An iPad Firestorm About Nothing

by Jim Dalrymple   |   March 29th, 2012

Apple’s newest iPad hit the market three weeks ago and already their have been a number of controversies surrounding the device. As expected, all of the issues fizzled out because there was really nothing there in the first place.

iPad screen imageThe first issue brought up by Consumer Reports was that the iPad was much hotter than its predecessor. This, coupled with the organization’s appearance on CNBC saying the iPad is “hot enough to be uncomfortable at least,” sent the media scrambling for their computer keyboards to write a story.

The interesting thing about Consumer Reports that very few people picked up is that they contradicted themselves. In a blog post on its own Web site they said the iPad “felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable.”

So, which is it? Is it hot and uncomfortable or just warm?

From a news cycle standpoint, it doesn’t really matter. Consumer Reports got it’s moment of glory and every blog and news story written for the next 24 hours quoted them.

In what turned out to be a reality check for many, heat tests conducted by a number of media organizations revealed that the iPad heat problem could not be replicated.

“Though the new iPad did run hotter than the iPad 2, the difference wasn’t great,” wrote PC World’s Melissa J. Perenson. “And in repeated lab tests of the new iPad, we could not replicate the disturbingly high temperatures that some sources have reported. More important, the new iPad was not dramatically warmer than either the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE.”

There goes one controversy.

The next iPad issue people latched onto was the battery. The battery supposedly showed a false reading when charging and it took significantly longer to charge than the iPad 2.

According to AllThingsD, who spoke with Apple about this issue, all iOS devices will show 100 percent when it’s completely charged. The device will then discharge a bit and charge itself back up until it is unplugged.

The issue of taking significantly longer to charge is simply because Apple put a larger battery in the iPad. The company needed to do that to ensure similar battery life to the iPad 2, while still adding new features like improved graphics to the new iPad.

Another controversy gone.

The last major firestorm for the iPad came when people noticed they were running out of data on their plans very quickly.

The Wall Street Journal noted a user that watched hours of video found he used up all of his data. USA Today’s Ed Baig wrote that he used up his entire 2GB data plan downloading apps on the iPad.

This is not an iPad problem, it’s a user problem. If you have a 2GB data plan and you download 2GB of data, whether that’s watching video or downloading apps, you will have no data left. Simple math.

Third controversy gone.

Each Apple product launch is similar in a number of ways. One of the most disturbing is that people look for ways to knock Apple and its product down. More often than not, the so-called problems turn out to be untrue, but in many ways the damage has already been done.

All the average consumer hears is the iPad has heat problems and the battery is messed up and you can’t use the data connection because it uses too much.

Luckily consumers are educating themselves more each day about the products they buy, and it shows in the numbers. Apple sold 3 million iPads in the first weekend alone, making it the most successful iPad launch yet.

As consumers and journalists, it’s important to make sure all companies produce the best products they can, but making up controversies is not the way to do it.

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Jim Dalrymple

Jim Dalrymple has been reporting on Apple for almost 20 years and has written for many industry publications. Jim currently runs The Loop, a technology focused blog, and plays guitar in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter or visit his Web site.
  • Circle31415

    I am a fan of your work, and I have great respect for what you do. And I love my iPad (1G) and am considering upgrading. But I have to say that there would be a way to write this piece that is more direct, clear, and well-argued — and less like cheer-leading.

    1. I am sure that you realize that just the fact that Consumer Reports contradicted itself does not itself prove which claim was correct. It proves that both claims cannot be correct. But, for all that proves, it is still possible that iPads do get uncomfortably hot, and their mistake was in saying that they do not.

    2. I don’t understand how you could quote approvingly this simple mistake: “More important, the new iPad was not dramatically warmer than either the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE.” What matters are the plusses and minuses of the new iPad. Comparisons are irrelevant here. Surely you wouldn’t be satisfied with the MacBook Air if it was like any of the existing Windows Ultrabooks, but not as bad. The existing Windows Ultrabooks are terrible, and “not as bad” isn’t good. It isn’t what Apple aims for, and I do not believe that it is what you care about. Further, as I am sure you agree, almost no one is buying those Android tablets. Almost no informed consumer is considering it. What I would like to know, however, is whether I should upgrade, and, if so, if I should get an iPad 2 or the new iPad. The more important information is whether the new iPad gets uncomfortably hot. Comparisons don’t bear on that issue. Neither does CR contradicting themselves.

