It’s the battery life, stupid

I was impressed with the iPad’s battery life, which I found to be even longer than Apple’s ten-hour claim, and far longer than on my laptops or smart phones. For my battery test, I played movies, TV shows and other videos back-to-back until the iPad died. This stressed the device’s most power-hogging feature, its screen. The iPad lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes, about 15% more than Apple claimed. I was able to watch four feature-length movies, four TV episodes and a video of a 90-minute corporate presentation, before the battery died midway through an episode of “The Closer.”

Walt Mossberg, in his review.

Speaking of video: Apple asserts that the iPad runs 10 hours on a charge of its nonremovable battery — but we all know you can’t trust the manufacturer. And sure enough, in my own test, the iPad played movies continuously from 7:30 a.m. to 7:53 p.m. — more than 12 hours. That’s four times as long as a typical laptop or portable DVD player.

David Pogue, in his review.

I can’t believe that two other high profile reviewers didn’t even mention battery life. The iPad could dispense crisp bacon and protect you from alien attacks and it wouldn’t matter if its battery life sucked.

That’s essentially the one item which was open to doubt, although Apple’s record with battery life claims is pretty good (most of their unibody machines have outperformed their claims in reviews, although of course battery life tends to degrade over time — my first generation Macbook Pro’s battery life started at around 3h normal usage with new batteries, and is down to about 2:30 on this, its second).

I do wonder how long it will run Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars which can suck my iPhone 3G’s battery dry in nothing flat.

Claims that the iPad is more about consuming media than creating it need to be taken with a grain of salt — it hasn’t shipped yet! There’s good reason that for some creative applications (e.g. 3d sculpting) it may prove superb. And I foresee third-party cases with integral bluetooth keyboards.

Apparently my iPad is going through customs… Argh.

iPhone++ and DotMac++

So, it’s launch day redux. Of course I’m not buying one today (and don’t have the original). Of course I’ve been reading about it obsessively. Some reactions to the random stuff I’ve read…

MobileMe has been down since they flipped the switch. Except some folks say it’s up. Well golly gee, how to resolve this? I went to the website and signed up for a free trial. It seems pretty up to me. In a truly wonderful example of his evenhandedness, yesterday Paul Thurrott managed to compare the day or two of outages in the launch of me.com to the Windows Vista delay.

After playing with me.com for a few minutes, here are my impressions:

  • The calendar was incredibly slow and buggy.
  • Overall — if they can handle the load — this is the best web app experience ever. (Even better than 280slides.com.) Handling the load is obviously non-trivial, however.
  • Calendar app failed because of server issues (but the web app continued to work and be responsive, it just generated “could not save changes” error messages).
  • They do show progress on file uploads.
  • In general, they wrap file uploads (a sore point with web apps) better than I’ve seen it done anywhere — it feels much more desktop-app-like.
  • The mail app is very nicely done.
  • Flicker and Picasa allow you to email photos to a gallery, but setting it up in me.com is insanely easy. I emailed photos to a gallery while I had it open in my browser and it live updated.

I’m getting sick of “the new iPhone really costs $360 more than the old one” meme derived by adding $240 for the $10/month extra you pay for 3G (vs. EDGE) plus $240 extra you’d pay if you wanted to keep the same amount of free SMS messages as the old plan and … I dunno not being able to add. Let’s compare Apples to Apples. You’re getting far more bandwidth. EDGE is literally like dialup. 3G is literally like broadband… well, faster dialup anyway. And iPhone 2.0 supports AIM and similar third-party instant messaging options, so why use SMS at all? Finally, Apple’s new iPhone pricing is a much fairer comparison to competitors. Where were all the “it’s really $Math.random()*480 more” assholes when Apple was selling the iPhone for a total 2 year cost lower than Motorola’s “$99” Q?

