time with publishers when it tried to introduce a similar feature, so Apple risks annoying the same people. We won't know how annoyed publishers, and authors, will be until they get to try the device and see if it's going to impact the sales of audio books.

CNN reports estimates that 120,000 people have pre-ordered iPads, so lots of people will be waiting until 3 April when the thing is scheduled to be shipped. ®

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