    3. I don’t understand your response to the length of time to charge. Surely this might be relevant to some people. You don’t dispute that it takes longer to charge. You just explain why it takes longer to charge. So surely it would be more fair, direct, and less like cheer-leading to say: “Yes, it takes longer to charge. But there is a reason: it has better graphics and wireless. Many will think this worth the wait. I certainly do.” When you say “Another controversy gone” it sounds like you think you have somehow proven that it does not take longer to charge, or that no rational person could care if it does because there is a reason, etc.

    4. The 100% charge issue: that other gadgets do this is irrelevant too. If it is a problem, it is a problem. Do you think it not a problem? Fine, then just explain why. I don’t think it is a problem either. But other people could use an explanation. Saying that the other guy does it too is not what will help.

    5. About blowing through data plans faster — here you are right: it is absurd to cite that as even a potential negative in the new iPad. But to make it seem like the heat and length of charge issues are parallel — that’s wrong. If it gets hotter, that might bother some people, and they should know how much hotter. If it takes longer to charge, some people might not think it worth it, and they should know.

    I’m dismayed that even the very best tech journalists might get sucked into the cheer-leading thing. We need you as an honest and direct voice. The iPads are great, and telling it like it is does them a better service than cheer-leading.

    • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

      1. The fact that they contradict themselves actually says a lot about what they actually mean. It’s probably more in the middle of the two statements; warm, somewhat in between comfortable and uncomfortable depending on which side of the bed you woke up on, your horoscope, the thickness of your skin, temperature and humidity of the room, and above all, solar flares, but not really note-worthy.

      2. He already provided information that the iPad was warmer, but not significantly “hot”, and the comparison to other devices simply shows that the additional “warmth” is not out of line. Since there was no controversy in the other devices being “hot”, the iPad does not warrant this controversy as well.

      3. The actual controversy was in the fact that the iPad continued to charge, even though it displayed 100% battery. The fact is that in order to keep the battery in optimal shape while plugged in, the iPad charges to full, discharges a tiny bit, and then recharges in a cycle. For the length of time it takes to charge, he provided an accurate reason: The battery is simply larger. Your reason, “better graphics and wireless” has nothing to do with the length of time it takes to charge. It only makes the battery discharge faster. If the controversy was that the iPad had a shorter battery life, your reason would be correct. In this case, it is not.

      4. I’m not sure what you are talking about here (was the article updated?) in regards to other gadgets doing this (the article I read has no such mention) so I wrapped it into 3.

      5. This is more like a conclusion. Both controversies that you mention, the iPad being “hot” and the length of charge, are proven to be non-issues. The iPad is not “hot”, simply a little warmer than the previous iPad and not out of line of recently competing products that had no controversy. The length of charge is simple physics of a bigger battery, not a “problem” that Apple should “fix”.

      There was no cheer-leading journalism problem here. The actual problem is the “journalists” that create false controversies as link-bait and profit from short-term ad revenue. Because of the short attention span of the average American news consumer, these news outlets believe they can cry wolf all they want without repercussion. I, for one, am glad that there are people who call them out for what they are.

    • mhikl

      Writers and journalists are put on notice that what they say will be scrutinised and they will be taken to task for a dot out of place. Then the dot becomes the issue and both the worthy and the less-than-worthy thinker can become sucked into the black hole of distortion. This kind of climate makes it very difficult for honest journalists to take a stance and speak out on the black and white of any subject so we are then left with shades of grey that tell us nothing. The worthy ones struggle on and sometimes they are held to task, rightly or wrongly, while at times no outer voice clamours forth. You, Circle31415 have clamoured forth.

      I truly applaud your right to speak out. But I disagree with what you have written. I also admire your willingness to be blunt so let me, too, be blunt.

      Your arguments are sophist, or specious at least, and I am willing only to waste enough of my time on your first argument because all your other arguments suffer the same faulty logic and indecipherable language.

      Your first argument (1)—What is really proved is that Consumer Reports got it wrong. Saying yes and no at the same time damages CR’s credulity and definitely “says it wrong”! The conclusion that can be drawn is that the CR’s writer did something that was either stupid or the writer had an agenda to fulfil.

      And who is “their”? Is it Apple? If so, are you saying that Apple does not have the right to defend what it believes? Madness! If “their” is CR, then CR’s mistake was irresponsible analysis and really bad writing.

      I applaud Journalists such as M Dalrymple who have the fortitude and strength of conviction to make clear and plain statements that are supportable, and in this case, supported. That he can stand strong and tall to neuter any lie, I applaud. I am tired of an effete press where journalists are too emasculated to stand up for their honest beliefs.

