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Wednesday, 04 December 2013


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Good point, Ctein, especially seeing as how Apple already takes the two-flavor approach with the non-retina Mini.

But if the goal is stupid-simple, shouldn't there be just one flavor? The premium for cellular is now about $130. What if they cut it to one model and split the price difference? As you point out, it may cut into the present 40% profit margin, and perhaps sales as well, but there would be cost savings too, probably more in selling just one model as compared to your proposed two.

Apple could still produce a wifi-only model for large non-retail customers like schools, corporations, government.

Do they really sell five different versions in the US? In the UK you just buy a wifi or wifi + cellular model and can put any nano SIM in it. The blurb even states that "when you travel internationally you can use a nano-SIM from a local carrier".

When I bought my first iPad I did just what you suggest - I bought a cellular model even though I didn't buy a data plan at the same time, and added a SIM when I realised how useful it would be.

I'm pretty sure the iPad Air is the first iPads to offer data access amongst the different US carriers with a single model. I think the difference between the carrier-specific models is limited to the included SIM card, but will work with other carriers with a new SIM card.

" 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 l 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."

The design clearly doesn't meet your needs,and your view can certainly be respected from that perspective - but you are a market of one. The iOS 7 interface has to be accessible to a very broad range of users, and has gained very solid praise for being just that.

An alternative view might be that any decent designer might consider the various users of the device and OS, and design based on Apple's now vast experience of what these people might want and need in an interface for mobile devices.

I suppose, ultimately, the market will decide.

Here in simple old Oz, Apple sell the iPad with or without cell and you can use any cellular service you want! What you need must already be built in to the hardware, they must have tied their hands contracturaly with the network suppliers.

I think that most of Ctein's gripes actually lay with the carriers and not Apple. I don't know about the US experience, but here in Canada you can buy the wireless or the WIFI models without committing to a carrier at all. Getting the SIM of your choice (along with the data plan you need) is up to you to complete at your leisure. Given more than one SIM, you can swap data plans on the single device whenever you like.

I am with Rogers and they want an extra $10 / month to let me use the data from my iPhone on the iPad - WTF!?! It's my paid for data - why can't I use it on the device I choose? I use my phone as a personal hotspot when I am out and about to do an end run around that greed.

I DO want the possibility of using the cell network when I am travelling out of the country with my locked phone however, so I then use the unlocked iPad with a local SIM for that country and pay as I go for data that I can share back to the phone if I need to do it that way.

I went for the retina mini this time because I want that fantastic screen in a pocketable format (I have big pockets and don't care if it spoils my fashion look) and something smaller to hold up as I read in bed. Two weeks in and I am a happy camper.

I dunno, seems like a lot of griping about something that's not so much Apple's fault as it is the terrible state of the US cellular system.

In the UK, Apple does indeed offer only two kinds of iPad: wifi, or wifi + cellular. Buy it SIM-free if you like, then decide separately which carrier you want. Same for the iPhone.

Not sure how it is in other parts of the world, mind.

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 http://www.apple.com/ipad/LTE/ there is only one iPad sold throughout the world and it supports all carriers.

Do some research before u post ya? The ipad Air(and the new mini) is unlocked and universal for carriers in the US(14 LTE bands!). the "choice" is just which sim card comes preinstalled so you don't have to pay the $10 sim card fees. CDMA networks (Sprint&Verz) require a bit more work to activate, but its fairly fast. I have heard that sprint has been a bit more work to switch(requires activation). Also the iPad Air 4G has only 1 model number (A1475)

Also the best plan imo (and the one i got for my mini ret) is 200 mb free for tmobile. Just straight up 200 mb free every month no bill no taxes or fees. If you want more you can pay more on per gb charge or even go on and off a monthly plan. IF you chose an AT&T ipad, and wanted to switch to tmobile i think there is a $10 sim card fee.

