iPad offers travelers portability, versatility
By LAURA BLY
Two weeks after the hyped launch of Apple's iPad, the touch-based multimedia tablet has been praised as one of the most revolutionary tools for travelers since the airport kiosk — and panned as a cumbersome, underwhelming gadget.
Its portability — the makers of Scottevest travel clothing trumpeted the fact that the iPad is small enough to fit in one of their pockets and the TSA says fliers can leave it in their carry-ons when they go through airport security — is of great appeal for travelers.
"The iPad will absolutely change the way people kill time in back seats, airports and 747s on their family vacations," says travel writer Jen Leo, co-founder of the review site BestKidsApps.com. "With its big screen (9.7 inches), extended battery life (up to 10 hours when used with Wi-Fi), Web browsing and two-player gaming capability, it's hands-down the best entertainment device to come along since the portable DVD player."
Among the naysayers: John Gordon, who blogs for www.PracticalTravelGear.com.
"So am I the only traveler who didn't run out and buy a new iPad?" writes Gordon. "With the device's limitations (no camera, physical keyboard, memory card or USB port, for starters) I've got to ask myself — do I need to spend $499 or more for something that can't even keep up with my laptop and smartphone?"
But no matter which side of the iPad divide tech-savvy travelers fall, the buzz surrounding Apple's latest bauble is more evidence that the Internet is giving way to what Forrester Research has dubbed the "Splinternet."
Road warriors and vacationers alike will "continue to expect, as well as begin to demand, that all travel content and information be available in the format and on the device of their choosing," says Denver-based marketer Troy Thompson, co-author of the blog Travel 2.0.
One of the iPad's selling points for travelers who don't want to lug along a stash of books is its electronic reader function.
The iPad's e-reader lets you control font, type size and brightness; you can tap a word to bookmark your place or look up a definition and flip through colorfully illustrated pages that "curl" like the real thing. And unlike Amazon's competing (and lighter) $259 Kindle, you can read the iPad's LED-backlit screen in the dark.
For now, iPad users can only connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, though a higher-priced model that also connects via a 3G cellular network comes out later this month. The device runs almost all the 150,000-plus apps already available for Apple's iPhone, from flight trackers to restroom finders (most priced under $5). Developers also have scrambled to deliver more than 1,000 apps designed or altered to accommodate the iPad's larger, higher-resolution screen, and that number (most priced from $5 to $15) is increasing. NetFlix's free app, for example, lets account holders live-stream movies and television episodes directly to the iPad.