      • http://mikemanzano.com Mike Manzano

        I find you lack of plain language disturbing.

    • benbajarin

      Circle, thanks for the very civilized and articulate comment. This is exactly the kind of discussion I like on our site.

      What Jim is getting at, or at least what is at the root of his pointing out issues with the controversies, is that companies know full well that creating Apple FUD is profitable for them.

      My biggest issue with the Consumer Reports statements is that it is grandstanding in my opinion. They saw an opportunity to capitalize for their own good and knew it was self gratifying in the process.

      It is also disingenuous because the media reaction, and my fear of consumer sentiment, is that this heat problem is unique to the iPad when it is not. I had no problem with them pointing out the scenarios in which the device heats up. The only problem is I can rattle off a list of competitor devices as well as notebooks up the wazoo that have the same problems of heating up on average 10 degrees or more.

      So why did consumer reports now issue some big press release or press coverage for these other devices when this is clearly not a problem unique to the iPad? The answer is Apple FUD drives page views and thus drives their ad revenue and thus is profitable.

      Take also for instance the battery charging point. This a scientific issue regarding lithium ion and every vendor deals with this problem differently. So why did this Display Mate (so called analyst because he is not respected in any analyst circles I travel in) call out this issue regarding Apple when any technical person that is in the know, knows every vendor handles the science of lithium ion differently?

      Also on this point, I liken it to storage. You may buy a 500 gig storage device and out of the box you will know that when you check your available space it is always just shy of 500 gig. The way storage silicon comes out of the box, it is a knows fact is an approximation not an exact amount. So why don’t we call SanDisk and WD and Seagate and Intel and Toshiba all liars? Because we know how the science works.

      My point in all of this is if you examine the Apple FUD it is just that FUD and it is disingenuous nearly every time. FUD drives page views and what Jim is pointing out is that honest journalism should seek to point out the facts, the whole story, examining every side, not just the side that is in the best interest of the outlet.

    • Steve__S

      1. CR’s own contradiction calls their own credibility into question. Once they’ve contradicted themselves, you’re better off ignoring anything they have to say.

      2. You claim that “comparisons are irrelevant”. To that, I say that you are absolutely incorrect. If you are going to call out a single product as CR has, then it is disingenuous to not provide the proper context. That is, if the new iPad is “uncomfortably hot”, then it would be fair to acknowledge that this is a problem with other tablets or laptops, etc. in the same category. Failing to do so, does not serve the customer. That is, from CR’s remarks, I might conclude that buying an alternative product would avoid that issue when in fact, it wouldn’t (as seen on the PC World tests).

      3. The length of time to charge was never really the issue. That much is fact and is basic science. Clearly, a 10 watt charger will take longer to charge a bigger battery. The issue here is that many were claiming there is something wrong with Apple’s batteries or software, etc. which is clearly not the case.

      4. See #3.

      5. Jim was simply pointing out that many pundits / reviewers are stupid. Your data limit is your data limit and this has nothing to do with Apple or the iPad.

  • Lil Cheney

    Mr. Dalrymple:

    Totally agree with Circle. As a very satisfied owner of THREE iPad2′s in my family, I can honestly say that I get a bit tired with the sycophancy of much of the tech press. Apple is doing quite well, thank you very much, without you getting down on your knees to praise them.

    Here’s a news flash; the new iPad, or as I like to call it, the iPad 3 (call me a heretic) has some things it does better than its predecessor and other things where it has possibly overreached. This doesn’t make it a bad product but for some of us, it justifies waiting until the iPad 4 (or the Newer iPad or whatever they decide to name it) comes out in 2013.

    Stop writing articles that defend the poor little company from Cupertino (now the world’s most highly valued company, from a market capitalization perspective) as if those bad ole’ puddytats from Consumer Reports are picking on them and at least try to sound objective. Otherwise, you won’t need to worry about writing anything anymore as your credibility will be shot.

    • benbajarin

      Thanks for the comment, if you are interested see my first response up above to Circle for my thoughts on this issue. Thanks again.

      Ben

    • Steve__S

      I’m not sure I understand how the use of the term “sycophancy” applies here. Consumer Reports and others have attempted to make controversy and issues over three specific things with the new iPad and each of them proved to lack any substance to substantiate the claims / media circus that was made. Jim rightfully put these three “issues” into perspective and you’re giving him grief for this? From my perspective, it makes more sense to vent frustration at those organizations/individuals who make potentially damaging claims that prove to be non-issues. Likewise, I have concerns about individuals who take issue with a story that reports the facts and puts them in perspective.

