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The Verizon Wireless WiFi Apple iPad Review

by Todd LarsonNovember 28, 2010

You know I’m a bit of an elitist when it comes to tablets.  For one, I have access to just about every kind of electronic device on the planet because of my work.  For another, I have a propensity to think about Android devices as superior to anything else.  So when I had the opportunity to take a look at the Verizon Wireless WiFi Apple iPad I did so, but I was thinking “It’s an overgrown iPod touch; big deal”.

After about 20 minutes I had Cydia on the iPad.  Pretty cool.  5 minutes after that I had “Frash” installed, which is a hacked up version of Adobe Flash that will let you do just about anything on an iPad with the exception of playing some Flash Games.   So you can interact with Flash websites, watch flash video, etc… I was pretty excited that things went so easy with the installation and my inner geek was being fed a steady diet of nerd that my original thoughts about the iPad started to waver. One of the big draw backs to iPhone/iPod and iPad is the missing Flash capability.  Steve Jobs has a pretty convincing video addressing his reasons, and once you hear him and watch him deliver the message you understand where he is coming from.

To summarize he basically says that Flash allows developers to make apps for multiple devices at the same time (for instance android, pc, and apple devices).  While that sounds great, when Apple does their updates they regularly introduce new features.  Adobe doesn’t change their development platform until all the devices have those features so they only have to make changes to the code once.  Which means that anything developed on the flash platform would not take advantage of Apple’s advances as soon as they are available.  Steve Jobs says that Apple comes out with things before anyone else and that is why people buy their stuff.  There is no reason to buy their stuff if software isn’t taking advantage of the new features until all the devices have it.

Verizon Wireless WiFi iPad

Verizon Wireless WiFi iPad

The problem with Steve Jobs and his opinion is it’s not logical.   If the features were important developers would develop the new versions of their apps in Structured C anyway so they could gain more market share in that niche.  Most of the serious development teams code on many platforms and hopping back and forth isn’t the end of the world.  So bottom line is the small features *MIGHT* get overlooked by *SOME* developers but not by all of them; there are just too many developers and the competition is fierce.  The second problem with Steve Jobs and his opinion is it doesn’t matter.  It’s an inconvenience to the vast majority of his user base and severely limits their activity on a product they own.  This is costing him ALOT of money, and making a lot of his user base angry and frustrated.  So most of the people that I know with an iPad who don’t know how to “Jailbreak” their device and install “Frash” are telling people not to buy one it sucks.  Most of the people that I know that bought one didn’t even know you couldn’t look at flash until after they bought it.  So with Frash you can get through most of the issues, but it is still a half-baked solution that is flakey (and it is in beta).

AT&T seems to have the market cornered on the 3G version of the iPad so Verizon Wireless addresses this issue by bundling the iPad with their MiFi.  Now before you scoff at this keep a few things in mind…

  • There are plenty of apps that prevent you from doing things on 3G (you have to be on wireless).  With the MiFi solution you can use those apps.  
  • The MiFi is the size of a thick credit card.  It’s easy to tuck away somewhere and forget about while you are using it.  In addition you can hook up to 5 devices to it and since it runs on a power plug or battery you can literally take it with you anywhere.  I get 1.5 – 2.0 Mbits a second down and up to .7 Mbit.  This is not advertised speed this is what I have actually seen through real usage. This is better than most DSL connections!  It’s great on the train, you can use it in the office so you aren’t being firewalled out of places you want to go (like IM’s, or File-sharing for instance).
  • AT&T service for me has been terrible.  I don’t use it because calls get dropped all the time, their customer service is awful, their plans are expensive and they are constantly hounding you to buy more stuff through e-mails or phone calls. 

The more I use the Verizon Wireless Apple iPad the more I love it.  Most of the time I’m at the house when I use it and since it has the fast Wireless-N feature I can hook into my “Fast” wireless (I actually have two separate wireless networks for my older devices and the iPad will connect to both N and A/B/G so there is no problem with connectivity).   So let’s go over some of the cool things you can do with the iPad.

