iPad Nitpickers: Get a Life

Steve Wildstrom / March 21st, 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.

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
  • Defendor

    Note that consumer reports only ran up the maximum temperature while running a game with the Power supply connected. I think simply connecting a bigger power brick is not an option as the extra juice in that case may create more heat.

  • RedMercury

    The bandwidth one, I think is important to note these things.

    You can download a 1080p HD movie over your LTE connection, but you can’t use FaceTime or download an App larger than 20MB. Thus, you would assume that watching an HD movie is less of a strain on the network than these things that you’re not allowed to do and that it’s “okay” to do it.

    Surprise surprise–once the bill comes at the end of the month…

    It’s easy to say that, “Hey, this isn’t Apple’s fault!” And to a certain extent, you’d be right. The problem is that Apple positions itself as the “guardian” and the one who pushes the Carriers to do the right thing. To take that position and then say, “Hey, it’s not our problem!” is a bit off. It’s sort of like in the App Store where Apple says, “Hey, we protect you from all those nasty programs!” And when some nasty program appears in the App Store, Apple says, “Well, gosh, how were we supposed to know?”

    Even without pushing the Carriers, though, it would be nice if Apple made things a bit more consistent.

    • rattyuk

      But it didn’t seem to be an issue when it was a unique selling point to Android devices?

    • steve_wildstrom

      Apple made a big thing of a new carrier model when it launched the original iPad in 2010, but dropped it completely this year. Data plans were not even mentioned during the presentation, and when I asked an Apple spokesperson at the hands-on afterward whether there was any change in data plans I was told to ask the carriers directly. I was hoping that the big surprise at the launch would be a new data model for LTE, but I don’t think even Apple can make the carriers understand.

    • Hm

      When did Apple say “Gosh, how were we supposed to know?” about a bad app in the App store? They’re generally very good at kicking bad apps, issuing guidelines about what they can and can’t do, and making changes to iOS to fix problems. Why should Apple suddenly be responsible for everything? Jeez, take a bit of responsibility for yourself already.

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