Let’s cut to the chase here – I like the iPad 3G (a lot) and it works well on NZ mobile networks (especially XT).  There are however a few things to bear in mind, and this applies to when you order a US based iPad (or one from another country).

  1. For now, you will need to trim a sim card to use the 3G part (WiFi work rights out of the box)
  2. You need a US based iTunes account to use the App store (since the iPad isn’t in NZ yet, there is no NZ store)
  3. Everyone will want to play with your new toy!

Lets deal with this in three parts:

  • Part 1: More details for each of the three points above
  • Part 2: A full review of the iPad 3G in New Zealand
  • Part 3: HOW you get an iPad into NZ (as Apple wont deliver outside of the country you order it from – and only the US have them for sale as of today)

Warning: This is a large post! :-)

Update 16th Sept 2010: My review of the iPad four months on

PART 1: HOW TO GET IT WORKING

1) Trimming a sim card

iPads use smaller sim cards (called micro sim cards).   This means until Telecom (XT) or Vodafone provide the micro-sim (which Telecom have already announced they will) in NZ, we are stick with cutting an existing sim to fit.

This covered REALLY well by the guys at iphonewzeland (one of my fav daily reads on the iPhone/IPad in NZ) in their iPad/Micro-Sim post here.

I would also add the following comments (having just completed the “sim trim” yesterday):

  1. Get some dud sim cards to practice on.  I am sure if you ask nicely (like I did) the people at Leading Edge (a Telecom retailer) will provide you with some dud/faulty sim cards that you can practice on before doing it on the real thing.
  2. Its MUCH easier to do it using the AT&T sim card that comes in all US based iPads as the template.
  3. Use a pen knife to score the card before you cut.
  4. You can always cut more later, you cant cut less
  5. You can still put a dead sim card in the iPad and it will show networks when you select “Carrier” under “Settings”.  This means you have cut the card correctly (even though it wont connect if its a dead card).

Oh, and it goes without saying – USE XT - it is just better for the iPad and the iPhone.  If you don’t know why this is the case – Google it or read some forums on XT vs Vodafone (or simply read my earlier posts on speed comparisons of XT vs Vodafone on the iPhone or points why the iPad is suited more to XT)

Lets also be very clear here – iPads are NOT locked to any network.  They will work on any network that has the right frequencies, and you have a sim card that fits (or you can trim to fit) with a data plan.  In NZ that’s Vodafone, XT (the best) and 2 Degrees.

2) You need a US based iTunes account (to use App store)

UPDATE July 2010: You can now do this with an NZ based account, so this isnt 100% needed.  My prefererece is still to have a US AND an NZ based iTunes account, coz that way I can have the best of both worlds, and even as of today the NZ based store has fewer apps and books that the US one.

To set up a US account: This used to be impossible without a US based credit card.  But there is a way.  Full details of how to set up a US based iTunes account WITHOUT ANY credit card are here.

Once you have this you can download any free Apps available from the US iTunes store.

But this still means you can’t BUY any Apps, or indeed any iBooks.   The best way to get credit on your account is get a mate in the US to buy you an iTunes gift card and email or text you the # (you type this into ITunes to redeem it). Another option, which may be easier for some but costs a few $, is use one of the online services that basically do the above but charge you a service fee. Normally takes less than 24 hours and cots around $US 65 for a $US 50 iTunes card.  You can also buy us based “pre-pay visa cards” from the US (like pre-pay gift cards) except you can use them to buy anything online) and they are regarded as “US based” (so handy for a few things).  Once again you would need a fried in the states to get one for you, or pick one up when you are over there (remember everyone knows at least one international flight crew don’t they?)  Only downside is that you can’t top these up (unlike Debit-Visa).  Once again you can even buy these online (with a regular non US credit card) but all those I could find charge a large premium (like $160+ for a $100 card).

I have tried all confrontations of using an NZ based credit card in a US iTunes account, a Debit Visa Card based in NZ, and none of them worked (it warned me I needed a US based credit card).  I even tried using PayPal to add credit, but once again even if I told PayPal I was in the US, iTunes looked for a US based credit card, and found none, so gave me a warning.