I addressed the carrier issue by going with an external wifi hotspot. This way I get a normal non-cellular model of iPad, computer or whatever devices and use them with the carrier of my choice. Best of all, I can switch carriers or devices without the pain of having an expensive brick on my hands. I personally would never purchase a dedicated device other than a cellphone itself.

Excellent points, thank you.
I found even the original smart cover a bit flimsy, and then it started to disintegrate after some 6-8 months. Maybe that was the intention, to force me to buy a new cover every year. Until a new iPad comes along and the cover does not fit anymore and I need to upgrade the hardware as well.
So I bought a good, branded generic cover and it is much more solid though a bit bulkier as well.
Hard to understand companies today. They 'upgrade' products just for the sake of upgrading and do not even try them before they release them to the market. I think Jobs did a good job being the final check before market and had enough power and passion to stop faulty products being released.

A multitude of complicated choices is a feature, not a bug, from Apple's standpoint.

It has become a standard marketing tactic for American businesses to blitzkrieg consumers with numerous confusing, minimally different product (or plan) variants. To me it seems self-evident that the intent is to maximize confusion and encourage a portion of customers to purchase the wrong product, one that provides less value for more money.

Ctein - I agree with your assessment on all counts. I also have an AT&T enabled iPad. The fact that you can by 4G service only when you need it is what sold me. Also,from what I understand, you can actually have full time internet access through cellular for as little as 20 some dollars per year!! (Assuming you use less than 250mb per 90 days). And, I didn't even know I could make it a hotspot, so I will look into that. I am currently grandfathered into the unlimited data plan. I am sure that would not include a hotspot though. I have also had great service from my local AT&T store.

Not to be unnecessarily contrary, but I'm pretty sure that both iPhones and LTE iPads are universal at this point. The included SIM cards are targeted, but I think the actual hardware is identical across versions, with multiband antennae compatible with GSM, CDMA, HSPA/+, and LTE.

Doesn't fix your actual problem with plan comparison shopping, but addresses some of your suggestions.

And I may be misinformed, but I'm pretty sure this is the case (since iPhone 5 and iPad 4).

In Europe, where all cellular phones are GSM, you just buy a (not sponsored) cell-enabled iPad and then get the SIM card with the company you want. I do not know exactly what data only plan are, but I had a data+voice with 750Mbyte/month at just 7€/month. It seems that the technical possibility to switch provider given by the uniformity of the technical solution has been quite good for prices. (In the USA I had to contract a plan that cost me 4 times more for 200MB/month...)

Windows 8 has proved there is no ideal answer for big and small screens. It's a nightmare for anyone creating mobile websites - should it work on a phone, 7" tab, 8" tab, 11" tab or laptop?

And none of the above work at all on a proper 27" graphics monitor.

I am all for convergence, but there are either usability issues or cost implications for developers....

Of course Steve Jobs wouldn't allowed iOS 7 out of the door as is- he LIKED the skeumorphic effects, which Forstall also championed. 7 is a major sea change and ultimately, an interim step. The room at WWDC as iOS 7 was unveiled - only on iPhone, iPad was a while later - was cool, to say the least. But 7 has forced designers and developers both to truely rethink how their apps work, both internally and with the OS as a whole, and it's much better now than another release or two down the line.

In Australia you can by WiFi only or WiFi + Cellular. I chose WiFi only, and I use my iPhone as a WiFi hotspot, to which I connect my iPad, giving me ubiquitous internet access without cellular on the iPad. (I can also connect my MacPro this way.)

As others have said all the ipad cellular models are the same. I can swap my sim with one from another carrier and all still works fine. If you want to change carriers just go to one of their stores and they'll usually give you a sim for free or sell you one for $5. That being said, Apple's site is not at all clear about this and at first I wasn't sure what ipad to get because I also thought you were locked to that carrier.

Is it possible that you might occasionally over-think things?

There are a lot of different reasons for variations in different methods of data download, but I have a cultural iPad that I hardly use any more, because cell phone apps have become so powerful...

