Saturday 16 October 2010

Apple iPad first impressions

I finally got an iPad a few days ago.  Generally, it's a very impressive device - as it should be for the price.  Just some initial observations:
  • iPad could be all you need if you are a non-techie, and you just want access to web and email.  But if you need printing, photo library management, music library management etc, then you still need a computer as well.   The iPod functions can't be used without access to a computer running iTunes for syncing purposes, unless you buy all your music from the iTunes store (as opposed to importing your own CDs).
  • It's strange that a brand-new iPad won't "activate" after purchase without being plugged into iTunes.   It is sold without network operator subsidy, without network operator branding.  So why does it need "activation" at all?  That's an unwelcome hangover from the days of operator-locked iPhones.  To be fair, you could probably get a retail store to activate your new iPad for you (it just seems to want to talk to iTunes for a second: it doesn't need any credentials and you don't have to set up any settings at that point). 
  • iPad lacks any cameras, so you can't do Facetime videoconferencing, and you can't take snaps.  Rumours are that the next version (probably 12 months on from initial release) will have at a front-facing camera for Facetime.
  • The screen is very good.  iPad lacks the ultimate "retina" resolution of the iPhone 4, but in practice that's not a problem, nor is it even noticeable.  Again, it's rumoured that there will be an annual refresh that will update the iPad, but adopting the retina level of resolution seems unlikely on cost grounds: and seems pointless, since the point of the retina resolution was to deliver a large number of pixels on a small device, which doesn't apply to the iPad.
  • The Apple iPad case is essential really.  Without it, you'd be quite limited in the orientations you could use the iPad in, and the screen would be too vulnerable given the cost of the device.
  • The 3G cellular version works well.  I'm using it with an SIM card, which only costs £2 per month plus 2.5 pence per MB, and has the advantage of not going through a dirty NAT proxy like most cellular service providers.  It's a shame that the cellular versions of the iPad are so expensive, as the device is far less useful if it's not always-on.
  • I can't get the IPSEC VPN client to talk to m0n0wall's IPSEC VPN gateway (anyone?).  It might well work over PPTP, but that's probably less secure, so it's probably not worth setting up unless really necessary.
  • Port scans reveal that iPad listens on TCP port 62078 (iphone-sync), and UDP port 5353 (multicast DNS), even on the cellular interface.  Moreover, the device responds actively to port scans (i.e. it sends ICMP Port Unreachable when closed UDP ports are probed, and TCP RST when closed TCP ports are probed).   This is pretty poor security practice for an always-on internet-exposed device these days.  However, I doubt that 62078/tcp or 5353/udp are exploitable.  If I netcat into 62078/tcp, I get disconnected straight away.
  • iPad currently runs iOS 3.2.2, as opposed to iPhone's 4.1, so some 4.1 features aren't there.  Apple expects to ship iOS 4.2 in November 2010.  The iPad has half the RAM of the iPhone 4, which is a little bit worrying in terms of instant obsolescence.
  • My Apple bluetooth keyboard works with the iPad, but it's a bit annoying, as it disables the on-screen keyboard.  So you can't just move to the bluetooth keyboard when typing long emails, say.  But the on-screen keyboard is surprisingly good.
  • My Nokia bluetooth headphones paired with the iPad, and played from the iPod application initially, but then couldn't be persuaded to resume after a break.  Perhaps iOS 4.2 will make bluetooth work a bit better generally.
  • Skype works well - the microphone and speakers are good.  But of course there's no camera.
  • A few iPhone apps won't run, but most will.  A number of iPhone apps only use an iPhone-sized bit of the screen, but hopefully those will mostly get upgraded soon.
  • The SSH client iSSH works reasonably well, although the usable screen is small when the on-screen keyboard is used.  This can be compensated for by setting a smaller font size.  Sadly the bluetooth keyboard doesn't seem to work very well with it... For example the arrow keys don't work if I SSH into a FreeBSD server and edit a file using vi.  But to be honest, if you're going to drag a bluetooth keyboard around, why not take a small laptop instead.
  •  Battery life is excellent on standby, but that big screen drains the battery if you leave it on all the time. 
  • The iPad lacks a USB port, so you can't use it to download a file from the Internet for transfer to a computer at work.  In fact, as far as I know, you can't use the flash memory as a general-purpose filestore.  But perhaps that makes the iPad more acceptable in corporate environments from a security perspective.  If an employee uses their personal iPad over a 3G cellular network, then whatever they do on the iPad stays on the iPad, making it less likely they'll want to abuse corporate computers for utter shite such as Facebook, Myspace or Bebo.
  • Under the present release of the iPad's iOS system, you can't enable 3G "tethering" (sharing the 3G connection to other machines).  Perhaps this will come with the iOS 4.2 update in November.  However, if previous iPhone releases are anything to go by, the tethering support will be via bluetooth rather than via WiFi, so it's probably still going to be easier to buy a MiFi device.  That just means paying for another SIM card if you want the iPad to work independently of the MiFi, but at least 3G data SIMs are affordable in the UK now.
  • AFAICT the iPad doesn't support IPV6.  If the iPhone 4 is any guide, then IPV6 support may arrive with iOS 4.2.

    1 comment:

    1. thanks for the info, helped me weigh up pros and cons when considering purchasing an ipad. Keep it up with the blog.


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