One thing to bear in mind here is that when you buy an App with a US based account, you need to be connected to that account to update it.  If you have an NZ based iTunes account (so you can buy NZ based applications – remember not all applications are available in every country).  So you will need to swap the “store” settings on your iPad from time to time to do updates.  For now you cant update ANY applications that you may have purchased on your iPhone from the NZ iTunes store and transferred across on your iPad because there is no “NZ based iPad Store” yet.  You can of course update them on your iTunes (when logged in to your NZ account) and then transfer them over.  But in time this wont be an issue since there will be a NZ store.

You will ALWAYS have to swap between the US and NZ store when you do updates of respective applications or if you want to buy a US only application (say for example the USA today application – which I think is unlikely to be available in NZ ever).

3) People will want to play with your iPad

Enough said here.  Let them, don’t let them – it’s up to you.  I like showing it to people who DON’T like them and within 10 minutes they want one (just make sure you have at least one proper iPad App on there, and maybe a book so you can show off its full potential).

PART TWO: THE REVIEW

The Black and White version: It ROCKS!

As I have pointed out before if you reaction is “Yes, but it doesn’t do  …{insert something it doesn’t do or have, like a camera, or USB connectivity, or make coffee}” then you miss the point.  I cover this in a lot more detail in my pre-review of the iPad.

When opening the box there were two observations: Wow the box is small, and secondly it was slightly smaller and a tad heavier than I thought it would be.  Both these are not negatives, but observations – I actually like the weight.

Set up

Is very easy.  Out of the box it works (there was like 80% charge) and I SOOO wanted to play with it straight away.   But I did the right thing and backed up my iPhone 1st, and then restored this to my Ipad (this is provided as an option as soon as you plug it in and fire up iTunes).  This means all my downloaded Apps were transferred over.  It also gives the option to transfer all your iTunes music library and photos if you want it.

Using it

The thing that is VERY apparent is that the screen is VERY high quality, and of excellent resolution. It does get full of finger prints – but hey it’s a touch screen.  Would have been handy if they provided a nice soft cloth like they do with new iMacs, but I guess as a portable device the issue is would you carry it with you?  Almost all apps from the iPhone work on it (I couldn’t find any of mine that didn’t).   Those that have no iPad optimisation (ie are not designed for the larger screen etc) give a “2x” option in the bottom right cnr of the screen.  By default the app will just show as iPhone size, taking up 1/3 or so of the screen, pressing “2x” expands it to fill the screen.  Note this is a digital zoom, so sometimes images look a tad grainy here.

One thing I did note is that the number of apps that come with the device by default is LOTS less than the iPhone.  No weather, no clock etc.  Not a major since there are many great apps out there that do this (the Weather HD for 99c US is a must buy in my view, and it shows off the iPad nicely too!).  Note any App with “HD” means it’s high definition, so uses the full resolution of the iPad.  Apps at the app store also show if they are “iPad only” or iPad/iPhone apps, but not all iPad apps are HD.

Also you need to download Apple’s iBook reader.  It’s free (and of course needs a US based iTunes account for now).  This also means you can download any US based book released – which could well be more than they release in other countries (another reason to set up a US based iTunes account and put some credit on it,even if you buy your iPad in NZ when it finally gets here).

For anyone reading this you might be disappointed when I say “go experience one and you will understand” as me saying “its great .. it works well .. its fun, it looks pretty” are all just words.  Its like test driving a car, or indeed trying on jeans – it’s not until you feel, touch and experience it for yourself that you can make the call.  Me raving on about what it does I don’t think helps a lot.  I can say it looks AWESOME, and the native apps like Mail and Calendar really use the new screen real estate well.   iBooks looks very usable too (I bought a book I want to read to test it out) – but I will know once I have used it on a 5 hour flight I guess!  I like it – but YOU should go and try it!

I can say the user expedience and user interface is spot on.  It just works (like so much from Apple) and works without a manual (yep, there isn’t one – but you can download a free iBook version if you insist).  This is where Apple excel.  Remember iPods were never (and still aren’t) the most feature rich MP3 player, but what they do, they do VERY well.  The iPad does a lot VERY well.  It is VERY fun to play with, it’s NICE to look at, and it WORKS extremal well on the stuff it does.   In my case it also does what no other device (at present) can do for me – a full size, portable, instant on, internet ready, email/web/media device with a full days charge/use in around 1kg.

