iPad Nitpickers: Get a Life

on March 21, 2012

Back when I spent most of my time reviewing products for BusinessWeek, I always felt a little dread when I had to deal with anything from Apple. I knew that the slightest criticism would invoke a storm of protest from devoted fans and I would be deluged with email (later comments) questioning my judgment, honesty, and parentage. Especially in the early part of my tenure, Apple was doing some pretty lousy products, so I got a lot of mail.

iPad screen imageNow that Apple is on top of the world, the passion has become to find and magnify tiny flaws in near-perfect products. It started with the silly fuss over the iPhone 4’s antenna. And this week we are seeing massive nitpicking about the new iPad. PCWorld.com went so far as to publish a seemingly serious story, “Top Three Controversies Hounding Apple’s Newest iPad,” with it identified as Heatgate, Videogate, and Wi-Fi Gate.

The heat story has gotten the most attention. If you run a game flat out for more than a few minutes, the outside of the case gets a bit warm, up to around 115 degrees Fahrenheit (about 46C). All computing devices get warm when stressed and thermal management is one of the big challenges of engineering, especially as we cram more and more power into smaller and smaller spaces. This just isn’t a big deal.

The video issue is even sillier. The Wall Street Journal reported today that if you watch high-quality video streamed over a 4G connection, you can consume a month’s worth of data.  Well, yes, filling that gorgeous screen with HD video takes a lot of bits.  That’s why video is best reserved for Wi-Fi, but you pays your money and takes your chances.

The Wi-Fi problem is really odd because there just haven’t been many reports of people encountering it. If it is a real issue, Apple will probably quietly release a firmware fix, as they have with other products.

Oddly, in hunting these iPad unicorns, critics have overlooked one real issue. The new iPad has a really big battery and it takes significantly longer to charge it with the same 10W charger used with earlier models (well explained by Sascha Segan at PCMag,com).  Some test have indicated a net battery discharge when playing intense games while plugged in; the electronics appear to be sucking more power from the battery than the charge is supplying. This is by no means a crippling issue, but Apple should consider offering a beefier charger as an option.

And in the meantime, the nitpickers should relax and enjoy their iPads.