The iPad is a multi-use mobile device that combines several features of data-enabled cell phones with some of the versatility of a laptop computer. The iPad cannot do everything these other two devices can do, so deciding whether an iPad is right for you is a very personal decision. Once you understand the iPad's features and limitations, the best way to get a sense of the device is to try one out for yourself at an in-store display, where an employee can answer your questions.
The iPad works with iTunes on your Mac or Windows computer so you can transfer movies, music, photos and podcasts onto your iPad with ease. You can also download these items directly to your iPad or add third-party apps for other video and music services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora radio. The iPad also comes with a YouTube app for watching videos on YouTube in an iPad-compatible format. However, video compatibility is limited, so you may need additional apps for some movie formats, and the iPad does not support Flash video, which can interfere with viewing some websites. Several e-book readers are available for the iPad, including iBooks, Kindle and Nook, so you can access your library on the go, and even add bookmarks, highlighting and notes. iPads also offer a wide array of free and low-cost games to keep all ages entertained.
An iPad can handle many document formats, so mobile computing with a lightweight tablet is possible for many student and business users. Your existing e-mail accounts can run through the iPad's e-mail app, and a basic text editor called "Notes" is included to get you started with writing down your notes using the built-in virtual keyboard. Most business and student iPad users will need to explore additional applications to make their iPads useful, but there are plenty of apps that let you view, edit and create documents in common formats like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Other apps let you read and annotate PDFs. Special note-taking apps allow you to combine handwriting, drawing, images, Web clips and even audio recordings for your projects, meetings or classes. For the things the iPad cannot do, such as play Flash video or access the full features of PC-specific programs, the iPad can become a remote access point for your computer using a remote desktop or virtual private network app, allowing you to control your computer completely through your iPad.
The iPad's virtual keyboard is difficult for many people to use for long periods of time. Some people also miss the feel of a mouse, especially if using a remote desktop application to control a computer. The iPad can handle Bluetooth connections for an external keyboard, trackpad or mouse, as well as other low-power Bluetooth devices. Apple also offers a keyboard dock that sets your iPad up in a more laptop-like format. With additional accessories, you can connect your camera directly to the iPad to download photos or connect the iPad to an HDMI connector so you can view movies on your TV. Other accessories allow you to connect wirelessly to your TV through a system called Apple TV so you can have full-screen HD viewing for movies and photos.
The iPad's abilities are only limited by the applications available for the tablet, and new apps are added to the store daily. Most general-use apps range from free to £3.20 at time of publication, while business productivity apps are often slightly higher, and industry-specific apps may run hundreds of dollars, much like computer software. If you want to find out if the iPad can handle a specific task before you buy one, visit the App Store and enter a keyword relating to the task in the app search box. Read the specifics on each app until you find one that can handle the job, or try other key words. You may not find the exact software you use on your home or office computer, but chances are good that you'll find something compatible for the iPad.
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