iPad 4: Lightning Connector
The other area where the iPad’s design comes up short is in features. While competitors have added: memory card slots for either expanding the tablets storage or simply looking at photos straight from your camera; HDMI ports for connecting your tablet straight to a TV; USB ports for attaching peripherals; and even sophisticated pen input for accurate drawing and note taking, the iPad remains very simple. On the top is the headphone jack, along with the power button, down the right edge are the volume and mute controls, on the front and back are the cameras and on the bottom is the new Lightning connector, and that’s it.
You can convert the Lightning port to be a USB port, a memory card reader or a video output but then you’ll need to buy all the accessories to do so, which if you pay Apple prices are ridiculously expensive – £39 for an HDMI adapter!? Likewise there are some great cases that add useful functionality but they can be quite pricey, with top keyboard cases costing well over £50 (and they don’t add battery life like on the Asus Transformer range).
As to the Lightning connector itself, it’s a marked improvement over the previous connector type, being much smaller and reversible so you can plug it in either way round. However, it doesn’t actually transfer files any quicker, unlike USB 3.0 for instance, and it does mean you’ll have to buy adapters for all your old cables and docks.
We would also complain that Lightning is a proprietary connector, rather than an industry standard one like microUSB but actually things are a bit different in the world of tablets. Apple’s proprietary stance is very annoying when it comes to phones because every other phone manufacturer uses microUSB for both charging and connecting to a computer. But for larger tablets, the higher power requirements have meant that most of them require non-standard charging cables of some description anyway. Given this, Apple’s single connector for all its mobile devices is actually something of a bonus.
iPad 4: 3G and Storage
Another area where the iPad trumps many is that it’s offered with 3G/4G connectivity for wirelessly browsing while out and about. Many other devices support this but the 3G versions can often be difficult to get hold of, with them either not supported or sold in any given country. Here the SIM is of the microSIM type as used on the iPad 3 and iPhone 4/4S, rather than the nanoSIM of the iPhone 5, so that’s one less thing to worry about if you’re upgrading (though equally it means you can’t swap your SIM from phone to tablet if you’ve an iPhone 5 and iPad 4 – ho hum).
Something you may find keeping you up at night, though, are the prices of the higher capacity versions of the iPad 4. With no ability to add extra storage through a microSD card, you have to pay up front for as much storage as you think you’ll need. The entry level models with 16GB are very reasonably priced but paying £80 more for 32GB and another £80 more for 64GB is extortionate.
Admitedly, most people will probably find that 16GB is plenty enough, considering your iPad is unlikely to be your primary music player in particular. However, when some iPad games are already pushing 1.5GB in size, it won’t take long for you to have to start removing apps, games, music and videos to make room for more.
So, all told Apple hasn’t reinvented the tablet with the iPad 4 so those of you that haven’t been convinced before will have little reason to suddenly be converted. Plus, we really would’ve liked to see the weight come down a little. But, if you know and love the iPad design, then it’s business as usual here.
But what of that new processor…