  • http://mikemanzano.com Mike Manzano

    I’d just like to add to CirclePi’s comment regarding the data plan issue—it is an issue if 2GB of downloads doesn’t yield a fair expansion in functionality (whether it be more apps or books). To be absurd, if the data plan on a Kindle only let the average user download half a book, the data plan would be an issue. I’m not saying 2GB isn’t enough for the average user, but as iPad apps are only getting larger because of Retina graphics, for some heavy users, especially in the initial flurry of app downloading that tends to happen when you get a new iDevice, there might be a perceived issue. To truly discount this one, you’d perhaps have to make an argument about how many apps you might be able to download on the new iPad vs. the average number of initial downloads per new user for iPad 2. Your lack of analysis makes you sound like an apologist.

    • mhikl

      Fellow Mike, what is the meaning of what you write? I am truly confused with your example over the “issue … 2GB of downloads”. What is your point? Clearly M Dalrymple states that it is not an iPad problem, though that is how it is ruminated upon in the media, like a contented herd of cows in a field of clover.

      When downloading apps, get thee to Wifi! Problem solved.

      • http://mikemanzano.com Mike Manzano

        I’m not saying its an iPad problem, I’m saying I don’t like his line of reasoning for refuting the accusation.

        • equanimous

          You can turn off app/songs/books downloads on 3G/4G.

    • benbajarin

      Thanks for the comment Mike. If you care, take a look at my response to circle at the top for my thoughts on this issue.

  • mhikl

    ‘Tis a real shame about Consumer Reports. At one time it was the protector of the people or even the good Pope Benedict to average consumer guy. One could count on CR to hold your hand as you wandered through “Honest Abe’s Carz Are US” landfill of second run automobiles knowing which guzzler to avoid and which might be the little gem that could glitter given enough spit and agility with a wrench. All that respect went to the once mighty crusader’s head and we all know what an over-stimulated ego can do to a fellow.

    I agree with the statement “all the average guy hears is the iPad has” problems this, problems that, etc., but now it is become a modern day “Boy Who Cried Wolf” parable. When someone or something is constantly being criticised and disparaged yet, time after time, proves itself to be the Good King who is actually very handsome, very strong and very much admired by its subjects, the naysayer’s black eye becomes the real story. It takes a real king to ride out the conniving wailers in these times where tampered news rules the commercial press. The public is no longer a jaded public; it is a public that has grown up and is now willing to take over the parks around this Wall Street drama queen.

    It gives hope that there are informed consumers and stalwart journalists to hold such lapdogs to rigorous standards.

    • Steve__S

      I don’t know that Consumer Reports every really had any credibility in consumer electronics. Their reviews have been especially flawed for computers, photography, etc. Most savvy consumers seek more reliable sources for these items that cater to that specific industry. That said, CR’s most recent reviews / advice around Apple’s products have greatly damaged their reputation. Judging from actual sales, it’s clear that CR has no influence on these products anyway. Still their diminished reputation is disturbing. I may have to think twice before even consulting with them on my next toaster purchase.

  • Circle31415

    Dear Benbajarin,

    Thanks for your very civilized and articulate response! I think this is an interesting conversation, and helpful for me in thinking about how (in my opinion) even the best tech journalism can get a little sucked in the wrong direction. And your reply is helpful there. I want to make clear that I am *not* complaining about your reply: I think it is really a helpful, friendly, and interesting development of your view. I assume that your posting guidelines are meant to stop people from attacking one another on here, and (obviously!) you haven’t done that. But I would like to consider your post in light of this one of your guidelines:

    “No ad hominem attacks. These are conversations in which we debate ideas. Criticize ideas, not the people behind them.”

    Now consumer reports (CR) is not a person. Nor is apple. But each of your points seems to me focused on criticizing CR the institution, and none of them focused on criticizing the ideas. You say:

    “My biggest issue with the Consumer Reports statements is that it is grandstanding in my opinion. They saw an opportunity to capitalize for their own good and knew it was self gratifying in the process.”

    This is clearly no reason or argument to think that the *idea* they expressed is incorrect. It might be incorrect, but you have only criticized their motive, not the content of the idea.

    You say:

    “It is also disingenuous because the media reaction, and my fear of consumer sentiment, is that this heat problem is unique to the iPad when it is not.”

