The iPad 3 would make me so horny...
...if it wasn't so sucky
Something for the Weekend, Sir? In my Dad's generation, middle-aged men of means would buy new cars at the end of every July because that's when new licence plates came out. Their old cars would be traded in as part-exchange, sold to third parties through classified ads, or passed magnanimously to relatives.
This was regarded as civilised and financially prudent.
My generation queues up outside Apple stores every spring to buy the latest iPad. Apparently, this makes us gullible and stupid.
But you know what? This time, we are.
The iPad 3 sucks big time. It sucks big stonking ones. It sucks flaccid ones. It sucks so much, it has to buy Listerine by the gallon.
And this comes from someone with a shameless history of leaping upon Cupertino's latest, time and time again. I began with a Mac SE/30 and moved on to a IIsi the very week it came out. I once changed jobs just so I could work on a IIfx. I spent 1994 penniless in France with a wife and infant but still found my way to buy a new Quadra. I bought Mac clones when they were fashionable, then switched to a Quicksilver Power Mac when 'mirror-shiny' was the in-thing.
'New iPad make me feel soooo hooorny... You want good time tablet?'
Apologies to Stanley Kubrick
I even wrote for MacUser magazine for the best part of ten years. I tested and reviewed the very first iMac as a world exclusive.
From one Apple fad to the next, I have surrounded myself with hideous translucent plastic, then white opaque plastic and now aluminium unibodies. In more recent years, I have bought iPhones, I have bought iPads.
Hell, I have even purchased Android gear - not to use but to see how it compared.
Then Miss iPad 3 saunters up, wiggling her hips, moaning: "Hey baby, you got girlfrien'? Me so horny. Me love you long time. Until next March."
I almost joined the horny hordes in ordering one online for launch day, then a little voice warned me to hold back. It also told me to warn you of the apocalypse on 14 May and sacrifice anyone wearing green below the waist but I have pills for this.
I waited, watched and borrowed. And oh dear, Miss iPad 3. You sucky-sucky.
You see, what I find so appealing about hand-held technology is the relentless miniaturisation, increase in power and addition of functionality. Barely have I begun marvelling at one gadget when a smaller, faster, clever and - yes, I admit it - even cooler looking one goes on sale. I'm living in a sci-fi dream from the 1960s and I love it.
'For criticising Cupertino, Mister Dabbs... ten years'
The iPad 3 is an aberration. It is thicker and weighs more than an iPad 2, and its batteries don't last as long. It has the same memory at the same price points as before. It has 4G (hooray) that I can't use (oh).
It has the same buttons, the same operating system (we all got iOS 5), the same apps (we all got the free updates) and the same inability to get my kitten videos off the effin' thing without wasting an evening transferring them to a place where I don't want them to go while being forced to compress them to a quality I don't want.
"Ah, but the beautiful retina display!" you exclaim.
What, you mean the new display that sucks away all the extra power from the new processor as it goes down on the battery and sucks that dry too?
Dev hell in a blue dress
The retina display is great, but that's the only new feature. And let me tell you, it's a feature that is turning out to be a nightmare for developers, much more so than when retina displays were introduced with the iPhone 4.
I declare self-interest here: I do a lot of production work on tablet-based magazines and books. The problem is that vast quantities of iPad content is rasterised and paged rather than the kind of C and HTML-component content that dominates the iTunes App Store. On the iPad, it's all pinch-and-zoom photos, HD videos, melting slideshows, 3D retail spinners and animations.
Overnight, my 1024 x 768 app graphics became obsolete with the iPad 3's 2048 x 1536 screen. A full-screen picture page at native resolution on the iPad 1 and 2 might be around 1.5MB but now ends up having to be around 6MB natively on the iPad 3. Everything, from book to games, is going to balloon in size. I suspect your future copies of Wired magazine are going to become epic multi-gig downloads.
Will tomorrow's iMags fit?
Perhaps now you can see why Apple's decision to keep iPad 3 prices at previous iPad 2 levels at their same memory capacities is looking like a very poor deal after all. The iPad 3 effectively offers you less storage because iPad 3-optimised content is going to take up so much more of it.
"So don't develop your books and magazines for iPad 3," I hear you holler. "Surely your existing iPad 2 content still runs on the iPad 3."
Yes it does and it looks pants. Unless text is rendered as HTML, the iPad 3 makes a pig's testicle of up-sampling rasterised typography. It would be bad enough if text looked fuzzy but it looks jagged.
In other words, the super-duper new retina screen makes my existing content look worse than it does on an original iPad. Brilliant, that's 18 months of my work sitting on the App Store that I'm going to have to hide from prospective clients until I can make hi-res versions at my own expense and give them away free to existing purchasers.
"Hang on," I hear you say. "You're an iPad developer whinging about a gorgeous screen that users adore just because it's difficult to develop for."
Shiny... but sucky
That's right. Developers are important, as I believe even Microsoft's chimp-in-chief Steve Ballmer once confided to chosen employees in the candid privacy of his own stadium.
Developers are especially important to the iPad because the iOS App Store lies the heart of the whole iPad experience and its commercial success. Just as I once bought a Nintendo 64 simply to play 1080 Snowboarding, people have been known to buy an iPad purely for GarageBand. People do not part with 400 quid plus for an email-checking device that shows you the weather.
So what we've got in the iPad 3 is a product that is fatter and heavier, offers less battery life between recharges, risks running out of storage space four times more quickly, and makes some of your existing apps look worse. Bargain!
Nice screen, though. Want to bet I'll buy one before the summer? ®
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. Like many of his generation – Alistair is a 1960s child – his love for hand-held devices was inspired by Star Trek communicators and those seemingly impossible flat TVs in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.