In regard to play time, the iPad is a wonder. In our lab tests we were able to play video continuously (with Wi-Fi enabled) for 11 hours and 25 minutes. An iPod touch lasted just 4 hours and 53 minutes performing this same chore (also with Wi-Fi on). As we post this, I still can’t provide you with uninterrupted audio play times because the iPad simply won’t die. It’s been playing 3- to 5-minute 128-kbps AAC files for 43 and a half hours and the iPad tells me that it still has 71 percent of its charge remaining.
The iTunes Store
The iTunes Store on the iPad is more like the iTunes version than the more-limited iPhone and iPod touch version. Tap iTunes and you’ll see a representation of the Store complete with large banners highlighting new releases and items of interest. Along the bottom of the display you find buttons that lead you to the major areas of the Store—Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcast, Audiobooks, and iTunes U. A final icon—Downloads—lets you view the progress of items you’re downloading to the iPad. The Music, Movies, and TV Shows pages include a Genres button that, when tapped, produces a pop-over menu you can use to choose a genre of your liking. Do so and you’re taken to a page devoted to that genre. The Podcasts and Audiobooks pages carry a Categories button that serves a similar purpose.
Select Music, Movies, or TV Shows and three buttons appear at the top of the display—Featured, Top Charts, and Genius. (Genius uses the information you’ve sent to Apple from iTunes to make media recommendations based on the content of your iTunes library. You must be signed in with your iTunes account for this to work.) Tap Podcasts, Audiobooks, or iTunes U and you can choose between Featured and Top Charts. When you select a specific item—a movie, album, or TV show, for example—a pop-up window swings into view. Here you can see information about the item (title, genre, rating, length, summary, and cost, for instance), browse user reviews, view previews, and purchase the item. The window also includes a Tell A Friend link that, when tapped, produces an e-mail message promoting the item. Just fill in an address and tap Send. You’ll also find links to artist pages when browsing the Music area. At the bottom of each screen is a Quick Links section you use to move to different areas of the Store—the HD movies section or Free On iTunes, for example.
On an iPhone or iPod touch you can purchase HD content, but the high-definition version of that content won’t download to these devices. Instead you’ll download a standard definition version and the HD version will download to your computer when you next access the Store from your Mac or Windows PC. The iPad, on the other hand, can download HD content directly from the Store—no iTunes necessary.
The iTunes Store on the iPad is far more complete than what you have access to on your iPhone or iPod touch, but it’s not as complete as the Store within iTunes on your computer. For example, although you can redeem iTunes gift cards on the iPad, you can’t purchase them or manage allowances. And while there’s a basic search field, there’s no Power Search.
A happy hybrid
Like much of the iPad’s interface, its media functionality is an amalgam of features found on the iPhone and the Mac. While the iPad doesn’t offer enough screen space to accommodate a full-blown version of iTunes, that’s not a bad thing. iTunes has become more feature-packed with each iteration and slimming it down while maintaing the bulk of its functionality in an attractive package is welcome. (So welcome, in fact, that I hope the next iteration of iTunes for the computer takes a hint from the iPad version and trims some of the fat.) At the same time, with that extra space provided by the iPad’s larger screen, there’s more breathing room for necessary iPod and iTunes Store features that are understandably cramped on the iPhone and iPod touch.
There are places where Apple could tighten things up a bit. Having a Brightness control in the Videos app is a no-brainer and Cover Flow could be very nice on this device. But overall, the iPod and Videos implementation is as slick as the iPad itself.