Updated FAQ: What you need to know about the iPad

[This article was last updated April 2, 2010. For a more recent version, visit the wiki version of this article.]

When Apple first took the wraps off the iPad, we tried our best to answer all the questions that cropped up about this entirely new device. And, with the help of Steve Jobs’ iPad presentation and a little bit of hands-on time, we were able to give a pretty good overview of what to expect from the iPad.

But a lot can change in two months. More details about the iPad have come out. And we’ve managed to get our hands on an iPad all our own. So we’re able to go back and update our old iPad FAQ with the latest details about the device.

Pricing and availability

What’s the iPad going to cost?

Pricing depends on two factors: the amount of storage the iPad includes, and whether or not it has support for 3G networks. An iPad equipped only with Wi-Fi connectivity, available April 3, costs $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), or $699 (64GB). The Wi-Fi-plus-3G version, available later in April, will cost $130 more at each size—$629 (16GB), $729 (32GB), and $829 (64GB).

But if I wait and pay more for the 3G model, I get free 3G access, right?

No, the extra cost is ostensibly to cover the extra hardware required for 3G connectivity. Cellular data will cost extra.

How much extra will it cost?

Apple has struck a deal with AT&T that lets you pay either $15 a month for 250MB of data, or $30 a month for unlimited data. But unlike with the iPhone, a 3G plan isn’t mandatory, and there’s no contract involved—it’s pre-paid and on a month-to-month basis. So you could, say, activate 3G service for your iPad before your vacation and pay just for that month. The iPad will even let you set the plan to auto-cancel at the end of the month, so if you forget you won’t be charged any extra.

What about if I already have a data plan for my iPhone. Does that count?

Nope. Each device requires its own plan.

AT&T doesn’t have good 3G coverage where I live, work, and travel—will it work with Verizon or T-Mobile instead?

Not at the moment. Although the 3G-enabled iPad will ship unlocked—meaning it won’t be tied to a particular network—the device uses a GSM chip that’s incompatible with Verizon’s 3G network. T-Mobile is a GSM network, but its 3G data runs at 1700MHz; the iPhone’s 3G components support 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz GSM/EDGE, and 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz UMTS/HSDPA. Bottom line: the iPad won’t work on T-Mobile.

Beyond that limitation, the 3G-enabled iPad requires a micro-SIM card for mobile-network access; currently, AT&T is the only U.S. carrier using these cards. (Other international carriers also use mini-SIM cards).

If you want to use an iPad with another cellular network, your best bet is to just buy the Wi-Fi version and a Wi-Fi-based cellular modem, like the Novatel Wireless MiFi. You’ll have to pay for a plan, but you can use that wireless connection with your laptop, iPad, or any other Wi-Fi-capable device.

Are they any other differences between the Wi-Fi and 3G models?

Besides price, there are a few physical differences. The 3G models weigh an extra tenth of pound, and have a black antenna window that covers part of the top and stretches onto the back of the iPad. The 3G models also include GPS functionality.

So I can pick up an iPad on Saturday?

Assuming that you ordered one when Apple started taking pre-orders in March, then sure. Otherwise, you may have to wait a bit. As of this writing, Apple’s online store says that any iPad ordered right now will be delivered by April 12—that’s a lag of about 10 days. The bottom line: Don’t expect to queue up in front of an Apple Store on Saturday morning and walk away with an iPad, no matter what this week’s episode of Modern Family would have you believe.

That said, there are two options if you have the early-adopter itch but lack the in-store pick-up reservation. Apple only holds reservations until 3 p.m.; any unclaimed iPads are then made available for sale to the general public. So it’s possible you could pick one up that way. The iPad is also available at Best Buy, Apple Authorized Resellers, and campus bookstores, though those outlets will likely have a limited supply on hand.

Hardware and design

Apple Keyboard Dock (top) and Wireless Keyboard (bottom).
What if I don’t want to use the on-screen keyboard to type in long e-mails?

You have other options. Apple will sell the Keyboard Dock, a weighted iPad dock attached to a thin Apple keyboard. When using the external keyboard, the iPad’s onscreen keyboard disappears, letting your document fill the entire screen. The iPad also supports Bluetooth keyboards, so you can type without having to physically connect the iPad to a keyboard—though you will want to prop the iPad up somehow (with a dock or case or other stand) so you can actually see what you’re typing.

Will these keyboards support keyboard shortcuts?

Yes. The Keyboard Dock keyboard features several special keys, including one that locks the device. Bluetooth keyboards that offer media-control keys will control iPod playback on the iPad, and keys that adjust the volume up and down and display brightness up and down will work on the iPad as well. Many keyboard shortcuts familiar to Mac users will work, such as command-C for copying and command-V for pasting. The option key works its extended-character magic, so pressing option-u followed by u will generate the letter u with an umlaut. You can even hold down the shift key and use the arrow keys to select text. And app developers can add in support for their own keyboard shortcuts. In short, the keyboard support is more robust than you might have expected.

How easy is it to pair a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad?

Very easy. You open the Settings app and tap on General and then Blueooth. You keyboard should appear in there; when you tap to pair it, the iPad will ask you to enter in a few digits on the keyboard and press return. And that’s it. (Removing the pairing is similarly easy; you just tap on the device in the same Bluetooth window and the devices will unpair.)

How good is the on-screen keyboard?

This is a vital question, but we’re going to have to get back to you. It’s going to take us more time with the device before we can make a judgment on how on-screen typing feels. Stay tuned.

Does the iPad have a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver?