Jailbreak:

You can “Jailbreak” your iPad and install an application called Cydia on it which will in turn allow you to install “Frash” the Adobe Flash clone.  This will let you interact with Flash enabled websites, Flash Video and some small Flash Games (not a lot of them, and only a few Facebook games).

iBooks:

This is one of the finest offerings from Apple and they have been kind enough to offer it free from the Apple iStore.  The iBooks application is not only BEAUTIFUL as you would expect from Apple, it has been designed with the idea that an eBook should act, look and feel just like a real book and it comes closer to that then any other application or eBook that I’ve seen.  So I would without a doubt call this a complete eBook replacement.  This means if you are an avid eBook reader you can subtract $200 from the price tag of this unit because you no longer have to buy an eBook Reader (Saving you the $200, it is almost like getting an instant rebate!). 

It gets better.  iBooks is not designed to be hard to use, or hard to get your existing eBooks on to.  You can simply use Calibur (a free application available for both Mac and PC) and convert any of the eBooks you already have into epub format and then simply drag them into iTunes and Sync your iPad.  It’s that simple and Calibur will convert large batches of eBooks so you don’t have to do this chore 1000 times to get them all converted over.  It is really very useful and I applaud Apple for making this easy.

Interacting with the reader is terrific.  When you  open it up you have a Library mode which shows you a book shelf with your books sitting in it.  You can scroll through them and select a book to read.  Then you have Store mode which brings you to the Apple Book Store where you can purchase new books which will bring them down into your iBooks Application.   When you select a book to read it opens the book and if you turn the iPad sideways it will show the image of a book opened with two pages.  You can turn the page by tapping on the right or left side of the book, or you can drag your finger like you would on a real book.  When you drag your finger the page peels up and you can turn the page, the graphic is absolutely real looking and the text on the other side of the page shows as it peels (and it is the real text of that page not just a dummy image made up to look good).

As I said… this is absolutely the best eBook reader on the market as of the publishing of this article.

RDP:

If you need to remote desktop into your main Windows computer or Mac/Linux computer you can do so.  There are plenty of Remote Desktop applications that provide the ability to do all of them.  In addition most have virtual keyboards and mouse functionality that allow you to completely control your computer remotely.  This is incredibly handy if you are like me and need to access files from your computer from anywhere in your house or anywhere you have your MiFi!

NETFLIX:

Wow, and YES!  Netflix has an Ipad app that is absolutely wonderful. You can watch movies, browse dvd’s, add selections to your real queue or your instant queue and much more. 

Playon:

You can go to Playon.tv and purchase Playon from The Media Mall.  This application is $30.  You install it on your PC and then download the free Playon Application for your iPad.  Once you are finished you will be able to watch anything on Hulu, Netflix, CBS, Comedy Central, TV.COM, TBS, Spike TV, ESPN, ESPN 3, NFL Game Rewind, MLB, NHL, The Ultimate Fighter, CNN, Fox News, PBS, PBS Kids, Nick, Amazon VOD, You Tube, MTV, BET, Vevo, Pandora, Food Network, History Channel, ScripTV, Open Film and more.

Another important thing about the Playon service is you can share out the movies you have on your media share and watch all the movies you have converted from DVD or downloaded (to save yourself the time of converting them).  This is streaming, not downloading so it takes up no space on your iPad and if you forward your ports you can watch all this television and movie content anywhere you have a MiFi 3G connection or Wireless Internet Access. 

This is VERY worth while.

In Closing:

There are a number of really nice applications you can use to make your life easier and I plan on maintaining a list of applications that I find absolutely necessary to have.  I find that as applications get updates they tend to become useful and useless depending on their updates, and bugs/issues so I’ll add and REMOVE applications that are useful making sure to note why I’m removing one and what problem it is causing.  (Some applications get memory leaks or have other bugs that interfere with the operation of your iPad).

I have to say that after using the Verizon Wireless WiFi iPad I have completely changed my mind about non-android devices.  I find the WiFi iPad to be one of the most useful devices in my possession and will definitely miss it when I send it back to Verizon!

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