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How I Learned To Stop Worrying

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If you've read our iPad review and listened to our iPad postcast you know what we think of the iPad. You may even have read our list of Essential Features for the iPad 2 and, if so, you know what we think the iPad lacks. And yet despite all of the problems espoused hundreds of thousands, if not millions, are happily handing their money over to Apple in order to buy what is, ostensibly, a flawed device that serves no real purpose. Or have we all got it wrong?

I've always been wary of outright dismissing the iPad, as have the majority of my tech journalist contemporaries. We're all too aware, I believe, that even if Apple did produce a dud, it would still sell like hot cakes infused with crack cocaine. Never mind that the iPad doesn't have the benefit of competing in an extant product category, which is what made the iPhone so great (it was a smartphone, but better).

Nonetheless, contrary to what the (extremely) vocal detractors would like you to believe, the iPad is no dud.

I've complained along with everyone else about the unforgivable lack of Flash support. I've wondered whether Apple does think we are stupid enough to believe that the lack of a USB port or SD card slot is anything other than an excuse to sell us accessories. I've also mused that a £429 entry price is too expensive for a device this crippled.
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Expensive toy, or revolution?

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The thing is, having used an iPad all of those complaints seem, well, negligible. By which I don't mean that they aren't valid, because they are, but rather that although there are things that it can't do, the iPad does what it can with such aplomb that it's easy to forgive, even ignore, it its failings.

Take Safari. Browsing the web on the iPad is far and away a slicker experience than I've had on any netbook. The extra 128 pixels in height (in landscape) over a typical 1,024 x 600 pixel netbook display might not sound like much, but for me it's the difference between the websites I most frequently visit (TrustedReviews, the Times, the Onion, BBC News, Engadget) being readable and not. This is the primary use of my iPhone at home, but the iPad is a much better browsing device.

I do have to concede, the lack of Flash support is a bigger issue that many seem to think. Certainly, a huge number of websites misuse Flash to display content that would look fine in plain HTML, but crippling the user experience is not the way for Apple to engender change there. On the iPhone it's a forgiveable omission, because those sites wouldn't really work on such a small screen anyway, on the iPad it's a cardinal sin.

Fortunately the main reason you'd want Flash support on the iPad in the first place is video - games on the App store wipe the floor with the free Flash ones seen online. Lest we forget, a huge number of netbooks are for all intents and purposes as crippled as the iPad when it comes to playing Flash content. But where netbooks without the grunt to run Flash video are stuck showing juddering slideshows, the iPad can access sites including YouTube, Vimeo and the BBC iPlayer and play the content there flawlessly. The number is only going to grow; this move away from Flash video on the web isn't just Apple's cause, as the WebM project shows. So yes, Flash's omission is a huge oversight, but it's a problem that third parties are stepping up to solve.

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