Then there’s the Joy of Tech’s “an iPhone really costs you a million dollars” strip. I’d forgive it if it were actually funny. Eating costs a million dollars too. So does watching TV. Here — in no particular order — is what an iPhone (when I finally cave in and get one) will do for me:

  • I’d like to think I’ll give up carrying laptops around, but I probably won’t. (At least I can stop carrying my laptop to the toilet to read. I sure am glad Kevin Smith does this too — I thought I was the only one.)
  • When I’m in a store trying to decide whether to buy a game or book, I’ll actually be able to look up a review online. So many things I would never have purchased if I could have read reviews in the store.
  • If I can’t find a decent free front-end for Gutenberg.org’s library, I’ll write one and give it away.
  • It will replace my iPod. I don’t care if I can’t carry my entire music library around with me, because I won’t have to carry my iPod around with me.
  • It will replace my gazillion random notebooks that I’m always losing. My RAZR has a note-taking function somewhere — I don’t use it. The value of this is pretty much incalculable. (I was a Newton user and for a period of four years I have all my meeting notes on a Newton in searchable form. I don’t use the Newton but keep it around for its data.)
  • I will actually use it as an organizer and contact list.
  • I will actually be able to get Photos from it to my computer without paying my phone service provider.
  • I will actually use a custom ringtone because Apple doesn’t gouge you for them.
  • It will replace my Nintendo DS which I never use because the game selection for the DS is horrible. (Basically there’s nothing on the DS I consider worth playing except for old Final Fantasy games and (yawn) Mario. I think the average review rating for DS games on GameSpot is something like 5.5, and generally 9/10 from GameSpot == kind of OK.)
  • I actually want to develop iPhone apps. I have never had a desire to develop apps for any other cellphone. Heck, I’d like to develop an IDE that runs on an iPhone (a fascinating challenge).
  • It will stop me from pining for pocket calculators.
  • It may even stop me pining for an updated Newton. Nah.
  • It will allow me to stream internet radio. As a colleague at work pointed out, for $10/month (assuming you’re in a 3G coverage area, which I’m not) it replaces your $10/month XM/Sirius habit — if you have one. (We’ve got XM for free for 3 months with the new twinmobile, but we won’t be extending it since the UI for finding stations is so awful we can’t be bothered to use it.)

So, whatever the iPhone costs, it costs less than the stuff it obviously replaces (phone, iPod, portable DVD player, kindle, decent calculator, notepads, organizer, portable game, magazines, newspapers) and provides new capabilities and synergies I don’t currently have and haven’t even thought of (like being able to read websites while waiting in the checkout lane at a super market, or reviews while visiting GameStop). To put this in perspective — our current family phone plan through Verizon (three handsets) costs ~$100/month. Two iPhones plus a normal handset will cost us $120/month. Maybe a bit more if we go for more minutes.

Here’s a couple of really simple examples of how much this doesn’t suck:

  • My DS has a sucky browser (that I paid $30 for). It’s tragically bad. (The only reason I didn’t demand a refund is that I use it as a worst case scenario for testing website compatibility.) And it occupies BOTH slots in the Gameboy. DS games cost $20-40 and there’s a lousy selection in most stores. The iPhone already — as of launch day — has a better game selection than the DS, I can buy them on demand, they cost $3-10, and they don’t require me to carry a bunch of cartridges around.
  • The Kindle lets me view certain selected periodicals. (I’ve not bought one and never will.) It’s also big, ugly, and slow. If I want to read Penny-Arcade on it, I am SOL (even ignoring its monochrome display).
  • My iPod, cell phone, point-and-shoot camera*, and Nintendo DS — aside from being separate devices — all happen to have different charger bricks. Incidentally, the total cost of the preceding was $200 + $79 + $230 + $110 (+ $120 or so for games). If I owned a Kindle ($359) and a portable DVD player (~$100) they would have two more charger bricks. My Newton (which the iPhone will eventually replace) also has a charger brick. The iPhone hasn’t got the Kindle or DS’s battery life, but how much more likely am I to have a charger handy?

* Actually the one thing the iPhone definitely won’t replace is my point-and-shoot (7MP with 10x Leica zoom lens), but it will be a darn sight more useful than my RAZR’s camera (which I do use, but can’t get photos from). But iPhone + Nikon DSLR is less junk to carry around than my usual pile of junk without the Nikon.

Despite this starry-eyed view of the iPhone, I’m not rushing out to buy one, but my wife is ticked that all her grad students already have them… Social comparison > Logic!