I can say I travel a lot, often for 1-2 days away.  this will be VERY handy for me.  No laptop with USB modem/stick to dial up to check emails (yes I can do this on my iPhone, but replying anything more than “yes” or “no” can be frustrating).  So for me, this just works well, and I will find good use for it.  But not everyone is me, and not everyone will use it like me.  So go on .. try it, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Battery Life

Battery life ROCKS!  Anyone with an iPhone (or for that matter any internet ready mobile phone) knows that using WiFi and/or 3G data on the internet for applications drains the battery SUPER quick.  You can easily drain an iPhone battery in under 3 hours using the net and one application that’s data intensive.   The iPad by comparison lasts for AGES.  10+ hours in reviews using WiFi and that’s with LOAD all the time! (or 9 hours using 3G).    I have used mine for a day now, and couldn’t get below 40% even using it on and off all day.   Its gonna be SUPER handy for those long flights when I have no charger.

I did note is charges very very slowly (compared to an iPhone at least).

Size

The size of it is about right.  Although I would say I am glad they put the orientations lock button on this as it appears to swap between the two orientations (landscape/portrait) a bit when holding it in one hand – although maybe that’s just me and I will get used to it.

The larger screen makes looking at web pages VERY computer like.  Except one can still pinch zoom where needed.  Applications like FaceBook are actually far easier to use from the FaceBook web page on an iPad.  One thing to note the screen is not 16:9, so movies will still have a black bar top and bottom.

Other stuff

One thing I didn’t count on was that when I first picked up my iPhone after using the iPad is that it felt (and looked) VERY small. The screen was tiny!

What I don’t like

Ummm …. well anything would be around “It doesn’t do so and so” and as already pointed out one doesn’t buy something for what it doesn’t do.   I would say its FAR more obvious the lack of multi tasking on the iPad that the iPhone, and that applications must always use the whole screen (even if 2/3 of it is black for now).  I think the whole “US account” thing sucks, as doesn’t indeed a whole lot of things around iPhones and how Apple locks them to networks in one country but not others.  When I buy a product it should be up to ME as to who I use it with, and if THAT supplier wants to give me some incentive to use their services (say cellular network) then THEY can lock me in (or not – I might not agree!).  Anyway this is more a gripe about Apple than this product per say.

Clearly over time it needs a camera.  Not a major today, but over time I am sure it will come.

Also Apple locking out media players from the app store (from what I can see) so I cant play any mp4 or avi I happen to have in my media library.  As per my comments above – that’s my choice.  Let me buy it from where I want and play it how I want on hardware I own!

PART 3: HOW TO GET ONE, like NOW.

As of today, the only country selling iPads is the US of A.  While it has been announced that the UK, Australia and Canada will follow suit shortly, NZ wont get them until July.

Since as pointed out above, the iPad is NOT locked to any network (although I should say the warantee for an iPad is like an iPhone and only valid in the country of purchase), it’s safe to import them into the country and use them.

To do this you need three things:

  1. A friend in the US (whom you trust)
  2. A way of getting your friend some money
  3. Convince your friend to buy you an iPad and send it to you

They order it, your friend gets it sent to their US address (or they pick it up from an Apple store, but that’s risky at present since Apple stores in the US are still running out of stock of iPads) and then have it sent to you.  Mine took less than 4 days for me (yay Fedex!)

Or you could try plan B, and find a friendly flight attendant who travels to the States and ask them if they will buy one for you.  Please note all iPad are over $NZ 700 equivalent, so would trigger a GST payment when you bring it back into NZ (either in person or by courier).

That’s it. Sorry there is no way of ordering it online yourself, at least not until NZ gets iPads. I guess you could set up one of those clever mail redirect services where you have a valid US address and then all mail is then forwarded on, but that would be rather a lot of work (and expensive) for one item.

In my iPad pre-review I gave the iPad a solid B+.  In this review (now I have used it) I give it an A-.  Well done Apple.  Now go fix all that “US based” crap, and I will give you an A.

Black and White Summary: The iPad rocks!! (if you like iPady things I guess).  Need a few pointers on sim cards and iTunes account, but otherwise VERY easy to get it working in NZ (oh, and use XT!)

Update 16th Sept 2010: My review of the iPad four months on

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