The Apple iPad apparently contains some surprises for reviewers over at Consumer Reports, which has been testing the 9.7-inch tablet device since its release on April 3. Given the number of consumers who rely on the publication's findings when making their purchasing decisions, and the typically in-depth evaluation process of the reviewers, the postings on Consumer Reports' Electronics Blog represent an interesting early look at the iPad.
First come the surprises. Consumer Reports blogger Jeff Fox noted that Apple "must have charged [the iPad] very recently," as his model was fully charged "right out of the box." Fox also suggested that the iPad is difficult to use on a flat surface: "Not only [is it] hard to type and read, but it retains whatever orientation you last used (portrait or landscape) for as long as it lays flat ...at least it did for me. Ten minutes later, the display still looks sideways."
Apple's iPad Case, which can be folded to create an upright stand for the iPad, and the iPad Keyboard Dock, which links a full-size keyboard to a charging dock that also holds the iPad upright, are not available until later in April.
The Consumer Reports testers apparently found that, aside from a wall outlet, their iPads charged easily on a 27-inch iMac desktop or via the USB port on a MacBook Pro laptop, but they experienced difficulties charging the device via the USB ports on various Windows-installed computers, as well as the USB port "on an Apple wired keyboard attached to an iMac."
Error messages have also popped up, warning uses: "The iPad cannot be used because it requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later."
Among Fox's unexpected positives: A window pops up in the Web browser allowing a previous address to be erased with one touch, as opposed to needing to drag and highlight a long URL before hitting the "delete" key.
While sales estimates for the iPad vary from analyst to analyst, with researcher iSuppli expecting Apple to see sales of 7.1 million units in 2010, there are reports of customer lines forming at Apple Stores and some Best Buy outlets on both coasts-signs that early retail sales, at the very least, will be on the high side.
In the weeks leading up to the April 3 release, analysts suggested that the iPad was selling well in preorders. Blogger and analyst Daniel Tello, in conjunction with Investor Village's AAPL Sanity Forum, estimated that some 119,987 iPads were purchased on March 12, the first day of preorder availability. That group also estimated that some 33 percent of preordering customers preferred the 16GB version of the iPad, while 32 percent selected the 32GB and 33 percent purchased the 64GB.
Tello and his group also found that more than two-thirds of preordering customers preferred the WiFi-only version of the device. The WiFi-only iPads retail for $499 for the 16GB version, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB; those iPads equipped with both WiFi and 3G, meanwhile, retail for $629 for 16GB, $729 for 32GB and $829 for 64GB.
Apple has suggested that some 150,000 mobile applications are available for the iPad, ranging from games to productivity apps. A series of videos on Apple's official site show how to operate the iPad for a number of different functions, including "Mail," "Photos" and "Videos."
Amazon.com, although its Kindle e-reader competes directly with the iPad in the ebook arena, announced on April 2 that it will make a free Kindle app for the iPad available in the App Store. Some 450,000 books are available via the app, which integrates tools such as bookmarks, highlighting, and synchronization of customers' last page read with their Kindle or iPhone. Amazon had previously announced a Kindle app for the iPhone, albeit on a smaller screen.