Walt Mossberg and the case of the iPad 2 Drawbacks

11 March, 2011 07:27PM · 4 minute read

A day ago Walt Mossberg published his iPad 2 review. Whilst I don’t normally comment on other peoples product reviews something about his really stood out to me as being over the top. The section dedicated to iPad 2 Drawbacks. Here’s the review but below are the choice excerpts and my responses to them.

Mossberg: “The iPad 2 does have some drawbacks. Its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won’t even reveal their megapixel ratings. The company says they were designed for video, not still photography. They did capture decent video in my tests, including high-definition video from the rear camera and video good enough from the front camera for satisfying video calling. But, for a company known for quality, which bundles a new still-photo app with the device, the cameras are disappointing.”

A quick scan of Apples websites shows no specification for the still photo size on the iPad 2 whereas both the iPhone and the iPod touch have sizes shown. Walt is correct on this point but a better question is how is this a drawback? Apple aren’t publishing the specs because it’s not meant to be a camera for photography. Most consumers don’t compare the pixel count unless it’s a camera or a product that is increasingly being used as a camera such as mobile phone. A tablet is neither. It is not a camera. This is not a drawback.

Mossberg: “Also, the battery life, while very good, isn’t as strong as I found it to be on the first iPad. In my tough battery test, where I played full-length movies until the battery died, with the screen brightness at about 75% and both Wi-Fi and cellular radios running, the iPad 2 just barely exceeded Apple’s claimed battery life, dying after 10 hours and nine minutes. That’s 2.5 hours better than the Xoom did on the same test, but more than an hour less than I got from the original iPad, which clocked in at 11 hours, 28 minutes.”

Apple quotes 10hrs and you get more than that by 1.5% and it’s a drawback? Motorola claim up to 10 hours for video playback on their Xoom tablet and Walt’s identical test on the Xoom gets 2.5 hrs less than the quoted amount. This is a selling point of the iPad 2, not a drawback. Editorial required?

Mossberg: “Despite being slimmer and lighter, the iPad 2 still has roughly the same length and width as the original, so it can’t compete with the Amazon Kindle, or the smaller seven-inch tablets, if you’re trying to juggle it while standing in a crowded subway.”

That’s like saying my MacBook Pro doesn’t compete with my MacBook Air because it’s too thick. Classic Apples and oranges or in this case Apples and Amazons. If you are going to compare it as an ereader then do that. Most people that buy an iPad don’t buy it just to be an ereader and so long as the iPad sports a backlit screen it will NEVER be better than an eInk based product designed specifically for reading. It will always be heavier than an ereader and it will always be bigger than an ereader. This is because it is a tablet, and NOT AN EREADER.

Mossberg: “The other omission has to do with cellular data. The iPad 2 can’t use, or be upgraded to use, the new, faster 4G cellular-data networks being rolled out. Apple says this is because the chips needed to do this are too immature, draining battery life. But the Xoom promises to be upgradeable to 4G later this year, though I have no idea how that upgrade might affect its battery life or monthly fees.”

There are currently no 4G tablets for sale. There are only a scant number of mobile phones that support 4G. As a technology 4G infrastructure is still not fully rolled out around the world. When 4G becomes the standard it’s fair to call it a drawback.

I suppose my bigger problem with his review is more about the framing of his “drawbacks” of which none of them really are drawbacks for the vast majority of users. A lot of people read Walts posts and I only hope that the uninformed don’t misunderstand the core of what Walt is saying throughout the rest of his review: “…I can comfortably recommend it (the iPad 2) as the best tablet for average consumers.”

This is all that counts.