Since my review of the new Apple iPad tablet last week, I have been bombarded with questions. This is natural. The iPad is a real computer that overlaps many functions of a laptop, but works very differently from one.
So here are answers to some of the most common questions I’ve received, in hopes they may help clear up any confusion. One caveat: Apple is offering a “sneak preview” on Thursday of a forthcoming revision to the iPhone operating system, which powers the iPad, so some changes might be revealed.
Can you print from an iPad? Apple (AAPL) didn’t build in a printing function, so you can’t just tap a menu button to print an email, photo or Web page. But a few third-party apps allow printing of some items from an iPad to a networked printer. One is Print Online. It costs $5 and I tested it successfully. But these apps are complicated and limited workarounds—inadequate substitutes for built-in printing.
The iPad lacks a USB port, so how do you get files into it? Like the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad has the familiar Apple connector port and comes with a cable that links this port to a USB port on a PC or Mac. Then, using iTunes on the PC or Mac, you can sync over to the device your songs, photos, videos, contacts, apps and more.
New to the latest version of iTunes is a function that will also transfer to the iPad files like Microsoft Office documents. But this feature only works if you’ve installed on your iPad certain programs that can edit these documents, such as Apple’s optional $10 word-processor, spreadsheet and presentation programs. Documents can be moved in the other direction, too.
You also can get some types of documents into the iPad wirelessly, if you receive them as email attachments or as downloads from the Web. For example, if you receive a Word-document attachment, and you have Apple’s Pages word processor installed, you can send it to Pages, where it can be stored and edited. Pages can then send back the edited version.
Is there a way to type on the iPad without laying it flat and using the virtual keyboard? There are several. Apple sells a $39 case that bends to angle the device in a more convenient typing position (and allows for hands-free video watching). The company also sells a $69 accessory physical keyboard that features a dock at the rear to hold the iPad upright. In addition, you can type on the iPad using Apple’s $69 wireless keyboard for the Mac, which can be held on your lap.
Can I run Windows or Mac programs on the iPad? Not unless their makers produce iPad versions of these programs. The iPad doesn’t run the Macintosh or Windows operating systems, so it can’t run programs designed for them. It runs the iPhone operating system, which is only compatible with iPhone and iPad apps, of which there are more than 150,000. There are some iPad and iPhone apps that let you remotely control Windows and Mac computers, so you could indirectly run Windows and Mac programs via the screen of an iPad, but that isn’t like running the programs locally.
I hear the iPad lacks multitasking. What are the downsides of this? First, let me clarify that the iPad (and iPhone) can technically perform multitasking, or running more than one program at once. But Apple has chosen to limit this ability to some of its own built-in apps, and deny it to third-party apps. For instance, the built-in email program will continue to receive messages while you are watching a movie on the built-in video player.
The downsides of denying multitasking to all apps are considerable. For example, you can’t listen to streaming music from the Pandora music app while checking email. And you can’t view fresh Twitter posts while on other apps. You have to close the app you’re in, then re-launch a Twitter app and wait for it to fetch the new posts. And, you can’t, say, check email or surf the Web while waiting for a complex game to load in the background, because the game stops once you change to another app.
Since the iPad’s battery is sealed in, how do I replace it? The battery isn’t designed to be replaceable by the user. Apple will replace your iPad with one containing a fresh battery for $107, including shipping. The process takes up to a week. Most important, you will lose all your personal data unless you back it up regularly to your computer and restore it on the replacement iPad. Details are at: apple.com/support/ipad/service/battery/.
Find all of Walt Mossberg’s columns and videos online, free of charge, at the All Things Digital Web site, walt.allthingsd.com.
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