This week's column by Ctein
Part 2: What I Don't Like
Last week I told you what I liked about the new iPad and why I thought it was a major improvement over the previous generation and seriously worthy of purchase.
This time, I gripe.
The new Smart Cover isn't well-designed. When it folds into a triangle stand, it now only makes edge contact instead of overlapping a full side. That makes it much less sturdy than before; it tends to collapse when I look at it wrong. Apple needs to restore the fourth flap section.
My second complaint is about iOS 7's look on the iPad. I can see how the new graphics and layout make it a lot more usable on small-screen devices like iPhones, but it loses big on the iPad. It looks flat and cartoonish (a minor point, I admit), and the icons and preview screens are spaced much too far apart for convenience (not minor). For example, each page in a folder only shows you nine icons. You could easily fit in 16–25 on the iPad. I spend a lot of time scrolling between minimally-filled pages. Similarly, the screenshots that are displayed in the suspended-apps interface are far, far larger than they need to be, so there's a lot of unnecessary side-scrolling to get to the app you want.
This is shoddy interface design, and it's so last-century. Any decent designer today would have the layout and ergonomics differently optimized for different-size displays. It's a lack of attention to proper UI ergonomics that I wouldn't expect of Apple. Much as I hate to invoke the cliché, Steve Jobs would not have allowed this to pass. Really.
A change which is a mixed bag, but nonetheless drove me crazy, is the myriad data plans available for the cellular models. Personally, I can't imagine not having a cellular model; once I got used to the idea that the iPad brings the world and data to my fingertips, it became intolerable that it wouldn't always do that.
The problem is the excess of choices (as I've written previously, I deeply hate comparison shopping). There are four different carriers for the iPad, and it's hard to sort through the details of the different plans. The available options have gotten much more complicated. Honestly, it inhibited me from buying for several weeks. Too many unnecessary choices are not good for sales.
Apple could make life a lot easier. Instead of making five different flavors of iPad—one without cellular and four for each of the four carriers—they could make two: cellular and non-cellular. Yes, yes, I know that means building multiple-carrier compatibility into the iPad and reworking the contracts with all the carriers. Well, that's the kind of stuff Apple is really good at, and with a 40% profit margin on the devices, they could afford to spend a little more on the cellular hardware. It would be far more in keeping with their keep-it-simple-stupid approach. I don't want to try to hassle out all the details of my carrier before I buy an iPad. Just let me buy one, for God's sake.
Heck, I'm not even sure it would cost Apple anything. It would cut the number of models they have to carry by 2.5X. That's got to be a big inventory savings, not to mention improving sales because they're far less likely to run out of a particular model in a store. It's a selling point for buying the cellular (more expensive) model: "Hey, you may not care now, but it doesn't cost you a lot to 'future-proof' your purchase, and you can use whichever carrier you like when the time comes."
As my editor would put it, just sayin'....
Some plan changes are improvements. If you hardly ever needs cellular data, there are some real bargains now. AT&T, for example, lets you buy (through the iOS settings) a single chunk of data that's good for 90 days. I think the minimum is 250 MB for just $5! If all you need to be able to do is occasionally check your e-mail (and read TOP, of course) when you're out of Wi-Fi range, you can hardly do better. Others are not. The option to use the iPad as a personal hotspot now seems to be restricted to more expensive plans. I wound up paying twice as much as previously to have that feature. Yes, it's giving me a lot more data per month, but I don't need the data.
Still, it's not the details I'm griping about, it's the huge amount of time to sort this all out. I had to make the rounds of the stores for all four carriers to figure out the plans—it proved somewhere between difficult and impossible to do it online or via phone. Especially since I couldn't have an iPad in hand to be able to check the iOS options!
Props to Eric
In that vein, I have to give a four-star recommendation to the AT&T store in Daly City on Gellert Blvd. The level of customer support and handholding I got from their salesperson, Eric Shou, and from one of the store managers when my questions exceeded even his knowledge, was extraordinary. They sold me on going with AT&T. They spent a huge amount of time with me, and all they ultimately got out of it was a lousy $40 month-to-month contract (they saved me $10/month over buying through the iOS).
I'm a big believer in rewarding stores and salespeople who go the extra mile. Unfortunately I didn't reward these folks with money, so I'm doing it with publicity. I know some of you are now going to rail at me about how awful the "Death Star" is. I'm not trying to negate your experiences. This is just mine.
Next week, I go old-school. Books!
Regular columnist Ctein lets you know the plan on TOP on Wednesdays. Tomorrow: Carl's Panasonic GX7 Notes, Part III.
©2013 by Ctein, all rights reserved
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Isaac Crawford: "I think you'll find that there's only one cellular model of iPad. The only difference between them is what sim card comes with it. According to Apple there is only one iPad sold throughout the world and it supports all carriers."
Paul De Zan: "IOS 7 adds nothing to the iPhone, trust me. I updated an iPad 3 to IOS 7...and immediately sold it. That's how much I hate IOS 7. What kills me is that Apple thinks they can call it a 'modern' looking interface. Those of us who've been around a while will tell you that the super-thin fonts and color scheme are right out of the late '60s concept of 'modern.' IOS 7 is the biggest design misstep since Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. We now know he's really, really gone and not part of some evil cryogenic marketing scheme."