The 3G version does; the Wi-Fi version does not. The 3G-capable iPad uses the same Assisted GPS technology used in the iPhone 3G and 3GS. (Despite how it sounds, “Assisted GPS” is not a lesser form of GPS. “Assisted” means the device can use other cues—such as the location of nearby cellular towers or Wi-Fi networks—to speed up the initial GPS “fix” compared to using the GPS circuitry alone.) The Wi-Fi version uses the same Wi-Fi-based location finding system as the original iPhone. If it can spot some familiar Wi-Fi base stations, it can figure out where you are.

Does the iPad have a compass?

Yes it does! If you’re in Maps, you can double-tap the location button and the map view will orient itself to whatever direction you’re pointing the iPad.

How hot will the iPad get?

It’s still too early to tell; we’ll get back to you. It doesn’t seem particularly hot, though, in our initial use.

How comfortable does it feel in the hand?

This is going to vary from user to user. We need to spend more time with it ourselves. The iPad is most definitely heavier than an Amazon Kindle, and it’s unlikely you’d hold it in your hands for long periods of time—to watch a movie, for example. Beyond that, we just can’t say yet.

Can I use the iPad to present on an external display/projector?

Yes. Unlike the iPhone, which currently is limited to video-out from the iPod and YouTube apps, apps on the iPad can send video out via the same dock-connector-to-video adapters available for the iPhone. A good example of this is the Keynote app, which will let you present your slides on an external monitor if it’s hooked up. Your iPad then becomes a controller, so you can advance slides, jump around between slides, even hold your finger down and turn it into a faux laser pointer on the external screen. (Unfortunately, Keynote doesn’t currently support presenter notes, so you won’t see those.) Apps need to specifically support this feature, so we’ll have to see which iPad developers take up the challenge.

Does the iPad come with a pair of Apple headphones? And if I plug in a set of headphones with a built-in microphone, will the iPad support it?

Surprisingly, the iPad does not come with headphones! You’ll need to supply your own. But yes, if you plug in headphones with a built-in microphone, the iPad will sense it and use it as your sound input for apps that do audio recording. (If you don’t plug anything in, the iPad will use its tiny built-in microphone, located next to the headphone jack.)

How is the sound quality from the little speaker?

Color us impressed. The sound is loud and the quality decent. Don’t get us wrong: It’s still a fairly tiny speaker down at one end of the iPad, so it’s not going to wow audiophiles. But you could watch a movie on it, sans headphones, and have a pretty good time.

Short of connecting it to a computer and looking in iTunes, how do I know when the iPad is getting “full?”

Just open the Settings app, tap General, and tap About. The Available line will tell you how much space is left.

I know that the iPad has 802.11n, but will it connect to a 5GHz-only 802.11n network?

Yes.

Can you set different wallpapers for the home screen and the lock screen?

Yes, you can. You set both from the Settings app, by tapping on Brightness & Wallpaper. When you select a Wallpaper image, at the top you’ll see a toolbar with options for Set Lock Screen, Set Home Screen, and Set Both.

Can I use any Mac or AC adapter to charge the iPad?

Not quite. When we tried to plug the iPad into existing iPod or iPhone accessories, we discovered that some Macs and AC adapters we tried were able to charge the iPad; others caused the iPad to declare it was “Not Charging” despite it being connected and syncable. It turns out that the iPad has some very specific charging requirements. With the included 10-watt USB power adapter, it charges awake or asleep. On high-powered USB ports such as most recent Macs and the iPhone power adapter, it charges as well, though more slowly, according to Apple. On Macs and PCs without high-powered USB ports, the iPad will charge when it’s sleeping, but when it’s awake it will display that “Not Charging” message in the status bar at the top of the screen.

Will my iPhone accessories work with it—specifically the wall charger and headphones? I remember when the iPhone came out I had to buy an adapter for my iPod headphones to make them work on the iPhone.

Nothing hinky this time—your headphones will work, and the iPhone wall chargers should work as well. Plus, the iPad comes with its own charger (a USB cable and AC adapter).

Built-in Software

Does the iPad do multitasking?

The multitasking story is identical to the iPhone and iPod touch: Some built-in applications, most notably iPod, will run in the background. No third-party apps can do so.

Does the iPad support multiple users? In other words, is there a log-in system or does each person have to have their own iPad?

Like the iPhone, the iPad has no conception of different users being logged in. This means that the calendars, contacts, and e-mail accounts you link with the iPad are available for everyone who uses the iPad. You can add multiple accounts, but there’s no way to segregate them so you can see your accounts and your spouse can see his or hers.

Can you set a keycode lock? I was thinking of using this at the office and even at home I’d like to lock it.

Yes, as with the iPhone and iPod touch, you can set the iPad to lock with a four-digit code required to unlock it.

Is there any way to get files off of the device? Can I access the filesystem when it’s docked?

The iPad apps have access to a file-sharing area, which you can see when you attach the iPad to a Mac or PC via iTunes. In the Apps tab, there’s a File Sharing area with two interface areas, Apps and Documents, next to each other. Click on an app in the Apps area, and a list of its files will appear in the Documents area. You can drag compatible files into this area—for example, Pages and Word files when Pages is selected—and even drag them out of that area out onto your desktop. You can even rename the files right from within iTunes. It’s all a bit rudimentary, but it does seem to work. This system should allow app developers to ditch the desktop-uploader apps they’ve had to use up to now.

If I email you a Pages file and you open it, does the document get copied into Pages’ File Sharing space?

Not quite. If you tap and hold on the attachment in Mail, it’ll give you the option of viewing it in Quick Look or opening it in Pages. Once it’s open in Pages, the document lives in Pages’ “My Documents” view. From there, you can tap the Share icon to e-mail it somewhere else, share it via iWork.com, or export it into the File Sharing space. If you don’t export it, it won’t show up in the Documents area of iTunes.

Will the iPad stream video and audio podcasts from the iTunes store?

At a Glance
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