Five things the iPad needs to be complete

The iPad is a very capable device, but here are five features I wish it had.

I pre-ordered the Apple iPad, so it has been a month now--or near enough--that I have had my 32 GB WI-Fi iPad. I have had ample opportunity to try it out in different scenarios and form a reasonable opinion about both its capabilities and its inadequacies.

I love the iPad. It is my default mobile platform. It is lighter, thinner, smaller, and faster (for at least some tasks) than my notebook, yet still allows me to do virtually everything I might need to do while on the go.

It's not perfect, though. Here are five things that I feel the iPad needs to be complete and to truly enable me to be productive anywhere and anytime.

1. File Management. The iPad--whether you choose the 16Gb, 32Gb, or 64Gb model--has a finite amount of memory to work with. There is no way to upgrade or expand the storage capacity of the device, so it makes sense that you don't really want to store files on the iPad. Storing data on the device itself also makes it a greater risk should it be lost or stolen.

Fair enough. It's a mobile platform in a cloud-driven world and I can store my files on Box.net, or iWork.com, or Google Docs, or a Windows Live SkyDrive, etc. There are plenty of free or low-cost options for storing data on the Internet.

However, the iPad doesn't even make accessing those files simple or intuitive. I can view a file in Box.net, but in order to work with it in Pages or Numbers I have to e-mail it to myself, open the file attachment, then tap the button at the top right of the display to open the file in the appropriate app.

What a convoluted pain from a company that prides itself on an intuitive interface and exceptional user experience. Not storing data on the iPad itself makes sense, but let's figure out how to streamline access to cloud-based files.

2. Embedded Links. This may not come up on a regular basis for other users, but one of the most glaring deficiencies of the iPad--or more specifically of the iWork for iPad Pages app--for me is the inability to add or embed URL's in a document. I use the iPad to write articles such as this one (although not this particular one) when I am away from my home office, but adding links to other articles and resources is less than intuitive as well.

What I do is insert asterisks to note where I would like to link the text or embed a URL, then e-mail the file in Word format to myself so I can open it in Microsoft Word once I return to my desk, add the necessary links, and post it online.

If I am not returning to my desk, I suppose I could connect from the iPad using the VPN capabilities, upload the content, and add the links from within the article publishing tool at PCWorld, but embedding links is not exactly a cutting edge feature and ought to be expected within apps like Pages and Numbers.

3. Camera. I admit that it would look a tad silly to be holding up the iPad and shooting photos. Most people don't carry around cameras the size of a magazine. And, as portable as the iPad is, I still don't leave home without my iPhone--which does have a camera. So, it's not imperative per se.

That said, it also seems sort of like a no-brainer. I think many were shocked that it wasn't included in the first edition iPad and fully expect there to be a camera--or dual front and back cameras--in the next iteration of the iPad. It would be useful to be able to record video messages, or to participate in video conferencing via Skype or other tools using the iPad.

4. USB. This point sort of fits with the first one about file management. The cloud is available anywhere the iPad can connect to it, so it works fine for storing data in most cases. However, there are many situations that arise where a peer or customer would like to share data and the most convenient and appropriate means of doing so is via a USB thumb drive.

The iPad should have a USB port, and it should provide a mechanism to be able to view the contents of a thumb drive, open files in the appropriate app, or transfer them--either to be stored locally on the iPad, or at least to allow me to move them from the USB thumb drive to my cloud-based storage solution.

5. Multitasking. Despite persistent claims from vendors and fans of competing smartphone platforms to the contrary, I have presented a case for why I feel that multitasking is not necessary for the iPhone. The screen is too small to display two apps at a time anyway, so the tradeoff in battery life and security issues seems like a losing bet.

The iPad uses the same OS, though, and the iPad can benefit from multitasking. Many apps are written to at least retain their state--so if I switch away to use another app and come back to it I can pick up where I left off. That is at least close to multitasking. But, I want to be able to be engaged listening to a Webex presentation, and switch away to instant message with a peer, check my calendar, or shoot off a quick e-mail without shutting down the presentation.

The only other thing that I have missed on multiple occasions is the 3G access. I bought the Wi-Fi model of the iPad, and I have recommended that most people save the additional $130 and stick with the Wi-Fi model. Every McDonald's has free Wi-Fi access, as do many other restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, campuses, and public areas.  

However, my daughter's gymnastics gym and dance school don't have Wi-Fi access available, and I have found myself wishing I had Internet access while sitting idly for an hour. I maintain that the Wi-Fi model is more than adequate for most users, but roaming business professionals will definitely want to at least have the option of enabling 3G if necessary.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)

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