Apple's iPad may be adept at displaying multimedia content and e-texts, but it'll have a harder time dealing with gravity and sudden blows, according to Rapid Repair, which regularly publishes an online teardown of the electronic devices it repairs.
"The weight, size, and novel ways of using these devices will put them at risk for a higher rate of accidents, which are more damaging than what we are used to," Aaron Vronko, co-founder and service manager of Michigan-based Rapid Repair, wrote in an April 9 e-mail to eWEEK. "As a result, we expect 5-10 percent of these devices to fail from accident-related causes each year."
Vronko added: "Physics are not in the tablet's favor. While the fragile parts of the iPad are no less durable than their iPhone counterparts, a 10-inch and 24-ounce device is just a much bigger target for accidental collisions and generates many times more force in a fall."
While the iPad may be vulnerable to the slings and arrows of daily life, however, tablets from competing manufacturers may find themselves faced with equal-or possibly worse-potential for damage, according to Vronko: "Most of the design teams who will be releasing a competing device this year won't have had Cupertino's advantage of a couple hundred million test devices," i.e., iPhones and iPods, "sold over the last nine years to help refine their design choices."
Vronko suggested that the iPad may have a bigger issue to confront. "If users wanted to take issue with Apple's hardware, a better target might be its component selection which sees only marginal improvement over last year's iPhone 3GS," he wrote. "While certainly capable of satisfying all advertised uses, tablets based on the all-new Nvidia Tegra2 processor platform, such as the Adam from Notion Ink, are likely to boast markedly better performance in hardware intensive apps like 3D games and longer run times for video playback and editing."
Since the iPad's April 3 release, a variety of videos have circulated online showing the device subjected to various indignities, including beaten "Untouchables"-style with a baseball bat. Blendtec's popular "Will It Blend?" series posted a video segment showing the iPad cracked in half before being shoved in a heavy-duty blender, where its painstakingly crafted components proved easy work for the spinning blades. The result: a small hill of gray powder with some larger chunks mixed in.
"This kind of negativity really upsets me," Fake Steve Jobs-the alter ego of journalist Dan Lyons-wrote on his eponymous blog, captioning a video of three kids smashing an iPad to pieces.
The real Steve Jobs mentioned during an April 8 presentation at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters that his company had sold some 450,000 iPads by that date, along with 600,000 iBooks downloaded and 3.5 million apps. Apple had previously announced that the iPad had sold some 300,000 units by midnight on April 3.
By the end of 2010, Apple will face a wider variety of competitors in the tablet space, including Hewlett-Packard, which has been diligently releasing official blog posts and videos that position its upcoming slate device as a direct counterpoint to the iPad. On April 5, Engadget leaked what was purportedly internal HP presentation showing that the slate would retail for between $549 and $599, and feature a combination of inward-facing VGA Webcam and outward-facing 3-megapixel camera for video conferencing and image-taking. The iPad lacks a camera in its current iteration, something HP is taking pains to emphasize.
Nokia is also developing a tablet competitor for release later in 2010, according to recent online reports, and tablets running a modified version of Google Android will also make their debut in the same timeframe. But the most burning question is, will any of them survive the blender test?