Last week I somewhat questioned your enthusiasm for the lightness of the iPad Air, but as I sit here typing this on my new Surface Pro 2, I see what you mean. It would be nice if it were lighter and great if it were half as heavy, as the Air is. Nevertheless, I made the right choice (for me.)

In the post above, the word "cultural" was the Surface Pro 2 correcting my meaning.

Dear folks,

Everybody, thanks for the correct information on how the cellular system in the iPad works! I wasn't aware of the internal changes.

Okay, I'll accept that it isn't under Apple's direct control. Which wasn't really the thrust of my remarks; I just thought it was something they could fix. Apparently not. Nonetheless, it makes the whole buying experience a lot more difficult.

Looking at the webpage that Isaac provided the link to (thanks, Isaac!) it looks like there are an awful lot of carriers that can support the iPad. I'm guessing that the four that Apple features are simply the ones that have data plans built into the iOS settings controls, and that if one is willing to contract directly with the carrier, any of the listed carriers would work?

Have I got that right, now?

I suppose if I was into comparison-shopping, I could probably hunt up a data plan more to my liking than the one I settled with. Unfortunately, I hate that stuff. But I'll keep it in mind if at some point down the line I am unhappy with the ATT contract.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

WiFi only model plus iPhone personal hotspot. Works for me.

Ctein writes: "It's a lack of attention to proper UI ergonomics l 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."

Actually, not really. Your gripe shouldn't be so much with iOS 7, but the fact that iOS doesn't have an iPad-specific UI, but this has been the case since the release of the original iPad 3+ years ago. I agree that the large spacing between icons does not fully utilize the iPad's real estate, but it does not make sense to fault iOS 7 for this, as this design choice was made since the release of the first iPad (which as you may know was unveiled by Jobs himself).

Ctein, you do know that the cover folds two ways, right? If the outside way is not stable enough for whatever reason, you can fold it the inside way. As long as you don't set it down on very dirty or crummy surfaces, this should be no problem. The upside of the new design is that it is much more stable when standing upright for watching movies.

I fully agree about the new design. It took me quite a while to decide to upgrade my iPhone 4S, but when I got my new 5S (and the iPad Air), I had no choice any longer. I find iOS 7 to be horribly unstable. Apps crash, and both devices, especially the iPhone, will spontaneously restart. I can see why they have optimised that process...

I also really dislike the look. Not everyone likes bright pastel colours, and I wish that there would be two themes to choose between, where the other one would be called "Midnight", and would be a series of darker, less distracting colours, understated and out of the way. At the moment I feel like I am forced to be a hippie.

The 3x3 groups also bothers me to no end, just like the max 6 icons in the Dock but 5 icons on the screen. Why should the iPhone 5S have the same number of icons on the screen as the 4x as large iPad screen? Pure insanity. And the groups should show at least 4x4, and preferably 5x5 icons.

There are many other UI details which disturb me, but these are the huge ones, the ones where I wonder how much longer I can live with this. IMO Apple is really relying on the incompetence of other companies for their continued dominance.

Btw, I am paying 20 Euro for 3GB/month at 21Mbps here in Berlin, Germany. This is a companion plan to my phone plan. Normal price is 30 Euro.

None of Ctein's issues bother me. I prefer the new iPad cover. I found the 4 fold iPad cover with my older iPads fiddly, they never worked well for me. I don't find iOS 7 on the iPad comic bookish. The new folder schema is far better than the previous one with limited capacity.

My peeves with my iPad Air are:
1) in terms of looks, there are many more beautiful and preferable work ups for iOS 7 on the design site Dribble (show & tell for designers) http://dribbble.com/search?q=iOS+7 I suspect both designers and engineers were under huge time pressure between the firing of Scott Forstall last Feb. and the launch of iOS 7 and there are an unusual amount of small gotchas as a result.
2) My iPad/iOS 7 has infrequent but regular soft crashes, when doing some task, frequently in Safari, suddenly I see a black screen with the Apple logo and the system software does a quick reboot and I'm back in my home screen. I imagine this is due to the time pressure mentioned above and will get sorted over time.
3) the speakers are on the side of the iPad and invariably my hand is covering them when I'm looking at something in landscape mode. I think HTC's solution of putting the speakers on the front surface a better practical solution.
4) I want a bigger iPad.
All in all the iPad Air is my favourite computer of all time and I've had many.