    This might be a criticism of their idea, if they had said that the iPad heats up more than other tablets. But you haven’t shown that they did that. And whether they were disingenuous or not, again, does not provide argument about whether or not what they said was true. So again criticism of the institution, not the idea.

    “So why did consumer reports now issue some big press release or press coverage for these other devices when this is clearly not a problem unique to the iPad? The answer is Apple FUD drives page views and thus drives their ad revenue and thus is profitable.”

    Again, this is criticism of the institution and motive, not the idea. And again:

    “why did this Display Mate (so called analyst because he is not respected in any analyst circles I travel in) call out this issue regarding Apple when any technical person that is in the know, knows every vendor handles the science of lithium ion differently?”

    I don’t know the answer to this question. But, again, it is ad hominem — it is no reason to think that anything displaymate said was false. Unless they said that the iPad differs from the others.

    AGain: “So why don’t we call SanDisk and WD and Seagate and Intel and Toshiba all liars? ” This is ad hominem as well.

    If we must engage in ad hominem, it seems to me that there is a competing hypothesis that seems very reasonable: almost no one is ever going to buy any of the competing tablets (except the fire and nook). Everyone is going to, rightly in my view, buy iPads. So it is very useful to know how the new iPad works — does it get hotter than iPad 2, take longer to charge, etc. Then I can decide, given the price difference, which one I want.

    You summarize: “My point in all of this is if you examine the Apple FUD it is just that FUD and it is disingenuous nearly every time. FUD drives page views and what Jim is pointing out is that honest journalism should seek to point out the facts, the whole story, examining every side, not just the side that is in the best interest of the outlet.”

    Again, this is ad hominem: your opponents aim to create fear uncertainty and doubt by saying the things they are saying. Ok. Then focus on the things they are saying. If what they are saying is right, but in your view no big deal, then give an argument why it is no big deal; focus on the ideas and not the motive. No need to attack motive of other people or institutions — certainly no need to confuse the endeavors.

    Finally, the point here that is not ad hominem is again about the comparison: other tablets do it too. That seems to me a bad way to defend apple. Apple’s products are much better than the competition. The competition has all sorts of flaws. So if an Apple product is attacked for having feature X, it is no defense to say that the competition also has feature X. The competition has lots of crummy features, and if an Apple product had those too, then this would be a big deal. Imagine if the MacBook Air was mostly as crummy as most existing windows ultra books. This would be worth knowing, because it would probably be good reason not to buy either one.

    Clearly your view is that the features being complained about are not really negative, or in any case worth the trade off. Fine. Then one can focus directly on arguing that point. Whether other tablets have the same feature is not relevant here, since other tablets have some features that are negative and are not worth the tradeoff. So I recommend not focusing on comparisons (he did it too!), or ad hominem, but on the ideas. My view is that Apple wins if the focus is on the ideas. Even if you are right that Apple’s opponents are attacking Apple’s credibility rather than focusing on what matters, that is fine — then the antidote is not to attack their credibility but to focus on the ideas. If what they say is ludicrous, then you can easily show this to be so, without bothering with complaining about their motives.

    best,
    circle

    • benbajarin

      Let me first thank you for actually reading our posting guidelines! I was beginning to wonder if anyone actually did. Not because we get poor or disrespectful comments but just because I was beginning to wonder.

      My understanding, which you allude to, regarding ad hominem is that it is typically geared at a person. My goal at large and this can include people and institutions is to not have disrespectful dialogue of either. I think constructive criticism of ideas and even institutions is a needed form of dialogue. This is why my criticisms, although largely big picture, were intended to be constructive in nature.

      To say, in this case the institution, to focus on the idea not the motive doesn’t take into account how motives drive ideas, actions, and behaviors. I can criticize the idea of course but the motive is a fundamental behavior which drove the idea. I think the two need to examined equally if we want to keep institutions accountable and honest.

      Let me also say that your points are received, yet I would contend that the theme of having a full circle debate on every point to its logical conclusion works much better in a verbal debate than a virtual one. So we simply have to hit points at a high level, at least that is they way I tackle them online which is very different than offline forums. My simple hope with the guidelines was that the conversation stayed respectful in the tone. That is really all I ask and I think our commenters do a good job of having respectful and intelligent conversations.

      I also share your concern for how the online media gets sucked so heavily into Apple. I think every institution needs constructive criticism. When I write columns to that point I try to do so constructively and offer helpful insights on how to improve without being slanderous or bashing them.