I am one of the few hundred thousand people that pre-ordered an iPad several weeks before its release. I pre-ordered the unit with 3G service and it arrived on the last day of April. Before it arrived, Apple had been shipping me all of the accessories that I pre-ordered. Thank goodness the iPad 3G is nothing like the accessories or I would have been in for a huge disappointment.
Let me start with a docking station. It is about the same width as an iPhone, only supports the unit from the center and does not work with the Apple approved protective case. On the rear it has two cable connections: one for an audio line out and the other for a native Apple connector. There is no separate connector for a power cord; USB or otherwise. While you might think this is not unusual since the standard connector has a USB connection that will charge the unit, the VGA cable accessory has no power input. Nor, can you connect multiple Apple connectors into the unit at the same time. So when the docking station is used, with an external VGA monitor, you cannot charge the unit at the same time. So what is the point of the docking station? I will be forced to switch cables between USB and VGA just to charge the unit and have an external display and need to remove the protective sleeve in order to dock. Granted the battery life is actually better than the estimated 10 hours publicized, but that means on a full days use, I will be cycling the connectors twice in the morning and evening.
In addition, if I choose to use the iPad to watch movies using the VGA HD output, I cannot charge it at the same time. And by the way, the best app killer for the iPad – Netflix does not support video out. The whole point of a docking station is to allow multiple inputs to the device at the same time while providing power. Just like missing copy, cut, and paste from the iPhone for over a year, Apple has missed the boat on providing basics for their highly touted devices; this time providing power and accessories for usability.
So, in my quest to solve these problems, I turned to eBay. Since Apple has made their connector proprietary and changed the microchips in the 3G devices, many of the third-party devices and cables I was looking for are not compatible anymore. I really do like my iPad, but Apple designers need to give in a little. To that end, I recommend to any hardware developer the following:
1. Allow the device to receive external power regardless of the accessory; especially if something is marketed as the “Docking Station”.
2. Provide more than one connector for accessories; if not, follow standards like USB to all the connections to a PC to be standard and not use proprietary features to block out third-party vendors.
3. If you build an accessory, make it sturdy and fit the unit correctly. Making it look cool verses functional is just not acceptable (Apple add a fixed weight inside the iPad Dock to keep in stable since it is so small.)
The iPad 3G, is an incredible device and has use cases popping up every day for new applications. I am thoroughly impressed with the unit and found it is changing the way I surf the web, get email, and have overall entertainment. It definitely is a great tool for early adopters. However, based on the accessories, it feels more like the Apple Newton and needs to be set free and allow open connectivity for its true potential to be realized.