The choice of iPad in the USA is a bit confusing based on the fact that there is two different voice/data bands currently in use, CDMA and GSM. And, depending where you live one might not have any coverage.

Apple probably has some contractual reason for keeping mum about this (they even denied it to me when I asked at an Apple store), but no matter which cellular iPad Air or Mini you buy, you can switch carriers whenever you want. Pull out the SIM, pop in a competitor's, sign up for whatever plan you like. http://gigaom.com/2013/11/01/ipad-air-with-lte-tip-you-can-switch-carrier-sims-at-will/

Locking the iPad to a cellular carrier at time of sale is a huge disservice to the buyer. There is no justification for it unless the carrier is subsidizing the purchase price by a huge amount, as in cell phone sales.

I've found Verizon's buy-a-month-at-a-time data plan (sold as an advantage by Apple) to be extremely misleading. Even the coverage maps on which a decision may be based are bogus.

None of this carrier-locked design has made sense at all from the user standpoint. It served only to provide my wife with weeks-long periods of frustration and the ultimate decision, to maintain sanity after dealing with Verizon's reps, to use the iPad as a WiFi-only device.

Another $100 in purchase cost wasted -- which should have been a cost to the carrier, not the end user.

I also think its so odd to call Apple's UI, no matter what you think about it, last century.

Also complains about choice and said they just want apple to provide one iPad, and let him get the SIM. They do just provide one iPad. The only choice you have is which SIM. Unless you are on an small niche cellular carrier, why do you care.

Amazingly childish review.

I don't think that the iPad Air is actually carrier locked, so you can pick any carrier you want at purchase time and then switch around if you are unhappy... .at least that is what the Internet implies.



Wow, sounds like we have a welcome to the simply awesome free market cell service we have in the USA.

Note also that if you have cellular data enabled, it will SOMETIMES be used, even when you have a good WiFi signal. There are a number of reasons for this, most very technical and completely surprising to users who figure that if they see the WiFi signal strength in the status bar, they're not going to be using any cellular data.

Google "iphone cellular data usage on wifi" (without the quotes) if you want to see the horror stories.

Ctien, I would like to hazard a guess that the design issues you’re seeing with iOS 7 are because the entire OS is designed based on a phone’s usage, and the iPad is more of a step-up device, moving from your phone to a bigger screen while keeping the same design and operational queues intact, but separating the usage case of the iPad (which is primarily content consumption) from the usage case of OS X (that being tailored towards content creation).

Looking at something like the full Windows ecosystem, the situation is reversed. Windows Phone is designed explicitly for mobile devices, one handed operation, etc., but the OS on Windows tablets has been stepped down from a full version of Windows (or, in the case of something like a Surface Pro, it is essentially a full version of Windows).

Is one case better than the other? Maybe it depends on how you use a tablet. Is it an extension of your phone, or a digression from your computer?

I use my iPhone as a hotspot and just tie my iPad to my phone. Works great, no worries.

I hope you will write about what apps you find most useful

iOS 7 does indeed need some polishing.

It's surprising to hear that the state of affairs in the mobile carrier market keeps being in its oligopolistic state. Here I can get LTE 100 Mbps for 20 euros/month with a fixed term contract and plans are by default unlimited in transferred amount. Unlocked is readily available too, which is what it should be; fixed term contracts and lock-in are harmful for the market.

Apple fundamentally changed the carrier-device maker relationship with the original iPhone -- I don't see why they couldn't push carriers hard on this one unless everyone in the US is buying Android tablets (which I doubt -- iPad is a very solid product, despite being expensive).

Same here in Luxembourg. My wife and I have two cellular iPads; you buy them in any hypermarket, then get a SIM card from any of three local carriers. Our contracts have 2 GB of data for 10 euros/month, with no time commitment (so you can also change to another carrier if a better deal comes along). I have a second SIM from an Italian carrier which I use when I am in Italy.

Even though there is only one cellular model, it is bizarre that the Apple online store for the USA forces customers to pick a carrier. That is not the case in Canada and, it seems, elsewhere.

"I am with Rogers and they want an extra $10 / month to let me use the data from my iPhone on the iPad - WTF!?! It's my paid for data - why can't I use it on the device I choose? I use my phone as a personal hotspot when I am out and about to do an end run around that greed."

Canadian iPad plans tend to be lousy, along with mobile data in general. I knew Rogers had introduced shared data -- at last -- but how utterly unsurprising that they ding you $10 for the privilege.

On the other hand, tethering (personal hot spot) does work well and is really only a slight inconvenience compared to using built-in LTE. Still, I would probably buy the LTE version again, both for travel and in the faint hope that we will have better data plans some day.

Geoff Wittig said:
"A multitude of complicated choices is a feature, not a bug, from Apple's standpoint."

Your complaint is valid for many companies, but not really Apple – they're one of the few that offer a much more focused choice of models, with clear distinctions. For example, the iPad: mini or air, in various capacities, and wifi or wifi+cell. Or, laptops: Air or Pro, in 3 sizes, plus whatever customisations you need. The variations between models are clear and easy to understand.

Hello there.I use my iPhone as a hotspot and just tie my iPad to my phone. Works great, no worries.

Dear Richard T and Jayson,

I suspect you're both right. In which case I'm probably giving Steve too much credit [wry smile].

Still, device-insensitive UI's really are last-century. Savvy web and program designers have understood that since the turn of the century. There's no good excuse for the OS manufacturers to not pay proper attention to this. I mean, for them, it's the very face that they show to the whole world. And it's not like they can't afford to put in the extra development time and money. (Just to be clear, I'm not necessarily singling Apple out as an unusually bad example, I just happened to be reviewing the iPad).

I do happen to agree that Apple seems to be treating the iPad as merely a glorified iPod touch. As I wrote way back in my very first reviews of my very first iPad, they don't seem to have entirely caught on to the fact that they've created a new class of computer.

As an iPad user, rather than an iPhone user, though, iOS7 makes it much worse for me. The previous versions tried to squeeze too much stuff onto a little bitty screen… but that wasn't my problem, he said self-centeredly. But

As you both note, the real problem is the one-size-fits-all mentality.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Rob, Geoff, Steve, and others,

There are some very interesting problems involving both complexity and convergence going on with the hardware, software and the support services. It's a sufficiently complex topic -- and one that does relate strongly to cameras-- that I may devote a couple of columns to it after my next one.

I didn't comment on the whole skeumorphic (I love it how a totally obscure word is now on everyone's lips) aspect, because I really think that is a matter of taste. Personally I prefer realistic looking interfaces, but they are hell to deal with on small screens; they are hard to design for and to make user-friendly on a smart phone. I can live without. It's the serious blunders in appearance, size, and spacing of the functional regions on the large screen that draw my complaints (and just about everybody else I've shown the new iOS to, not that that matters––it's my review).

In any case, I do feel the pain very much for third-party developers (I did technical writing for some of them in the early part of the century on just these matters). It's a distinct resource sink to create good usability on multiple size screens. But companies like Microsoft and Apple can most definitely afford those resources on the OS level.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I don't feel the IOS7 interface is a big problem even if you don't like it. Most of the time you are using apps and websites, not the interface itself. Also, concentrating on UI rather than UX is rather a last century attitude itself. A great deal of development thought concentrates on UX now, and quite rightly. As regards device insensitivity, responsive design / HTML5 has already made significant steps in resolving this for webapps / websites, and a lot of effort is going into responsive design for native apps.

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